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?

Friday Flash Fiction – Unblogged

I first heard it on the radio, I wasn’t listening properly, I’m so bored with the news, but when I heard blogging, bloggers, scams, algorithms, WordPress, computers, victims, personas… I paid close attention.
We know all about other people being scammed on line, paying out money, falling in love with a person who does not exist… losing all your money on a business scam. Of course it couldn’t happen to me or my fellow bloggers, we’re far too intelligent for that; we know some bloggers are not what they say they are, but we just ignore them and certainly don’t follow them.
I was just about to write today’s blog when there was a knock at the door, a man and a woman stood on the doorstep holding out their ID. Her Majesty’s Cybercrime Home Security Force. I was amused, they wanted to interview little me, well that would make a good topic for my blog. They took it in turns to ask questions.

‘Do you possess a computer, do you use the internet… ‘ until finally we got to the crux of the matter ‘would you call yourself a blogger?’

‘Of course, I don’t call myself a blogger, I am a Blogger, Scribbletide and it’s not against the law, so why am I being subjected to this interrogation.’

‘We’re sorry to have to tell you Miss, Mrs… er Ms Scribbletide, but you have been scammed; the bloggers you associate with are not real.’

‘That’s okay, I know some are not, no problem, no harm to me.’

‘None of them are real, it’s a huge scam affecting national and international security and mental health.’
‘Is this a joke, are you filming me for that television programme?’
‘Please listen carefully, we are obliged to take you in for debriefing and health checks.’

‘Don’t be ridiculous I’m fine and I am not going anywhere.’

‘We know this must come as a great shock, none of the three thousand bloggers you follow are real; all set up by computer programmers as an experiment; there is no such thing as WordPress.’

‘I don’t understand, you mean all those Jills, Sues, Carols and Petes, Jims and Mikes are not real?’

‘Precisely and if it’s any comfort, you are alone…’



What’s in the Envelope?

My sister in Australia received this important piece of parchment.

What mysterious parcel was this? I had sent her a package; a few of my ‘business cards’. Being mean I did not send them with a gift or greetings card, but in the smallest envelope I could find to save on postage. To be fair to the Border Force it could have contained microchips or whatever spies use these days. My only worry had been that the tiny package would be lost in the post – not exactly a worry as I had another few thousand at home. Now I know the Australian Border Force could be on to me and shall have to be careful what I write.

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.

The House of Windsor

We never lived in Windsor, but the town, in the Royal County of Berkshire, was one of our favourite days out when we lived by Heathrow Airport. As the American tourist said ‘Why did they build a royal castle so close to the airport?’ – old joke. Along with many tourists and local families we enjoyed all it has to offer. ‘Long Walks in the Great Park’ – From the Castle gate to the foot of the statue of King George III (The Copper Horse) The Long Walk measures 2.64 miles in length. But the Windsor Great Park extends far beyond what you can see from the castle.

Walking at Windsor Great Park | Windsor Great Parkhttps://www.windsorgreatpark.co.uk/en/activities/walking

Windsor also has a theatre, a swimming pool, good shopping and the River Thames. A foot bridge takes you over the river to Eton where the famous school is spread out as part of the little town. You can also take a peaceful walk along the riverside very different from the bustle on the Windsor side.

You can go by train from Waterloo and arrive at Windsor and Eton Riverside station, or take the little line built for Queen Victoria, a one stop ride from Slough station  ( direct line from Paddington ) which takes you into the heart of the designer shopping centre and exits opposite the castle.

Tourists the weekend after the wedding of Harry and Megan!

Windsor Castle | Windsor Castle Tours and Tickets

Before the terrible castle fire in 1992 more of the castle grounds were free to the public to wander. We used to take our young children for a walk and show Australian visitors around. Under the archway, past the chapel, stroll up the hill. Our two year old once dashed into the guard room and was chased out by the guards. One side of the castle faces the town, but walk downhill to the river and the castle is high above you on a steep bank. When our daughter was a toddler she nearly gave a Japanese tourist a heart attack; he gasped in horror as she raced towards the turreted wall on the steep side of the grounds. She didn’t topple over, it was a safe height. Another time we peered through a gate and saw Princess Diana bring her two little boys out to watch the soldiers parading.

When we moved away from Heathrow we still visited Windsor on mini breaks to see our friends, usually staying at The Windsor Trooper, a great little old pub with bed and breakfast; bedrooms slightly crooked with sloping floors. 

‘In 1917, the name of the royal house was changed from the German Saxe-Coburg and Gotha to the English Windsor because of anti-German sentiment in the United Kingdom during World War I. There have been four British monarchs of the House of Windsor since then: George V, Edward VIII, George VI, and Elizabeth II.’

