Cyber Cecurity and Digital Disasters

Worried about WordPress Block? Perplexed by Pressword? Digital life at Tidalscibe Towers is far more complicated, it’s a wonder you are reading this at all.

Warning, technical geniuses may be offended by the use of inappropriate technical language in the following item.

Thanks to the easing of the Covid roadmap and visits from Cyberson 1 and Digidaughter, a few problems have been ironed out. I can now post and edit my blog from the BIG computer with the BIG screen – old television. I can write in the relative calm of Microsoft Word and cut and paste, I can add links. Actually, it turned out I got just as many Likes for blogs cobbled together on the iPad with bits and blocks, prose and pix dancing up and down the screen or disappearing.  I am aware that the late Cyberspoue’s love of computers and digital technology, preferably second hand, meant our house had a higher than average digital delight rating, which was fine when he was my happiness engineer; more hands on than the WordPress Happiness  Engineer… But now I do at least have more than one device to access the internet portal. I imagine bloggers all over the world; some in control rooms NASA would envy, others sitting in bed with their smart phone, which are you dear reader?

I thought my old android phone, bought by Cyberspouse from Dave at work and passed on down to me, was finally giving up. Then through a process of brilliant deduction, seeing a detached wire at the end of the charger cable, I looked in the dreaded drawer of wires and found a spare charger. But by then the seed had been planted that I should have an iPhone which could form some sort of incestual relationship with the iPad. We only bought the iPad so we could Facetime Team G when Cyberson 1 was posted to the USA for three years. They’ve been back for one year so the iPad is probably due to go to a museum soon…

Cyberson 1 decided to buy me one with his pocket money when they were here at half term, but the model we agreed I would like was not available locally, so he then had to check with his sister if she would be able to set it up if he ordered from Amazon. Yes.

The phone arrived and I was ready with the secret code to give the delivery man. Next day Digidaughter arrived and we were she was ready. Of course my old sim card was too big so she phoned up Tesco to send a new sim card so I could keep my very basic Tesco account and my phone number… not that I ever phone anybody with my mobile or tell them my number…

A few days later, on my own again,  I came home and saw a Tesco leaflet amongst the mail and nearly threw it in the recycling bin, then realised this big piece of paper contained a minute piece of magic. I have never actually put in a sim card, I wouldn’t be much good as a spy or criminal constantly changing phones. But we had done a mock run through and I had a link to the ‘how to’ youtube video. All I had to do was not lose the wire tool or drop the minute sim card…

What are your favoured devices for writing your blogs and posting on WordPress? If you have a mobile phone do you use it to phone people or to look at Facebook and take photos to post on Instagram?

Lounging Around

In a Heathrow hotel conference room the tables were scattered with a host of battery operated furry creatures; this apparently was to ‘break the ice’. British Airways was paying for our catering company to attend a course of several events on passenger service, quite amusing as British Airways needed to learn about passenger service, not us – in my opinion. It was we who had to soothe the troubled brows of passengers by the time they had made it to the business class or first class lounges.

We didn’t need the ice broken as we were already relaxed and chatting to friends and fellow staff we hadn’t met before; a good chance for a natter without being interrupted by passengers. Being paid to have a day off with coffee and lunch instead of being at work, what was there not to like?

My first job as a lounge hostess had ended when the Qantas Lounge ceased to exist and Qantas moved over to Terminal Four. The lounge was now British Airways, used for flights to the USA and unless you noticed the kangaroos on the glass screens you would never know. The first class lounge became the quiet area and first class passengers had their own little lounge downstairs – at least they didn’t have to cope with the awful lift. We now worked for a much larger catering company who were subcontracted to work for a variety of airlines. Our new uniform consisted of a comfortable blouse and elasticated skirt which adapted itself to any figure, the fabric design was a multi coloured jigsaw pattern which also hid a multitude of sins. The navy jacket made it look quite smart, but my younger son was horrified and said ‘You’re not going wear that on the bus are you!’ On the bus and anywhere on the airport, we could easily spot who else worked for the same company, though the chaps wore white shirt and grey trousers with just a tie in the zingy pattern.

