It would appear that most of my SMS messages are sent and read while I’m walking and that trying not to do so means a massive extension to my journey time due to stops “needed” to read or write.  For the first three weeks of my month of “no texts while walking”, I was stopping regularly and annoying myself in the process.  Then it came to me to turn my phone to silent.  Genius is sometimes very simple.

There shouldn’t be anything challenging about refraining from attending to my mobile phone, but for me there was.  When I eventually twigged that my phone on silent prevents a sense of urgency to instantly read and respond to messages, I also reduced my walk times and realised I was testing my redundant, dimmed memory by not sending messages the second I thought of something.

This was a straightforward challenge that I set myself because I really was fed up of using my phone while walking.  It has not been life-changing and indeed I seem to just stop walking now rather than carrying on, which is only a minor improvement, but I have been rather enjoying not being distracted by my phone when it’s on silent.  I also oddly enjoy testing my memory a bit by postponing the writing of things I’ve just thought to share or ask.

All in all, a mildly interesting challenge that has served to emphasise what I already knew, that I am far too dependent on and obsessed with my mobile phone.

cofDecember being the last of my 12 challenges or treats for 2016, it’s definitely treat time.  As I usually bring my own lunch to work, for the month of December I’m not only going to eat out for every lunch I have on work days but I’m going to eat somewhere different every time, with emphasis on non-sandwich lunches.



I am now the slightly bewildered owner of a weather station.  With a bit of time to spare and passing an Argos yesterday morning, I decided to finally get a proper alarm clock.  There was quite a staggering array of alarm clocks, I was overwhelmed and the next thing I knew I was parting with almost £30 for a weather station with alarm.  It’s touch screen too.  And it has a very useful (really?) “ice alert”.  But really, I just wanted a non-illuminated, digital (I prefer analogue but my alarms are set in such a way that every minute counts!) alarm clock that I could rely on.

I have quite a few alarm clocks, all of which have been dismissed over the years either because they make a noise (the most recent one was supposed to be silent but I could hear it so it’s now had its batteries removed in disgust), are too bright (I had a digital radio/alarm clock that shines like a torch and can only get brighter) or are unreliable (I have one that would seemingly lag by half an hour, usually occurring during the night prior to my alarm going off – dangerous). For the past few months I’ve been using the alarm on my mobile, but I’ve never particularly liked relying on a mobile phone alarm clock, though I’m not sure why.  It’s been fine though.

This morning, however, having tested the new alarm quite a few times last night, I got my call to arms from my new alarm pipping away.  I obviously set my mobile alarm as back up.  The main display is the temperature, a feature which I could quite easily become somewhat obsessed by, especially as there is a second remote temperature reader which I’ve currently installed in my utility room, the coldest room.  The difference between my bedroom temperature and the utility room is quite substantial.  I’m not surprised my cat (who dines and toilets in the utility room) appears to hate walking on the cold tiled floor, though her food is served in bowls on a length of carpet.

See, that’s how I ended up buying a weather station rather than a clock, I got distracted.  However, I did at least manage to get an alarm clock that ticks all the noise and light boxes.  I’m not sure how long it’ll be before I fully trust it and will stop using my mobile phone alarm though.

If I ever have to get up in the far too early hours, I always set more than one alarm anyway.  I have a friend who often works such hours and she’s always paranoid about sleeping in so sets a selection of alarms at times a minute or so between them and places the clocks around her room so she actually has to get up to silence them.  She said it works, but only in that it makes her so paranoid about not sleeping in that she stays awake pretty much until the alarms are due to go off, then is woken by her selection of alarms, having fallen into her first deep sleep of the night.  Cruel.

I now hope this clock will last me a good few years and the novelty of having the weather station feature won’t wear off!

I was in an o2 shop the other day to get PAYG top-up (yes, yes, I know I can do it all from my mobile, I just prefer doing it at a shop with a real person rather than “press three”, etc) and I found myself idly looking at mobile phones.  I have had my current HTC Desire Z for almost two years and it’s the first mobile I’ve ever had that I haven’t wanted to replace after about a year, having by then lost interest in the current phone and having wanted something new and exciting.

