Friday Flash Fiction 555 – Phone Call

Doris danced round the kitchen, her mood lifted. What was this music, that composer who died young, they played it at that concert they went to… Thank goodness for the radio to ease the monotony of kitchen chores. She was having a big tidy up, making space. It was just as well her son and his family were not coming straight to her after flying in from the USA. Their delayed annual holiday was starting with a further two week delay in quarantine at an air bed or b&b; for the best really, she had managed to avoid getting English Covid, she didn’t want to get American Covid. Cassie next door would help her order a big shop next week, though goodness knows what the children’s likes and dislikes would be this year. The top cupboards would have to stay untouched, Doris had not used her stepping stool since lockdown, the last thing she wanted was a fall and end up in hospital on a ventilator. She just needed everything to look orderly so her son would see she was still coping fine.

Doris was startled out of her conducting with the wooden spoon by the phone ringing.

‘Hello.’

‘Good morning, my name’s Natasha and I am calling from…’

‘Hold on a moment, I’ll just turn the radio off, I can’t hear you.’

‘Noo… Wait, what’s that music, I love it, I’ve heard it before, but I can never find out what it is… ’

‘Lovely isn’t it, I know the composer…’

‘Who is it?’

‘…but his name won’t come to mind.’

‘Do you know what the piece is called?’

‘Some rhapsody I think, don’t go away, let’s hope they tell us what it was before the news comes on.’

Doris held the phone near the radio and strummed the counter top with her other hand, it was that time they went with Mary and her husband, narrow seats, no leg room for the men, concerts like that were off the agenda now with social distancing.

‘Oh that was lovely, thank you so much, I’ve tapped it into my phone, I’ll download it later.’

Just as well Natasha caught the presenter’s voice, Doris had been so wrapped up in the gorgeous music she hadn’t heard what he said.

‘You are very welcome Natasha, one of my favourites. I don’t do downloading, I still have CDs. By the way, why were you calling?’

‘Oh er um I understand you were involved in an accident recently and may be eligible for compensation.’

‘No, no I’m fine, I have been very careful, apart from that time with the secateurs, where are you calling from, council covid welfare ?’

‘So you have not been involved in a motor vehicle accident lately?’

‘No dear, I haven’t driven for years and Cassie next door doesn’t have a car. I usually get the bus, but we’re not supposed to use those now. Cassie orders on line for me, I’ll have to get a lot more next week. My son and his family are over from the USA, I think we’ll have a good old English roast and I’ll make him his favourite chocolate cake, even if his wife is on one of her diets and I never know what her children are going to eat… ’

Strange, the young woman had hung up.

Silly Saturday – Jolly Journaling

Coronavirus: British Library to archive Radio 4’s Covid Chronicles for posterity…

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/entertainment-arts-52487414

Have you been keeping a diary or journal of these strange times? Perhaps you have already had your four hundred words read out on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme – no nor have I. No I haven’t actually written my Covid Chronicle yet, but I shall so that I can get in the British Library archives.

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Or are you keeping a handwritten journal in a beautiful leather bound diary so your descendants or historians can read about this unique period of history? Of course it won’t be unique if it just continues with no end in sight, but the good news is your diary will be a record of someone who was there at the beginning of a new era for Gaia and the human race.
Like blogging, those who have something interesting to write have no time to write and those with time to write have nothing interesting to write about. There are many people being very busy; medical folk saving lives, those in government holding endless meetings with busy clever scientists and holding press briefings. Parents are working from home and teaching their children. Drivers are out delivering. The rest of us are at home doing NOTHING for our country, or rather doing nothing FOR our country. Our places of work are closed or we have been told to stay home for 12 weeks because we are vulnerable or shielding someone who is. But our diaries are still valuable.

Saturday
I only knew it was Saturday because there was a different programme on the radio. Put the washing machine on and did two loads. Counted how many slices of bread left. Amazon parcel arrived, one ball of red wool to knit a rainbow.

Sunday
Watched YouTube video on how to knit. Didn’t do the ironing because what’s the point. Amazon parcel arrived, one ball of orange wool. Put bins out and waved to Barbara across the road.

Monday
Amazon parcel arrived, one ball of yellow wool for rainbow. Started tidying up the loft, found old teddy bear and came downstairs for coffee. Brought bins in and waved to Bill next door. Put teddy in window and downloaded pattern of teddy Union Jack jumper for VE day anniversary celebrations, which we’re not having.