Windsor Castle made the perfect setting for the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, especially for the many of us who know Windsor well. The Duke apparently did not want a fuss and got his wish as the long miles of procession and crowd lined streets had to be scaled down to a ceremony within the castle precincts; a dignified walk down the hill with socially distanced military bands lined up with precision on the immaculate green.

The Band of the Grenadier Guards led the funeral procession and family members followed, Princess Anne in a long black coat and the men in morning suits. Following a coffin on foot seems dignified and respectful and it’s always good to see men smartly dressed. The Queen followed in her limousine.

I get nervous when I see The Queen walking unsteadily by herself, especially that day as she stepped out of her car and I wondered why she could not have formed a new bubble. Any other very elderly lady with strapping sons and grandsons would surely have been offered a strong arm to lean on. The Duke was her bubble, but she still has HMS Bubble, the loyal staff who have been on duty three weeks on three weeks off at the castle looking after the royal couple. Dog lovers will be glad to hear that The Queen, despite deciding a while ago not to breed or acquire any more dogs, has done what lots of people have in covid lockdown and acquired two puppies, a corgi and a dorgie, which she enjoys walking.

Inside the chapel were the regulation thirty guests and the emptiness perhaps enhanced the beautiful singing of the choir of four and the playing of the trumpeters. The royal family stuck by all the current funeral rules; we cannot compare their splendidly choregraphed event with bleak funerals at the local crem., livestreamed from one camera, but like other grieving widows The Queen sat by herself. After the service the family all strolled up the hill in the sunshine, ignoring the unnecessary fleet of cars lined up for them, though of course The Queen returned in her limousine. I like to think that once back in the royal apartments they all ripped off their masks and didn’t bother with social distancing!

Whether you watched the funeral avidly live on television and followed the highlights in the news later, or avoided all mention of it, there was more to the Duke of Edinburgh than most of us realised. The blanket comprehensive coverage of his life revealed a refugee from a broken home who saw real active service in the second world war. A life that did become privileged, but how many of us would want their whole life mapped out? Unlike lots of rich people he used his position to make a difference. He highlighted the plight of wildlife long before others were interested and created the Duke of Edinburgh Award to give ordinary teenagers the chance to take on all sorts of challenges. Those from a variety of countries who have spoken about meeting The Duke and how the award changed their lives will remember him and not the many politicians and world leaders who come and go.

Did you watch the funeral? Have you visited Windsor? Have you met any of the royal family?

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.

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?

Silly Saturday – Lego in Literature

I’m sure we would all agree that the best YouTube videos are of Lego people and even on the big screen, wouldn’t you rather watch a blockbuster Lego Movie than one with real people in? But many people would be surprised to learn that Legoland is where some of the greatest writers get their inspiration.

My family are all Lego mad; you never grow out of Lego, you just spend more and more money on it, but it was only this year, after many hints that I got some Lego. You do not need to take the popular Bachelor of Arts in Lego Literature and Creative Danish at the University of Legoland to enrich your writing with inspiring plot lines and character development.

One of my lockdown birthday presents from Team H was a firefighter’s set, aged 4 plus. I just about managed to meet the challenge of building it on Facetime. There is a fire engine, a firefighter, a BBQ on fire and a Lego boy with a complex character – you can turn his head to have a scared face or a relieved face. How did the fire start? What happened next? Fearless Frank the Firefighter and Frightened Freddy became a short story. Then Team AK sent me a boat set, age 7 plus, a real challenge. A boat, two scuba divers, a sword fish and a treasure chest.  I built a landing stage and it wasn’t long before the hapless Frightened Freddy was standing precariously on the edge of the water… Frightened Freddy Falls In became the sequel…

I just received my first review – I wonder if Amazon will accept it?

I had also ordered myself a lockdown present of a big yellow box of bricks and bits – ages 0-99 so it should last me a while.

If you have had writers’ block during the pandemic, you need the world’s most famous plastic blocks.

Are you inspired by Lego or has Lego taken over your house?

The LEGO® Movie – Official Main Trailer [HD] – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ_JOBCLF-I

On The Radio

What can any blogger write that doesn’t involve mentioning Covid, Brexit, The White House or the fact that a new year has started? Let us retreat to where most of us are at the moment, home. Home comforts, or what I now call Covid Comforts are keeping us going. If you are reading this it is unlikely you are in a refugee camp, an intensive care unit or a war zone; for that we should be grateful. If you look around your home I wonder how many modern wonders provide your life support system? The internet obviously, books, television, central heating, on line shopping, computer games. Before any of those was The Word, okay so radio came quite a while after the beginning of the Old Testament, but the first modern invention in my life was the radio, long before I could read, even before I could walk or talk music was seeping into my bones thanks to the BBC. Before I was born my parents were listening to programmes that are still being broadcast; The Archers, Desert Island Discs and Woman’s Hour.