I was left pondering whether my lack of interest in other phones was because I don’t want to pay for another one unnecessarily (after all, my HTC cost more than I got for the sale of my last car), the technology hasn’t improved much, or at leasn’t doesn’t pique my interest, or whether I am just content with my mobile.  I’m pleased, whatever the reason, because I really can’t justify the money on a new smartphone.

I started off with a series of reasonably basic mobiles, then shortly after the second round of iPhones came out I got one, and with it I was introduced to decent internet access on my mobile.  There is now no way I can imagine not having that.  But I was desperate to get rid of the iPhone after a few months (iSmash followed by a new phone for the c£140 they charge, freezing screen, it not being a particularly good phone, poor battery life and too many quirks/irritations).  I then got a ludicrously huge Dell Streak, which I returned and got a full refund for after it crashed pretty much beyond repair and was just ludicrously big and cumbersome.  I then got a small Sony mobile with touch screen and QWERTY keyboard and then this HTC, which also has both.  It is probably for that reason that I still love it.  The Sony, incidentally, I got to replace the HTC for the six months I couldn’t use it (but that is another very long and bizarre story involving a dreadful online phone shop, The Order, horrid Vodafone, with whom I’ve never had any dealings and who I now would never touch with a barge pole, and a small claims court).  The Sony is a bit clunky, whereas the HTC is quite refined.  I’ve had the keyboard replaced, free of charge, once but for now all is good.  I just know I like having a keyboard and a touch screen.

This really isn’t a riveting post but I feel strangely disappointed that modern mobile phones don’t fill me with the excitement they used to.  Maybe because having internet access on a mobile is the peak of my technological interest and as it’s good on the HTC, why would I want another phone that is even more (totally wasted on me) all singing/all dancing!

Mind you, ultimately, I would love a more simple phone, so much of my HTC is wasted on me!

{20/10/2012}   Phone boxes

Last night, I fully registered that there is a phone box at the end of my street.  I only noticed it because it was dark and I convinced myself there was a couple “making out” inside it.  There wasn’t but there were a couple of cans of Carling crumpled up inside and I just know there would have been a stench of urine had I opened the door.  I lamented the loss of necessity of phone boxes and realised that I have lots of childhood memories involving phone boxes, believe it or not.

Reverse charges.  There was a phone booth at Maidstone East station and from that phone I know I made lots of reverse charges calls to my parents when trains were late, etc, while I was at school in Maidstone between 13 and 18.  I wouldn’t even know what number to call to make a reverse charges call now.  Operator?  Is it 100?  I know I can Google it but if I needed to make that call I would clearly not have a mobile smartphone with me so couldn’t have Googled.  I will check though.

One New Year’s Eve, my boyfriend at the time and I had gone to Leeds Castle, a few miles from my parents’ house, in deep snow.  We had planned to get a bus home.  However, it snowed a lot, so much so the buses were all late – we were lucky one came at all – and we had to stand at a bus stop that was totally exposed to the snow and wind for maybe an hour, so we sheltered in a phone box, the more modern kind with the c 10cm urine stench vent/exposed ground level area.  My feet were numb.  I got mild pneumonia and frost bite and spent New Year’s Eve vomiting and trying to regain warmth to my body, particularly my feet.  But the phone box probably saved us from far worse chills.

I also remember an old red phone box at the village green.  A friend and I for some reason hated a girl band around at that time (if I’m not mistaken they were one hit wonders, though I can’t think of their song, and I have a feeling Denise Van Outen was in the band!) so from that phone booth, plying the machine with 10p pieces, we rang their record company and told them how crap the band were.  They hung up on us in the end but it was strangely satisfying to be making abusive (exaggeration for effect)  phone calls from a phone box.  From that phone box, I suspect (know) a few of my and my friends’ crushes were also called, to uncontrollable giggling!

