Friday Flash Fiction 141 – Instructions

‘Just follow the instructions,’ said the exasperated father ‘you put too much water in last time.’
‘But it looked so beautiful and shiny.’
‘Sparkle and glitter are no good if it doesn’t work properly. You need to get the axis straight for a start.’
‘The axis would have been fine if my stupid sister hadn’t thrown lumps of rock.’
‘You must learn by your mistakes, the structure has been unstable all along, you were over ambitious. Now it’s time to get back to basics and before we can do that you need to dismantle E1. It’s all recycling these days… Don’t look at me like that, you knew we’d have to put them down; you can have new pets when I’m satisfied with E2; not so many this time, pets that don’t eat each other or kill one another.’

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Silly Saturday Slowly

First there was slow food, then there was slow television, the antidote to 24 hour news, sport and noisy, violent dramas. With slow TV you can spend two hours drifting down a canal or take a real time steam train journey.

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At this time of year in the northern hemisphere you may be settling down on winter evenings to watch your favourite dramas and probably your favourite crime dramas. January 2020 saw the start of new series of two popular and enduring detectives.
As Vera drove her Land Rover through the wilds of Northumberland a thought occurred. What if she just kept driving and didn’t bother to arrive at the police station, didn’t get any urgent calls on her mobile about a murder? Two hours of lowering Northumberland skies and rugged green landscape, advertisements providing the only drama. How relaxing.

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Vera Stanhope is the creation of a crime writer I enjoy, Anne Cleaves and is played by one of our national treasures, Brenda Blethyn. Antidote to glamorous cops, a middle aged woman in sensible, scruffy clothes and the muddy Land Rover. Some of her team have changed but she’s still going strong in this tenth series.

http://www.anncleeves.com/vera/

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A complete contrast is Granchester, set in a delightful village near Cambridge in the nineteen fifties. The stories were originally written by James Runcie, son of a former Archbishop of Canterbury. His crime solving vicar Sidney Chambers has been replaced by an impossibly handsome young vicar who rides a motorbike and fortunately also has a talent for talking to people ( getting confessions out of them ) and solving crimes, helped by the police inspector Geordie Keating. Life in the lovely village is slow, but a surprising number of murders occur. Life in the village would be pleasantly slower if there were no murders or crime of any sort and the police inspector became a lay reader and helped the vicar with his church services instead.

https://www.radiotimes.com/news/tv/2020-01-17/grantchester-series-five-cast-characters/

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Slow Crime, No Crime could be applied to dramas set in any part of the world. There is always ‘the drive’ – through Scandinavian snow or the red dust of The Kimberleys at the top of Western Australia. Frantic chase scenes in cities could easily be slowed to a halt with road works or green protestors.
But how soon before the novelty wore off for viewers? The truth is, most of us don’t want people being killed just for our Sunday evening entertainment. We want to see scenery and in winter we like to watch anything filmed in summer, but we also want to peep into other people’s lives. The advantage of murders is that they give the perfect excuse for screen writers, the police and us to dissect every detail of the life of the victim and the lives of every person known to the victim.

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Do you like fast crime, slow crime or no crime?

Friday Flash Fiction 1000 – You Have One Friend

He still had the same smile, sitting on the bed, arms open in greeting.
‘We found him in a bag in the loft when we were moving.’ My mother’s voice startled me.
Teddy was the only recognisable object in the bedroom. Just back from a year in Australia, I had no choice but to stay with my parents while I searched for a job. During my absence they had downsized. I was consigned to the tiny guest bedroom.
‘I’ll go and put the kettle on.’ Mum retreated to the kitchen and I picked up Teddy.
He never had a name, but once upon a time he had been my best friend and I used to wish that he could speak. Mum assured me that if I held him close and listened carefully I would hear him. I responded by repeating his conversation, perhaps I really believed he spoke. Teddy was a poor substitute for a brother or sister, but I told him all my secrets.
Now I had other best friends and 677 Facebook friends.

