Posted in Family, Writing

Sock Drawer Technology

In the April edition of the Tetbury Advertiser, I’ve been praising local technology experts for their patience with my stone-age husband.

The ulitmate sock drawer organiser?
The ulitmate sock drawer organiser? Photo by http://www.aplaceforeverything.co.uk

This month, my technology-averse husband finally agrees to invest in a new PC for his study. Our cottage is not large, but by sacrificing the dining room and third bedroom, we have engineered to each have our own study. This strategy has helped preserve our marriage and my sanity. It spares me from his one-way conversations with his laptop and his pathological untidiness. Continue reading “Sock Drawer Technology”

Posted in Family, Writing

The Only Certainties in Life: Birthdays and Taxes

My mum and my daughter together
My mum gets an 80th birthday hug from my daughter, who’s still wearing her Christmas onesie

Yes, I know the REAL saying is “there are no certainties in life but death and taxes,” but I’m an optimist, and without birthdays there would be no deaths, so take that, Benjamin Franklin!

There’s been an air of finality in  my study this week, because since my last post here I’ve despatched two things that I was glad to see the back of:

  1. January
  2. my tax return

The only redeeming feature of January is my birthday, which leaves the last two weeks of the month with nothing positive about them at all.

Actually, when you get to my age, even a birthday isn’t something to celebrate, other than to rejoice in the fact that you’ve made it through another year without necessitating an obituary – UNLESS of course it is a very special birthday, preferably with a 0 at the end.

Celebrating My Mum’s 80th Birthday

Such was the most recent birthday of my lovely mum, who celebrated her 80th birthday on 31st December. When your birthday falls on the last day of the year, you can’t avoid celebrations even if you want to, as most of the rest of the country will be marking the day in style.

Photo of Oil of Ulay before it was rebranded OlayLike my father who turned 80 in September 2012, my mum is an inspiration to anyone who is frightened of old age. While a lifetime Oil of Olay habit (branded Oil of Ulay when she started using it, before pan-European labels mattered) might account for her flawless, smooth complexion, I don’t think even that old beauty trick can take the credit for her lively mind and spirit, and her willingness to tackle new challenges.

Her special request for her 80th birthday present was her own laptop, so that she could computerise the stories she’s drafted over the years by hand. We bought her a small, feminine netbook in a smart shade of red. 

My mum learnt to type on what my 10-year-old daughter recently referred to as “one of those keyboards that goes ping” – a manual typewriter. The class learned to type to music, carefully chosen to match their target keystroke speed.

selfie of the author and her mum
Me & my mum celebrating her 80th birthday with a selfie

As anyone of the same vintage will know, typing on a  typewriter requires a much stronger fingerstroke than a computer keyboard. It took her a little while to adjust to her netbook’s sensitivity, but she’s taken to the technology enthusiastically.

Not one to shy away from other modern trends, she also joined me in a “selfie” on her special day, and admired her grandchidren’s Christmas onesies.

I wonder what new skills and interests I’ll be acquiring when I’m her age? It’ll be the year 2040 then. Wherever technology takes us, I think I’d better invest in some Oil of Olay before it’s too late…

If you enjoyed this post, you might like these: 

Posted in Travel, Writing

Going Cold Turkey with My Cellphone (Mobile Phone)

If you ever grumble about the quality of mobile phone signals where you live, a  trip to the Pembrokeshire coastline will give you a new appreciation and sense of perspective of modern communications technology.

Desolate hillock on bike track in rural Wales
The height of mobile phone technology in rural Wales – standing on a hillock to get a signal

I recently accompanied a school party on a week-long residential trip to an adventure park there. In that beautiful rural setting, the only way I could get reception on my mobile was by standing at the top of the mountain-biking course, holding my phone aloft. Semaphore signals would have been more effective.

Feeling conspicuous, I eventually gave up and took an enforced week-long holiday from the internet. The closest I came to tweeting all week was when I chased a seagull that had snatched a child’s bag of sweets on the beach.

To be cut off from the world-wide web was a culture shock at first. Used to accessing the global village 24/7 on my smartphone, I suddenly found my social network limited to those within shouting distance.

So was I relieved when my phone buzzed back into life on the coach journey home? To my surprise, I was not. I realised I’d actually enjoyed going cold turkey. For several days after I got home, I barely glanced at my PC or my mobile.

Diagram of person holding 2 semaphore flags as...
Give me a “P” – by semaphore (Diagram: Wikipedia)

I felt the same as I do when we have a power cut midwinter – initial annoyance, followed by the simple pleasure of spending an evening by candlelight. Knowing that the crisis won’t last renders the experience liberating rather than scary, especially as I always keep a few candles where I can find them in the dark.

And now I realise I’d overlooked an easy solution: next time, I’ll just pack a couple of semaphore flags. Problem solved!

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

If you enjoyed this post, you might like to read more of my thoughts on mobile phones (that’s cellphones to you, my American friends!)

Signally Challenged in Scotland

Don’t Leave Her Hanging on the Telephone

Posted in Writing

Why I Used To Feel Sorry For Tolstoy (And Why I’m Over It Now)

portrait of Leo Tolstoy
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Sorry for Tolstoy?” I hear you cry. Why should a little-known writer with zero published novels to her name pity the author of one of the world’s longest and greatest works of fiction?

Find our why I used to feel sorry for Tolstoy (and Dickens and Eliot and Hardy) – and why I’m over it now – by reading my guest post on the lovely Jessica Bell’s blog, alluring entitled The Alliterative Allomorph (yes, I had to look that last one up in the dictionary too).

Click here to hop straight over to it now…

While you’re there, you may find yourself getting drawn into more of Jessica’s wonderful and wide-ranging blog too. You have been warned…

For more posts about writing, try these for size:

The Lost Art of Letter-Writing

Writing on the Run

Flash Fiction for Summer Lightning

Memoirs

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