A cleaning company was also contracted to work alongside us, ‘Airspeed,’ a contradiction in terms for some of their staff, such as the lugubrious Raymond who became a permanent fixture. On the front desk a variety of British Airways staff rotated, some very efficient and passenger orientated, others not quite so; they provided us with great amusement, but probably not the passengers. One was an alcoholic who had easy access to the two bars and liked ‘orange juice’. His announcements when he called the flight were most entertaining; his exhortations not to leave anything behind and have passport and ticket ready came with colourful warnings of what might happen if you did not. Another staff member was always on the phone and her easily heard telephone conversations were interesting, with the added frisson of worrying if the passengers were listening. One morning I heard her say within easy earshot of passengers ‘We’ve got a right load of trailer trash in here today.’

The passengers were lovely friendly, polite Americans who said ‘Thankyou Maam’ plus an assortment of Brits and others.

The first manager we met said he was ‘running eighty per cent Pilipino’ and without the hardworking Pilipinos I imagine the lounges wouldn’t have run at all. We didn’t see this manager often and he hardly spoke to me until he discovered it was my husband who was the licensing officer for Heathrow and he needed to be interviewed by him to get the licence for the lounge to serve alcohol.

Our immediate manager was an Indian bundle of energy who had his own unorthodox way of running things, which worked with our wonderfully mixed staff. He was never without his large diary and mobile phone; if anyone was off sick, or needed to change shifts he was on the phone and in seconds had a replacement. There were always people happy to do overtime or do him a favour because he would help them out in turn. Some of the Philipinos worked every day without a break and saved all their holidays and days off to go ‘back home’ for three months each year, often investing their savings in property in the Philippines. Some staff were supporting all sorts of family members and needed the extra money, while others obviously preferred being at work to being at home. Heathrow airside and no doubt any big airport, is a world of its own, cut off from the rest of the world.

I started off with no intention of doing overtime or being whisked off to other lounges and terminals, but gradually I found myself doing just that and discovering that each lounge and airline could be very different… but that’s for another blog.

And what of our passenger service course? We also enjoyed a dinner out at another hotel where we had to rate the service and one to one coffee, cake and chats. They were asking us for our opinions, taking down all our suggestions for improving life for us and the passengers. None of our suggestions were ever acted on , but at least we had had fun.

Unfolding the Roadmap

Monday marked the penultimate stage on the English roadmap out of Covid and like the real paper road maps of old, there are lots of creases and you can’t read the parts where the folds are. Most of us are convinced the roadmap will be folded up again, but in the meantime…

I didn’t go anywhere exciting on Monday as I had a hospital appointment, but there was the hope of rounding it off with a treat. The hospital destination was the furthest away in our conurbation, but the easiest to get to. The journey encompasses almost the whole of the bus route and takes an hour, but stops right outside the hospital. Every seat has a phone charger so I could catch up with blogs and emails – if anyone reads any strange comments from me that is because it’s not easy tapping on a phone jolting along. I had a pocket full of coins as it was too early to use my bus pass – easily accessible coat pocket as I didn’t want to be fumbling around in my purse and exasperating the driver. I still exasperated him as he could not hear what I was saying with my mask on and behind his plexiglass screen. When he did grasp my destination I could not hear how much he said with his mask on.

The hospital is built halfway up a hill, a delight for hospital architects whose main aim is to make it impossible for anyone to find their way around. They now have different colour routes, plus instructions on your hospital letters. I had been this way before so no problem, upstairs, follow purple route, out the back door and down a long ramp then off to a totally separate building. When I was in the waiting room a lady came to the reception desk and said ‘I am completely lost, I can’t find the car park. ‘ She was advised to ‘go back upstairs to the Ladybird Suite and start all over again.’ After my appointment was finished the receptionist asked if I could find my way back. I smugly assured her I could as I had done it before, forgetting that last time I mysteriously ended up at the north entrance, which fortunately came back out onto the main road. This time I was aiming for Costa Coffee near the main entrance, but I did not pass any familiar landmarks such as shops, glass dome, information desk. Luckily a person pushing a trolley asked if I was lost and directed me to the nearest stairs. Of course, if you go upstairs on the outward route it helps to go down on the return route. At last I reached my destination.