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‘Is it okay if I use the computer?’ I asked after dinner.
My father’s new computer had been given a bigger room than me.
‘You can borrow your mother’s lap top, we’re on Wi Fi now.’
‘No one goes in Dad’s den’ laughed Mum.
‘It’s only till I get a new phone; you’re not on Facebook yet then?’
‘Load of rubbish,’ said Dad ‘we only got e-mail to keep in touch with you.’
‘We Skype Aunty Dot in Canada’ added Mum.
Things had moved on since I’d been away.
I spent a busy evening checking e-mails and looking up old friends instead of career opportunities.

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By the next evening I was trying out my new smart phone, the latest model. After a few phone calls I checked out Facebook.
You have one new friend.
Strange, I had not accepted any new friends.
The new friend was born 5th June 1987, a week after me. There was a picture of him with that familiar smile. It was Teddy. Who was playing a joke? Only my parents knew about Teddy, but they didn’t know how to get on Facebook and they didn’t have a sense of humour.
I scrolled down to see what other friends were up to, hoping I had imagined Teddy. Parties, weddings, jobs and feeble jokes, plenty had happened since I had been in the internet café in Sydney. I scrolled back up. Teddy had made a comment.
I’m back, the dark days are over.
I left Teddy on the windowsill where I had put him last night and went downstairs. My parents were watching a ‘Nordic Noir’ drama.
‘I thought you said you didn’t do Facebook, which of you put Teddy on?’
They were too busy reading the sub titles to take in what I was saying.
‘Oh people put such rubbish on the internet.’
When the titles came up they came back to life. ‘Any luck yet? It’s not easy for anyone to get a job at the moment. Have you been in touch with your uni. friends? You have to network these days.’
I retreated with the genuine excuse that I was still suffering from jet lag and went to bed with a book, but I could not resist one last look at my phone.
New e-mails;
Come over and see my new flat, Dilly.
Welcome back, do you want to meet up for a drink for old time’s sake? Tom.
Where are you staying? P.S. Like your new Facebook friend, L.O.L. xx Tim.
I went on Facebook. Teddy now had 5 likes and 1 comment from Tim.
Welcome back Teddy.
I logged out and tried to get to sleep, Teddy was still smiling on the window sill.

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I slept in, woken by my phone ringing. It was Kate.
Sorry to wake you, but there’s a position going at my place, thought you might be interested… is everything okay, only you unfriended me on Facebook.
The house was quiet, my parents had gone to work. Teddy had not moved since last night. I sneaked into Dad’s den, perhaps on the large screen everything would be normal.
You have been tagged in Teddy’s picture.
A picture of us together when we were both the same size. I went into the tiny lounge. They had kept the best bookcase and in it were the precious photograph albums.
Amy, one week old, with new friend.
There I was lying on the sofa with Teddy. There had to be a rational explanation. I returned to the screen. My bear now had 35 friends, my friends. I looked up his details.
Work and education: St. Bear’s Infant’s School.
Interested in: Humans
Activities: Chillaxing at home.
Teddy had been the only pupil at St. Bear’s, I was his teacher.
When I glanced back at the page he had posted a message.
Ho Hum, sitting on the windowsill…
That was how he spoke to me when I was a child, he always prefaced each sentence with Ho Hum when he whispered in my ear.

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Another phone call; friends at a conference nearby; a proper evening out with sensible adults, but when I got there I did not get the warm greeting I expected.
‘What’s going on Amy, you’ve unfriended us all on Facebook.’
‘No, it’s a great joke, I’ve got a teddy bear for a friend’ said one of the guys who had drunk too much, already keying into his phone. ‘Another message’ Ho Hum, all on my own, Amy’s gone out. ‘Hey, you’ve been tagged in his picture… I like the underwear.’
Despite my best intentions I had taken my phone out of my bag and logged onto Facebook. Teddy had posted a picture of me in the bedroom, about to put on the dress I was wearing now. On the windowsill behind me he sat smiling.
Teddy has 196 friends.
I checked my details.
You have 1 friend.

‘You Have One Friend’ is one of the stories in Dark and Milk – download for only 99 pence.

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’.