Thinking about these occasions, I am reminded of a kind of enjoyment that I had forgotten about.  There is something really familiar about opening a heavy phone box door, ideally a red one for the sake of this memory, having collected all the 10p pieces you could find, then wrinkling your nose at the wee smell before lifting the heavy black receiver off the chunky phone with its heavy duty cable and, do you know what, I can remember the sound of slotting your 10ps in and hearing them register.  Ahh, back in those days it was exciting and a bit out of the ordinary to use the phone, in part because my mum kept a very tight rein on phone usage.  I remember the pip sound and I remember the feeling of annoyance and loss when the phone gobbled your 10p a split second before realising an answerphone message was about to cut in when you had no intention of leaving a message or indeed wasting 10p.  And queuing for the phone or being on the phone and being aware that others were waiting.  Oh, and the pipping sound when your money was about to run out.

It’s all flooding back to me and I am feeling an unexpected love for the hay days of the phone box.  But then it went up to 20p, phone calls from home got cheaper and then, the final nail in the coffin, we pretty much all got mobile phones.  Nowadays, phone boxes are a rarity and often overlooked, but they provide advertising space for strippers and escorts, a shelter from the wind and rain, a urinal and a place to drink beer so at least they are not redundant.

Yesterday was not my favourite day ever, though admittedly I have had far worse days.  Yesterday’s low points centred around financial revelations of a most distressing variety (where have all my earnings gone this year?!), my car’s expensive MOT failure and then, to top it all off, my printer went off on one, printing HUNDREDS of pages of gibberish that I couldn’t terminate and which meant I had to keep re-feeding the already ruined previously blank pages and then endure the “need more paper” pips and beeps that, when one is in a ratty mood, merely serve to drive one to foul mood status.

Yesterday was very much a sort-my-shit kind of day.  I hadn’t needed to print anything and I should have known from previous experience (indeed detailed on my blog many months ago!) not to even turn my printer on when I’ve had a challenging day, but the printer churning noise coupled with printer pipping at the end of a stressful afternoon nearly resulted in a most unpleasant meltdown directed at poor Chris who had already endured a few bursts of rage (eg, “How can my sole occupancy metered water bill be £140” – I phoned them up and he confirmed price increases, etc, and that my bill was actually below average – and over my recent cheese theft incident, the outcome of which was not favourable and which resulted in a curt TripAdvisor review that just served to make me angry all over again).  When someone finds great amusement in the vision of you sitting in front of a PC looking harassed as your neighbouring printer is making a furious noise and shaking the table, I am sure you can appreciate some choice words were used.  I am not proud of such outbursts but, really, someone desperately trying not to snigger as pages and pages of gibberish are being churned out of your printer is just hugely irritating.

But, unexpectedly, the printer incident was the final low point in a whole flipping series of them.  After that, I collected my repaired car and, unusually, the quote I’d been given included the repairs, the MOT AND the VAT (usually the price I am given does not include VAT and I also thought the MOT would be on top of that amount).  Good karma because that was the third MOT centre I’d tried to book into yesterday and they were a family-run place and there were smiley, friendly staff there.  Chris and I then went to one of my favourite places in the whole world, Little Switzerland beach, and there was a beautiful early evening light and – surely a good omen – there was a double rainbow.  We then had cheap fizz and the Thomasina Miers’s chile con carne I prepared earlier in the day in my slow cooker.  So it didn’t end too badly and I did feel better by the evening.  But why does it seem that challenging issues present themselves in one foul swoop?  Come on rainbow, show me my pot of gold, I could really do with that right now!

{23/09/2012}   Life before email

Sometimes I am almost overwhelmed by the genius of email and how quickly and easily pretty much everyone can be contacted in an instant.  However, I think it is a shame we can get very sloppy with email and how we utilise it.  I’m not going to bang on about how it’s stopped us writing letters and demonstrate what a Luddite I am at heart, but there are a few things that both bother and please me about email.

On the positive, I am in touch with friends overseas or who I see less frequently on a much more regular basis thanks to emails.  I also like that at times you can have an exchange of emails, knowing you’re both online at the same time; questions don’t always get answered when replying to emails but they often do when you have a live exchange.   It’s also a really easy way to share information, such as photographs or links or by forwarding information to multiple people, for example.

As for things like applying for jobs, internet shopping enquiries; it’s incredibly easy.  However, I know people who do recruitment and who often get significant cut and paste errors.  Plus, it seems that people don’t bother much with spell checking when it comes to the body of an email, which when you’re looking for employment is quite a major faux pas.