Not an accurate representation of Costa.

I am not a Costa addict, preferring to visit independent places and I don’t like takeaway cups, but even though the coffee was lukewarm by the time I had checked in with my NHS app and realised you had to ask for sugar, it tasted wonderful. At last I was actually sitting inside on the first day coffee shops and cafes were open properly again. I nearly forgot to take my mask off, that felt strange and I exchanged remarks with the lady at the next table at how excited we were to be in a coffee shop.

Trials and Tribulations

What do you do when things go wrong? Scream and breathe fire. Not actually go wrong in real life, just on WordPress; hang on, that is real life…

Happiness engineer says try a different browser,or at least that was the only part of the prompt email reply I understood, so here I am on the iPad missing my huge screen desktop where my real blog is stuck in a word document…. But I must remember my own mantra, widowed and in the middle of a worldwide pandemic, what’s the worst that could happen having problems with WordPress…. I’ll just keep doing test posts and try not to panic!

A calming picture.

Airside

The first aim of passengers arriving at an airport, especially a huge one, is to get themselves and their luggage checked in; a weight off their minds and shoulders. Next is to go through the portal between normal life and the rest of the world. It’s years since I have flown and I am sure the presenting of passports, getting X-Rayed, confiscating of water bottles etc has been quadrupled in stress with the pandemic, though hopefully far fewer people are flying.

Covid has taken away that other entertainment or ordeal; ‘seeing people off’. In normal times getting to the airport early was quite likely, having left home very early ‘just in case’ and because passengers were told to be at the airport two hours before their flight. This left limbo time to have coffee with friends or family, sad or happy depending on who was going where and for how long, perhaps for ever. One of my Asian colleagues at Heathrow did a wonderful impression of the difference between an English farewell and his relatives and fellow countrymen; he said he preferred the English style… English small group no more than five… ‘right then, goodbye, have a good trip.’ Relative walks towards the portal, turn of head and slight nod, relatives give small wave and he strides forward, never looking back as he is swallowed up into the portal. My friend’s family; at least twenty, plus young children clinging shyly or sliding across the floor and running around; there is wailing and gnashing of teeth as the departing ones walk reluctantly to the portal, stopping and turning twenty times and walking backwards through the barriers.

What happens on the other side? Unless you are a seasoned traveller you will feel lost among swathes of people nervously looking at the departures board every two seconds, then seeing their flight is delayed by two hours; they could have spent more time landside with the relatives. Others surge forward to pass under the sign saying Gates 65 to 97, blissfully unaware that Gate 97 is miles further on. I once saw a poor lady buttonhole a young man in a uniform that had nothing to do with airlines or customer care; she was saying  ‘I just can’t take any more’ while he was looking round for means of escape.

But if you are travelling business or first class you can escape this hell hole by going to your airline’s Club Lounge. They vary, some are an oasis of calm, others very different. I ended up as a lounge assistant after Cyberspouse’s attempts, while patrolling Heathrow, to find me a job that earned more than working in the local playgroup and didn’t involve computers. He came home and announced he had found a job where all I had to do was make coffee.

My interview, if you could call it that, was with a very nice manager and with hours 11am to 2.30pm in the Qantas Lounge catering for one morning flight, it sounded a dream; what I didn’t know was that the woman I had to work with was a right… and a real…

Qantas Lounge Terminal Three at that time (end of the twentieth century ) was down a quiet corridor, up some stairs, down an even quieter corridor. The Qantas staff on the desk were very pleasant and our job easy. Making coffee was simple, filter coffee dripping into a jug. We put out biscuits and served up ready made sandwiches at eleven o’clock. The passengers were friendly and of course spoke the same language. It was a homely place to be, a medium size business lounge with a quiet first class round the corner; lots of passengers bumped into friends.