Silly Saturday – Whatever

When Cyberson 2 was a teenager, at that stage when you cannot be seen to be interested in anything or anyone, when you mumble with an imperceptible nod if you pass anyone you know in the street, he and his friends made up a word to use instead of conversation – BLOKO – pronounced blocko. They had T shirts printed with BLOKO, so then there was no need to utter a sound at all.
I was reminded of this paring down of the English language when I was reading Clive’s blog the other day –
‘I’ve noticed a growing trend among bloggers to dedicate an annual theme, or a word (or several) for their blog.’
Clive has settled on the word WHATEVER. As I also cannot think of any deep or meaningful words to inspire me for 2020 I decided to steal Clive’s. I presume he doesn’t have exclusive rights to WHATEVER.

https://cliveblogs.wordpress.com/2020/01/05/that-was-the-year-that-was/

Then it struck me we should share this wonderful word with others such as World Leaders and errant royalty. What most of them actually mean when they are spouting endless words in Parliament or on television is WHATEVER.
https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/whatever
whatever definition: 1. it is not important what is; it makes no difference what (is): 2. anything or everything: 3…. Learn more.
Whatever definition of whatever you choose, how it is said is just as important. Politicians should express WHATEVER just how a teenager would utter it to his parents or teachers.
If you want to impress fellow bloggers with intelligent comments, but can’t think of anything intelligent to say, you could always resort to WHATEVER – or perhaps not…

liebster-award

The Wonder of Wetherspoons

Christmas and Culture in Margate

We spent Christmas with Team H in Margate and as Team AK were also coming down we volunteered to stay at the Premier Inn.

Premier Inn is a British hotel chain and the UK’s largest hotel brand, with more than 72,000 rooms and 800 hotels.

On our various trips and breaks we do stay at blogworthy bed and breakfasts and hotels of character and weirdness, but Premier Inns are a good choice if the location is handy. You know what to expect; the rooms are big enough, the beds comfortable and everything is purple. The Margate Premier Inn is by the railway station, looks out to sea and the walk to the home of Team H takes us within view of many cultural landmarks.

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We have stayed a good few times and never had a room with a sea view, this time we did, but the view was blocked by the air conditioning unit on top of the Brewer’s Fayre pub and restaurant below. But the winter afternoon was drawing in and it was time to check in with the rest of the family, then back to the sea front for another family tradition – dinner at Wetherspoons.

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J D Wetherspoon plc is a pub company in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Founded in 1979 by Tim Martin, the company operates nearly 900 pubs and a growing number of Wetherspoon hotels. The company is known for converting unconventional yet attractive premises into pubs.

Another chain where you know what to expect, Tim is obviously a chap who, unlike most politicians, cottoned on to what people want. Cheap pub food, refillable coffee cups, meals served from morning till night and a relaxed place where you can take your granny or your grandchild. As you order at the bar, or with your smart phone, you can wander in and out for a handy loo visit or perhaps hang out all day. The added bonus for writers is that you can watch all sorts of people and for photographers many of the branches are in amazing buildings rescued from neglect. Another interesting fact; it is claimed that every Wetherspoon has a different pattern of carpet, inspired by the location and specially woven; you can even buy a book about them.

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The Margate Wetherspoon has just been refurbished and now boasts comfy booths where you can charge up your various electronic gadgets. The walls are adorned with framed snippets of the town’s history. It is called The Mechanical Elephant, recalling the creature that used to give rides along the promenade in the 1950’s. This little bit of history inspired my short story ‘Thanephant an Elephantasy’ which was included in Thanet Writers’ anthology ‘Shoal’.

On Christmas Eve morning it was time to return to Wetherspoons for breakfast, but first another cultural landmark. At this end of the main sands is the Victorian Nayland Rock shelter. In the late Autumn of 1921, the bank clerk poet T.S. Eliot came to Margate on doctor’s orders to convalesce. He was in a fragile state physically and mentally and took a tram to sit on the seafront every day. While looking out at the expanse of grey water, watching children playing and war veterans exercising on the beach, he drafted part of The Waste Land.

