Facebook Friends Forever

The first time I saw Facebook on the computer screen there was a picture of my sister-in-law getting her breast tattooed. My daughter was trying to show me what it was all about, but that was enough to put anyone off.

Christmas 2018 was my ninth anniversary of being on Facebook, I don’t recall agreeing, but one second we were upstairs on the computer, my daughter typing away my personal details, the next second there was a Facebook friend request from daughter-in-law downstairs. Five seconds later there was a friend request from that ghastly child in my daughter’s class; in her class from playgroup onwards through all the long years of school…

‘Why on earth does she want to be my friend?’

‘DON’T accept, she asks to be everybody’s friend as she hasn’t got any real friends.’

Love it, hate it or are you a shadow, watching what others are doing without ever appearing? Authors are exhorted to have a presence on line and a Facebook  Author Page, and it was a good meeting place at the start, joining writers’ forums etc.

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

Most of us probably use it to see what everyone else in the family is up to and it is amazing to have messenger groups for family and friends and exchange pictures and news across the world in seconds.

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It took me a while to figure out how to post pictures that I had taken with my camera and loaded onto my desk top computer; I was filled with awe seeing people tap mysteriously on their mobile phones and put pictures straight on Facebook. When I finally acquired a smart phone I immediately became addicted to keeping people up to date with scenic views or strange sights.

What are some of the other things we can do on Facebook? Know how late everyone else is staying up or how early your FB friends in Australia get up. You might be discovered by a long lost relative and wish you hadn’t. See lots and lots of pandas and even more cats. Sign many petitions to save the world, see lots of the world and plenty of places you will never see; but in return smugly post pictures of places they will never visit. Join your local community group and start a conversation that could go on for days  ‘I went in that new restaurant and waited an hour for my dinner and the staff were very rude’.27835424_1971591706203943_476442722_oPress LIKE when you see a funny cartoon and lots more funny cartoons will pop up. If they make me LaughOutLoud I share them; there are plenty of people out there who can’t sleep or are stuck at home ill and love something to cheer them up. Cartoonists can say in a few pen strokes more than writers can in a page, so thank you cartoonists.

Time waster? What is the most inane thing you have found yourself glued to? Press LIKE when you see a news item posted by your friend in the USA and a few nights later you may find yourself watching a car chase filmed by a news helicopter. Keep watching, marvelling at the freeways ten lanes wide, keep watching to see if the police will catch up with the driver. Call out to anybody else in the house to come and have a look, but they have already gone to bed. You promise yourself to watch for two more minutes only before you go and clean your teeth, but those freeways and endless bridges are mesmerising and still the police are keeping up but not catching… like Facebook it goes on forever.

 

 

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Silly Saturday – New Year Unresolutions

By now you have probably broken most of your resolutions, but it’s never too late to repair them. Here is a handy guide to resolutions that you will never keep, to save you making them in the first place and resolutions impossible to break.

Daunting

  1. Finish my Work In Progress before I finish my Christmas chocolates.
  2. Finish reading A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking.
  3. Review the above book intelligently on Amazon and Goodreads.
  4. Read every blog by every blogger I follow.
  5. Sell more books.
  6. Think up lots of new meals to cook.
  7. Clear out every drawer in the house and recycle all twentieth century ‘what’s on leaflets’.
  8. Learn how to use ebay and empty all cupboards and the loft.
  9. Spend less time on social media.
  10. Sign every worthwhile petition going on line and write to my MP and all the world leaders about every important issue.
  11. Become the first Indie Author to trek alone to the North Pole and blog every day about my journey.
  12. Visit the dark side of the moon.
  13. Live without plastic.

 Undaunting

  1. Finish my Christmas chocolates before my WIP.
  2. Read Brief Answers to the Big Questions: the final book from Stephen Hawking – The world-famous cosmologist and bestselling author of A Brief History of Time leaves us with his final thoughts on the universe’s biggest questions in this brilliant posthumous work. As it’s posthumous he may have found out the answers by now.
  3. Review the above book briefly on Amazon and Goodreads.
  4. Read and comment on at least one blog a week.
  5. Sell at least one book this year.
  6. Try cooking one new meal.
  7. Tidy up at least one drawer.
  8. Take that bag of stuff to the charity shop.
  9. Improve social media skills.
  10. Share at least one funny cartoon a day on Facebook.
  11. Go for a walk to a new coffee shop every week – blog about the experience.
  12. Visit that new Ikea.
  13. Remember to take my bag for life to the shops.

 

The Ghost of Christmas Presents

‘How was your Christmas?’

