July 9, 2008

My iPhone rang and I answered.  I was glad Ed had called me, because I was still getting to grips with the keypad and finding sending text messages to be a bit of a pain.  Still, the iPhone was a sleek and beautiful object that felt right in my hands and I was sure I’d get used to it.


“Eddie baby.”

”Yes, Morgan”.


“Are we playing squash later then, or what?”

”I did fancy watching the Chelsea game, though”, Ed said.  “I mean, I want to give Sky HD a whirl.”

”Hmm, but you’re not a Chelsea fan, are you?”


Ed was from Cheshire, so he supported Manchester United, in the sense that he watched their games on television.   To this end, he had recently purchased a Pioneer Kuro PDP-LX508D, with a 50’ plasma screen.  He had chosen this over the smaller, but heavily recommended Sony Bravia KDL-52X3500 (with 40’ LCD screen), because he felt that the plasma screen made a real difference to the quality of the visual experience. 


“You can really tell when you shut the curtains”, he told me. 


I told him that it was really just because he liked the idea of having ten extra inches.


I myself owned a Philips Aurea 42-inch HD TV, which I was thinking of getting rid of.  I just couldn’t get used to the ambilights that it projected onto the wall behind the screen.  During dinner at Antibo’s one night, Jared told Estelle and I that he felt it made the TV experience ‘more immersive’, so we bought one too, but I didn’t like it very much. 


“Listen”, I said.  “I’ll come round for the Arsenal – Milan game tomorrow.  Send the little lady off out somewhere.  In fact, she can get together with Estelle.  Get her to ring her.”

”Go on then.”


We then arranged to meet at the health suite at 6:30 that evening. 


I was on time, but Ed was late, so once I was changed, I sat in the bar, waiting for Ed and sipping a mineral water.  Ed finally arrived, ten minutes late, riding a small bicycle. 


I watched through the window in amusement as he attempted to fold the bike into a small metal parcel.  I was at the point of getting up to go out and help him by the time he finally worked it out and, looking relieved, packed it into its attaché case. 


He huffed and puffed his way into the bar, racquet in one hand, attaché case in the other.


“Sorry I’m late, this fucking thing just doesn’t go very fast.” 

”Really?  What is it?”

”It’s a Ridgeback Attaché folding bike.  I thought it would be good for nipping around on, maybe even sprinting into town with it, but it just dawdles.  I set off in perfectly good time, I assure you.”

I laughed. 


“It doesn’t matter.  So long as you’re good and tired now, so I can smash you all over the court.”


After the beating was administered, we ordered up a mineral water each at the bar.  The Chelsea game was playing on the normal-sized, normal television set in the corner of the bar.  We looked at each other, had the same thought at the same time and laughed. 

”I’ll get these.”  Ed said.


“Are you sure you want to cycle back on that thing after a couple?”

”Well, it doesn’t go very fast anyway.  Besides, it folds away, so I can walk home if I want.”


Ed ordered the drinks, two pints of German lager.

”So, how’s Estelle?”

I paused to take a sip of lager before answering.


“She’s fine.  Still fawning over that fucking dog I had to buy her for her birthday.”

”Oh yes.  What is it, a Yorkshire Terrier?”

”Bedlington.  Looks like a stuffed toy.  I couldn’t be doing with one of those fucking Yorkies yapping around the place, with a bloody bow in its hair.  Christ.  I didn’t marry Paris Hilton for a reason.”

Ed laughed, then winced.  “Fucking shoulder”, he grimaced, rubbing it ruefully.


“The amount that sodding dog costs to run, I’m starting to think it would have been cheaper to have had a kid”, I moaned.  “You know she went and bought one of those bloody Zoombaks the other day?” I told him.

”What’s a Zoombak?”  Ed asked, raising an eyebrow. 

”A Zoombak, get this”, I laughed bitterly, “a Zoombak is a device flogged to doting pet owners to ensures that they’ll never lose the bloody thing.  That dog now has a fucking GPS chip on its collar…”

Ed roared with laughter


“So if it runs off in the park, she can track it online, with her iPhone.”


“That’s insane.”


“I know.  Cost her £100.  Still, it’s her money, she can do what she wants with it.”

”True.”  Ed took another sip of his pint.


“I don’t know.  I swear it would be cheaper to have a kid.”  I stared out of the window.


“Do you think she wants one yet?”

”No, not yet, she says, at least she says that.  She says she doesn’t want to take a career break yet.  But I don’t know.  The dog’s a substitute, there’s no doubt about that.”

”Uh-huh.  Well, I mean, she must be, what,”

”Nearly thirty.”

”Yeah and I suppose there’s the old biological clock to think about.”


”How do you feel about it?”  Ed asked.


I shrugged.  “It’s inevitable.”  I said.


Ed nodded.


“I mean, I still love her”, I said. 


Ed nodded again, a little quicker this time.


I realised that I needed to change the subject.