Passenger/customer service is easy, all you have to do is treat them how you would like to be treated. The pettiness of my ‘colleague/boss’ was soon brought home when I made a tray of tea; teapot, milk jug, sugar. I added a pot of hot water so they could adjust the strength or top the pot up, which irked her greatly. Why? Passengers had paid plenty for their fare and a drop of hot water was no trouble for anyone. Fortunately she spent most of her time draped over the front desk chatting to the ‘the girls’ or on the phone in the kitchen chatting inanely to one or other of her twin daughters. I was happy to get on with all the table clearing etc. by myself.

There was one task I found myself doing which was certainly outside my comfort zone. One of the Qantas staff asked if I would mind ‘popping down to fetch the papers’; I innocently agreed. The incoming morning flight brought ‘The Australian’ newspaper, but to collect it involved going down in the pair of old lifts that I always avoided. Not only do I hate lifts, but I had seen them being mended enough times to not trust them. Even worse, like something out of Doctor Who, I was given the secret key that allowed the lift to go to depths passengers must not go. When the doors opened there was the bundle of newspapers waiting, but this was not the basement. There was a strong smell of kerosene; this was the outside, the real outside airside where planes park. I was terrified of being stranded down here, trying to reach the bundle of papers while keeping one foot in the lift doors so they wouldn’t close. When I finally made it back to the sanctuary of the lounge my colleague was ready with acid remarks that I was not supposed to have gone as it was not one of our jobs.

As usual at Heathrow things were changing and after a couple of years Qantas was moved over to Terminal 4, their passengers to share the British Airway Lounge. I didn’t lose my job, we were about to be absorbed into a different company and I was about to work longer hours and meet a lot more people.

A footnote. Qantas now has a new dedicated lounge in Terminal Three and from the pictures it looks a lot different from the old one.

What are you departure experiences at airports?

Silly Saturday – Perplexing Puzzles

Every Saturday in the middle of the Weekend ‘I’ ( Independent ) newspaper you will find lots of the regular daily puzzles, but Sudokarrow only appears on Saturdays. Ordinary sudokus are boring, which is probably why a host of mathematically challenging puzzles have evolved. Each week I look at this puzzle in its pristine condition determined I will finish it correctly – and neatly. I think only once have I succeeded and by the time I’ve got it wrong it looks a complete mess. My young next door neighbour asked me if I read real paper newspapers, but it turned out he wasn’t interested in which newspaper (political views) or how many puzzles I managed to do – he just needs a supply of paper to light his wood burning stove! Do you get a newspaper for the news or the puzzles?

This was the picture round in our Zoom Quiz last week. Just say what you see. eg 17 is ice cube. I got 18 right and I can’t recall the answers to the ones I didn’t get, so I may not be able to help if you can’t get them all!

Quiz Planet is an on line quiz that you can play with friends who haven’t got anything better to do or with complete strangers who don’t have anything better to do either, it is quite addictive. If it’s your turn you get to choose the subject; science, music, body and soul etc, but the downside is that your friend will see what stupid wrong answers you got. If they challenge you they may pick topics you have no chance of answering, such as celebrities or beauty and fashion. I do better than Zoom quiz as the questions are multiple choice and some answers are so stupid you can pick the right one even if you have never heard of the person or place.

Here are some examples for you to try, with the advantage of not having to answer in ten seconds like the real quiz.

Who was the previous president of the USA? 1. Ghengis Khan 2. Vlad The Impaler 3. Donald Trump 4. Abraham Lincoln

Which of these is an insect? 1. horse 2. whale 3. grasshopper 4. cat

Who played Maria in The Sound of Music? 1. Sharon Stone, 2. Julie Andrews 3. Whoopi Goldberg 4. Megan Markle

The capital city of Australia is 1. Canberra 2. San Francisco 3. Oslo 4. Beijing

If you had an appendectomy what would you have removed? 1. finger 2. appendix 3. leg 4. head

And here is one I got wrong earlier, somehow missing the obvious…. Which star is closest to the earth 1. Alpha Centauri 2. Sirius 3. Epsilon Eridani 4. THE SUN

Here are the correct answers, but not necessarily in the right order; appendix, Canberra, THE SUN, Donald Trump, Julie Andrews and grasshopper.

