I am the proud owner of three laptops. In fact, I have a fourth laptop in the house, but that belongs to work and is set up for me to be able to access the feature pages so I can set about slapping the puzzles on their pages. (Incidentally, during the spat I had with all the bright sparks from The Archers, it was suggested that I ‘set the puzzles’ which is why they were so dull. Quite apart from that being rather a lame insult, it’s not true. Not for me the glory of ‘setting’ the puzzles – by which I understand ‘making them up’ – but my role is about as mundane as could be. I call up the pages, and from a store of puzzles which are submitted by their various compilers I simply place the puzzles on the pages. It is quite repetitive work, but I do it on a freelance basis and am paid reasonably well for doing it. So I don’t care. It means that when bills arrive, I don’t fret quite as much as did. But back to laptops and other gadgetry.) Our household also has a total of, I think – I’ve just made a quick tally – 15 mobile phones, several of which are years old and quite inert and of no use to anyone except, perhaps, a design museum desperate for exhibits of any kind. That collection is something of a standing joke at work, but in all honesty there is full set of completely rational explanations as to why we – which should read ‘I’ – have accumulated that many, and furthermore I am quite prepared to outline them. Almost all of them cost less than £10, so it’s not as though I were wasting money. It is, perhaps, ironic that none of us uses our mobile phones very much. My daughter who is off the texting age, does a lot of textin, or rather did, for I’ve noticed her phone has been sitting in the same place in the kitchen for several days. My son, I now owns two of my old phones, doesn’t use either. My wife and I only use them briefly to ring from or to the supermarket with last-minute request. All are pay-as-you-go phones, so it’s not as though £50 is being spent each month for no very good reason. In fact, I am often amazed at how people with spend that amount each month on a phone contract but when you hear them talking to each other, it is invariably such inconsequential crap that it is hardly worth the bother of eavesdropping. I am even tempted to go as far as to say that I regard people who take out such contracts merely to waste money as certifiable idiots, but as I have just admitted to being the owner of 15 mobile phones of which just three are occasionally used, I am on rather thin ice, so on this occasion I shall withhold judgment. There is a similar set of rational explanations for my three laptops. In fact, as I am in confessional mode, I should come clean and tell you that until about three months ago, I actually owned four laptops, but I sold the oldest and least reliable because – well, what was the point. I have been a Mac man all my computing life, which started in March 1998 when I bought a Mac clone. But I am writing this on a Windows 7 laptop, a Samsung, which is my latest acquisition. I still think Windows are horribly round the houses, utterly unintuitive – or better, even more unintuitive than Mac – and I dislike them almost as much as I dislike the ‘Mac community’, that self-regarding bunch of conceited fuckwits who really do think they are a cut above everyone else. I should also admit that Windows 7, visually, is now halfway decent and a 100pc improvement on XP, which was itself a 100pc improvement on whatever abortion Microsoft was flogging before. Buying this particular laptop was almost a mistake. I don’t mean that it’s a bad laptop – it’s rather a nice one. What I mean is that I wasn’t really going to buy one, but . . . What with the extra dosh I had in my pocket every month, my mind had turned to considering buying a Windows laptop for a while, for two reasons. First, I knew from using my brother’s Windows laptop that BBC iPlayer seemed to play more smoothly on Windows than on any of my G4 laptops (at the time I had two iBooks and a Powerbook). Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the iPlayer code is more suited to Windows. And perhaps more recent Intel chip-driven Macs play iPlayer more smoothly. I don’t know. Then there is the small matter of internet backgammon which you can play online courtesy of Microsoft from XP on. And I must admit I do enjoy playing backgammon a great deal. So with the idea of possibly buying yet another laptop became a half idea in my head and I began to haunt eBay with a view to seeing what was there. That was, of course, the kiss of death, because a small, but very dangerous part of me is a shopaholic. So within weeks of adding several possible purchases to my watch list, I spotted a possible bargain. It was a new Samsung 540 with an Intel dual-core chip. What made it particularly attractive was that no one seemed to be taking an interest, but, more important, the auction was set to end at an ‘unfashionable hour’, by which I mean something like 9am when fewer people can be bothered to get their act together to bid online. So courtesy of one of the ‘we bid for you’ website – I shan’t say which one because for some reason or other it still hasn’t charged me a penny for using its service even though I’ve been doing so for almost two years – I put in my, comparatively low bid, being more or less certain that I would be outbid. But, dear reader, I wasn’t. And I bought that brand, spanking new Samsung 540 with a 500gb hard drive for around £120 less than they were commanding elsewhere on eBay. There was, of course, they ticklish task of obliquely acquainting my wife with the fact that our household was now the proud owner of a third laptop (she didn’t know about the fourth, ever) but I did that sooner rather than later just to get it over with.
. . .
I seem to have rambled on rather more than usual, and I began merely to record how odd it is that so many people on the Microsoft internet backgammon site are bad losers. Of so I assume, because more often than not, if, in a best of five games match, the opponent realises he or she – though I should imagine it is invariably he – is going to lose, they simply bow out with even the courtesy of resigning. When you play, you can set your standard as beginner, intermediate or expert. Well, for the past few months I have set myself as expert in the hope I would get some more challenging games, but the only difference I have seen between expert and intermediate status is that more people who class themselves as expert players bow out early without even resigning if it’s pretty certain they are going to lose. I have many, many faults, but I can, at least, honestly claim to be a good loser. I know that cuts no ice in the US, but her in Blighty we good losers are thought of as the salt of the earth.