“Good ball”, I said, nodding at the screen.  Michael Ballack had just played a routine square pass to Shaun Wright-Phillips.  Ed and I watched as Wright-Philips ran at the full back, his acceleration enough to force the defender to backtrack, before executing a sliding tackle at the expense of a corner.  From Lampard’s corner, Carvalho got up highest and the ball nestled in the corner of the Lille net.


I found myself idly wondering how many of the Chelsea players cuddling up to the lanky Portuguese defender agreed with me, that the Philips Aurea TV set with ambilights was a pain in the arse.  Then again, considering the amount they were on a week, they probably had 60’ screen HD plasma / LCD hybrid screens, which automatically selected the best configuration of contrast and brightness for whatever they were watching.  I couldn’t imagine how you could ever worry about anything if you earned  £100,000 per week or more.  Then I saw Ashley Cole’s ratty little face on screen and grinned.


Estelle must be ready to have a kid by now, I thought.  We’ve got everything we could possibly want.  She was ploughing on at work and didn’t want to stop, but the dog was an obvious sign that something was amiss, that something unnatural was happening to her.  She lavished so much attention on it that I wanted nothing to do with it, except for to kick it up in the air every time I thought about how much money was spent on its grooming products, its kennels, its gourmet foods and its Zoombaks. 


Driving home, I flicked on my new TomTom Go 720 Europe satellite navigation system, just to check that it was working smoothly.  A stray thought suddenly amused me, involving us chasing the puppy around the city, using the sat nav to track it down as it chased after a fox or a cat. 


When I got home, I was surprised to find Estelle vacuuming the lounge whilst watching music videos on the Aurea.  She turned the machine off when she saw me walk in and waved hiya.


“Why are you vacuuming?  I thought Julia came in this morning?”

Julia was the cleaner.


“She did, but I just fancied a go on this new Dyson we bought.  It’s a Dyson Baby DC22 Animal”, she said, gravely.


I laughed.  “Well, we could save ourselves a nice sum a month if you ‘just fancied’ having a run around with it every other day?”

”Don’t push your luck,” she said, smiling.  “How was the gym?”

”Oh, fine.  We were playing squash, actually.”  


“Ah-hah,” she sang, with that light, rising intonation that I loved to hear.


“You are a delight to behold.”  I said, admiring her curves.  She was wearing a long tight-fitting skirt and I was gripped by a sudden need to remove it.  She switched on the vacuum cleaner again. 


“The turbine head on this Dyson really does get Obama’s hair out of this carpet, you know”, she shouted.  “Money well spent.”


“Where is the little bastard?”  I said.


“What?”  Estelle shouted, over the noise of the Dyson.


“Where is Obama?”

”He’s in his bed upstairs, bless his little cotton socks.”  At least I think that’s what she said.  She turned away from me and continued to go at the skirting boards with the Baby Dyson.


“Turn that bloody thing off, would you, darling?”  I shouted.  “Let Julia do it tomorrow.” 


She didn’t hear me, so I slipped my arm around her waist.  She turned, involuntarily, smiling.  Those wicked brown eyes flashed at me.  I kissed her and gently removed the nozzle from her grasp.  I looked for the power switch, which wasn’t immediately obvious, so I bent down and pulled the power cord out of the mains. 


“For God’s sake”, I laughed, as the machine’s whirr receded.  “I come home after a hard day’s work to this racket?”


She laughed, wriggling girlishly in my semi-embrace, her full figure reacting to the pressure.  I wanted her now.  I encircled her fully.


“Why don’t we – “


I looked down to see the beady, stuffed-bear eyes of Obama locked rigidly onto mine.


“grrrrrrrr… RROFFF!”


“Oh, my angel”, cooed Estelle.  “What’s wrong?” 


My arms lost all power.  She stepped out of my suddenly neutralised aura and

bent down in front of the terrier, who wagged his tail furiously.  Delighted with his victory, Obama jumped up to put his paws on his mistress’ thighs and lick her giggling face.  I put my hands against the wall and closed my eyes momentarily, feeling my erection subside.

As she fussed over Obama, working out how best to indulge him – would it be walkies?  Would it be Bonios?  Would it be playing ball in the garden? – a thought suddenly installed itself irremovably, like a virus, in the forefront of my consciousness. 


It was my cousin Scott who had introduced me to it.  The first game we got deeply into was Monkey Island 2, which he completed, in the end, or so he claimed.  After that, he was always looking for the most immersive games he could get his hands on.  Championship Manager was the one that did it for us.  At first, we tried to play together, but it soon became obvious that it wouldn’t work.  We had too many conflicting ideas about who we should sign, who we should pick, what substitutions we should make.  Then there was the problem of who had control of the mouse.  This was a one-player game.


Soon, homework was something to be derisorily, hastily disposed of as rapidly as possible, so that the Commodore Amiga could be switched on and, for a precious couple of hours until dad came in and yawped at me to get to bed, the school day, the lessons, the bullies and the incomprehensible girls were dissolved in a fug of formations, bids for midfielders, scrambled last minute equalisers and offside flags. 