How did you do? Are you tempted to join in?

Quiz Planethttps://quizplanet.game/

Sailing

My experience of cruises is limited to sailing from Poole to Cherbourg, a five hour trip on the Bar Fleur, for days out or holidays in France, and our one trip to Bilbao, northern Spain.

Poole Harbour – not the Bar Fleur

Our voyage on the Pride of Bilbao was one of their three-night weekend mini cabaret cruises, off peak season in October, with vouchers Cyberspouse got people at work to cut out of The Sun newspaper, a paper I never let him buy! When we boarded at Portsmouth all the other passengers looked like Sun readers. On the Friday night we went to watch the cabaret and were not surprised that when it was finished the entertainers reappeared in their crew members’ uniforms.

Our inner cabin was like a prison cell; I took the top bunk, not wishing Cyberspouse to crash down on top of me.

But the next day was sunny with plenty to do on board; relaxing in the lounges, taking part in Whale and Dolphin watches on deck or from the observation lounge, going to wildlife presentations in the ship’s cinema with the resident wildlife officer from the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme.

After our second sleep came our early arrival in the port for our six hour turn around. On board we could book one of three coach trips; there was a lot of port and industry between us and Bilbao town, so you couldn’t just get off and ‘have a look around’. The fishing village outing was off, not enough takers. We had plumped for the Guggenheim Museum, but regular passengers told us it wouldn’t be opening for another hour, so we changed to the trip into town with hot chocolate and a snack at a quaint tiled coffee house. We spent the remainder of the time wandering around a nice department store near the coach pick up point, because it was cold and also I was worried we would not find our way back or be late for the coach!

That day’s sailing was very pleasant, sitting in the sun lounges, reading or writing and listening out for summons to see whales – we only ever saw distant sprays of water. I decided I enjoyed cruising. On our last night we slept well and were surprised when the next morning the Captain said we had been through a Force Eight ( or was it Sixteen? ) Gale; the Bay of Biscay is known for rough seas. I might have thought twice about going if I had known that, but it seems our inner cabin was far more stable than the better cabins.

The elegant Queen Mary 2 – the world’s only ocean liner, not a cruise ship

We have been on trips to Southampton and crossed Southampton Water on the ferry, so we have seen plenty of cruise ships and most of them look like huge floating blocks of flats, how do passengers find their way around? We never could afford seriously considered going on a proper cruise.

One of the strangest remarks after Cyberspouse died was from the reclusive retired couple in our little road. It’s not that they don’t talk to us, just that they don’t engage much with the rest of the neighbours. Pre Covid He spent all his time in the driveway and garage making things, while She was always out playing golf. He had been over once to say how sorry he was to hear Cyberspouse was ill. I was in the front garden one day and surprised to see them out together and coming over to chat. When he asked how I was getting on I thought he meant as a widow of over a month, but it turned out he had missed the dying part and thought Cyberspouse was still isolating indoors. He then compounded the awkwardness by asking if I was going to do anything exciting… adding like going on a cruise! I can imagine what his wife said to him when they got indoors!

The other day I was watching an item on the news about P&O Cruises offering round Britain cruises for UK residents who have been vaccinated…

Sailing at reduced capacity and with new health protocols, the line will offer round-trip short breaks on Britannia and week-long cruises on its new ship Iona from Southampton from June 27 until September 19, 2021.

