The blue tongue has made his first appearance by the front door after his long dormant period. He surprises me every year.

The crunching and crackling in the undergrowth gave me pause, then I saw it wasn’t a snake, just a fatter lizard, his striking medallion markings perhaps a little darker than when I last saw him as autumn crept up.

The biggest surprise is that spring has come around so quickly. Spring, when our minds are meant to turn to, what was it? Ah, yes – cleaning.

Most writers have an attachment to paper. (Or is it only me?). We collect and accumulate. You never know when some old article or newspaper clipping or exhibition catalogue or notebook might come in useful. And all those first handwritten drafts might have something special that was lost when converted into word files. But this year I have some hard resolve and a very big council-supplied recycle bin.

Which reminds me of a story I read long ago about clerks and the price of accumulating so much weight. The Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. is most famous as the place Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865. America was shocked and has not forgotten since. A generation later, twenty-two people died there in the same building, but a nation does not mourn the passing of clerks down through history.

These twenty-two clerks were busy with tiny index cards. I have some index cards on my desk in front of me too. This is what we used in ‘the olden days’ and I can’t learn new tricks. The cards hold character details and plot points and vital descriptions: all the information you can’t hold in your brain at one time when writing.

Their job, these unfortunate twenty-two clerks, was to work with the official records of the War Department, records dating all the way back to the War of Independence. Until in 1893 the weight of knowledge was too much and the clerks and the files and thirty million index cards crashed through three floors of the Ford’s Theatre building. Falling onto each other – a concertina wail, an accordion lament of ceilings. Twenty-two dead and a further sixty-eight injured. From information overload.

And now I have to decide what to do in my spring clean. To throw, or not to throw, that is the question. To have a clear out before the foundations beneath me give way…

Or to procrastinate writing a blog. Writing on air.

The world has changed since 1893. And since 1993! We have the offer of all the information in the world at your fingertips, just a few clicks away on these amazing interwebs. Ah, the unbearable lightness of the virtual world.

 

 

The image of the index cards is by Tedey Tan

 

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