As technology advanced, Championship Manager became Football Manager and its database grew exponentially.  As foreign players and money flooded into the English league, so they appeared in the game.  As hard drive space and computer speed increased, so the list of tasks for Connor Morgan, manager of Blackton United FC, to carry out became ever more labyrinthine.  In addition to the first team, there were now reserve and youth teams to worry about and a backroom staff to assemble.  There were pre-season friendlies to organise.  There was a training regime to design and implement.  There were scouting reports to consider.  There were free kick and throw in takers to nominate, fines for players who were sent off.  There was so much information to assimilate that suddenly, hours could pass at the computer before a virtual ball was even kicked. 


As my twenties dwindled, the demands of career and my relationship, all logic, all reason, demanded that the game, along with many other beloved vices, had to go.  I finally snapped the disk in two and threw it into the wheelie bin on the front drive when Estelle and I decided to move in together.  Estelle and I would be doing things together in the evenings and it would be impossible, not to say undesirable, to squirrel myself away in a corner and devote my valuable time to the pursuit of Marek Anchowsky, a virtual Czech international midfielder with stats that could make him a real scoop for the Pirates.  My job demanded ever more and more of me and had started to send me around the UK, even over to mainland Europe.  It would not do to be sketching 4-4-2 formations on the back of the compliments slip that came with the slick Glass-Anderson dossier forwarded to me by Jared, when I was supposed to be analysing the graphs inside. 


But now, I knew everything I could stomach about Glass-Anderson.  The days swam by in a lugubrious breaststroke and Estelle had left me for a Bedlington Terrier. 


Upstairs was my old Apple iMac (G4), which I was supposed to be selling, because I had recently treated myself to the new Macbook Air, but I didn’t need to sell it.  I could keep it for a while, I thought.  I could nip to Game in Blackton tomorrow.


“I’m just trying to fill a hole”, I said, suddenly realising, to my horror, that I had said it out loud.  I turned round and, to my relief, became aware of the fact that Estelle and Obama had left the room. 


Looking out of the living room window, I saw them, frolicking in the garden, Obama leaping to try to snatch a stick out of Estelle’s hand.  They were so happy.



Whilst they were outside, I formed a plan.  The plan involved retiring to the master bedroom, plugging the iPod Nano into its Tivoli iYiYi dock and playing some of my funk compilations on the stereo.  I would remain in manly repose, on the bed, until Estelle came in.   If Estelle did not come in, I would use one of the myriad communication devices she surrounded herself with to summon her.  Once summoned, she would be in my power, the door would be firmly closed and the funk would drown out any complaints that her puppy hound might choose to make about the matter.   I liked my plan.  Like all good plans, it had a certain elegant simplicity. 


Before I could carry this plan out, however, I was detained by a call to our landline from Ed.  I filled him in on my Football Manager idea, wandering around the room restlessly as I did so.  The handset was cordless, of course, a Philips VOIP841.  Estelle insisted that we bought it, because apparently, it could be used to make calls via Skype, whatever Skype was.


Ed wondered aloud whether we might ever see each other again, once I had entered into The Game.


“The Beautiful Game”, I crowed, feeling drunk with the impending indulgence.  “It’s perfect.  I’ve got to go to Brussels next Thursday and I can run it on the Macbook on the train.  Ba-da-bing.”


“You sad bastard”, Ed said.  “Anyway, back in the real world, you’ve got clearance from Caroline to come over tomorrow for the Real Thing.  Arsenal against Milan.”


“Ah, smashing.”


“Yes, she’s just on the phone to Estelle now, actually.  I think they’re going to Tiger for the evening.”



”It’s gonna look amazing on my new plasma screen”, Ed chuckled.  “I’ll get us in a pizza from Marco’s and”, he lowered his voice, “oh … I should think, potentially… some Charles?”  This last word was whispered, from which, I gathered that Caroline was in the room with him.


I looked out of the window again and saw Estelle, chatting on the phone.  She was waving away Obama’s frantic attentions, becoming increasingly irritated as the puppy bounced furiously and insistently against her legs.  Through the double-glazed window, I heard his muffled, indefatigable “RRROFFF” and smirked.

”Oh, for God’s sake, man”, I said to Ed.  “You know I can’t do that stuff any more.  Certainly not on a Wednesday evening, anyway.”

”Oh, come on…”

”No, No and No and that’s final, Ed, you fucknut.  A couple of bottles of beer is my limit.  Some of us have work to do…”  I actually had to meet with Jared and David Preece from Glass-Anderson on Thursday morning.

”Oh, alright.”  Ed grumbled.  “This weekend, then.”

”We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”

Once the phone call to Ed had been concluded, I spent five minutes fruitlessly scouring the room for my iPod Nano, before remembering that it was still in my leather case, from my trip to London the previous Thursday.


Just as this dawned on me, they came back in, Estelle laughing, Obama panting as he trotted cockily into the front room.  I glowered at him, with his stuffed toy, wiry good looks.  I was more of a man than he’d ever be.



One Response to “Gadgets”

  1. Frankie said

    haha – fantastic! Is there more?

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