Saturday, 25 July 2009

Out of the (Student Loans) Labyrinth

An exhilerating feeling of achievement sweeps through me, to have completed three epic struggles;
  • Steph’s student finance application
    for next year, a simple matter of confirming how many kids we’ve got.

  • Shaking off the vicious Pink Spambot Succubus attached to my Twitter account.

  • Renewing Family Tax Credits; we need the money, without which our children end up living on squirrels in the woods. This had to be done by the end of July.
  1. This evening’s silver spoon goes to HMRC for Family Tax Credit, where after a short delay the whole matter was dealt with on the phone, with the right paperwork to hand, in under five minutes. Their agent dealt with a potentially snaggy private matter kindly, efficiently, and speedily on the phone. Top Drawer!

  2. The Wicked Pink Spambot Succubus has been off and on my Twitter account most of this week. It came back for four messages 24 hours after its original demise, sporting a new and previously unheard of web address. The general effect was very cat-and-mouse, like a U-Boat movie. At one point it seemed to be changing my password back as fast as I could change it to lock it out — a distinctly unnerving business. I wonder whether the Twitter API itself was doing strange flaky things. I have since been doing a roaring trade in helping fellow sufferers. My fear was that my whole Twitter account would become unusable. I am very grateful to followers for their kindness and understanding. After four days, it looks as though I’m clear.

  3. Grand Labyrinthine Wooden Spoon, however, gloes to the Student Loans Company. All Lucy and I had to do was click four buttons to confirm we hadn't had any more kids, or, I suppose, given any away, in the past year. How long can it take to click a mouse eight times? The answer is just over two hours of craziness, trying to get in, juggling passwords, getting locked out, changing secret answers, staring at blank screens, phoning the helpline times 2. The guy who helped us the second time round did his best, but it still took another half hour of high jinks with him on the line, and at times apparently as bemused as us, before Lucy could confirm her details.
Let’s celebrate endeavour and struggle, good and bad, noble and pointless. Edwin Muir’s Labyrinth is still, to my mind, the best blank verse to be had in modern English:


Since I emerged that day from the labyrinth,

Dazed with the tall and echoing passages,

The swift recoils, so many I almost feared

I’d meet myself returning at some smooth comer,

Myself or my ghost, for all there was unreal

After the straw ceased rustling and the bull

Lay dead upon the straw and I remained,

Blood-splashed, if dead or alive I could not tell

In the twilight nothingness (I might have been

A spirit seeking his body through the roads

Of intricate Hades ) — ever since I came out

To the world, the still fields swift with flowers, the trees

All bright with blossom, the little green hills, the sea,

The sky and all in movement under it,

Shepherds and flocks and birds and the young and old,

(I stared in wonder at the young and the old,
For in the maze time had not been with me;
I had strayed, it seemed, past sun and season and change,
Past rest and motion, for I could not tell

At last if I moved or stayed; the maze itself

Revolved around me on its hidden axis

And swept me smoothly to its enemy,

The lovely world) — since I came out that day,

There have been times when I have heard my footsteps

Still echoing in the maze, and all the roads

That run through the noisy world, deceiving streets
That meet and part and meet, and rooms that open
Into each other — and never a final room
Stairways and corridors and antechambers

That vacantly wait for some great audience,

The smooth sea-tracks that open and close again,

Tracks undiscoverable, indecipherable,
Paths on the earth and tunnels underground,
And bird-tracks in the air — all seemed a part

Of the great labyrinth. And then I'd stumble

In sudden blindness, hasten, almost run,

As if the maze itself were after me

And soon must catch me up. But taking thought,

I'd tell myself, “You need not hurry. This

Is the firm good earth. All roads lie free before you.”

But my bad spirit would sneer, “No, do not hurry.
No need to hurry. Haste and delay are equal
In this one world, for there's no exit, none,

No place to come to, and you'll end where you are,

Deep in the centre of the endless maze.”

I could not live if this were not illusion.

It is a world, perhaps; but there’s another.

For once in a dream or trance I saw the gods

Each sitting on the top of his mountain-isle,

While down below the little ships sailed by,

Toy multitudes swarmed in the habours, shepherds drove

Their tiny flocks to the pastures, marriage feasts

Went on below, small birthdays and holidays,

Ploughing and harvesting and life and death,

And all permissible, all acceptable,

Clear and secure as in a limpid dream.

But they, the gods, as large and bright as clouds,

Conversed across the sounds in tranquil voices

High in the sky above the untroubled sea,
And their eternal dialogue was peace
Where all these things were woven, and this our life

Was as a chord deep in that dialogue,

As easy utterance of harmonious words,

Spontaneous syllables bodying forth a world.

That was the real world; I have touched it once,

And now shall know it always. But the lie,

The maze, the wild-wood waste of falsehood, roads

That run and run and never reach an end,
Embowered in error — I’d be prisoned there
But that my soul has birdwings to fly free.

Oh these deceits are strong almost as life.

Last night I dreamt I was in the labyrinth,

And woke far on. I did not know the place.


UKViewer said...

It sound to me like you are having a technology nightmare. The twitter issue is one I have managed to avoid as I protect my updates, meaning that I vet any potential issues.

I also will not follow anyone who is not a regular poster or user and who already has a defined follower and following list, many of whom I share.

Perhaps having thousands of followers does help to promote the message, but I wonder if it makes you a particular target for spam bots etc.

As for HMRC they are good and have improved in the past two years, after a lot of adverse publicity about their systems.

I have no experience of the student loan verification system, but it sounds like something set up by Government using that large (I wont name it corporation) responsible for many other system debacles over the years.

I liked the Poem to I am not familiar with Edmund Muir, but I might just find out more about him.

E. Roberts said...

great post!

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