The internet took its time coming to Devon. I’m sure it was here before we were but it wasn’t the sort of thing my family was entirely happy having in the house. My mother thought having ready access to the whole world would be as good as inviting disaster, avatar addictions and sleep deprivation. Two out of three ain’t bad.
Out for drinks one night with a late-forties friend and her teenage son, she asked him if he’d finished his homework. He refrained from the traditional eye-roll, but explained he had finished maths, English, biology and history, but he still had his guitar practise to complete. My friend and I agreed that we surely didn’t have as much home-study to do as the young people nowadays, with their music.
By comparison, we had fewer nightly subjects but there never seemed quite enough time for homework.
“Of course, we had to look in books,” she started. “Actually finding a book on a shelf, and reading it, takes longer.”
He son looked at her as if she’d swallowed a live gopher.
“Why didn’t you Google?” he asked, with the simple disgust of anyone who has a sudden disappointment in a parent.
She answered very plainly, “We didn’t have Google.”
He turned his gagging gaze to me.
I shook my head. “We didn’t have it either.”
They must have been yet to arrive at that point in History.
By the time we actually got the internet, my mother had a serious case of paranoia. Convinced she was going to be hacked, and not quite knowing what that meant, she created impossible-to-remember passwords, and a personal email address she never learnt.
One muggy afternoon, she decided that her bedroom wall needed decoration. She wanted a world map. A big one. She loved geography. We might need to build an extension.
Even as she started asking me to go into town and find her a suitably impressive cartographical monster, she gave up and looked excitedly at the laptop.
“Can you take a wander into.. oh no, no, forget that, open the computer.”
She had a voice to type programme, which meant she could just tell the device what she wanted to open and it would be done, she could dictate letters, she could tell the computer to do something and it would just do it, no snarky comments, no complaints; it suited her down to the ground.
Computer opened, internet explorer launched, she told the machine what to search for.
“Maps,” she said.
With that, about forty-three billion sites came up.
I went to Athena.
Having had some health issues, bound to be covered in another post, I was bored. Unable to leave the house and having read everything within grabbing reach, I decided to improve myself and relieve my utter, stomach-churning tedium.
I would study something, I decided. For reasons which now elude me, I determined that whatever the subject matter, it should have practical applications and be useful to the immediate surroundings of my recovery. I would acquire some sort of cooking qualification and cook something at the Legion.
I found a course, properly accredited and not expensive. A quick course, with room to expand into higher qualifications but speedy enough to not test my resolve too much.
The internet had been in my house for approximately five years. We were still on dial-up. For the young people, dial-up was like watching a tortoise track fresh dog poop across a beige carpet.
Level one of the Food Safety course was remarkably easy. Every answer on the final test was either ‘contamination’ or ‘bacteria’. I kid you not. There was no other relevant response. I passed with sluggish flying colours.
On to round two.
About a third of the answers were either ‘contamination’ or ‘bacteria’, the others were to do with the colours used for identification of appropriate fire extinguishers, and basic food groups.
I returned to the Legion mostly off the walking stick, with a clutch of certificates and a ready-and-willingness to cook something.
In my, albeit temporary, absence, the Committee had decided to host regular Big Breakfast mornings. I was delighted. And qualified.
At the first Big Breakfast, I took orders and made around seven-hundred cups of coffee. I didn’t cook anything, unless you count water.
I don’t suppose health and safety would have allowed for a semi-mobile, recent in-patient hobbling around a cupboard-sized kitchen, spattering grease on every surface, possibly slipping and ripping a bunch of stitches.
As it happens, the team did so well, crammed as they were in close enough proximity to each other as to forego the honeymoon period, that they never did need me in the kitchen.
When we have had outside caterers in for formal events, they have usually managed to make smoked salmon taste like cat food and roast beef chew as if its several weeks old, but our Big Breakfast Kitchen Angels are the best.
As far as they know.
They haven’t had my lamb.