As you go back to work, or your classes, clubs and groups resume, that is the question you can’t avoid. Mother Nature is no respecter of Christmas or New Year, nor is Lady Luck. Volcanoes blow up, oceans swell and man made disasters occur, so making a drama of your turkey exploding ( yes that did happen to a friend’s family ) is rather pathetic, but everyone has Christmas and New Year tales to tell.

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We had our Christmas early; Christmas is a date where nothing happens in your home unless you make it. Ours was great fun and the participants could disperse for another Christmas and more presents. But out in the further reaches of the family universe another Christmas has gone by with a rift unhealed, though thanks to technology most of the family are always connected…

A year ago our joint present to ourselves was an ipad so we could abandon Skype and do Facetime; everyone else was already ‘on Apple’. I Facetimed with my mother and sister in Australia and the connection kept unconnecting and reconnecting. Considering what a technical marvel it is in the first place it doesn’t take us long to get frustrated when it doesn’t work. We Facetimed Canada and they were upside down and so were we. On Saturday three of us Facetimed Australia and talked to four people and two dogs, picture and sound were perfect.

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Presents: Secret Santa for seven adults was a success; it had been decided to use a website that secretly allotted the anonymous givers and receivers. My parcel included a stuff your own teddy, complete with birth certificate and heart – age 8 plus. We make photo books every Christmas for the pre-readers. Three year old’s was ‘Choclate Moose Comes to Stay’, but it was his thirty three year old uncle who was more engrossed in the book. You are never too old for Lego it seems, Lego caters for big boys and girls with Creator Expert and a red double decker bus and camper van were among the creations in progress that appeared on Family Facebook.

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Traditions: There are many treats to choose from over the season. At our local garden centre you can visit two live reindeer for free; they look a bit bored in their pen, probably missing the rest of the herd grazing on the pastures of Dorset. You can also book in advance and pay a lot to visit Father Christmas’s grotto, passing giant singing penguins on the way.

Baby and three year old went to their local ‘country house’ to visit the magic elf forest. This involved getting on the elf train ( a decorated truck ) and visiting Father Christmas at the top of a tower. They were the last ones to visit him and when they came back down, the elf train had left, they could have been lost in the magic elf forest forever!  But that was not their only meeting with Santa. We were astonished when pictures came through the ether on Christmas Eve afternoon of Real Father Christmas sitting in their living room… An older tradition is the pantomime; the little ones were taken to their town’s lovely old theatre on Boxing Day to see Jack And The Beanstalk, the three year old was mesmerised.

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With Christmas being done and dusted in our house I was able to indulge in that Christmas Eve tradition, watching Carols from Kings on television. Even if people don’t go to church themselves they expect the real meaning of Christmas to still be celebrated in wonderful cathedrals with angelic choir boys. Later in the evening we watched a year inside Saint Paul’s Cathedral with lots of quirky adults and dear little choir boys in their boarding school.

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0bwdbq7

Walks: on Christmas morning we went down to the beach, along with many others, but were surprised to see some stripping down for a dip in the sea, they didn’t stay in long, but the solitary surfer in shorts, no wetsuit, stayed in a good while.

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Yesterday, on New Years Day, the sun at last came out and the beach was as packed as a summer’s day for the final tradition of the festive season – a walk. A brisk walk was difficult on the crowded promenade and there were long queues for the cafes, but that’s all part of the tradition.

 

Ghosts of Christmas Past – Episode Three

Over the years there have been very different Christmases; in one Scottish town we had too much food with one family on Christmas Day, then a Boxing Day with the other family who didn’t appear to have any food in the house; we went out searching for food, but all the shops were shut.

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One year the longed for white Christmas arrived. My sister and brother-in-law were coming on their first holiday back to England. We had just bought our first place, a small two bedroom ground floor flat, which had the fortuitous novelty of gas central heating. Everyone had told my sister a white Christmas was very unlikely in the south of England. My brother-in-law’s sister lived with her family in a village near Dover, they came up to stay with us to be reunited. It snowed and there we were six adults and two toddlers almost snow bound in a flat that now seemed very small. I recall that all the adults had different drink requirements, but at one stage we couldn’t get any drinks as brother-in-law had been pinned in the kitchen by his sister for a tearful argument about how fairly their precious time in England was going to be shared between she and I. As she was having us all for actual Christmas Day and Boxing Day I’m not sure why she was complaining. My husband was relieved to avoid the trip to Kent due to his shift work and was going to spend the day with my aunt and uncle who had been deprived of the rest of us for Christmas. It began to look as if none of us would get to Kent if the trains and roads were snowed up… we did and Christmas morning was beautiful, trudging through snowy fields with the little ones , then back to a roaring log fire in their cottage. Alas the circle of heat emanating from the open fire did not spread to the rest of the cottage. It was freezing, especially for the Australian contingent, the bathroom, being a mere asbestos attachment to the rest of the building, was particularly uninviting.

