Two of the three kids I am looking after today are playing happily as I type. My first child is playing with a borrowed one in the cats lavatory or 'sand pit' as we used to call it. I am sitting in the garden with thousands of baby frogs. These are what my second child is inadvertently stamping on. This is a Tuesday morning. The father of the one who is not ours is working 'down south' where the real jobs are. What am I doing here?
Well, it is mostly my choice but I think I jumped off the edged of the employment cliff before I fell. A long time ago I had a "real" job, a job for life. The problem with a job that lasts that long is that interest in it runs out before life does, in my case long before. That job was at the BBC in the "Tel Rec" department. In those good old days television was recorded on machines four times the size of upright pianos on tapes so heavy that it was only possibly to carry four at once before damaging your back. That was twenty years or more ago. Today that same technical job can be done in the palm of one hand and still leave space left for a camera, television and even a high fidelity stereo sound recorder. However there is not space enough for the engineering bod who carted round, loaded up cleaned and optimised the playback of the old massive tapes. I saw this coming and did something about it.
By the time I 'left' television I was one of those people who took the adverts out of commercial British programs and stuck the ends together again so that our lads overseas could have home telly to watch without the temptation of unavailable chocolate bars or whatever. Quite a rewarding though dull job really as I hate adverts. To make the trip in the the unknown and therefore more interesting outside world a bit less stressful I did it in several stages. The first was to change the title and the place of my work. Moving away from London did not have to mean leaving TV immediately. I found free lance work and did that until my new employers caught on that they didnt need humans to run their gadgets either, computers could do the irksome stuff so they sacked the urks. That was almost ten years ago. So, what do I do now? I can't do, so I teach - computing.
I had to stop typing there as my son, with frog encrusted feet, wants a cuddle. He needs his nappy changing too but is strangely unaware of that. The forces which pushed me out of TV also allow me to write of these indelicate problems with one hand in mid cuddle in a garden. It is the electronic revolution which has done all this and has effected almost all areas of my life. It has caused me problems and set me many a challenge and I think I am winning. I am certainly enjoying life more now than ever before, but the price is not only one of a massively reduced income but also and mainly one of reduced or removed feelings of security.
It was a major leap of faith for me to manage to run out of the rat-races major rut. It was more than a shock to find that there is another similar race to be run outside of it, and I am far from the only person running. As usual, running away gets you nowhere and the forces pushing me have not abated even though I escaped their initial direct attack. If anything they have increased.
I moved in to computers when Telly died and at that time it was still possible to kid other people that you knew all about computers. That has always been impossible but the unbridgable chasm between the attainable and unattainable is widening by the second and again I saw it coming so I have given up again. As I write I am being even further de-skilled.
The continual insurmountability of the job problem can get me down but I know there is a way out of it. All I have to do is try hard enough not to worry. Everyone is in the same boat. The number of men pushing their kids to playgroup proves that. From time to time we even talk to each other. A shared new existence which makes we techno-dads beam with pleasure (when we aren't wondering ho to pay the bills that is.)
It is oddly difficult to write while a child in your care is screaming for attention. I know he is fine, I know he can manage without my 100% attention, I know he is safe. He is sitting at my feet. But, thinking becomes close to impossible while his screams continue. How is a lad supposed to work like this? Ah, I know. Wait 'till Mummy comes home.
It can be lonely being a Techno-dad. To cheer myself up I of course use my computer - the internet to be exact. No silly games for me, I go for the electronic big time. For example100 million 'Hits' where registered on Nasas Mars Pathfinder Internet Web site on the day of the recent probe's landing. A web hit is when one computer asks for data from the one holding the web page. It does not equate to a number of people at all. People are another matter entirely. By day four after the landing the figure quoted by the massed media was still 100 million, probably because someone twigged the planet would run out of humans if the total rose that fast every day. What is the relevance of this you ask? Well, being one of that apparent vast number I wanted to share my delight and wonder at it all with another human. All I can find though are computers. Even computers run by other humans seem to leave their operators unmoved while I am in paroxysms of delight, they turn off. Why? How?
It is a bad sign that my partner and soul-mate also remains steadfastly irritated by it all. Mo is no Luddite, she blames Star Trek for her lack of interest - not the 60s sit-com but the thought provoking visions of the 90s. These programs are made so well that belief in them has out maneuvered the wonder of reality. Seen that, done that - at least at third hand via DS9. That accounts for some, yet those 100 million must be out there somewhere. Where are the other Mars-o- phylic techno-dads?
It worries me that I can't get out of this by teaching. If so many people can use computers well enough to see what Mars looked like ten minutes ago - and all without much help from experts, then who is left for me to teach? The kids in the sandpit perhaps, but I will have to scrape the cat poo off them first. That'll be nice.
And now, a link to my last employer's site:
Electronic Control Services. - which I still maintain.