Woman’s Hour has just had its seventy fifth birthday and received a letter from The Queen. When Dame Jenni Murray ( a national institution ) announced she was leaving after thirty three years, followed soon after by a similar announcement by Jane Garvey, who has been with the programme for thirteen years, my immediate thoughts were You can’t do this, not in the middle of a pandemic and my mother and husband have just died… As I have been listening at least since our first baby was born forty one years ago, there have been other favourite presenters, the programme will survive.  The modern mother can listen on her iPhone while breastfeeding in the dark watches of the night. Many men also listen and people of all ages can hear the programme in the car or when out jogging. Very different from the early days when it was broadcast at 2pm and mothers were presumed to be sitting down for a rest after lunch while their babies were having their nap. There is fun, but there are dark topics. I imagine there is no controversial issue that has not been covered on the programme, Woman’s Hour is where we first heard about FMG. The final quarter of the hour is a serial, there is always something for everyone.

Woman’s Hour: The Queen sends ‘best wishes’ to show on its 75th year – BBC Newshttps://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-55527576

In that 2020 strange sunny spring and summer of isolation, Cyberspouse listened to Woman’s Hour every morning over our leisurely breakfasts in the sun lounge. BBC Radio Four in the mornings is packed with interesting programmes and three different serials. Thanks to Amazon I bought two more digital radios to add to our collection.

There is much more to say about radio; such as why are we fascinated by the shipping forecast… but that’s for another blog. For now here is something cheery, one of my early memories that I just heard on the radio. Light music is what we all need at the moment and there have been memorable tunes composed on both sides of the Atlantic. This is one for writers by Leroy Anderson, though I don’t think he could have written a piece about computers…

The Typewriter Leroy Anderson Martin Breinschmid with Strauß Festival Orchestra Vienna – YouTubehttps://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=g2LJ1i7222c

What are your Covid Comforts? Do you have favourite radio presenters and programmes?

Lockdown Three

Lockdown Three has none of the drama of Lockdown One, though it is more cutting edge than Lockdown Two when schools were open and we thought we still had Christmas to look forward to. In an echo of the brilliant dramatic twist twixt lockdowns when Christmas was cancelled at the last moment, because Covid 19 reneged on its promise to give us five days off, the director instituted a brilliant scene from Downing Street in which the PM closes all schools, not the day before, but the very day after they started the new term ( a sentence nearly as long as lockdown ).

Lockdown Three promises to be longer than Lockdown Two, but with the same advantage of covering winter months, so people will be glad to huddle indoors. Are we prepared? I think it would have been more dramatic if we could be like the French and fill in forms to produce to show we have a good reason to be out. We are allowed out for exercise, to get immunised and to buy food and some people might actually have to go out to work… My freezer now has one drawer full of sliced apple from the tree in my garden; it thrived during last spring and summer’s sunny lockdowns, with no desire to leave home. Another drawer is devoted to the Christmas feast postponed till Chreastersummermas. I still have enough room for regular rations.

As my first winter being a widow it seems apt for normal life to be suspended, not that I would wish a pandemic on the rest of the world merely to take the pressure off me deciding anything. While half the population, from politicians to front line services, are busier than ever, the other half may be shielding or out of work, life curtailed to the banal or at least a gentler pace. There are plenty of positives; new hobbies, putting your CD collection in alphabetical order, having cooking fun. Gardening may have taken a back seat, but you can fill your home with pot plants and cut flowers; perhaps your family will not be able to find you in the jungle when at last they can visit.

There are new experiences for most of us. Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra tomorrow starts its second series of digital, livestreamed concerts. You can buy tickets for individual concerts or the whole season on line. We had a camera club zoom party and I won the Bingo; no need to go out on a cold night with plates of food, or clear up afterwards. Every Saturday night I join in a Zoom quiz; a window on the outside world.

Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra (bsolive.com)https://bsolive.com/

If you get bored you can always order yourself more presents from Amazon ( yes I know we shouldn’t, but we all use them because you can find what you want, or even things you didn’t know you wanted, and it always arrives ). Nearly everyone in my family from four to forties is obsessed with Lego ( Lego is certainly not just for children ) and after many hints I was given my first Lego set – Lego Architecture mini London. It was tiny, fiddly, fun and addictive; a total change from blogging and writing. I have ordered myself a big box of Lego bricks and bits so I can make my own creations.

My little real Christmas tree in the front garden has been undecorated, but today I had a Glastonburyish idea; I am going to leave it there and tie a ribbon on every day till we’re out of lockdown.