It is much easier to send your CV off to multiple people, but with that comes questions about the presentation; what is email etiquette for applying for jobs?  Do you write a covering letter that you attach?  Do you use the email space to introduce yourself?  Do you use Dear Sir/Madam?  So the list goes on.  I think it is too easy to make things inappropriately informal and looking like you’ve been writing en masse.

I have not worked in an office since the discovery of email, but I think it’s safe to conclude that people get more correspondence via email than they ever would have done in the fax and letter-heavy days of yore!  While it’s quicker to reply, it’s easier to send content that could get you in trouble, and people expect replies much quicker.

However, along with all this comes the huge annoyance of junk mail, a phenomenon that infuriates me, though I guess spam filters are fairly effective.

As for emails I send, particularly as I have a Smartphone, I do kind of assume people read them within a very short space of time after receiving them, thus I am prone to get annoyed if a reply is not forthcoming from an email I perceive to be important/interesting.  There is a sense of pressure to respond to emails.  However, at times you don’t have the time or inclination to respond and, as emails pile in, it’s then hard to remember them and that they need replying to.  It annoys me that I sometimes read an email I want to reply to but at the time I’ve read it (and often because it’s been read on my limited phone rather than on a computer) it hasn’t been the right time to respond, so I’ve left it and days have passed before I reply.  Also, when friends send newsy emails, I don’t absorb the content as much as I would if it were a letter, though sometimes I will print out really long emails so I can savour them more.

However, sloppiness and etiquette aside, I am happy that it is so easy and free (ignoring wireless charges, etc) to send and receive emails.  I just wish sometimes that I read and wrote them as carefully as I would write or type a letter; so long as I don’t start writing or receiving emails in text speak – c u l8r, LOL.

Thanks to o2, I have had a few days without mobile phone reception, though I have had internet access.  Admittedly, I haven’t needed to arrange to meet anyone or had any pressing need to text or phone.  If I had, this would have been more of a rant, and rightly so considering I am paying but not going.  To my surprise, I’m not even fully aware whether my mobile is properly working yet as I am enjoying not constantly checking it, “just in case”.

I was quite late getting a mobile phone, late 2001 being when I succumbed.  For the first few years (I might be exaggerating, I don’t know), I pretty much only used it for emergencies (ie it was off but with me) and to meet friends.  Now I am left feeling alone and lost if my mobile is not about my person or at home with me.  For the past few days, I have made good use of my train journey time without the constant disruption of reading, replying to and writing texts.  My mobile phone in that sense has become my priority.  I might be engrossed in a book, writing something; but my phone will pip (or I will wonder why it hasn’t yet pipped so check to see if I’ve missed a pip – annoying!) and I will immediately down tools and scrabble frantically in my bag for my phone.  It’s also like the elephant in the room if you’re chatting to someone and your mobile pips.  You both hear it and the person without the pipping phone knows that the one with the pipping phone desperately wants to see who’s texting.  So rude.  But most of us do it, ie make our wretched phone our priority and abandon conversation to check it.

Since the last time I ranted about mobile phones, I have made a fairly successful effort to not have my mobile in the room with me so I can’t hear it going off.  But when I do check it, I feel bad about not having replied to any texts I see have been there for a few hours … proof that I am only good at responding to texts in a timely manner if I receive them and reply straight away, because my phone is a kind of addiction.  Which makes me see how a chunk of time can seemingly disappear as you enter into a text exchange relay.  I’m not complaining because it’s cool having an almost real time exchange … hang on, isn’t that what phone calls are for?!  I suppose the point there is an observation that communication has changed enormously since, for example, when I was a teenager, ie the time in my life when friends were a constant source of advice, information and ears to bend – how different my childhood would have been with a mobile phone.  I had to get permission from my parents before I could use the telephone so I rarely used the phone, but I did have friends who lived close by and we talked face to face.

