Cabin fever - Chris Cork - Monday, March 21, 2011

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Life got decidedly odd last week. Those who live closest to me might say, if asked, that I was perhaps not at my most robust mental-health wise. If pressed for a more specific answer they might even go so far as to say that myself and the marbles were in an ongoing separation situation. A bit crazy.

It was a week of very long days spent in front of the bank of monitors and computers that these days comprise my workstation. I am usually powering it all up before seven in the morning and shutting down around midnight. It would not be true to say that I am working for all of that time, but my head is in ‘work mode’ for most of it. I watched a couple of very good films –’Moon’ and ‘The adjustment bureau’ – and read about half of an excellent book on the evolution of the American language and the second half of a book about the eccentricities of English cycling. And I saw an awful lot of awful things.

Just for a change most of the awfulness was being inflicted on those other than who live in the Land of the Pure, and it was unrelenting. A week of death and mayhem culminated in a dreadful drone strike in Waziristan and by Saturday morning when this was written I was running on the smell in the tanks. “ ‘Two turnin’ an’ two burnin’ “ as the pilots used to say in WW2 as they brought their crippled four-engined bombers back to a heavy landing.

On top of all this there was the cunningly-devised game called ‘Chase the bijli’ which is designed to reduce large sections of the population to gibbering psychopathy. Yes Dear Reader the gloves are off once again and the summer-long slugging match between the consumer and the electricity suppliers has kicked off at least three weeks early this year. Naturally the capacitor on the air-conditioner had managed to break itself since it was last used in October and when eventually coaxed back into life by the man who seems able to do the Lazarus trick with anything electrical it disgorged a winters-worth of dust, a couple of small dessicated lizards and the parrots private stash of nibbled matches. All over the computers and monitors beneath to where they had been relocated in the hope of having a more congenial working environment in the hotter months. The screw was further tightened by there being an outage of internet connection for half a day. No explanation by the ISP of course.

Those whose job it is to keep me functional by providing regular injections of tea and food were by this time approaching my chair with much the same caution as those who were battling nuclear reactor fires in Japan. The slightest irregularity on the path I trod (not that I trod any path in actuality – I didn’t leave the house for three days) was likely to produce a response that you could have lit an entire city with. Sharp objects were removed from within my reach.

It’s twenty-six inches. I just measured it. The distance between my spectacle lens and the nearest of the three screens in front of me. Cabin fever is a condition which afflicts people who live for long periods in isolation in difficult or primitive conditions. Surrounded by fear and uncertainty. Gripped by delusional belief and not infrequently paranoid. Twenty-six inches is just far too close to the cabin wall for comfort and there’s a werewolf sitting in the corner. Just kidding - it’s a rhinoceros. Werewolves don’t exist, do they?

The writer is a British social worker settled in Pakistan. Email: manticore73@gmail. com

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