For a moment I was tempted, they won’t actually be stopping anywhere. After so long with Covid constraints, many of us will need the security of not being able to do what we like. If the ship never docked anywhere I would also be saved the tedium of queueing up to disembark with lots of old people and their walking frames ( so I have heard ) and of course my fear of getting lost and not getting back to the ship in time. I could stay in my cosy cabin writing or stroll the decks looking out for familiar parts of the coast we have visited. Perhaps I would pretend I was a famous writer going on a great voyage…

Not a P&O cruise ship

Then the presenter asked if the crew would also all be vaccinated and the answer was No, they had crew from ninety ( or was it sixty ) different countries. Then I remembered how in pre Covid days cruise ships were always having outbreaks of Norovirus – yes the vomiting etc one – and I would probably get lost on board; even in Premiere Inns, where the corridors are like being on board ship, I always turn the wrong way out of the room. So perhaps I won’t go, perhaps they are already booked up …a blogging opportunity lost.

Stranger Danger

In one of my previous incarnations I was walking home from the bus stop after a late shift. When I turned the corner and approached our quiet cul-de-sac I was surprised and a little alarmed to see two suspicious characters lurking on either corner, their cigarettes a tiny glow in the dark night. Dressed in black leather jackets they looked like East European gangsters. What could I do except look straight ahead, pretend I hadn’t noticed them and head for my house.

Then a voice said ‘Hi Mum.’

It was my fifteen year old son with his friend, who was waiting to be picked up by his mother. Their leather jackets were the ones the friend’s mother had ordered from her Littlewoods catalogue.

You don’t have to be female for groups of more than one strapping teenager to look threatening. Hanging around with mates and walking aimlessly in town is what teenagers do. Some may show off to their mates by calling out to hapless passers by, most are harmless. Real gangs armed with knives or selling drugs are more likely to be harming other young men.

The males that women have been complaining about recently … and for centuries … are those who don’t just hang about, but call out abusive remarks, follow lone women, slow their cars down or touch them in crowded tube trains. And of course far worse.

For many of us these perpetrators appear to be a totally different species from all the men in our lives. From our dads who made our pet cages to boyfriends, brothers, sons and work mates who fix our cars and washing machines, give us lifts, husbands who are lifelong companions; why would we want to hate men? It is a truth not often acknowledged that many of us preferred men teachers and male bosses. Women are not a united single species any more than men are and what girl hasn’t dreaded working with the bitch in the office or feared the nasty nurse on the maternity ward?

Little girls who have no reason to fear men adore them, batting their eyelids innocently when the firemen come to visit their playgroup, clutching the hand of their friend’s dad. When we visited my friend’s parents once, my little girl said to the mother ‘I like your Daddy!’

I once read an article by a woman who said she was thrilled when her first baby was a boy, because although she couldn’t be a man, at least she had given birth to one. Though it is the man that determines the sex of the baby, some women still feel proud if they manage to present their husband with a son. Perhaps there are simpler reasons why many women are secretly hoping or delighted when they have a boy first; maybe they always wanted a big brother or working with children has endeared them to little boys. Little boys are adorable and though they may hit their younger siblings and the other children at nursery and may not turn out quite as angelic as those choir boys that we all love, they are not often insidiously nasty and spiteful to each other as little girls can be.

Liking men and enjoying their company does not mean we assume they are superior, it just means it would be a dull world if we were all the same. It will be a sad day ( maybe it is already ) when men and women can no longer have a laugh at work, fearful of crossing the ever moving boundaries. When women would rather suffer a back injury than gracefully accept help with something heavy from the chap next door. When girls consider sewing a button on a male friend’s shirt as an insult rather than just being helpful.

But none of this takes away the fear. Why some men see a broken down car and worried female driver, a woman walking home from her late shift at the hospital or a very drunk girl losing her friends and attempting to walk home as an obvious opportunity to rape and murder them remains a complete mystery. It doesn’t feel helpful that crime dramas are so often about young pretty women being kidnapped and murdered, but that is not a cause; terrible crimes were being committed long before cinema and television were invented.