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“On Margate Sands/ I can connect/ Nothing with nothing/”
I have to confess I haven’t read The Wasteland, but I have just downloaded it onto my Kindle for 99pence.

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Margate is on the Isle of Thanet, a real island until a few hundred years ago. It is on the east coast of Kent, but actually faces north across the Thames Estuary, so the sea can be grey on a grey day. The first day trippers used to come by steamer down the Thames.
On Christmas Eve morning the sun had come out and on the beach we saw the new attraction, a recreated bathing machine; the steam arising from the roof gives a clue to its secret, it is actually a sauna. I was almost envious of the chap emerging from the sea to clamber inside.

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Near the Mechanical Elephant is Dreamland. Amusements have been on this site since 1880, it was first called Dreamland in 1920 when the Grade 2 listed Scenic Railway wooden rollercoaster was opened. After going into decline early this century and being closed down there was a public campaign to restore the park and it re-opened in June 2015.

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Dreamland’s morale has been greatly boosted by the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in 2011, bringing a big buzz to the town. Cheap property prices and a fast train route to London have brought artists and fresh blood into the town – DFLs Down From London. The gallery is built on the spot by the harbour where the painter JMW Turner’s landlady had her boarding house.

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At the end of last year the Turner Prize took place in Margate, the four artists exhibited at the gallery and the award ceremony was held in the Hall-by-the-Sea in Dreamland. It was an unprecedented event as the prize was shared between the four artists.

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Our Christmas break finished with a family breakfast at Brewer’s Fayre. If you are staying at Premiere Inn and want breakfast this is where you go, sneaking in a secret door at the back…

Brewers Fayre is a licensed pub restaurant chain, with 161 locations across the UK, known for serving traditional British pub food and for their Sunday Carvery.

There are several advantages to be enjoyed, refillable coffee cups, up to two children under fifteen can eat for free at the breakfast buffet and there is a soft play area where your toddler can end up well beyond reach and stuck there forever unless you persuade him to come down in the slide tube. If your child is a strapping fourteen year old they will be too big for soft play, but can eat twice as much as the adults for free!

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Where do you like to stay when you are away? How many doctors these days advise their patients to go on holiday to convalesce and write?

Part of my novel ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream’ is set in Margate.

Silly Saturday – Unresolution

One of my New Year resolutions has been broken already, on the second of January; to cook dinner on time. As Cyberspouse had cooked dinner on the first of January this was a record failure to keep a resolution. Another resolution failed; to go to bed earlier, as opposed to early in the morning. The most obvious excuse is that I have been kidnapped by aliens, my memory wiped so I have no recollection of hours stolen.

This picture cannot be taken as an accurate representation of dinner  ChezTidalscribe.

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Or it might just be that I was busy keeping up with that other New Year favourite with writers and bloggers – GOALS. Some bloggers have blogfuls of goals, while the rest of us are just trying to keep up with self imposed targets of writing blogs and interacting with other bloggers.

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I did fulfil one big goal I set myself in January 2019 – finish my novel. Not too difficult as I had been writing it for *** years. The ‘final manuscript’ was finished in July so I’m not sure what happened between then and November.


Perhaps goals are easier to attain than resolutions, the latter implies a bit of soul searching. You can have a goal to eat less meat, but you will need a resolution to become a vegan, especially now it is officially a philosophy. Ethical veganism is a “philosophical belief” and so is protected in law, a tribunal has ruled for the first time. It makes my resolution to just cook dinner on time seem more attainable.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-50981359

I can do it when we have visitors; there is a good incentive to have a meal ready so adults don’t stay too late and little children don’t get hungry and grumpy or tired and grumpy and can be put to bed on time.

