Silly Saturday – How to be Fantastic on Facebook

sunshine-blogger

It’s hard to believe, but there are some people who are not on Facebook. Think of what they are missing. These are some of the things I have learnt from Facebook. Cats and dogs can get on together. Lots of people like cats, lots of people like dogs. Horses like visiting people in hospital. Baby pandas just wanna have fun. Walruses like sleeping on submarines.

56737202_2289431204628239_2682075143546601472_n

You can also learn about people on Facebook, what they are eating at the new restaurant or what got stolen from their van last night. You can even find out about people you actually know. In fact Facebook is the only way you will find out what your family are doing – if you can decipher the cryptic messages and pictures. Are they still stuck broken down on the motorway. Is that their Pyrenean Mountain Dog puppy or their friend’s ? What on earth are they doing at Sheremetyevo International Airport?

33788849_2106775056018940_8612084103417692160_n

What do you post on Facebook? There is no need to bother catching up with emails and phone calls to numerous friends and relatives. If you want everyone to know your latest news just post an enigmatic message. ‘Another hot day on the Nullabor Plain.’ Soon you will be inundated with messages from long lost friends.

Hey hun, what’s up, didn’t the job in Northampton work out?

Or post an ultrasound picture of a black and white alien with the words ‘Tabitha is going to have a baby brother.’

Hugs hun, sooo pleased for you.

Featured Image -- 2171

But Facebook has more than one page to scroll down; if you are a writer you can have an author page, if you run your own business you can have a page promoting your fantastic products and services. The advantage is that everything on that page is yours, unlike the rest of Facebook, full of boring other people. The only drawback, probably no one is ever going to see it. But just in case anyone accidentally finds themselves at Your Page, make sure your profile picture is sophisticated and professional.

43951075_691517401247708_3944036938561880064_n

https://www.facebook.com/Beachwriter/

Why Authors Need Aunts

Where would writers be without aunts who leave cottages in their wills? I don’t mean writers who are left thatched country cottages by their aunties and are delighted to have somewhere peaceful to write. That would be very nice, but I don’t know how often it happens to real writers.

When a story was read out at our writers’ group about the main character inheriting an aunt’s cottage, I remarked how often authors use this scenario. In one of my favourite novels, the L Shaped Room by Lynne Reid Banks, the heroine, Jane, does not stay in the L shaped room because she inherits a lovely country cottage from an aunt. In the sequel, ‘The Backward Shadow’ she is living in the cottage with her baby – what would have happened to them without the aunt?

DSCN6663

In my collection Hallows and Heretics the short story ‘Jerusalem Journal’ is about a young wife who inherits a cottage from an aunt she has never met and there are dark surprises in store. Inheriting from parents will not do for fiction; it is bound to be the house one grew up in with no secrets. Fictional aunts and great aunts inevitably live somewhere unknown to the hero or heroine and have been estranged from the rest of the family for decades.

In my novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’, Holly Tree Farm is left to one of the main characters by his great aunt and I was just as surprised as he was when this country home became an essential part of the plot in the whole trilogy.

 

Leaflet 2015 back

Sunday Salon – Guest Blogger

Second in the series of occasional blogs by my Sister Down Under

Return To Sender

I often send Birthday cards to relatives in England, and as I seal down the envelope and stick my address label on the flap, I always find myself wondering if there is any point. If the address was to be incorrect, would they take the trouble and expense to send it all the way back to Australia?

37072684_10213413731471370_3835982618025787392_nI now have my answer. The other week, I received a blue envelope with an air mail sticker and an Australian stamp on it, and it was addressed to me. Someone had crossed the address out with a blue pencil, and there was a red Royal Mail sticker on it declaring that the address was unknown. It wasn’t a surprise that the address was incorrect, as it belonged to the youngest of my nephews, the inventor in the family, the itinerant creator of firework displays with a bedroom full of enough electronic equipment to drain the power grid of the Southeast of England. What was surprising was that the Australian postmark said it was posted at 6 pm on the 26th of July, 2011. Seven years ago. 

37065444_10213413736551497_5748848274412929024_n.jpg

So, yes, they do go to the trouble of returning letters. And an awful lot of trouble by the looks of it. Not for the Royal Mail the conventional route of placing it on a plane to fly half way around the world. No, this was more like the challenge taken on by Michael Palin to go around the world in eighty days without flying. The Royal Mail Postman was to get to Australia travelling overland, and taking sea journeys only when it was unavoidable.

What a tale that post man must have to tell! Imagine the deprivations and adventures he must have encountered on his 7 year odyssey! Crossing the channel to France was probably easy, but was he then waylaid by a French temptress, dallying with her for many months before silently slipping out at dawn one morning to continue his journey? Did he scale the Alps and get caught in a storm, to be nursed back to health by a local farmer and his daughter?

 One imagines him crossing the Mongolian plains, joining the Mongol herders, living in a Yurt and learning to survive off the land. He would have regretfully had to say goodbye, explaining the Royal Mail always gets through, and he would put his uniform back on with pride, not withstanding that it was getting a little threadbare. He would have gone on a pilgrimage through India – retracing the steps of his colonial forefathers who had first brought British law and the British postal service to that teaming and untamed land. Then on to South East Asia, tiring now of the crowds and the jostling, longing only to reach that wide, open land of Australia.

37033862_10213413735791478_6723459611816361984_n

What a relief he would have felt as he stepped off the small fishing boat at Darwin, only to be arrested as an illegal immigrant. He would have spent quite some time in detention, and despair would have been his companion as he waited for his superiors in London to confirm who he was and what his mission involved. There would have been a delay at their end, while they overcame their incredulity and double checked his credentials before rejoicing that he was not, as believed, dead – the first (or so they thought) postman to die in active overseas service.

