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I got a bit nostalgic about a desk…

This week has been strange for me. Uncharacteristically for “Pandemic Steven”, I’ve taken the week off work. I like my holidays and going away, and the idea of a week where I had to stay home felt a bit odd, however the time was right to take a lil break.

Among the many tasks and outdoor social events of the week, I found myself finishing off some of the last bits of clearing up Grandma’s old flat ahead of the next chapter of it’s life… (More on that soon!). The big job that needed doing, was the removal of “the desk”.

I started the dismantling without thought as to what the desk meant, yet as I undid the many screws, bolts, brackets, braces and beams that held it together, I started to get a little nostalgic.

It might not be the exact desk, but this amazing portrait is a pretty accurate representation of the original proprietor of the desk!
(Portrait by Louise Soloway Chan)

The desk in question was huge. About 1.5 meters in length and easily over 50cm deep. A set of drawers was attached underneath at each end. All finished in a sort of Oak Veneer. (Naturally, I would hope that “Oak” was ‘Veneer of the week’ this week, however I suspect “oak” to be far too simple!) Sadly, having asked around and even taking it to one, the charity shops didn’t want it. It was a product of its time – 1988 said the label underneath – built for a large CRT monitor and large PC, it was a nightmare to transport and alas, its time to meet its maker had come.

30 years is a good innings for a desk!

Amid the grass, screws, pieces of wood and metal in the garden behind the flat, where dismantling was taking place, I started to think a bit about the desk. For years (13 to be precise), that desk had been the place that my grandfather z’l wrote his articles for the various publications he wrote in, surfed the internet (I’m led to believe the internet was still only in black and white when he was online!) and wrote silly stories to keep Adam and myself amused as kids. (If you haven’t heard of the tales of “Dashy Docklands and Uriah Underground”… you probably aren’t missing much!).

As a child, I remember most visits to 54 Redbridge Lane started with a visit to that desk. Zaida was always in his office. He’d be writing an article, or playing a game at the sanctuary of his desk. I’d go up and find out what he was doing. Often, work would be stopped, one of the many floppy disks would be placed in the disk drive and he’d show me how to play what are now classic DOS games such as Micemen or JezzBall. (I got sidetracked writing this, just played Micemen, and I’m still useless!) I’m pretty sure that it was some of those early encounters with the computer that lead me to the love of technology I have today and to a job in the industry I’ve been lucky to work in for the last 10 years.

When Zaida passed away, and subsequently Grandma moved to Barnet, the desk came with. It fitted perfectly into the alcove in the dining room, and while Grandma’s enthusiasm for computing was not the same as Zaida’s the desk still saw use through the occasional email, game of Free Cell or Solitaire, attempts to download and print various articles and/or recipies and the short lived…. foray…. Grandma once undertook into the world of Facebook.

As time went on, I’d find myself spending more and more time at the desk again. Now, however undoing whatever mess grandma had managed to unwittingly get herself into in her internet crusades, or attempting to fix the printer. (which usually meant just putting new cartridges in, as they had been that seldom used they had dried up!).

Taking the desk apart piece by piece was strangely therapeutic. It gave me a good chance to think of all the great memories over the years;

My first memory of printing something happened at that desk – a sign that read “Tea, Coffee or Brandy?” and contained a perfectly 90s clip art image of a cup which was affixed to the dining room door at 54 Redbridge Lane in homage to the game Adam and I used to play where we’d offer you “Tea, Coffee or Brandy” from an old Tea Set Grandma saved for us…

I also thought back to awe I felt the first time we saw a digital camera – Uncle Leslie had returned from one of his many trips to China, asked for a floppy disk and took some photos of us. We all went up to the office and watched as the floppy disk was popped into the drive and we appeared on the screen! Copies were emailed to us at home, and a few moments later, by the magic of “BubbleJet” the photo was also printed out!

As I took the drawers apart, I removed the “magic” trays in the tops of the drawers. They would contain many dried up pens, blunt and broken pencils, and bits and pieces. I remember being mystified at the drawer within the drawer as a kid!

Suddenly, I realised that the dismantling was complete and all I was left with was a pile of pieces that I’d have to work out disposing of.
An era was over. I was sad, but also felt a strange sort of closure and completeness.

As I sat looking at the pile of pieces, I realised that this wasn’t the only era to end this week… Today (Friday) is the last working day I’ll officially have the job title “IT Support Engineer”. For the last (very almost) 10 years, I’ve held a variety of similar titles and been blessed to work for 3 very different companies, supporting internal staff and infrastructure, being “The IT Guy”.

From next week, I’m trying something new – I’ll be a Technical Program Manager. I’ll have new responsibilities, new things to do, different people to meet and different goals to achieve. I’m excited as I am scared but am looking forward to the challenge.

It’s going to be seriously strange after 10 years not to be “the IT Guy” and I’m not sure quite how I’m going to get my head round that… but like the desk, sometimes good things come to the end of their era, to make space for even better things in the future.

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