We still have to remember all the times we have walked our dog round the park, chatting to male dog owners who don’t try and molest us or say anything inappropriate. Recall that time your windscreen smashed on a deserted road and the truck driver kindly stopped to help without bundling you into his cab. Remember those times you went on dates with guys who turned out to be very boring or at least not interesting enough to want to see again, but who saw you safely home and accepted your invented polite excuses for not arranging another date and didn’t turn into a stalker.

We shouldn’t have to, but perhaps girls will always have to learn to develop their instincts as to who the bad guys are and sadly that will not always work. But it will be a long time yet before we figure out how a sweet little boy might turn into a monster scarier than our worst nightmares. In the meantime let us stay united as humans who respect and look after each other.

Sunday Salon – March 14th 2021

This week, books, films and television.

In my continuing ambiguous relationship with Amazon I decided to review one book and see what would happen. I was surprised to get a positive reply. Could this be because the author has been dead for nearly half a century and could not possibly have bribed me to write a review or happen to be my best friend?

This is my review of ‘Mrs Palfrey At The Claremont’ which I put on Goodreads

I had not read any of Elizabeth Taylor’s books and read a review of this one by a fellow blogger. It appealed to me as gentle pandemic reading. It is quietly very amusing. I loved the line ‘She realised her husband was no longer at death’s door, but actually going through it.’ As Mr. and Mrs. Palfrey’s life had been in the colonial service it appears they did not actually own a home and after enjoying some retirement time Mrs. Palfrey is left on her own and decides to live at a hotel. The wonderful description of her first night, creeping down the corridor to the shared bathroom, tells us all we need to know about the life  Mrs Palfrey now faces in her final years. Perhaps the funniest part of the simple plot is the recreation of the character of her grandson, who is unlikely to visit, but having created an image of him the other residents expect him to appear. Mrs. Palfrey’s friendship with a poverty stricken  young writer provides a solution to her dilemma.

My email from Amazon

Thanks Janet Gogerty,

Your latest customer review is live on Amazon. We and millions of shoppers on Amazon appreciate the time you took to share your experience with this item.
 
from Janet Gogerty on 09 March 2021
It’s 1968, but Mrs Palfrey is not part of the swinging sixties.
I had not read any of Elizabeth Taylor’s books and read a review of this one by a fellow blogger. It appealed to me as gentle pandemic reading. It is quietly very amusing. I loved the line ‘She realised her husband was no longer at death’s door, but actually going…
See your full review

If you have past items that you would like to rate, please click here.        

https://www.amazon.co.uk/review/RU18Q8RKJK3JN/ref=pe

  Sunday Salon is for all arts and entertainment and most of us have appreciated a bit of escapism with our television sets, especially if we are in lockdown on our own. However you access programmes and films, I’m sure there has been plenty of choice.

  I did catch up with a film I had wanted to see, A United Kingdom, 2017. From what I have looked up and read, it seems this film is a true love story approved by the family. The sunny reds and ochres of Africa are the antidote to a grey pandemic winter evening. In post war 1940s  England a young clerk falls in love with an African Prince and both families disapprove; it gets very complicated. It wasn’t until the end I realised the British Protectorate of Bechuanaland is now Botswana, a country I always think of as a happy land.

It became an independent Commonwealth republic on 30 September 1966, lead to democracy by the one time prince. It is currently Africa’s oldest continuous democracy and has transformed itself into an upper middle income country, with one of the world’s fastest-growing economies.

I have not set foot on the continent of Africa and my knowledge of Botswana, until I saw the film, was based entirely on the light hearted No 1 Detective Agency books of Alexander McCall Smith and the subsequent film and television series, filmed on location, bringing cheerful viewing on winter evenings a decade ago.

The film was a good story, viewers might be appalled at British bureaucracy and empire style, trying to keep important trading partner South Africa happy, but I think it was not that simple; in a way Britain had also been protecting little Bechuanaland from South Africa, just over their border and trying to impose apartheid on them.

A United Kingdom vs True Story of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams (historyvshollywood.com)

My garden that has not appeared on television.

