Sometimes irritation grows pearls. Mostly irritation just grows. I’m well aware of it at the moment, for various bureaucratic reasons. To give a slightly more tangible example, I dive, mostly for spiny lobsters, and to shoot fish and collect abalone. Our water here is really cold to spend a long time in, outside of hottest time of the year (when it can get up to about 20 c / 68F, in sheltered bays – and about 2 degrees cooler at the depth we dive at) and even then you would probably spend time in measured in minutes, rather than 4-6 hours. It’ll get down to 11c/52F on the surface in August. A wetsuit starts to become an essential, and a good one a serious blessing. I have an excellent one made by Probe – 7mm hooded jacket, and 9mm long-john. It was a present, a thank-you gift from a dear friend. It is the best suit I’ve ever owned, and the first new one I have had for a long time. All our money has gone into saving for a home of our own, so this too was ‘paint it blue and make it do’ -and I was pretty blue when I got out the water.
The only trouble is it’s getting old – about 5-6 years I think, and the rubber is no longer quite as thick or warm. But the worst is the fabric coating is just starting to rub off behind the knees, making tiny little bumps… And it has to be skin-tight.
Which you’re barely aware of when you put it on, just noticeable when you’re plunging down into the cold to thirty feet or so… and it doesn’t get better from there. Look, this is absorbing, needing 100% of my concentration (both for dangers – I’ve encountered sharks, stingrays, been stuck in underwater caves, had my air cut off, been caught in very strong currents, and also because finding and catching spiny lobsters needs pretty much all your focus). You stop noticing non-essentials. It’s a great way to clear my mind of all the hassles. It stops me focusing on anything but the dive. I forget my troubles, I don’t even think of books (I can get really, really vague in the last third of a book I am writing, because there is only so much processing power available.)
Except… the chafing behind my knees. It just got steadily worse. To the point where each kick was an exercise of will. No, it was not agony. Just sore and making me notice it – to the point I wasn’t doing the other things I need to do, properly. I went into a cave, narrow an dark – a ‘you can’t turn around cave` -come out backwards or not at all (and God help you if your air stops) because it is a straight shaft, and then 90 degree turn and then 5 yards along. Normally, I’d have been a nervous nelly, and said ‘too tight’. But we needed one more and I could get out, get the wetsuit OFF.
So I went in, and shone my torch down, and I could see the spiky shape of a lobster at the back. So I went in and scruffed him. And believe it or not I was in such discomfort that I was paying attention to my knees, and the lobster, and getting out as soon as possible, and… knocked the regulator out of my mouth against the wall. Didn’t lose it completely, thank goodness, still had one edge in my teeth. but couldn’t breathe. I somehow managed to shove it back into mouth,and without losing the lobster… went past my exit hole – it was a long tunnel, with the shaft about midway (now, my air hose is out of it – all I have to do is follow the hose – behind me in a space I can’t turn around in, back).
It’s dark, I’m holding a torch – which chose just then to get its switch bumped off and not want to come back on, and I can’t fiddle because I have a 5 pound struggling lobster in the other hand, and all I can think about… is the chafing my knees. Anyway, the water is stirred up murk but I could vaguely see a brighter patch where the hose yellow caught what light came down the shaft and I kicked my way out, swearing at my knees with each stroke. My dive buddy was hovering – not a lot he could do, there was barely room for me, let alone two of us – and I pushed the lobster into the bag, and pointedly signaled ‘surface’.
We had to decompress a while at 10 feet – and I’m wondering if I can get my fins and booties off while we wait…
Anyway, back on the boat and I had the relief of getting the irritation to end. It’s not exactly anything to make a fuss about – a pair of raw weals behind my knees. No big deal. Barely notice it with the wetsuit off. But I’m going to have to buy another long-john, which as the bureaucrats are determined to spend all my money on utter worthless rubbish, and I need to keep it for that, means I really really need to sell a reasonable number of copies of CLOUD-CASTLES, when it comes out next month.
The point I’m trying to make is that minor irritation, not relieved becomes major irritation – to the extent that it can override anything, even common sense (I think we’re starting to see this, a lot, with some of the stupider government moves, here, across Europe, and the US). This is true, and very true of books. The problem – for the author, is that irritation – and the reaction to it, tends -at best – to be ‘stop reading’. At worst it means ‘stop reading anything that author wrote’.
Look, different things grate on different people, but 1)it doesn’t take much, and repetition doesn’t make it go away (a wrong caliber did it for me – every time repeated just got worse, instead of me getting used to it.) 2)You can’t – obviously – please everyone. But because repetition it is worth really checking on anything that will get repeated often.
Image: By Schaferle via Pixabay