My friend Robin lives in the California desert and moans constantly that it never rains. Across the world, I live in the rainforest near Byron Bay, Australia and bitch endlessly that it never stops. It rains so much here that mushrooms grow in your closet and very large spiders come inside to stay dry. You can be standing in the brightest sunshine with a double rainbow ending at your gumboots and it will be raining.
The forecast can promise ‘mostly fine with a chance of a shower’ and it will be bashing against the tin roof of the house so ferociously you feel you are in being attacked by Hitler. Add the deafening croaking of the surrounding frog ARMY (that’s actually the proper name) and conversation is totally impossible.
You are reduced to sign language or passing notes back and forth. Forget television and the radio. Phone calls are worse than two tin cans and a piece of string and even when the deluge finally stops – sometimes MONTHS later – the line is so water-logged conversations are like Chinese whispers. You get it all wrong, wreck the friendship and kill the deal. It’s like the old World War Two command going down the line – “Send reinforcements, we’re going to advance.” By the time it reached its destination it had become “Send three and four pence, we’re going to a dance.”
So the Internet and email are my lifeline and salvation and my tech guy, Big Fred, my saviour, psychiatrist and hero. After years of sorting out my various crises Fred has become one of my dearest friends. He is always there to take my hysterical calls when a chapter suddenly vanishes off the screen into oblivion – or one occasion when the whole book disappeared. He patiently answers all my dumb questions and even assures me that I am not his stupidest client. “Who is?” I ask amazed. He tells me that a person called him recently to whine that the coffee cup holder on his laptop had broken. “You don’t have a coffee cup holder on your laptop,” Big Fred replied.
“Of course I bloody do!” the bloke yelled. “The drawer thing with a hole in it on the bloody side that slides out to put your cup in!”
He knows he was hearing him right because it wasn’t even raining.