They’re Justified, Ancient, and Behind the Wheel of an Ice Cream Van

Here’s an example of how ownership of a computer changes one’s daily routine for the better. In fact, this shows how a simple word processing operation can make your life perfect … fireproof … immaculate.

  1. Switch on your desk-top, laptop or tablet as soon as you can, before any morning ablutions or drinking or eating, and certainly before dressing.
  2. Go into Word and click on Create New Document.
  3. Staying on the ‘Home’ tab in Word, move the cursor over to the four icons that consist of small squares, each with six parallel lines in them (why six I wonder?).
  4. It is likely that the first small square will already be glowing and operational, indicating that whatever you write will be aligned neatly down the left margin of the document.
  5. You do not want this as it is only a partial aid to your day.
  6. Also ignore the icon that invites you to align the text down the right hand margin.
  7. The icon that offers to ‘centre’ anything you type may give you pause for thought if you are just starting to explore the benefits of meditation, but this is a hollow illusion compared to the spiritual, practical, psychological, philosophical and emotional value of the icon you really need.
  8. Hover the cursor over the fourth icon, the one where the six lines display a perfectly symmetrical alignment to both left and right.
  9. Click on this icon with a grateful sigh.
  10. You may then close the document, shut down the computer, and get on with your day.

Everything you think, feel and do from that moment on will be fully justified.

~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~

I am returning to episodes in the wider tale of Sami, after several requests (true!). To recap on the story so far: Sami lives in the UK in the not-too-distant future. The world has come to be dominated by a single corporate financial and cultural economy (The Glorious New Monoculture). Strict laws are in place requiring every citizen to have written a novel by the age of 40. The purpose of the Universal Novel Law is one of the things which Sami wishes to explore. She almost succumbs to the temptation to conform and finish her novel by the due date, but ultimately she decides to join the illegal movement known as the No Novel Underground. The No Novel Underground helps her to escape to a tiny airfield in a place called Sleap in Shropshire, from where she has to journey up to Heads of Ayr in Scotland and on to the isolated rock known as Ailsa Craig. From there she is flown by aero-wing to a cabin in the Tongass region of Alaska. Sami must then travel along the chain of the Aleutian Islands to the Kamchatka peninsula, one of the No Novel Underground’s few remaining redoubts.

{Previous episodes are at the following blog dates: 15th November 2011; 21st December 2011; 31st January 2012}

It was Sami’s third day on Ailsa Craig, the third day of unbroken fog on all sides.

The steamy mist was beyond colour. To possess colour you must have memory, and there was nothing on Ailsa Craig that could invest the weightless cloud with any such remembrance. Freed from the negative connotations of words such as ‘grey’, the fog became a kind of friend. Friendship simplifies the complex and celebrates the essentials in life.

“And you can’t get anywhere more simplified and essential than Ailsa Craig”, she found herself saying to her companions as they hunkered down over breakfast just below the crown of the rock island. All seven of her fellow fugitives, plus Akasua, the group’s No Novel Underground contact, had survived the journey so far.

Sami remembered seeing the little island from the shores of Kintyre during a childhood holiday. It looked like a smooth, bald pate emerging from the sea, a nugget of a head either surfacing or drowning. Or like some stone-smooth Christmas pudding floating along with most of its granite-and-plum bulk hidden in the cold depths.

She wasn’t sure whether it was ok to mention novels or not, but it made her think of a book from the middle of the 20th century, Pincher Martin by a writer named William Golding. The central character is shipwrecked and ends up on a rock in the Atlantic, an even smaller sea-boulder than Ailsa Craig. The minuscule island itself becomes the main player in the story, smoothed by gale and tide, pared down to a minimalist cell, cruel in its neutrality, unrelenting, hard and uncompromising as the surface of a mirror.

“This fog helps us stay here unseen. It will clear tomorrow. The aero-wing will collect us at dawn.” Akasua smiled as a particularly bold razorbill skimmed low over their heads. “Yes, something like that!”

The bird was so close with its second sashay that Sami could make out the muddy granules of seashell plastered to its beak. Dirt on the scalpel blade.

Sami tried to imagine morning stars instead of fog. They had a long way to go yet. Tomorrow she would be forty years old. She could hear her parents grieving at her failure to submit (that word again) her final draft of the precious novel. She tracked the paths along which friends and family would learn of her flight.

The morning dew had left the rocks beside her shiny, slick and black. She looked at her shadowy reflection and recognised the person looking back at her. A slow, sure smile of recognition.

    ~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~               ~

“All I want is to enter my house justified”.

This is a quotation from one of the great western movies, an early work by Sam Peckinpah called Ride the High Country. The line is delivered by Joel McCrea to Randolph Scott as the two veterans struggle to make sense of changes in their world.

It is a nod to a text from the Book of Luke in the King James Bible: “I tell you, this man, rather than the other, went down to his house justified; for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased, and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted”.

A certain Word-like symmetry to this buckets-in-the-well image of the tensions between pride and humility. And what a great choice of language by whoever managed to alight on the word ‘justify’ when naming a process that had been used in print media for centuries.

No need to enter your house trailing a ragged right or a ragged left……


“Align text to left and right margins, adding extra space between words as necessary”

So, the aligning is important, but it is the extra space between words that counts. It’s sometimes called poetry.

 Ted X

P.S. The title of this post is a friendly wave to one of pop music’s more bizarre moments, as provided by the KLF provocateurs, Cauty and Drummond, with Tammy Wynette taking a break from standing by her man: Control + click



  1. An engaging read…good to have Sami back…but I also enjoyed 3.43 solid dancing round the room thanks to KLF &Tammy!!…cerebral and corporeal workout in one blog…perfect,Ted!x


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