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Tuesday
Drew up list of jobs that need doing in the house. Two Amazon parcels, 24 tins of rice pudding for OH ( Other Half ) and one ball of green wool. Raining, so cast on stitches in red wool for my rainbow.

Wednesday
Watched You Tube video on how to knit first row. One Amazon parcel, ball of blue wool. Raining. Three letters in the post. Tickets for the concert, letter to tell us concert cancelled, letter from hospital cancelling the appointment for my toe.

Thursday
Cleaned the whole house so can get on with list of DIY jobs. Two Amazon parcels; cover for phone, one ball of indigo wool. Mowed lawn and waved to Julie next door the other side. Made a list of things to order from Amazon for my DIY.

Friday
Went on Amazon to order list of things for DIY. One Amazon parcel, ball of violet wool. Have knitted two rows of red for the rainbow, decided to stick to garter stitch as can’t get the hang of purl. Made a wall chart of how next week will be organised.

Off Line

This is what happened last year, last week, next week…

SERVER NOT FOUND, words guaranteed to strike dread in the hearts of anyone expecting to go on line in the next few seconds. When I saw those words I tried every device in the house, only to get the same answer. I did not need to go on the internet, it was a catching up with housework day. At least we hadn’t had a power cut; electricity not WiFi was all that was needed to work the washing machine, vacuum cleaner and most importantly the radio, the only companion that makes chores bearable.

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So why was I experiencing medium levels of stress, anxiety and restlessness?
First cause was the question Why? Obviously the Internet works by magic, but what had broken the spell and would the magic ever return?
Second worry; I was due to Facetime family in Australia early the next morning.
Third problem; I needed ( wanted ) to post tomorrow’s blog.
Finally came the hollow panic: what was I missing while off line? Would I be the last relative to put a sad emoticon on Facebook if a baby wasn’t well or if someone was in casualty? Were there any important e-mails? Would WordPressdom manage without me, were there any comments to comment on?

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There was a time when I wasn’t on Facebook or WordPress; further back I didn’t have an e-mail address. There is a telephone in the house attached to a land line, which at some stage beams up to a satellite. I could just phone Australia. Anybody could phone me if there was an emergency. I could still get on with writing on paper … or Microsoft Word… if I ever finished the housework. So why was I still anxious?
When the long suffering Cyberspouse came home he dismissed the gravity of the situation, commenting calmly that Virgin was probably ‘down’. However, he decided he would unplug the router and plug it in again. Instantly messages and Whatsapps pinged into our mobile phones. Facebook lit up the large ( old television ) screen of my desk top computer. I was delighted, proof indeed that the internet works by magic. The way to restore it is by a magic spell that I cannot perform; the internet has to be switched off and on by someone who is not a technophobe and who is totally uninterested in social media.
I was late cooking dinner that evening ( again ) because I had to check all my multi media connections. And what had I missed?

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Sunset pictures from Facebook photographer friends.
A petition to save a cow swimming in the harbour after escaping from a live export ship in Fremantle Port, Western Australia.
Three million bloggers had commented on thousands of other bloggers’ blogs.
I am not (am I not? ) a Facebook Fanatic or WordPress Prisoner… After several years of being blissfully without a mobile phone I am now on my second third hand Smart phone and used to ( dependent on )the security of knowing I can check Facebook while I am out to make sure I’m not missing anything. I can take photographs with my phone and post them so that Facebook Friends and Instagram Followers do not miss anything I’m doing out in real life. On the bus I can read blogs and post comments…

My Dark and Milk collection has two stories about what can go horribly wrong on Facebook. ‘You Have One Friend’ and ‘Friend Request’.
Look out for Friday Flash Fiction where you can read ‘You Have One Friend’.

Friday Flash Fiction – Rambling Radio

‘…and when the light turns green Marcia, that’s your signal to speak, here’s your script.’

‘Script? I don’t need a script, surely the idea is to chat.’

‘Yes, but you do need to know what items you are linking. While the music is playing you can muse on what you might say next, but when a report is being read you need to concentrate so you can comment.’

