(written April 2006)

The blue screen – essential when you shoot video with the plan to put a different image behind the speaker – was hoisted to its full height, towering from the ceiling and falling like a blue wave to the floor. I had set the lights, and after a few adjustments, it seemed to be set right.

Our speaker was collected from the airport the previous day and today was to be the first day of a four day shoot. Planned was a series on Spiritual Warfare from Ephesians, a two part series on Servanthood from Timothy in addition two special programmes, one about Christmas and another on Easter.

Our living room was turned on its head to become our makeshift “studio”; we shifted the furniture out of the way, hung jet black curtains on the window to exclude the powerful spring sunshine and took a monitor off my edit suite so it could do its duty as part of our “teleprompter”.

The teleprompter is a marvel, sitting as it does in front of the camera – the monitor, laying on its back, is up facing and a two way mirror is placed at an angle above, catching the reflection of the monitor and so while the speaker is looking directly at his notes (the image in the mirror) – the camera remains concealed behind – looking through the mirror and not detecting the image. This is much easier for the speaker; staring at the ‘one-eyed monster’ is not easy. The result is that he is always looking directly at the camera and is always on track with his message.

Everything was ready. The speaker had spent time in prayer and reviewing his notes. All that was left was to bring our trusty laptop out to the “studio”, hook it up to the monitor that is part of the teleprompter and we were ready to shoot.

At first it was a curiosity. The laptop seemed a bit testy even uncooperative. Things it would normally do with a ‘click’ it wasn’t doing. Things it would do “automatically” it was refusing to do. I would say it was behaving rather erratically.

What do you do when a computer misbehaves? You re-boot it. You may feel like literally “booting” it, but, no, you “re-boot” it. It is almost a mantra; problem with your computer, turn it off and back on again. This action fixes a myriad of problems, a panacea for most things Windows.

So I turned it off.

I turned it back on.

However, it failed to turn back on. Well, the screen came alive – the electricity was flowing, but almost immediately, up came an error message, a new error message, an error message I had never seen before and that was as far as it would go. This was an error message before the dreaded Windows “Blue Screen of Death” – the normal kind of message you get when Windows is in the terminal throes of a software crash. It never got that far. Black screen (not blue) – error message. That was it. This was new. This was uncharted territory. This was scary.

There it sat.

There I sat.

I was staring at the screen.. the words of the error message staring back at me. I was speechless. I hadn’t anticipated this. This had never happened to me before.

There we sat, my laptop and I.

We were ready to shoot.  Our Turkish speaker had travelled from Germany where he is based.  He had made a special trip for this shoot. He is prepared. The room is readied. The Blue Screen (for video) is set. The lights are set. The camera is primed and ready to shoot. But the teleprompter can only work with a computer – no computer no teleprompter, no teleprompter no shoot, no shoot no programme, no programme then no encouragement for the saints. This is not an inconvenience, this is serious.

Now I don’t know a lot about computers, but what I know I tried. I am inclined to be, hmm, what is a kind word for “stubborn like a mule”? maybe it would be, er, “steadfast”? Okay, I steadfastly tried to restart the computer. Again and again, over and over. But it was determined not to respond to my machinations. And respond it did not do.

Whatever I tried it returned the same response, fell at the same hurdle, refused to alter its chosen course. Well, the laptop earns full credit for consistency, for it was consistent in its refusal to move beyond that first error message.

In my, uh, steadfastness, I tried every variation on a theme I could image to coax the laptop back to a semblance of health, but to no avail. The laptop was not going to be so easily cajoled into compliance.

“Plan ‘B’, we must go to Plan ‘B’ – er, what is Plan ‘B’?” I muttered.

The only Plan ‘B’ that came to mind involved dragging the PC out, hooking it up and then, at last, getting down to the real work.

Great, wonderful, a way forward, light at the end of the tunnel, a solution…

Except that the PC is sick.

When we returned from the UK a hard drive had failed in the PC. The main hard drive had failed. So I fitted a new hard drive, re-installed Windows and got everything nearly back and nearly working.  Nearly….

This is a happy story so far, isn’t it?

Then the new hard drive began to fail. Error message upon error message, fault upon fault, cascading together into an avalanche of ill tidings. I threw Norton System Works at it, and it found and repaired problem after problem after problem… and every time I ran it, it found more problems. The drive is sick, very, very sick. However, it was still working, just.

So, we installed the teleprompter software – which T. that very morning, in a fit of responsibility and resourcefulness had copied off the now immobile and uncooperative laptop and safely squirrelled it away little realising that in a few hours that one act would be key to Plan ‘B’. We moved the PC and got it all set up and ready to go – hey not bad, we wanted to start shooting in the morning, and by early evening we were ready to go. That evening we shot two messages.

And so, over the remaining days we shot video, whilst trying to prod the laptop back to a facsimile of life, and load tape on to the edit suite to ensure that what we shot was good. A bit of a three ring circus trying to be in two places at the same time and keep three or four tasks going simultaneously.

Whilst in the midst of this somewhat frenetic activity, one of my ‘wisdom teeth’ decided, in its wisdom, to rear its ugly head and announce its presence in my mouth. Now I’m too old for wisdom teeth, and hey, I knew it was there, it did not have to make the effort to remind me. Up late trying to sort out the laptop, not much sleep courtesy of my wisdom tooth but the shoot goes on…

Well, the laptop is finally, hmm, let me say “working” again, but after a fashion. It does bizarre and unexpected things – I guess, contrary to the saying, that an old dog actually can learn new tricks – but some of the tricks it has learned are really weird. It remains not only very ill, but, I fear, terminally ill. The solution to its ailment will involve having to copy all the data off the hard drive, wipe it clean and reinstall Windows from scratch, then bringing it up-to-date, then reloading all the programmes and bringing them up-to-date. Ooph, I feel worn out describing it all. All-in-all, probably two or three days worth of work – just to be able to ‘get to work’.

As a friend recently wrote with regard to the saga of my laptop – my digital servant:
“”Your servant is in bed, sick and terribly tormented. I can only have compassion on you, not your servant, because just as one must never get angry at an inanimate object, it stands to reason one must not pity it either. I am afraid it is hard to expect miracles for this soulless servant of yours. It can neither be damned nor blessed…..only put into order or chaos.””

Well, to put it into ‘order’ I need two or three days and I don’t know when I will find those days.

However, for now the shoot is done, the programmes are in the bag – on tape – loaded on the computer – ready for editing.

As the new series title “Spiritual Warfare” suggests – life has its share of struggles, it can be a battle to get even simple things done. But we can rest in knowing the battle is not ours but His, even if we feel the struggle and have to deal with the aftermath. Often it is not “Spiritual”, but it is still a struggle.

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