For a few days without my mobile phone (though I emphasise again I did have email so was in touch with a few people, but email on my mobile isn’t intrusive like texts and calls; I only know I have emails if I check) I surprised myself by actually enjoying not having the interruption.  However, maybe because I did have email, to have left my phone at home would probably still have rendered me a bit twitchy, but I toyed with the idea of leaving my phone at home and I would never normally even entertain such a ludicrous suggestion as to leave my phone at home.  *Shakes head incredulously*

                Last night I had the questionable pleasure of watching and listening to someone trying to make the transition from digital cameras back to film camera.  It wasn’t pretty and there was no happy ending.  I too have made a partial return to film cameras and have taken quite a few rolls of film.  But I haven’t developed any of them.  I was initially put off when I took them into Boots and was told it would take up to 45 days.  Really?  45 days have long passed and I could have had them by now, though I have since been told that other High Street shops are much better.

                Why did we go digital?  It’s easy, isn’t it?  You can take a photo and distribute it within seconds.  You can take ten photos of the same thing and choose the best one to print out, if indeed you ever get around to printing them out.  It seems easier to manage photos on a computer than in packets and albums.  And having cameras on mobile phones means that pretty much everyone has a “camera” to hand.  It’s great and I probably have more photos of friends and random things I see and like than in the days when I would make a decision to take a camera with me.  But while film is much less convenient and, I’ve recently discovered, people seem momentarily confused that they can’t view the photo they’ve just had taken of them, the anticipation of getting your pictures back is wonderful.  Though I can’t really talk as I just have a row of film canisters awaiting printing.

However, the main reason I am enthusiastic about a return to film (for photo opportunities rather than to carry around every day) is that I think the quality is still better.  I have a very good digital camera, a Nikon D700, but it still isn’t as good, though of course there’s PhotoShop.  Hmm, another issue really!

My friend last night was trying to load a 120 film into a fantastic Lomography Diana F+.  It turns out it wasn’t his incompetence but a possible fault with the camera, annoyingly.  I like Lomography because they are embracing the concept of film being fun, of being experimental.  I too have one of their cameras, it takes four photos in one photo, all a split second apart.  It’s not supposed to be a great quality photo, rather a fun and different photo.

I know there are lots of great things about digital cameras and photographs and how easy it is to share your photos via email, etc, and I will never not want a digital camera, but I have had fun going out and actually taking photos with my film cameras.  I have actually enjoyed spending time trying to get it right, instead of just pointing and clicking a few times, knowing that one photo should come out well and if not, well I can crop it/enhance it, etc.  Now I desperately want to get my photos developed!  I may change my tune slightly when they all come out blurred (one camera I’ve been using is manual focus and I’ve already “lost” an entire film by not loading the film properly!) but, delightfully, I can’t remember what photographs I’ve taken, beyond knowing where I was for some of my recent photo trips!

                I am trying to organise my digital photos.  This is an epic time-consuming endeavour and I haven’t even got around to sorting through ones I’d like to print. When thinking about what I’d save if my home were burning down, beyond any humans and my cat, it’s photos I always say I’d save.  I suppose if I were really clever I’d have them saved remotely, but that’s not what I’ve been thinking about to trigger this post.

                My photos are my proof that I looked the way I did, that I did certain things and they are, perhaps most significantly, an aide memoire for people and experiences.  I have two areas of my lounge wall taken up with photos of friends.  Most people who visit have looked at and commented on the photos, whether of themselves or other people.  I love those photos, though in part because they are testament to the fact that at times I can galvanise myself into action and do things, from getting the photos printed to actually putting them up.

I know that a lot of my childhood memories are triggered or enhanced by photos.  My parents took a lot of slides and photos when I was growing up.  Sometimes I worry that my memories are based around certain photographs rather than what I remember.  But even if that is the case, it’s lovely to have that memory trigger.  I would feel a large part of my past had been erased if I lost all my photos and maybe it would more often make me call into question my memory for their would be no proof to certain things.

Nowadays, despite having a selection of digital cameras, film cameras and a mobile phone camera, I don’t take that many photos.  It seems a bit of a chore sometimes to take pictures.  But then I look at photographs I did take and I’m pleased I did and wish I’d taken more.