In a world of dark stories and division and during a long year of lockdowns there is one place many of us enjoy visiting, Longmeadow. This is Monty Don’s real garden from which he broadcasts Gardener’s World on BBC 2. He and other presenters have filmed in isolation, each in their own gardens. This series has been better, on their own chatting to us, no inane banter with each other, just gardening and tranquillity. Apart from one of Monty’s beloved dogs dying ( cue national mourning ) the programmes have been a haven away from politics, division and bad news. My favourite feature has been viewers’ videos. There is no garden too small or too steep and no flat too tiny to be filled with waterfalls and hundreds of plants. Children and the elderly, from every walk of life, able bodied and disabled. In Lockdown everyone was taking the opportunity to have fun gardening and they were all so enthusiastic. I kept boring family and friends with snippets. If you thought I had a lot of pots, this woman had 1,567 pots in her garden. There’s a bloke who lives near you and he has an actual staircase from a house to go up to the garden on top of his (reinforced ) shed and they must be able to look down into all the neighbours’ gardens. One chap mows his lawn every single day. He had 398 varieties of dahlias and could never go away on holiday…

BBC Two – Gardeners’ World, 2020

It was a bad day when Gardener’s World finished for the winter, but there was soon happy news, programmes reviewing the past season and a rerun of Monty’s three part series on American gardens. And now it’s spring again and next Friday, 9pm BBC 2, the new series starts.

What has been your favourite Pandemic viewing?

Off Line, On Line

Soon we will be filling in our census forms in the United Kingdom. Ten years ago, at the last census, we filled in our paper forms and I made sure I was put down as a writer, I think Freelance Writer were my exact words. This time I shall put author. The personal details of the census are not revealed for a hundred years, so when my descendants are looking up the census forms on one of those history programmes I want them to know I wrote. They will either know because I have become famous, or more likely will wonder who on earth I was and what I wrote.

But this time we are required to fill in the form on line, save paper, but it is sad there will be no historic piece of paper to look at. On our instructions it says you can request a paper form at www.census.gov.uk –  how would you do that if you are not On Line? It then adds ‘ask your nephew or daughter if you need help’. Okay, just joking. There is a phone number and there are Census Support Centres. But the head householder will be fined up to £1000 if they don’t fill it in. The whole point of a census is for absolutely every household to be accounted for, so that enthusiastic intellectual presenters can make history programmes in a hundred years time ( probably holograms or perhaps they will be able to bring us back to life by then ). Even if you don’t have a computer, this census should be less trouble than it was for Mary and Joseph going to Bethlehem!

The pandemic has shown us more than ever what a divide there is between being on line and off line. I am grateful to be on line, but totally sympathetic with people who have never seen the need, or are not in a position to acquire the technology. Once upon a time, early in this century, I was still off line. A friend having a big clear out sent me an email she found from my daughter – in a cross over between on line and tradition, she used to print out emails for her mother to read, hence the existence of this historic document reminding me how far I have come this century. The email was written in the year 2000. I have redacted most of it for security reasons.

Although I recall saying I would start learning about computers when our youngest started school, all that happened was I started working at the local playgroup, which in turn led me to seeking out jobs that didn’t involve computers when the children were older. People my age who were working in offices or teaching were of course going on computer courses. I did at one stage enrol in evening classes at my children’s high school with their technology teacher; who turned out to be as useless as they claimed. He would say he was just going to get some more printer paper, but we could see across the quadrangle that he had just gone out for a smoke; this would happen several times in the lesson…

By the time we moved away in 2004 my on line achievements amounted to looking up estate agents’ websites and logging in to the Southbourne Beach surfers’ webcam.

Joining a weekly writers’ group in 2007 meant I had to start learning how to type, how to do word documents and how to print them out. At first I would pretend Monday was Tuesday, so I would be sure to have my printed work ready for Wednesday morning; all this required a lot of help from the long suffering Cyberspouse. Actually thinking what to write was nothing compared with the technical challenge; I would never have imagined writing books, self publishing and blogging lay in the future… I did not have any concept of such things even existing.

When did you leave the real world and go on line?