Sausages, a man with a barrow and the Berlin Wall

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the
fall of the Berlin wall and my thoughts go back to the days when I first began to use
a computer for word-processing.
What an expression, word
processing.  No longer the business of
writing but the business of processing words, as if words were like sausages on
a conveyer belt in need of packaging. 
I can see it in my mind’s eye. 
My husband makes sausages.  He takes a lump of pork and minces it till it
turns into a lumpy pink sludge then adds herbs and spices. 
Next he forces some part of the
mixture into the top of his sausage maker, brand name DICK, and screws down the
lever that forces the mince into thin stockings of sausage casing made out of
cow gut lining. 

He squeezes a quantity of mixture
into a gigantic sausage and finally cuts it off in over size lengths that he
then sections into sausage length strips tied with a butcher’s string. 
My husband lets the sausages sit in
the fridge for a day, then Cryovacs a small quantity, usually in batches of three
or four sausages, and finally freezes them until use.  Most of the sausages he gives away to friends
and family, and some we take out and defrost for barbeques. 
My husband’s sausages taste better
than the ones we buy from the shops. We know what goes into them.
Word processing on the other hand
requires other ingredients like the mind behind the machine to turn them into
something of value.
Twenty-five years ago I looked at
computers in the same way as I had looked at cars another ten years earlier
when I was still young and believed I would never need to drive one. 
My husband would be in charge of
all things car related.  I could simply
be a passenger. 
Whether this attitude held me back
I do not know, though it took me several years in my early twenties to get my driver’s
I was phobic about driving, one of
my driving instructors told me.  He took
me out for lessons in his turquoise coloured Datsun 180y and every time I
stepped inside his car I needed to change my shoes. 
These were the days of platform
heels, shoes that gave an extra three or four inches in height. 
Those were the days when a driving instructor
put up a yellow learner’s plate on his car and he could charge a fee to help
someone like me learn to drive. 
It took me three attempts to get my
The first time I failed to stop for
a man who had walked across the driveway with a wheelbarrow. 
I can see him still this man
hunched over his red barrow intent on heaving his load from one side of the
road to the next. 
I could not bring myself to
stop.  There was too much to synchronise:
the getting out through the driveway in a non-automatic car with clutch and gears,
which I needed to coordinate in order to start and to stop. 
I had just managed to get the car out
of the parking lot but needed to stop too soon. 
I managed to slow back to first gear and hoped the man would get past
soon enough for me to go on driving but my instructor slammed on his secondary brakes
to spare us all the horror of my car running into the man with the
The examiner failed me on the spot.
The second time I went for my
licence I managed to get out of the driving zone and onto the road.  I was then able to negotiate my way through
several streets under the examiner’s instructions, but by the time it came to
parallel parking my nerves were frayed to the point I could not manage to synchronise
the required number of full turns of the wheel to get the car into place. 
Once again I failed. 
On my third attempt I managed to
drive through the streets of Oakleigh without any mishaps, but once again on
the hill that runs up to the Chadstone shopping centre after I had managed a
handbrake start and brought us back to the flat I could not negotiate my way into
a parallel park through the two marker flags the instructor had set in place. 
Too much reversing and I could not
get my mind into position, but this time the examiner took pity on me and
granted me my licence after all.
‘You’d better
practice your parking’, he said some thirty years ago.
Yet to this day I cannot parallel
park.  I can reverse into spaces from an
angle.  I can reverse out of driveways.  I can reverse into a parking space that is
parallel if there are no obstacles in front or behind, but I cannot squeeze my car
into a narrow space between two cars on the side of the road, despite my
instructor’s urge that I practise.
My husband and now my daughters
have volunteered to teach me, but something inside leaves parallel parking a gap in my
experience that I do not want to rectify. 

Another wall that has yet to fall. 

6 thoughts on “Sausages, a man with a barrow and the Berlin Wall”

  1. Hi Elisabeth,

    Coincidentally, I've just been to Berlin. Sadly, we left last Thursday, three days before the anniversary of the fall of the wall. Nevertheless we were able to see the preparations for it.

    1989 – seems like yesterday.




