“I mean it. I’ve never written dialogue before.”

“So what are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I’ll think of something.”


Late morning in the city, two older men sitting in a pub waiting for their wives who have slipped away to shop for clothes. The pub is old, the furniture a traditional dark varnish, there are two partly finished pints of beer on the table – one is more finished than the other.

“What time is it?”

“Twelve fifteen. What happened to your watch?”

“I don’t wear one any more. There’s a clock on the mobile and it’s more accurate than my watch was.”

“That sounds very modern.”

“Well, the kids don’t seem to use them any more so I thought I’d try it.”

“Fine – if you don’t forget your mobile.”

“Yeah . . .”


“I remember my first watch. I was proud and disappointed at the same time.”

“Why disappointed?”

“It was a right-handed watch.”

“What . . .?”

“Most left-handed people wear their watches on their right wrist. The trouble is the winder then points up your arm not towards your hand. Winding it on your wrist means working backwards.”

“Show me . . . Oh, I see . . .


“Being left-handed was a problem for you, was it?”

“No . . . Well, sometimes. It meant having to think things through twice . . . The first time when you were shown how to do something, usually by someone right-handed, and the second time how to do it the other way round.”

“That was a problem at school, huh?”

“You bet. The teachers thought I was slow and the other kids knew I was different. One teacher insisted I held my spoon in my right hand at meal times. It was torture trying to do it. I was very left-handed then.”

“Good for playing cricket though – left-handed bowler and all that.”

“Yes, but by the time I really wanted to play sport I had got very mixed up between being left-handed and trying to cope with a right-handed world. I listened to that teacher too much. It took many years before I got my confidence back.”

“Being right-handed myself. I’ve never thought about it.”

“Yeah, well . . . It was only five years ago I discovered there was such thing as a left-handed ruler.”

“How does that work?”

“Well, on a twelve inch ruler, the numbers start from the right hand side for a left-handed person. So when you want to measure, say, two inches, you automatically ‘drag’ the pencil from the right 1 . . 2. With an ordinary ruler, you would subtract the numbers 12 . . 11 and so on. I thought that’s how it was always done until someone showed me a better way. I was good at subtraction!”


“I suppose if there were touch screens when you were young it would have made a big difference.”

“Yes. I can arrange apps etc wherever I want them now. I suspect the querty keyboard was designed by a right-handed person but I mastered that one easily enough. In fact, it’s like a lot of things, in the end you don’t notice the difference because this is the way you have always done it. The only real problem comes with a new practical activity where the person showing me holds whatever it is one way and I try and copy it. The image in front of me . . the way my hands are placed . . . never matches the demo and I have to start all over again.”


“You sent me that image from your iPad the other day . . . extraordinary when you remember the Apple lle and that amazing 125 kB memory!”

“Did you ever read that comic when you were young – ‘Swift’ I think it was called? It had a continuing story of Sammy and his Speedsub. He was my hero. He could do anything with this sub including talking to people anywhere. Seems we can do that ourselves now.”

“Mmm . . .”

“When Alice broke her ankle in Crete and she went into hospital, I was able to email the insurance people and the airline and organise our trip home using the iPad. We were five days late coming home . . . I was commuting between the hotel and the hospital. It was a tense time but I never felt cut off.”

“I remember seeing you when you got back. You were both pleased with the way they looked after you.”

“ . . . from the tourist boat and the slim, dark Frenchman with the well-trimmed beard – her long-time favourite male . . . to the taxi driver, the hotel staff, the medical staff. Language was a problem sometimes, but everyone was kind and helpful. People talk a lot of rubbish about running into trouble overseas. Sounds naive, I know, and of course there are odd places you have to be careful, but generally we all have the same problems in terms of health, comfort, function, appearance. Even if we don’t speak the same language, even if the culture is different, the basic emotions are there somewhere . . . Heck, this is getting heavy. Do you want another beer?”

“Do you know something, if it’s between solving the problems of the world and having another beer, I think I’ll go for the beer this morning and we can solve the other problems tomorrow.”

“Right . . . Oh here they come now . . . How did you get on?” . . .