Saturday, 19 March 2016

Connected

After four years, it's finally time to say goodbye to my Crapberry.

When I first got one in Paris - it was a smart phone. I could Whatsapp people back in England and check my Facebook when I was at work.

Then I moved to London and put an English SIM inside it... and it wasn't as smart. I had to go online and wait for the internet to load before I could check stuff, and I Whatsapp didn't work properly, but I wasn't that bothered. I only wanted those features when I was living in France, so I could keep in touch with people for free.

Then the colours in the screen started melting somehow, spreading out from a thin crack, until half the screen looked like an oil slick and I could only ever guess the general gist of a message as most of the words were hidden in a rainbow mess.

Somebody at work gave me another Blackberry, one they'd been given for free as a promotional gift, and that lasted for about a year, but it would sometimes crash and not turn on for hours... which is annoying when you're on your way to meet someone in town, or a train trying to organise a lift at the other end.

Yesterday it finally stopped working altogether. Its little red light was on, but it just wouldn't switch on. The end.

I've never cared about phone technology. I was briefly at the height of fashion when I was 11, and I got a Nokia 3310 before anyone else had one. Me and my friend Claire would walk around the estate pretending to talk to people on it, and remember a boy on a bike saying 'Raaaaas you've got a 3310!' and I felt Swish.

That was accidental though. My mum wanted me to have a phone because I was going to and from school on my own, and she was getting home later than me. I imagine she went into the phone shop and they tried to sell her the latest contract and she didn't realise she could get a cheaper one.

Anyway.

That was aeons ago. In the last four years I've started to think of myself as a Luddite, fiercely defending my Crapberry against FLASHY iPhone owners who smirked and gasped and asked me why I didn't get a new phone.

Because I could CALL people on my Blackberry and TEXT and take PHOTOS and check my EMAILS in an emergency and that is surely the definition of a smartphone.

Except now I have a new phone and I realise how much easier my life will be. I was always lost, with my Crapberry. It was no help to me at all in times of need. Not only could I NOT look at maps on it, but it would often switch itself off so I could't even call anyone and ask for directions or tell them I was going to be late.

Now I have Google Maps, so I'll never be lost again. And I can get CityMapper, so I can find out where to get the night bus if I'm stuck.

Of course there's a lot of crap on there too... Instagram, for example. I downloaded it for 'research purposes' and a few seconds later a girl at work spun round in her chair.

"I just got a notification that you've joined Instagram!"

It's freaky. Part of me feels a bit sick with all, it's too much. But it's also really positive. I would like to have a casual glance at my friends' photos - to scroll through everyone's lives and know they are having a good time, or where they are in the world, or laugh at something they think is funny.

I went to a talk by Caitlin Moran on International Woman's Day and she explained social media like this:

Imagine little points all over the world, and if they are connected to the internet, the points light up. Now imagine the little lights connecting with other lights all across the world, flashes of light shooting from point to point, flying over oceans and continents, as people connect with each other. Imagine what this looks like from space - it looks kind of like a brain.

It's like the world's consciousness is waking up and it's still in its infancy. It's like a toddler at the moment, but it will mature and it will stop throwing tantrums. People will stop trolling and spreading nasty hate because, as a global consciousness, we will will grow wiser.

I was in the camp that the popularity of Instagram and the Kardashians was a bad thing, because humans were becoming more and more obsessed with manufactured, aspirational aesthetics and lifestyles. But maybe it's more like mums on Facebook.

We all know what mums are like on Facebook, at first.

Then they chill out and stop tagging themselves everywhere and commenting on everything and posting selfies and calling you up and asking you why you haven't liked their post...

Maybe the world is a just a huge planet-sized mum on Facebook and soon it's going to chill out and people will be interested in creating art and discussing politics and sharing ideas.

I know people can spend too much time on their phones, but it's also brilliant to be connected and inspired. Imagine feeling like an outsider in a little town, or missing your family from afar, or bursting with ideas and having nobody to share them with.

Caitlin Moran's talk was really optimistic. For the first time in a long time, I can think about The Future of Planet Earth without images of racist, fascist robots with plumped-up lips and green kale smoothies popping into my head.

Saying that, Caitlin Moran also raised a very good point: Scientists are racing to get us all on Mars - a hot, dry planet of sand, while our beautiful lush rainforests and glittering icy snowcaps are being destroyed.

Can you imagine what future generations will say, from their sealed-in dome home on Mars?

"Tell me - why exactly did we leave Planet Earth for this shithole??"





Saturday, 5 March 2016

Nana

I've been really, really busy and the only way I can blog really is when I've got hours and hours stretching before me and nothing to do. I used to do my best blogging when I was babysitting, or when I woke up early on a Saturday and didn't have to be anywhere until 11pm.

Of course I can write at work on demand, or I wouldn't be a very good copywriter. But this isn't work and I don't want to write it on demand. Even if the demand is being chanted from inside my head.

Since Christmas I've been busy.

My nana passed away, before the day came up that I was planning to go and see her. I understand now why my auntie was being hazy when I asked about coming. She didn't know if my nana would still be alive.

