Past to present on paper...

LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
LEP Columnist Barry Freeman
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Thursday, to paraphrase any randomly selected inane footie gob, was a game of three-thirds. Or rather, a game of three ages. The ancient, the oldish and the modern (although not in that order); each to be found cheek by jowl in that transitory thing we call ‘the present’.

By 7.30am a punishment beating by rural run was safely under the belt. A dozen stiff miles, way out into the sticks, the net effect of which, physiologically, being to make one regret everything, up to and including possession of legs.

Well worthwhile, however, when weighed against the privilege of traversing that wild and woolly countryside in the still of early morn.

How that tarmac undulated, scaled peaks, plumbed troughs, on its way through rolling hills and misty dells.

A landscape scarcely inhabited and lightly touched by man this past few centuries.

Past roadkill stoats (three, never before seen one), rabbits, hedgehogs, breathing air by turns fresh and rich with ancient rustic scents (what’s brown, smelly and sounds like a bell? Dungggg)...

All to myself.

There followed a kipper breakfast then deep the dive into modernity. This entailed nine unbroken hours of dashing my frontal lobes against IT issues so far beyond my ken as to make Uranus seem commutable.

Try that. No work. Try this. No work. Push that. Christ! Undo! Undo!

At one critical juncture a passing IT boffin offered a 30 second spiel over the whys and wherefores of the problems beneath which I was buckling which literally made no more sense to me than the quacking of a duck. And I told him as much.

Connectivity. Social media. Sims. Streaming. Sharing. Downloading. What worth has any of this to a 6ft strip of maturing meat bound to be dust in the cosmic twinkling of an eye?

Technology will not free us. Merely offer distraction as we await the blade. 4G? A costly way to hasten mortality from the neck up. Bring back Ned Lud.

But finally away, fled the office, far later than hoped, to a well-stocked second-hand bookshop of my recent acquaint.

Shelf upon shelf, aisle after aisle, countless million sheets of dried wood pulp, bound into umpteen thousand blocks, each giving off that sweet stale smell so beloved of the hardened bibliophile.

This, I realised, was my due era, post-enlightenment, yet pre-modern.

Sad, as this world is as irrelevant to today as that ancient copse, or ex-stoat number two, unmarked, as if sleeping, curled on its side by the white line, stone dead.

Both mere garnish on a large dish of modern dystopia.

Mind you, wrote this column listening to Rachmaninov’s Symphony no 3 (1935-36) on crystal clear digital radio, so suppose it’s not all bad.