My 88th Birthday. July 23rd 2042. Our friends and family are visiting us at ‘Ubuntu Uplands’, the country estate Dawn and I designed, built, and now use as our base when we’re in the UK. We tend to come back around summertime, when the living is easy.
Ever since 2022 book sales, with a bit of adjusting, have kept us going here along with our creative community. When the first copies rattled off the printing press we had no idea of the adventures to come. And they’re still coming. However, I’m trying to get comfortable in this modern ergonomic chair, wondering if we shouldn’t have accepted John Lewis’s offer to fit the place out with a retro ‘2022 social space special,’ a suite of ‘living room luxury’ after I did that Kitchen Percussion Christmas Ad for them. Dawn is adjusting it for me when the inquisitive face of a freckled nine year old pops up. It’s JD23, the delightful daughter of our friend Amelie. She’s scanning me closely.
“Captain Tom, Grandma says you have Iris Eye from drumming so much back in the golden days” she says.
Her grandmother, another famous author, Amanda approaches. “The olden days”, she says, “And it’s R.S.I. Repetitive Strain Injury. Grandma’s got it too. When we were young we couldn’t just converse with our computers, like you do with Poppins. We had to type words on a keyboard. But we’re OK now, if we take it easy”.
“Oh, do you get pins and needles, like when I sit on my hands? Is that why you always have your bow tie undone Captain Tom, as if you’re one of the Brat Pack?”
“The Rat Pack” I reply. “Has Grandpa ever suggested you watch Ocean’s Eleven together? That, plus some of the earlier James Bond movies would shed some light on my sartorial choices.”
JD23 spots Dawn coming our way. “Lady Dawn! Tell us all a story, pleeeeease!” Lady Dawn’s story is all about pirates and hidden caves and storms and losing the treasure and finding the treasure again. Plus, of course, a bit with a dog.
JD23 is delighted, but then she’s sad all of a sudden. “I wish Pretty Patel would let me have a real name like you Lady Dawn. Is she going to be Primetime Minister forever?”
The cameras that we were compelled to install by law at Ubuntu Uplands twitch in the corners of the room. Four of them hidden up in the Art Deco frieze zoom in on this young one.
“Oh for crying out loud”, says Lee, the UK’s top film producer and JD23’s grandfather. “Here too, is there no escape Tom?”
JD23 enjoys the attention though. She jumps on to our minimalist coffee table and declares, “If Jeremy Corduroy had been Primetime Minister I could have been Susan for my whole life and forever. Grandad said so. So, from now on everybody call me Susan!” As we applaud her she eyeballs the camera above the birthday cake in the corner. “Up the resolution!”
Ah, the olden days, or as JD23 quite rightly calls them, the golden days. Let’s go back to summertime in the year 2001.
Dawn travels a lot and she enjoys getting regular updates from me, so to manage my R.S.I I get a special device to help me out. You guessed it, Via-Voice prototype. Via the interweb I’ve been emailing her all around the world, trying to describe my feelings for her. I must confess, I’m not the most spontaneous or demonstrative man when it comes to romantic words. Flowers? Yes, as long as the garage is open. Romantic declarations on paper? Cupid’s arrow seems to have missed me on this count.
Dictating to Via-Voice at the end of the day, when my voice isn’t so clear, has helped though. When the software isn’t sure what I’ve said it stops me gently and says ”Tom I didn’t get that. Was it, Dawn, I want you to know that…
1) I’m keeping myself busy
2) I’m mixing my drinks whizzy
3) I’m making myself dizzy
4) I’m dating your friend Lizzie
5) I Love you”.
Generally I say ”Pick 1”. Via-Voice then slips in the appropriate phrase and we move on until I get tired again.
”Tom I didn’t get that. Was it when you go to bed tonight, please remember…
1) to set the alarm
2) to think of the farm
3) to drink something warm
4) to dream up a storm
5) I Love you”
“Pick 1” again, obviously. It’s funny though, whatever I dictate, the 5th option always presents itself as a sort of generic non sequitur. A glitch in the programme.
”Captain Tom, I like you but grandma says I should never marry a musician because they’re shelf obsessed. Is that because you’re always thinking about books? How did you, with your pirate looks, get to marry the lovely Lady Dawn?”
I chink on a champagne glass, gathering the crowd.
”Well, I’m glad you asked me that JD23″ I say. “Lady Dawn had just come back from a storytelling tour of Rome, Marrakech and Barcelona. I met her at the airport with a bunch of red roses from the, er, florist. Then I got down on one knee and asked her right there in front of all the mini cab drivers.”
”Yes, and I coolly said WHY? Why do you want to marry me?” interjects my elegant wife, in her vintage Audrey Hepburn party dress.
I quickly bring the attention back to me by clinking the glass again. ”And, JD23, I was just about to say, ”Oh, you know, I want to marry you because we get on quite well, and we have similar interests, and we’ve both been around the block a bit. And then it happened JD, that’s when I heard Cupid prompting me, whispering in my ear those two magic words… “
”Surely it was THREE magic words”, says JD23.
”Well I only heard TWO”, I say, raising myself in my ergonomic chair. ”It was definitely Cupid and he definitely said…”
“Pick 5!” shouts the whole crowd, as if they’ve heard this story a hundred times before. Oh how we laugh.
“Captain Tom, I’ve got you a present, actually I’ve got you TWO presents for your shelf.”
Amelie, her Mum, hands her the first one, “Ah, just what I always wanted”, I say. “Fly Fishing by J.R.Hartley”.
Amelie hands her the second one. “And this” says JD23. “The book that made you famous. We tried everywhere to get YOUR book but it’s been out of print for ten years. But look! You’re on the cover of this one and you can buy them everywhere.”
The cameras in the corner twitch again, zooming in on the title.
It’s the 2022 blockbuster by Dawn Ellis, Rolling Stone’s book of the year, ‘How To Adjust A Drummer’.
JD23 taunts the cameras like this as her ‘party piece’ at family gatherings. ‘Big Sister’ (government) tolerates this to 13, after which parents can be fined. After 15 they begin to get ‘stars’ against their name. Black stars. This diminishes their chances in the job market, so the parents themselves have a chance to get them into line for 2 years. Although the applause for the ‘Susan’ announcement could be seen as anti-authority such things are tolerated as a harmless way of letting off steam while making a note of anyone who seems particularly enthusiastic. If we were to actually call her Susan black land-rovers would appear within 10 minutes. But that’s another story.