Sometimes when I go on holiday I don’t take a camera with me because I feel that without a camera I see more.  I went through a phase of feeling like I saw events through a camera lens rather than with the naked eye; no photograph can ever, I think, capture a moment like your memory especially if it’s a fleeting sight that is never going to translate well as a distant blob in a photo.  Your memory may alter events as time passes, but sometimes, so what.  My seeing dolphins leaping alongside the small boat I was in off Bali could never have looked as good through a lens as it did sitting there bobbing on the sea, with the sun rising, hearing the water break as they moved.  I have heard myself describing a magical sight and feel that the recipient has got a sense of my awe.  I have then showed a photograph of the same thing and felt people kind of sink, probably thinking, “Oh, was that it”.

I think photos of yourself are fantastic.  You can look back on rose-tinted years and see they weren’t so perfect, you can look back at yourself knowing you thought you were unattractive or pudgy at that stage and realise you weren’t and you can see how you change.  It’s fascinating.

I like to think I have a photograph of everyone I’m friends with on my wall, maybe it’s to remind me who and why my friends are who they are, maybe it’s to remind me of good times (it’s not like you take photographs of horrible things, and even if you did it’s unlikely they’d make it onto a “happy wall”) or maybe it’s to project an image of who you are, or at least who you’d like to be, that person laughing with a group of friends for example.  I have one such photo, taken about 12 years ago.  I know it’s not the most commonly witnessed version of me but I am sitting at a dinner table in Japan in the middle of four or five others.  I have clearly said something hysterically funny because everyone is laughing and looking at me, the originator of this great witticism.  That may not be the me witnessed on a daily basis, but it’s nice to see on my wall, and it is a snatched moment in time.  I sometimes like to think of my life, of our lives, based on moments in time.  That way, the bad stuff can be archived and the funny, fun and warm moments can be engrained in our memories forever, a kind of best-of summary!

For as long as I can remember, I have always been fascinated by Battersea Power Station.  While not London’s most beautiful landmark, it is the one I always make a point of admiring if I am passing it.  For years now I have known that the odds of it being made into apartments was high.  As a student, in days when a flat around there wouldn’t have been priced so far out of my reach as to be cruel, I vowed that if it were ever made into apartments I would have to buy a flat there.  I read with heavy heart the other day that it is in the planning stages of being transformed into luxury flats, having been bought by developers for a staggering amount, almost £375 million.  My buying a flat there is never going to happen, but it’s got me thinking about the concept of industrial buildings being converted into flats.

I like mills, largely because they’re by water, and I have been in a few mill conversions, some more tasteful and quirky than others.  While I would rather all these mills could be restored to their original use, I reluctantly accept our industrial golden age has long gone, although with that have gone horrendous working conditions.  However, seeing these fine buildings left to decay is an architectural tragedy and makes a town or city look redundant and left behind.  This for me is something that upsets me about Sheffield.  It’s a city that I don’t think has addressed the sad reality of its booming industries being rendered redundant.  There are so many derelict areas, despite all the town centre development, and there is a sadness to the vast areas of disused land and mills/works.  As an aside, certain areas bring The Full Monty to life and I absolutely love that film, though that is a film centred around a group of men, most of whom are redundant because of the mills around Sheffield closing down

I have twice lived on Rotherhithe Street in London on the side of the road by The Thames, though sadly in fairly bland modern blocks.  Where old mills remain, they are all flats, many of which have fantastic and quirky features, though small windows and an abundance of interior brick dust are fairly common issues.  When I have my daydreams about how I would spend my lottery jackpot, buying a former industrial building, of the red brick variety, and converting it into a residence would be a project I’d love to oversee.  I wouldn’t make Battersea Power Station into flats though, I have other plans for that!

I find modern developments displeasing on the eye (except uber modern, architect-designed ones, like a lot around the London Bridge area), but industrial conversions are interesting and I am reluctantly accepting that at least a decent conversion saves a piece of our industrial history and stops another bland Barratt block being erected in its place.

Some years ago, having being told by a former resident of New Concordia Wharf that some of the former spice warehouses, now flats and offices, off Mill Street/Shad Thames near Tower Bridge still exuded a smell of spice, I investigated but couldn’t smell spices.  One day, many years later, not there specifically to sniff out spices, I was convinced I could smell spice.  Maybe it was psychological, but I love the idea of living somewhere with built-in spice room freshener!

et cetera