HOW did I get here? IT anxiety! A 21st century phenomenon. There are small children who know more about computers than I do. My friend's six-year-old talks about software, dongles, Ram and video cards. Pathetic, I know, but I feel left out - disenfranchised - or, am I being made to feel that way?
I could sell up, take the dog and live in a caravan in the New Forest, become a milkman and post mail bombs to Estelle Morris. The Unigate Bomber. I could call it a conspiracy - but no, I'm online, learning the basic concepts of information technology so that I can share in the new-world vernacular and compete with condescending infants.
It's now the end of week six. I've worked my way through a few units. I decide to take a practice test and download the exercise, which oddly appears before my eyes in ancient Egyptian. Perhaps I'm not ready. Perhaps it is a joke. I email my tutor about the hieroglyphics. A friend comes around. I show him. It's Win-Zip. He launches into an in-depth explanation that makes me feel inadequate and then angry - why have I been humiliated like this? No one told me about Win-Zip. That wasn't in the brochure. How would I know about it?
I think of others in the same boat. Considering collective revolt, but wondering how we would muster online, I email my frustration to the tutor and the Redbridge cutlery salesman I met on the course. No apology as yet forthcoming from my tutor, but Mr Stainless-bloody-steel knows what Win-Zip is - and is annoyingly sympathetic. My friend installs Win-Zip. I take the test and fail. Get drunk, don't log on for two weeks and no one writes to my parents to ask why I am bunking off. This is called lifelong learning, apparently, because it will take that long for me to finish.
My Windows 2000 book arrives from Amazon.com. I read it with my PC defiantly switched off. What a rebel!
It helps if I give my computer a name. I call it Mr Ludd.
Lost in space, I endeavour to bridge the silicon valley between the rest of my class and myself by inviting a number of them to tea. I also suggest that we compare experiences and perhaps take part in some mutual sharing of ideas. But they are all too busy or too competent - some have even taken the final tests and are now qualified. I turn Mr Ludd on to learning online. Get on with it!
Encouraged by a fellow classmate, I have adopted Instant Messenger; akin, I suppose, to passing notes in class. It's a Microsoft thing that brings out the conspiracy theorist in me. Is this really communication or the nipple of pointless technology? I am having four-way discussions now with people I'll probably never meet.
Weary of the virtual world of spreadsheets and databases, I take a lesson in the actual. The computer as manifest. The unit one description compares it to a human body. Is this an attempt to mollify the impact of modern technology or simply the work of a depressed writer? The computer has a heart after all - and a brain. I feel better, but really, all this Wizard of Oz shite is just the sort of silly bollocks dreamt up by people who drink too much coffee. I drink too much coffee but it sure improves my central processing unit.
I mention the efficacy of the latest Pentium Processor at work and heads turn. I can do spreadsheets. I understand the Internet and can use search engines. I have discovered a website documenting electricity pylons that contains a staggering number of photographs - some of them in focus - of electricity pylons.
Depression and unease round on me. I remember my long-lost brother with its beige plastic case. No cut and paste or format fonthelveticaregular10 - but still the satisfying whizz and ring of old. Retrieving it from beneath the stairs I sit it beside my laptop and remember those evolutionary graphs in encyclopaedias documenting man's transformation from ape to Apple man. Oh well, better get on.