It started with a dysfunctional colon

The roses are out now, and the primroses are gone, but we are still here...

The roses are out now, and the primroses are gone, but we are still here…

So here I am, still in England, and still waiting for my house sale to go through, when, all of a sudden, my colon seizes up. I can tell you now that is not the greatest thing to have happen to you.

I found myself having trouble expressing myself. I couldn’t smile or laugh, no matter how I tried. It was a terrible distraction when trying to get important emails and admin-type things done.

I mentioned the problem to my daughter in Canada.

‘My colon isn’t working (‘ I said to her. ‘I think it must be gummed up somehow, but I am worried about trying to sort it out by myself /’

The astute among you will have realised we are talking keyboards and emoticons here, not alimentary dysfunction. It has been a while since I gave the laptop keyboard a good clean, and it seems the lack of maintenance well and truly caught up with me.

I tried the tipping it up and shaking it method. Bits and bobs fell out, but the problem persisted.

‘Watch my back, I’m going in!’ I cried merrily, as I gently pried off the Ctrl button on the right. I figured that as there are two of these buttons, if I had trouble getting it back on properly, it would not be a disaster. (I should mention that our parrot used to pull keyboard keys off, so I knew they could normally be plipped back into place. I also knew that the tiny little catches and plastic clips under the keys looked dauntingly fragile.)

At least there are no fluff lobster mosters

At least there are no fluff lobster monsters


But it is pretty gross,isn’t it?

I was horrified at the scene that greeted my eyes. At least I was horrified once I had wiggled my glasses up and down my nose, held the laptop at various angles and eventually found that I could focus if I removed my glasses and held the laptop about three inches from the end of my nose.


A thick felt of fluff, dog hair, mysterious crusty things and bits of grit surrounded the little rubbery nipple that senses pressure from the key. The tiny white plastic clip was tangled up in the grey mess.  I gingerly caught hold of the fluff with a pair of tweezers and pulled.

At this point, I found myself thinking of the 1970s series Land of the Giants. Had I been one of the little people, the key would have seemed as big as the seat of a chair. In this hypothetical scenario, the fluff I had just removed would have been as big as an armful of laundry. And it was pulling the hypothetical equivalent of several pairs of tangled tights with it. YUCK!

As it was clear that the mess was by no means limited to the small space beneath one key, I pondered my next move. What would I do if I took all the keys off and then couldn’t remember where they belonged? What if something really important popped up, requiring an immediate response, when my laptop was a mass of anonymous nipples?

Of course, now that I knew there was a world of nastiness lurking on my lap, I had no choice. In next to no time, the cushion beside me was sporting an array of keys, carefully lined up in exactly the right order. We could have played Scrabble with them, but I did not dare move them from their places.

land of the giantsI picked and plucked, my nose a myopic three inches from the mess. (Rarely was a comma so necessary for the prevention of misunderstanding!) The pile of fluff and hair on the arm of the sofa grew and grew. My beloved brought me a wooden kebab skewer to hook out pieces the tweezers would not reach. The pile continued to grow.

Just then, a message popped up on the screen. Being a chatty person, I could not ignore it. I never learned to touch type properly, but I decided to see what I could dredge up from my memory of Mavis Beacon Teaches You To Touch Type. Touch typing on little flibbly rubber nipples is a strange and disconcerting experience. Take my word for it, and do not try it at home.

Several minutes and one sentence later, I resumed my probings. The pile grew larger. My Land of the Giants alter ego hacked her way through a jungle of hair, tripping over plastic clips the size of folding garden chairs, and gashing her shins on sharp metal up stands. She stubbed her toe on a small boulder of dried crumb and let out a tiny, mild profanity. ‘Oh Gosh!’ she squeaked, microscopically, ‘That hurt rather a lot!’


She should have been securely taped in place

Suddenly, there was a violent tremor. My huge self had decided get technical and just give the thing a jolly good upside-down shake. My tiny self barely had time to fashion a harness from a rope of plaited dog hair and lash herself to one of the clips. She flailed about, helpless, as boulders of grit and something suspiciously like a dried bogey flew past her head. A shard of nail clipping sliced by, almost scything her tiny head off. Melodramatic music indicated a mighty upheaval and likely dire consequences.

The nightmare ceased almost as suddenly as it had started. There were a few after shocks, as big me gave the laptop a few more shakes ‘just in case.’

Tiny me found herself prettily dishevelled, with a few bruises and cuts which somehow enhanced her tiny cuteness and did not ruin her artfully natural-looking make-up. Some of her clothing had been slightly torn, but in a perfectly modest and strangely becoming way.

prettily dishevelled

prettily dishevelled

Just as tiny me was starting to become a very irritating stereotype, I snapped out of my mental meanderings and decided it was time to go for the hoover. As we are not fully equipped in our half-packed, is-it-sold-is-it-not-sold house, we did not have a special keyboard cleaning vacuum cleaner attachment. My nerve nearly failed as the possibility of sucking up a vital part occurred to me.

My inner Heath Robinson came to the rescue. A paper duster and a couple of loom bands later, I had a filter fixed to the end of the nozzle. Goodness knows what tiny me thought, as this horrific device loomed out of the sky, threatening to suck her out of her hiding place and into a dusty, musty-smelling oblivion.

The nozzle filter was such a success that we had a go at my beloved’s keyboard too, but without removing the keys. It was brilliant. Flushed with success, I removed the filter, decided to clean the worst of the fluff off it, and had that ‘Duh!’ moment when it disappeared up the nozzle of the hoover.

Replacing the keys was a fairly straightforward job. A few had slipped about and become mixed up on the cushion. Of course, that was not a problem: a press of a nipple brought up the corresponding letter on the screen.

My only remaining concern is my space bar. It nolongerfunctions reliably, renderingme even more breathlessthan usual as I type. Anyideas? Anyone?