Monday May 23, 2005
“I think I’d better pop over to Tesco’s today,” I announced. “Not essential, but we do need some fresh flowers, and I wouldn’t mind stocking up for a few days. You wanna come?”
“Yes,” Graham said. “I could do with a change of scene. Can we go via PC World?”
“What on earth for? Haven’t you had enough of computers for a little while?”
“I’m finding this trackerball a bit hard on my arm and I want to get one of those gel-filled cushion things to rest on rather than the edge of my desk.”
“Fair enough. I wouldn’t mind looking at what they have in the way of a combined webcam and microphone. Not to buy one, you understand, just to see what’s available.”
Boston was not heaving. Far from it. The road was clear just about all the way in, and only mildly congested as we passed through. When we got to PC World most of the staff were sitting outside enjoying the sun and we walked in to an almost empty store. Graham wandered off to look at keyboard accessories and I walked over to where they used to keep webcams. Used to. The endless pursuit of better retail sales had led to them being moved elsewhere. I walked up and down aisle after aisle until I found them, only to be confronted by a bewildering array of devices of all shapes and sizes. And prices. Several had microphones built in but it was impossible to tell from the scarce technical information on the box exactly how the thing worked. So I made a note of the ones that looked least silly and resolved to do some web research when I got home.
Graham was still engrossed, so I went back to a display of printers I’d passed earlier. My Hewlett-Packard inkjet, after a lot of sterling service, is beginning to show signs of operational eccentricity so a replacement is likely to be imminent. No problem there. I saw several models with the features I need, and a lot cheaper than last time. Following on a whim, I continued poking around to see if they had any of those tiny new photo printers. For some time I’ve fancied having a snapshot printer in addition to the big one, so that printing a photo to send off to friends would be just a button-click away rather than a hot, sweaty half hour stacking the big printer up with small photo paper and persuading the driver to work properly with it. That was when a stray assistant pounced on me, to do the ‘can I help?’ thing at me.
Blow me down, but it turns out the little printers are almost the same price as a decent full-size and function machine. I sent the nice lady away with a smile and resolved to investigate this one, too, while I’m checking the prices for the replacement. I shall check out printers with two feed trays, in case I can come up with an affordable solution that way.
By this time Graham had found his armrest cushion thing, and was poring over cooling fans.
“I’ve had enough now,” I said. “I’ll go outside and wait in the car.”
“Shan’t be long,” he said.
“Good. I’m starving for my lunch.”
Fair enough, it wasn’t very much longer before he strolled through the sliding doors and out into the sunshine.
“What time is it?” I asked. “My tummy is grumbling.”
“Just before two.”
“Ah. Fancy a MacDonald’s? I know it’s a bit soon since we went last time but I’m really hungry.”
“Right you are.”
I can’t recall the last time we were the only customers in a MacDonald’s. Eerie, it is. The pimply youth who served us seemed almost to have forgotten how to do the job. I placed my order, left Graham to finish the deal off, and went to sit in a corner window seat. Somehow my pencam found its way into my hand and I clicked once, twice, and three times as he walked over bearing two paper beakers of coffee. Sadly, he’d seen me, and produced a series of funny faces that completely spoiled my picture making.
“You’re a right devil with that,” he said.
“Yup. And you won’t stop me by pulling faces, either.”
Tesco’s was nearly empty, too. I livened a routine shop by picking up a DVD of the first three episodes of the new Doctor Who, which was on special offer.
“I thought you were going on an economy drive,” Graham said.
“I am. Don’t worry, this won’t cost us much.”
“How’s that, then?”
“When we’ve watched it once I shall make a copy and then sell the original on eBay.”
“Now that is incorrigible. And illegal, too.”
“Nonsense. Who’s going to grudge a pensioner such a silly thing? Be more likely to get an award for ingenuity in the area of penny-pinching.”
“Well, just don’t tell anyone, is all.”
“I shall try.”
Coming home along the main road, I picked up the pencam again and snapped a few pictures through the windscreen. Most of them are little more than records for my album but, as we pulled on to the straight bit leading towards the village, a rather splendid skyscape presented itself. I pressed the button once, twice, and then the camera gave the beep-beep-beep to tell me the batteries were finished, and shut down. No matter. The litle beauty had done a splendid job of capturing the sky for me.
“That camera is astonishing,” Graham said when I showed him the result.
“Isn’t it just. It helps that skies don’t pull funny faces, of course.”
“I’ll get you for that.”