‘Multi tasking, I know all about that…’

Theme music fades

‘Yes, yes I’m ready…

Good afternoon, it’s Marcia Graham taking you up to Drivetime with news and views and the sort of music you like … and my first guest is a man who plans to unicycle around the world. Join us after the break.’

Marcia clasped the headphones with a pained expression on her face. ‘Why do we need a break already, it’s only a few minutes since the last advertisements. Oh not this excruciating one, I can’t stand it when I’m in the kitchen, let alone having it blasted into my ears… Are you the unicycle man, not quite what I’d imagined, still, I suppose you will lose plenty of weight on your travels, whoops, amber light, get ready…

and this afternoon I’m talking to…

can’t read this small writing

…Free Wheeler?’

‘Freddie, my mother was a Queen fan, quite funny really, you know, I Like To Ride My Bicycle…’

‘But you’re riding a UNIcycle… what did give you the idea to unicycle around the world?’

‘I was bullied at school, Freddie No Wheels, my parents wouldn’t buy me a bike…’

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Half an hour later

‘Thank goodness we’ve got rid of him; this show needs intelligent guests, I see myself as a cross between Joan Bakewell and Melvyn Bragg. No, I’m the same age as her actually. Who chooses this music, I can’t stand flutes, we don’t want to send the listeners off to sleep… ooh amber light…

and here is the news read by Peter Grimes…

unfortunate name, who decides the order of the news items, are we really interested, would we care if the operation wasn’t a success?’

The producer sighed and wondered how his radio station came to be involved in DRIP, Deferred Retirement In-house retraining Programme.

 

 

Reinventing The Printing Press

The printing press was invented nearly 600 years ago, Gutenberg credited with the birth of mass communication; but of course the written word goes back much further. Has the invention of the E-book been as important as the invention of the printing press? Not in terms of mass communication; radio, television and the internet surely qualify for that.

Have Kindle books revolutionised our reading habits? Real paper books have survived radio, television and the cinema so are unlikely to suffer a demise. But e-Books have brought new delights; reading in bed in the dark still gives me a wicked thrill when I recall my childhood self trying to read with a torch under the covers without being caught. Packing one slim item for holiday reading, or on the commuter train with nobody knowing which book you are reading… But people still love the feel and colour of real books and I never dare take my precious Kindle on the bus or to the beach hut, paperbacks still have their use.

But for the Indie writer Amazon Kindle provided a tempting doorway into self publishing with a worldwide audience, not necessarily translating into world record sales, but with the opportunity for your aunty on the other side of the world to download your wonderful novel onto her Kindle in seconds.

Self publishing is not new; famous writers in history have published their own novels or pamphlets of poetry. In the modern world unknown writers must first find an agent, who in turn must find a publisher who in turn may let months slip by and still reject the precious manuscript. No wonder lots of writers have turned to what used to be called vanity publishing. They have the advantage of real books to show friends and take to local bookshops for signing events. They may be very successful or could end up with boxes of books in the garage.

Print on Demand is another development which is an attractive proposition. When I first started reading writing magazines one editorial suggested we would soon be wandering into bookstores with a memory stick and downloading our novel, returning later in the day to collect a printed book. That hasn’t happened, but recently Kindle Direct Publishing announced that authors could now create paperbacks as well as e-Books for free. Of course the publishing costs come out of the book sales, but at Chez Gogerty Publishing House it seemed an opportunity too good to miss, as I was just editing a collection of short stories, Tides and Times. Even if we only produced one real book to give my 91 year old mother it was worth a try.

Cyberspouse is always willing to face a technical challenge if it involves no financial outlay. After several attempts at downloading his own  cover design, the book was accepted, then we had to wait for it to go ‘live’, then we ordered one copy…

We were not disappointed, it looked and felt good, we ordered five more. One of the reasons why Amazon is so successful, why we can’t help using them for everything under the sun, is that they always deliver in all senses of the word; they tell you it’s on it’s way, they tell you when it will arrive.

After four years of extolling the virtues of Kindle books to my writers’ group, mostly to no avail, the five copies were snapped up. So now to finish writing my next book with renewed vigour and to turn my back catalogue into paperbacks.

How does all this work? Obviously by magic. In a mountain cave somewhere are lots of little Amazon Elves beavering away at a printing press. I just hope there is not an international scandal involving zero hours contracts and mistreatment of Elves, so that we are all expected to boycott Amazon and sign petitions on Facebook…