  2. It took me three times to pass my driving test despite the fact I was driving on a daily basis albeit with a qualified driver sitting beside me. The amusing thing was as soon as I passed I moved to East Kilbride, was living literally across the road from my office and no longer had access to (or need of) a car. I was in my late thirties before I owned a car of my own, a Talbot Samba. Someone at work saw I was driving and asked what kind of car it was. “A red one,” I replied, in all seriousness. The make wasn’t important to me and I’ve never understood the whole penis substitute thing. I’m not saying I can’t appreciate a fancy sports car—one of the first cars I ever fell in love with was a Lotus Europa (I had the Matchbox model)—but I’ve never felt comfortable around cars like that; they’re not me. It’s like gorgeous women. I can appreciate why people think a woman like Angelina Jolie is stunning—she is, no argument—but I can’t imagine walking round Asda with her or being comfortable walking round Asda with her. So if I can differentiate: I find her beautiful but not attractive.

    I’m not big on appearances. I’m not a show-off in any sense of the word. A computer is a tool. I have no emotional attachment to it. If it breaks down I repair it or replace it. When I had cars—I owned only three over the years, the Samba, a Triumph Acclaim and a Vauxhall Nova (both silver)—I was never out at the weekend polishing the hubcaps or anything. Took me all my time to remember to check the oil and water levels and the pressure in the tyres. I haven’t owned a car for about twenty years and I’ve not driven for nearly ten years. I miss the convenience but less and less. The Internet’s taken all the pressure off. I even buy my shoes online.

    I don’t find the term ‘word processing’ offensive or demeaning in the slightest though. I actually like the notion of processing words; writing is a process after all. I guess I’m just not a Romantic.

    I find I have no memories of the fall of the Berlin wall other than a vague image of a man bashing away at it with a sledgehammer or something. And that’s it. I remember the Berlin concert from 1990 when Roger Waters and friends performed The Wall better. Not sure what that says.

    Apparently I have nothing meaningful to say about sausages.

  3. A sausage machine named 'Dick' is rather fitting, is it not. The sausage is sometimes saucily called a Dick owing to it's err, likeness to … oh, leave it there.

    Regarding your problem with parking and reversing – I think you are similar to millions of other ladies world-wide. I don't know why this should be but it's something I've heard of more than once over the years.

    I learnt to drive at age 18 when I was with the RAF in Germany in 1953 – in a 5-ton German Magirus lorry. No syncromesh gears, so it was a case of 'double-declutching' all the time. In order to pass the 'driving test' I had to reverse this lorry into a hangar and did it easily: it was an aircraft hangar of course!

    When I was demobbed my RAF licence was not valid in the UK so had to take the usual driving test and, despite making some daft mistakes the examiner gave me a 'pass'. I think the reason was he was new to the town on Sutton, in Surrey, and towards the end of the test he simply told me to drive back to the test centre. I had no idea where it was as I didn't know the area either! I lived in Croydon, not Sutton. He then advised me to 'follow the trolley-bus lines' which eventually got us back.

    That was in 1956. Doubt whether I would pass the test today! I do not think I'd pass the Highway Code questions either!

  4. I wondered of the connections made the first time through. I wonder still.. The computer and word processing for me mostly resulted in less guilt. I stopped killing so many trees☺
    As for driving, I was raised around Detroit.. driving has never been optional here.

  5. I'm so glad I have found someone else who failed 3 licence attempts! However, I believe parallel parking is now one of my superpowers and love the challenge (which I don't always meet).
    If it is any help, your car is never as large as it looks from the inside which is what seems to befuddle most people when I am watching from an outside vantage point.
    A sausage machine called 'Dick'. Bwahahaha
    Sorry, that was uncalled for.

  6. Processing words as one would process sausage. An interesting parallel; very apt in many ways. As both a journalist and a member of the clergy, I have processed a lot of words. A whole lot! I almost want to sigh at that thought.

    I also had to try my drivers licence test three times. Yet there was a time I was also licensed to drive big trucks (as in fire engines). I got that one first try. Wonders never cease.

    Two fascinating things about the Berlin Wall. It was up; now it is down, and bits of it are spread all over the world. I suspect it took a fair amount of processing for that spreading to happen.

    Blessings and Bear hugs!

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