Well, some upgrades are good, if annoying

In this networked and computer driven society one of the most annoying thing is the compulsory upgrade. After years of using IT, way back to the dial-up days, I have always been of the opinion that if something needs constant upgrading it doesn’t work properly anyway. This rather rough rule of thumb applies to many things in life, I’ve found. Upgrade your car to something bigger and more flashy! Get a new phone too. It’s a new season so don’t wear old clothes, upgrade your whole wardrobe. Well, new and upgraded often doesn’t mean better, just more complicated (and expensive). Especially where computers are concerned.

I’ve been nursing several older desktop PCs that run Windows 7 for a number of years. Now the last one is finally about to die, hence the lack of a blog last week. Part of my problem is software. As I am dyslexic and dyspraxic it takes me a long time to master a program. I am still using Word 97 for my books (I can hear you laughing from here) and newer Windows systems run much newer versions. I find them so confusing I can barely string a sentence together. They have too many menus, everything is muddled up and the functions I rely on are hidden away – or “improved” to the point they are not of any use any more. I was wondering if I’d be able to write anything ever again. Then help came from an unexpected quarter.

After several weeks of delays I finally went back to the opticians to collect my new glasses. A friendly assistant recognized me (“You’re the writer lady!”) and we had a chat about computers. I am still wary of the many “repair and refurbish” shops around town after the total destruction of Jacqui’s desktop and the wiping of my hard drives by another “expert”. James offered a personal recommendation and on Saturday we set off to find Vassilly’s shop. He was everything we’d been promised – helpful, attentive and, with a minimum of mansplaining, I left the shop with a refurbished laptop. It has the dreaded Windows 10, of course, but I have disabled the worst features (Cortana, I’m talking about you). I also have a book coming that will help me wrestle it into submission. I shall keep you posted.

Clean water at last!
One upgrade that is not at all bad in the water system. We finally were booked in and a technician arrived a couple of weeks ago to install and make good the whole lot. We now have a new softener, UV light filter, a carbon trap, two particle filters and a reverse osmosis system. The shed now looks a bit like the bridge of the starship “Enterprise” at night with the array of lights, all water or solar based. The reverse osmosis system is annoying but vital as it removes the excess nitrates. It fits – just – under the sink and dispenses drinking water from a tiny new tap. It also takes up the whole of the cupboard so we are now looking for more storage space. Not a bad upgrade but definitely annoying, especially as it cost a great deal.

Enter the Wildlife
As winter approaches the rampant undergrowth is dying back again and we are getting more sightings on the trail cameras. Mabel, the little tuxedo cat, is convinced she owns the wood and the garden though I notice she is absent when possible rivals appear. A second cat, a tabby this time, has been enjoying the facilities too. We have no objections to this as it will keep away any rats. We did have a rat caught on camera last week so, hey, the more cats the better I think. After the reckless destruction of the trees and habitat across the road we were very worried for our pine marten. It was a happy moment when I saw him in the wood again looking healthy and suitably predatory.

There’s a lot of wildlife around at present, some a bit closer to home than we’d like. I was woken by some loud scrabbling in the skirting boards a few weeks ago, a rather alarming event. Investigation tracked the source to the boiler cupboard where some field mice obviously hoped to make a warm home for the winter. I will not use poisons in the house or grounds as they are a danger to all animals and birds so I have several highly effective traps. So far we’ve caught one live mouse I released without injury onto the verges outside. Since then we’ve had at least one dead mouse a day too. As they’re not poisoned I put them into the wood for larger animals. I don’t like killing anything but we can’t have mice running round the house and at least they help feed others. We are checking around the back for mice-sized holes to make sure there’s not a second wave.

Annoying Cynthia
Our soakaway continues to be a good upgrade if still rather annoying. It’s messy around the edges and we will probably get bricks or tiles in the spring to neaten it up. One of the dogs, Cynthia, objects to the gravel, picking her way across it like a duchess in a cesspit. This is despite the nice, smooth paving slabs laid across it to make a bridge for her sensitive little paws. The other two don’t care and trot over it happily to reach the grass. And it does do its job with no more flooding now Robbie has fixed the gutters so well.

Well, I will be spending the next week or so taming my new tech and working in the wood to get it smoothed out and more ordered. It has been very wet and quite stormy here though it’s not as cold as the North East coast. We are sheltered from the worst of the winds a lot of the time too and there’s been little flooding near us. I think we’ve been rather lucky, looking at the damage done in other parts of the country and the UK.

So, thank you for your patience and I will be back in a couple of weeks when we should be mouse free.
By the way, if anyone’s looking for a little Christmas present, let me just say “Puppy Brain” is currently on sale at Amazon, half price. And with my new, hopefully reliable, upgraded tech I will be venturing into second book territory very soon.

Thank you for reading and keep safe.