And finally, catching a cruise ship (courtesy of the Royal Mail in gratitude for his services) around the coast to Fremantle. What a reception he would have from his Australia Post colleagues – glad to see him, but at the  same time a little jealous that they could no longer boast they had the longest mail routes in the world.

And as for me – time to tell my nephew that he isn’t unloved, and that I did send a card, but something happened to it along the way

Kate Doswell,  15/07/2018.

Happy Hypocrisy

‘I’m giving the money to charity instead’ – ‘We’re not doing cards this year are we?’ – ‘Come and see the card Bill and Bev sent, I’ve got it up on the computer screen for you.’

Are you doing cards this year or have you gone totally electronic? I can’t imagine many households where not a single cardboard card is written; cards for the children’s teachers or your elderly relatives. Perhaps you are writing out cards for everyone at work and all your clubs, people you are going to see on Xmas Eve or Boxing Day…

How many have you received? The Round Robin Xmas letter that became popular with the advent of home computers and printers has now become an email attachment; as long as you can figure out how to download it, you will receive a year’s worth of news and a dozen colour pictures from your neighbour three houses ago who emigrated to New Zealand.

The electronic newsletter is not to be sneered at if it comes from family or friends you enjoy hearing from; imagine the price of postage if they sent out photo prints to the forty people on their e-mail list. But whether you are composing an upbeat letter about all six members of your family plus the dog, or scribbling a few words on the charity card, what will you write?

‘It’s been a strange year here, I’ll e-mail you in the new year.’ – ‘Annie’s moved back home again, Tom went through a rough patch earlier this year and Bill’s been back in hospital…’ – ‘Must meet up in the new year.’ – ‘Charlie graduated with honours and has landed his dream job in New York … Tim and Tilly presented us with our first grandchildren, adorable twins weighing in at seven pounds each, boy and girl; luckily they have finished renovating their Victorian villa near Hampstead Heath.’

If you are still writing your cards you will be in a dilemma how to downplay your reasonable year in reply to cryptic messages and bad news, or how to make your dull year sound brighter to the family who have everything. In many households there will be conversations such as ‘Are you going to ring your brothers/aunty before Christmas? Okay, I won’t bother writing any news in the card.’ The phone calls never happen, the brief greeting is sent and the next day you receive a card filled with handwritten news from your sister-in-law.

So what are you going to write? It’s the last posting date and if you are an author you are finding it harder to write a Christmas card to the wife deserted by your husband’s brother than to write a whole novel. Happy Christmas when ill health and family problems make that unlikely?

And then there are the cards you send out to people you are never likely to see again, or want to see… or the cards we receive every year with never a word of news, so all we know is that they are still alive. Is it all hypocrisy? Happy Christmas has the moral high ground over Merry Xmas. Being merry is very different from being happy, a condition on a higher spiritual level. Happy Christmas suggests you hope the receiver has had a good year rounded up with satisfying festivities, or a Christmas that will turn out well despite a difficult year.

Best Wishes for 2018 or Happy New Year? However little we know about how 2017 has gone for the people we’re no longer interested in, we would surely wish most people to have the next year go well, or better than the last…

 

 

 

Do you kNow who you Are?

If someone wanted to make a clone of you they could; people are already getting their dead dogs cloned, claims have been made that humans have been cloned. Most people have had a blood test of some sort, many of us have parted with gallons of blood to the NHS at blood donor sessions. If a blood sample was secreted away to the establishment of a mad or bad scientist they could be making clones of you at this very moment, supplying childless couples perhaps, it’s unlikely you would recognise your baby self in a pram. Or perhaps your hapless clone is being reared in a laboratory at this very moment for experimentation purposes, would your clone inherit your memory, is our DNA who we really are?

Recently I thought it would be fun to have a go at one of those on line tests, AncestryDNA. It involved spending money and quite a wait and how would we know the results were genuine? This particular test did not involve tracing your mitochondrial DNA back to Neanderthal man; it merely shows you what percentage of people in areas of the world share your DNA and is totally biased towards the Americas and Europe, because the system works on the basis of the data they have already collected. Did I believe the results? Yes; my husband’s results were neatly divided in half as we expected, although his born and bred Scottish half was classified as Ireland, a look at the map clarified that Ireland also covers Scotland and Wales.

I was hoping for something exotic, but was disappointed, I blame my parents; it seems I was neither mysteriously adopted nor are there any skeletons in our family cupboard. However I am only 14% Great Britain, so my gut instinct to voted Remain in the Eurpean Union Referendum was correct, I am 77% Europe West. The other 9% grey area of ‘low confidence region’ with some European Jewish, Irish, north west Russian and a dash of Iberian does add a bit of seasoning to the mix.

We have not so far delved into tracing family trees, finding out who shares similar DNA, but I did agree to accept a message from a name I’d never heard of and was astonished when one set of grandparents’ names came up. The granddaughter of my grandmother’s brother had traced me! I had never met this great uncle because he and his wife emigrated to Canada before they had their children. Perhaps my grandmother vaguely mentioned her older brother, but I now know for certain I have lots of Canadian relatives.

But does our DNA really matter? Only an adopted person who has never been able to trace a single blood relative can answer that question. We are all individuals who have to make what we can of our lot in life; the adopted person might be moved to have a large family of their own, or perhaps they will be forever genetically unique.

Depending on your religious beliefs  you might subscribe to the wardrobe theory; the true individual a soul waiting to be popped in to any available baby body until the return to heaven or reincarnation, or perhaps you think our whole personality and memories are passed on through our genes.

DNA remains a delightful mystery for lay people and a source of inspiration for writers. My novel ‘Brief Encounters of the Third Kind’ explores what happens when the DNA of ordinary people is tampered with.