Posted in Personal life

The Electronic Grapevine

Image of explosion on ship in Falklands War
Smoke signals from the Falklands War

Sometimes it’s easy to forget how quickly the digital age has revolutionised the speed of news transmission. As a radio documentary recently reminded me, only 30 years ago news stories and photos from the frontline of the Falklands War often took two weeks to reach the news headlines.

As I’m the first to complain about the lethargy of our local internet service, for the sake of fairness, I would like to confess a change of heart. Recently, via my computer tucked away in darkest Hawkesbury Upton, I was able to pick up news of the pope’s appointment even while the white smoke was still wafting out of a Vatican chimney. (How slow must the Pope’s wifi be if lighting a fire is the quicker than sending an email? )

By chance, I had my Twitter account open when up popped “New pope” on the “trends” list – a handy menu tab that flags up the most talked-about subjects of the moment. These are often, but not always, breaking news stories.

Always eager to experience history in the making, I immediately clicked to the page that showed the latest “new pope” messages. At that second, there flashed up on the screen, a message from the Vatican’s very own Twitter account, @Pontifex: “Habeamus Papem Franciscum” – Latin for “We have Pope Francis”.

A Pope tweeting in Latin? Now there’s an enchanting meeting of ancient and modern. I wonder whether he could tell me the Latin word for “internet”?

(This post was originally written for the April 2013 issue of the Hawkesbury Parish News)

If you liked this post, you might enjoy my other recent article inspired by the Pope: Nominal Determinism, Pope Francis and Other Keywords I Have Loved


Author of warm, witty and gently funny fiction and non-fiction, including the popular Sophie Sayers Village Mystery series, beginning with "Best Murder in Show", inspired by her life in an English Cotswold community, short stories and essays about country life. As Commissioning Editor for the Alliance of Independent Authors' Advice Centre, she writes guidebooks authors. She speaks at many literature festivals and writing events, and is part of BBC Radio Gloucestershire's monthly Book Club broadcast. She is founder and director of the free Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival which takes place in April, a member of the Romantic Novelists' Association, and an ambassador for children's reading charity Read for Good and the Type 1 diabetes charity JDRF.

7 thoughts on “The Electronic Grapevine

  1. I was showing the kids today how we used to fold notes to our friends (in thirds and thirds, tucked in on itself to prevent accidental reading) when we passed messages to each other in class. It made me sad to realise they’ll probably never do that: why bother when they’ll be able to text, Messenger, Skype, email, Tweet or FB each other from their smart phones? I still have some of my illicit classroom conversations stored in a box in the loft: how will they hang onto their childhood memories? That said, I’d have given my right arm for a mobile phone at school: then the love letter I wrote to a boyfriend wouldn’t have got in the wrong hands and been read out on the bus (or maybe it would have been plastered over social media sites!) Phew, I think I’m glad I grew up when I did, and fear for my children!

    1. My goodness, that is a scary thought! Although I didn’t keep the notes we passed (an essential part of our schooldays, I agree!) I do still have a box of the 15-page letters my best friends and I used to send to each other when I moved abroad at 14. We are still in touch and great friends, despite never having lived geographically close to each other ever since then, and I’m sure those physical letters – sent adorned with stickers, drawings, diagrams, cartoons, and read and re-read – are part of the reason why. And they’re also the reason why I recently sent a birthday card to one of them with the caption “You’ll always be my friend – you know too much!” 😉

      1. I agree. I have a folder of letters from a friend in school who used to decorate them with cartoons. I had to work hard to understand his handwriting sometimes but that added to the value of the letters. I still remember the anticipation when a new letter arrived, like buying a new book. It’s a lost art and I’m sure there are more ways to communicate now, but I miss getting things through the post other than junk and bills!

      2. Wonder what my teenage friends would have made of Twitter and texting etc! Shame we seem to be losing the more traditional methods in order to embrace the new – but then I wouldn’t really have space to store stone tablets and scrolls, so perhaps I shouldn’t really complain 😉

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