Nicola Mostyn gets to grip with operating instructions

Hero image

It has recently become clear to me that, despite living with myself for four decades, I still know very little about me.

Sure, I’ve managed to cobble together a handful of instructions to guide myself through life thus far. Things like “you’ll get a headache if you sleep past 10am” and “too much white wine makes you murderous” and “stop buying jaunty hats on holiday because you never bloody wear them”.

But these are the sort of vague suggestions you find included with flat pack furniture, and are hardly the life manual I hoped to have amassed by now.

Co-habiting with a partner after a spell of living alone is a great way of gaining insight into those strange – and yet, I’m sure, still extremely adorable – habits that one may have been hitherto unaware of. Who leaves dozens of half empty glasses of water all over the flat like the girl in the movie Signs? Who compulsively buys more cushions than there are seats for said cushions? Who sings to themselves on the loo? Apparently, I do! I just never knew it before.

Ideally, I’d have a Mostyn manual, a thick, comprehensive book of operating instructions like you get with a fancy TV or washing machine. Because if there are things that I do that I wasn’t aware of, maybe there are things I’m not doing that I could be?

It would be useful, for instance, to know how to access my cleaning mode. I know this line of human has one because my mum’s is permanently switched to “on”, but I’m beggared if I can find mine (though I do seem to be fitted with extra “lying on the sofa watching Seinfeld” capability.) Similarly, I’ve no idea where my patience switch is, how to eat at any other speed than ffwd x 16, or how to turn off my worry mode, which has been stuck on turbo since 1979.

Lately even the workings of my body have started to elude me. Why does my stomach make such extraordinary noises? How come my nose is always cold? And what’s that weird little hair all about? (Don’t ask.) Plus, apparently, I’ve just found out, I’m a bit deaf, and – get this – PROBABLY ALWAYS HAVE BEEN! (I don’t know why I’m shouting. It’s me that’s deaf, not you.) But, I mean, really? How is it possible that I did not know this about myself?

Readers, I am a mystery trapped in an enigma trapped in a hat I once bought in Bavaria but will never wear again.

But what to do? It’s not as easy as just writing down instructions.

A human being is an unpredictable, constantly changing beast. Even if we worked out that a certain action causes happiness in us one day, the next day the same action might make us angry, and the next day do nothing at all. (Come to think of it, being human is a lot like using Windows 8.)

To have any hope of accuracy such a manual would have to be embarked upon at the time of birth, have its instructions determined experientially, by trial and error, over a series of decades, be constantly evolving, often contradictory, and could only really be considered complete once the appliance has stopped working for good.

Oh. Right. That’ll be life then.


If you liked this article, we think you’ll enjoy these:

Interact: Responses to Nicola Mostyn gets to grip with operating instructions

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.