It didn't sink in until I was on my way to the funeral, and I realised Nana wasn't going to be there. She was the one person in my dad's family that I knew the most I guess. At my Auntie Helen's funeral two years ago I stuck with her as my dad was being a crank.

Well she obviously wasn't going to be at her own funeral.

My auntie, my dad's younger sister, did the eulogy herself. She talked about going to Greaty (Great Homer Street Market) with Nana, and how Nana would have everybody laughing as she went around cracking joked and driving them down to ridiculous low prices.

My mum came to the funeral. She wasn't sure if it would be ok or not, but she started going out with my dad when she was 16, so has a lot of memories of Nana. She asked me to ask if it was ok, meanwhile my dad was asking me on the phone it would be ok if his girlfriend would be welcome at the funeral.

How should I know? I wanted to say. Instead I told him that it was his mum's funeral and so of course he should bring who he wanted.

It was all fine in the end. Funerals always are. My mum was invited to the wake afterwards and loved chatting to all my dad's family about Nana. She hasn't seen them for years. When we walked out after the coffin, I saw my mum on the back row of the church on her own, crying her eyes out.

People don't really cry in my dad's family, so she was the only one crying. (I'd been crying and stopped when I realised I'd be the only one. I thought somehow people wouldn't like it, which now I realise is stupid. Obviously they would have understood.)

Someone gave my mum a lift to the burial. I've never been to a burial before, I didn't realise there would be one until people started getting in cars again at the church. We drove to the graveyard and my auntie warned me that sometimes seeing the coffin go in the ground is the worst bit.

We got to the grave and there was a long list of names on the headstone.

My nana's daughter, who died when she was 16. My nana's brother who died in a car crash when he was 29 - on the same day. Can you imagine? Then my nana's mum and dad, and her husband.

She had a difficult life (she also had cancer when she was in her sixties) but she also travelled the world on her own and she had so many friends and stories.

At the pub afterwards, there was a woman in a huge fur coat, puffing on an e-cigarette like it was a cigar. I knew instantly who she was. My nana told me stories about a woman called Pat who was very loud and funny, who was always 'effing and blinding'.

She was hilarious. We were all laughing, remembering phrases my nana used to say. Very Liverpudlian phrases that don't really mean anything, yet somehow you know exactly what the sentiment is.

Shut up or I'll put a goose's gob on yer.
You don't know your luck 'til your hat falls off.
When you're older you go down like a cow's tail.
That cracked cow...

It's really sad that my nana had to be in hospital for so long. First because a gynecologist perforated her bowel (when he shouldn't have even been performing the procedure), leaving her unable to eat or drink for months, and then because of the cancer.

Nobody really said the word cancer, but it turns out she had two types and they were very advanced by the time it came to light. In the end it was a blessing she wasn't in any pain.

It was good to remember all her funny stories, her travels to Hong Kong, Fiji, New Zealand, Eastern Europe during the Bosnian War.

I wish I'd spent more time with her.

Now I'm off to Lidl to get some stuff to make soup, Nana would be proud.


Thursday, 3 March 2016

It's Ok I'm Wearing Really Big Knickers

Argh it's been almost two months since my last confession!

Speaking of confessions, have you read The Confessions of Georgia Nicolson AKA the Angus, Things and Full Frontal Snogging books?

I laughing out loud at them in Form Time*, when we were all supposed to be reading quietly. Our teacher didn't believe that I was genuinely laughing at my book, because she didn't think they could be that funny. They were! Still are.

The author Louise Rennison died this week, very sad news. She such a hilarious writer. I loved those books. I want to read them all again.

I guess you could say that my writing style is very inspired by reading Louise Rennison's books as a teenager. Here is a quote from the first book to give you a taste of the style:

“When we did eventually get to the party - me walking next to Dad's Volvo driving at five miles an hour - I had a horrible time. Everyone laughed at first but then more or less ignored me. In a mood of defiant stuffed oliveness I did have a dance by myself but things kept crashing to the floor around me. The host asked if I would sit down. I had a go at that but it was useless. In the end I was at the gate for about an hour before Dad arrived.” 

Anyway.

I keep saying I am going to blog little and often and then not blogging at all. So this is a little blog and hopefully soon I will do another one.

PS. They made a film of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging and it's actually really good! (They changed 'full-frontal' in the title to perfect - definitely not as funny.) It's obviously for teens, so don't blame me if you don't like it, but worth a watch if you loved the books.

*For any non-UK readers:
'Form' is the class you belong to in secondary school. In most lessons, like English and Maths, you are organised into 'sets' depending on your level. So you might be in 'Set 1' for most of your subjects, but every morning and afternoon you'll go to your form class to have the register taken. During afternoon register, we would have to spend about 20 minutes having 'form time'. It's mad that it's all a bit hazy now... I'd literally forgotten all about Form Time until I just typed it out. In my form there were a lot of horrible cranks I never, ever would have spoken to in real life without them calling me something nasty or spitting on me (they did this to most people, not just me), but form time was like neutral time and we would all ignore each other. The more I think about the weirder this whole set-up is.