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What are some other attainable goals writers and normal people can aspire to?
Look into joining a gym – this is much cheaper than actually joining a gym and only going once.
Take advantage of goals set by others. Use less plastic. Sainsbury’s supermarket has now dispensed with those annoying flimsy plastic bags, that I could never open, for their loose fruit and veg. Now you must take your own containers or buy some netting bags.
Start a novel, much easier than finishing one.
Go to bed at a reasonable time; taking your lap top with you because you have a bad cough and need to sit propped up in bed.
Cook meals from scratch. Avoid buying any food in plastic packaging and you will find yourself cooking from scratch…
Cut down on computer time – buy a puppy of a large energetic breed or acquire an energetic human toddler. You will spend lots more time outside, off line AND get plenty of exercise, so no need to even look into joining a gym.
Cheat – Blog about running or cycling twenty miles a day, post a few pictures you took while parked at that scenic viewpoint… we will never know it’s not true.

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Have you bothered with resolutions or set any goals?

New Year’s Day 2020

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It’s lucky there will be no news this decade ( see Silly Saturday’s blog No News ) because I detest all those news reviews of the past year, sports reviews, who is in the New Year Honours list and lists of those who have died.
Instead I offer my review of the past decade, which will be of no interest to anybody else…

Firstly, what didn’t happen.

It was the only decade in my life when I didn’t move home.

I didn’t become a best selling author.

I didn’t get a mention in the New Year Honours list.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/the-new-year-honours-list-2020

I still didn’t get the hang of LinkedIn and Twitter.

What did happen?

My mother has entered The Twenties for the second time in her life, she was born in 1926.

Our three offspring are all living in places we would never have guessed at the beginning of the decade.

We acquired three more grandchildren.

I became an Indie Author and published nine books.

I became a Blogger.

I was nominated for three blogger awards.

blogger-recognition-2019liebster-awardsunshine-blogger

So what do we call the past decade and what will we call the new decade?
Answers in the comments.

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Happy New Year and Happy New Decade.

Are you looking back over the past decade or looking forward to the new one?

Silly Saturday – No News

Here are the news headlines.

At the international summit of newscasters it was unanimously decided to cease broadcasting news. This was in response to research that shows a constant diet of disasters and war has a detrimental effect on the mental health of individuals and the population as a whole. Experts also believe that constant attention to the behaviour of the worst world leaders and the narcissism of celebrities only encourages them.

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And in other news…
Cleaners were called to aisle nine at a Sainsbury’s supermarket after an incident involving a customer and a large jar of pickled beetroot. Broken glass was found at the scene, but no injuries were reported.

A family of five were left to survive on pot noodles when their planed meal ended in disaster. Mrs. Smith was quoted as saying ‘The butter was already melting in the frying pan for the omelette when I suddenly realised I had forgotten to buy the eggs.’

A man was left penniless when his local cash machine would not dispense any money. He was forced to walk two hundred yards up the high street to the next machine.

Residents were evacuated safely from a two storey block of flats when a fire alarm was accidentally set off.

 

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A passenger revealed the details of her nightmare journey when roadworks caused a traffic diversion. ‘I would have caught the number fifteen if I had known, I don’t usually get the number fifteen because it goes all round that estate where my sister used to live, though I used to get it when she did live there. Anyway, I got on the number fourteen outside Boots and low and behold I thought why are we turning here? I’m going to be late for the dentist… I started going to him in town as the ones round the corner were useless when I needed my root canal done. Five minutes late I was, though I needn’t have worried as the chap before me took extra time…

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Work has been delayed yet again on a pensioner’s shed after his drill bit broke. Staff at his local B&Q saved the day by showing him to aisle 17b where he found the correct size.

The search continues for a five year old missing since Boxing Day. The white and tabby cat named Tibbles was last seen under the Christmas tree. His owner, who asked not to be named, said he had never gone missing before and blames herself for being away from her computer. ‘He usually drapes himself over the keyboard as soon as I sit down at my desk.’

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Record numbers of shoppers did not attend the Boxing Day sales.

An unknown author was unable to post her blog as her new computer said ‘NO’. Returning from the Christmas break she switched it on, only to read constant messages saying it was updating and restarting.

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Christmas Day

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Wherever you are today, enjoy your time and these last few days of the decade. I have to come off my life suport system – or rather my old recycled desk top is being replaced by a newer recycled, upgraded computer. I am quite expecting everything, words, pictures, email, Facebook and WordPress to be lost in the ether, never to be found again, but hopefully I shall see you all again on the other side.