Sunday, May 08, 2005

Avoiding Spam

Avoiding spam

CJ Stone spent the month dealing with minor disaster, not least of which was having an alcoholic moving in upstairs.

It's been a strange month. First of all my toilet got blocked. Then my computer crashed. Then the Inland Revenue started chasing me up for money I didn't even know I owed.

In the case of the Inland Revenue, this all turned out to be a clerical error. Someone had made a mistake in transcribing my tax returns, placing one figure in a box where it wasn't supposed to be. In the case of my blocked toilet it was all down to a friend of mine with an unusual fetish for using inordinate amounts of toilet paper. In the case of my computer it was a little negative worm that had been lurking around on the internet, and which insinuated itself into my filing system and then began eating it away from the inside.

Do you believe that sometimes physical effects can have a psychic source? Sigmund Freud did. He called it parapraxis. He was the only psychoanalyst ever to have analysed himself, which, if you stop to think about it, must have been a very dodgy procedure. I mean, how can you ever be objective about yourself? In Sigmund Freud's case, it meant that the entire system of psychoanalysis he developed from it was riddled with his own neuroses, which probably explains why most of the time it doesn't work.

So I guess if I was Sigmund Freud I'd probably want to say that my blocked toilet represented some mental blockage, or that the money I appeared to owe had something to do with something I owed to myself. As for the negative worm, I already know where that came from.

It was from my upstairs neighbour, recently removed.

I'm being metaphorical here. I don't really think that my upstairs neighbour had anything to do with a rogue virus I picked up from the internet. But the notion of a negative worm eating away at your delicate software is so apt for him, that I just thought I'd blame him for it in any case.

He was - is - an alcoholic. Now, I'm a bit of an alcoholic myself. But, then, I'm fifty-one years old. I've been practicing for it for the better part of my adult life. This guy is only twenty-six, and that takes real commitment. And even after over thirty-five years of dedicated self-medication, I still don't wake up shaking, desperate for a drink. Nor would I go stealing bottles of wine from the Indian supermarket across the road. As I said to him at the time, shoplifting is reprehensible and immoral, not to say illegal. But shoplifting from the shop across the road where you also buy your milk and vegetables is just plain stupid. Needless to say he was banned and was forced into further and further forays into the unknown find the source of the White Lighting cider that was the only thing that would stop him shaking in the morning.

But Spam was such a nice young man. When he wasn't drinking, that is. He was polite and respectable, and, when he first moved into the flat, he had a job and a girlfriend and money in his pocket, and almost everything you could want, barring regular conversations with God.

I'm afraid it was me who started him on this latest rampage. He'd been dry for about six months, living with his girlfriend's parents. And he knocked on my door, asking if I'd got a spare cigarette, which I had. And, being the nice neighbour that I am, him being alone up there, without any furniture as yet, I invited him in and offered him a beer. It's not often that I drink beer in the day. It was just one of those days. And he drank his beer and thanked me for it, and - without me knowing anything that had gone on before - spent the next six weeks on a glorious bender; by which time he'd lost his job, lost his girlfriend and, eventually, lost his flat.

I can't say I miss him. I feel sorry for him. But there's only so much you can do with a person who has a negative worm on their insides eating up all of their delicate software. It was like living next door to a soap-opera. Every day something would happen. So there were visits from the police, fights, tears, vows of abstinence that would immediately be reversed, a constant stream of chavvies in baseball caps stomping up and down the stairs, visits from the bailiffs, worried phone-calls from the landlord, non-stop hysteria.

I said: "Spam, you're a walking disaster-area." I said, "I don't even watch the soaps on the telly, let alone having to live next door to one."

Where does this form of psychology come from? In the end, the landlord paid him to go away. He pocketed £260, walked off down the road, turned up on my doorstep two hours later with a mate of his, having spent £50 on a pair of trainers, £15 on a haircut, £50 on a mobile phone, £30 on a slap-up meal, and the rest on drink. I mean, who on earth, on finding himself homeless, thinks that the best thing you can do with your money is to cut your hair and buy a pair of trainers? Later that night there was a phone-call from a nurse. Could I tell Spam's mum that he was in hospital, but not to worry, he was all right.

He’d managed to get into a fight and get himself beaten up.

What else can I say? Spam’s mum said, "tell Spam I love him, but I don't like him anymore."

Me, I was just glad to have a quiet house again..

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