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If you have access to children Christmas feels more real and we had a few years with four generations, though children are a risk as well, they are liable to be sick all over great aunty’s sofa.
Christmas is something to be ignored and got through for some people, while for others it brings enormous stress as they juggle extended families. But it would seem strange for the year to peter out devoid of any celebrations.

For writers Christmas provides plenty of plot possibilities. In my Brief Encounters Trilogy three Christmases pass, with an ecclectic group of people assembled each time; plenty of tension and opportunity for both love and discord.

Leaflet 2015 back

 

 

The Game of Life – Last Posting Date

Today is the last posting day for second class in the United Kingdom. After our early Xmas I thought there would be a long relaxing period of sending out a few cards and posting a couple of parcels. I put off working out who to send cards and whose cards to include THE NEWS in; I have written a few messages, but it has reminded me of a friend’s Christmas card story. They got a card from a friend in their previous town; it read something like

Happy Christmas from Christine (mother) and Joe (son ) 

    ps Pete ( husband ) was killed in a car accident.

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Cancer Conversations

In a previous incarnation I had a friend who was the practice manager at our doctor’s surgery in a Victorian Villa. The doctor had ambitions to build up a care home, it never got beyond three residents upstairs with windows in the sitting room overlooking the church – and the graveyard. Occasionally my friend would rope some of us in to cover a shift, usually a cosy evening watching telly and knitting with two old ladies ( luckily nothing ever went wrong as I had no medical training ). One time there was a chap as well, ninety two years old with bowel cancer. He complained that he had led a good life and did not deserve to be punished. We wondered why he was not grateful for a long life and had he never noticed illness can strike the good and the bad, young and old…

 

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Reasons to be Fearful

With family from nought to ninety two years on three continents there is no catastrophe I haven’t imagined happening – except the bizarre accident that killed my cousin recently, I had never imagined that one. Having one fear realised does not mean the rest of the family are now magically protected, the rules of the game of life don’t work like that. But most of us, most of the time, are still comforted by the thought that major disasters and cruel twists of fate happen to other people.

Silly Saturday – Secret Santa

I am thrilled to have as my guest author today tra la… Santa! He has found time in his busy schedule to answer 5.5 questions. But best to read his interview when your little ones are safely out of the way if you don’t want Santa’s secrets spoiled.

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Father..ur Mr. Christmas…  Saint Ni… how do you like to be addressed?

Santa will do fine, though my friends call me Old Nick.

I don’t think many people will know you are also a prolific author, I guess you have to fill in the long months between Christmases somehow.

Until now I don’t think anybody did know and as you have so few followers I think my writing will continue to be one of my best kept secrets.

So it must be the creative satisfaction rather than sales figures that motivates you.

Yes indeed, I have plenty of other money making schemes on the go, writing is for fun and now I can self publish and don’t have to employ scribes I get a great deal of satisfaction.

The big question is what have you written, what is your favourite genre, heart warming fantasy I assume, lots of cute elves?

Why don’t you let ME answer your questions, this is why I so rarely give interviews… There is nothing cute about elves, evil, fiendish creatures… that’s why I love them. But my novels are mostly about human beings, pathetic creatures. Write about what you know, don’t they say? Well I know plenty about humans, been studying them for long enough and my novels explore what has gone wrong with the human race and why I have no intention of sorting it for them.

Oh, er that sounds very deep, can you describe how that pans out in your latest novel?

Daddy Juel – Daddy Juel whizzes round in his atomic powered sleigh visiting first world countries on Christmas Eve and at each comfy home atomises all the presents and festive food. He then bravely travels, dodging missiles and drones, to every war zone and refugee camp and rematerializes the gifts and food for the deserving, rather like Robin Hood, another character I created. Daddy Juel reserves a few goodies and returns to give them to the homeless while having a good laugh as the greedy and smug wake up on Christmas morning to find their larders empty and a few pieces of fossil fuel where their presents had been piled.  

Dark humour or gritty fiction? I can’t wait to read it. Thanks you so much for visiting. If book lovers want to find your novels do you write under your real name, Santa?

Santa is of course an anagram of my REAL name, a fact a few folk on Facebook have remarked upon; I have an Amazon Author Page, or they can find me on the dark web…

The Ghosts of Christmas Past – Episode Two

There is only one event certain to happen during the Christmas season, the winter solstice; Winter solstice 2018 in the Northern Hemisphere will be at 22:23 Greenwich Meantime on Friday 21st December, it is a moment, not a day. But for those of us who are not scientists it just means the shortest day; 7 hours 49 minutes and 41 seconds in Britain. While the shops are crowded with shoppers, others will flock to Stonehenge; the prehistoric monument is carefully aligned on a sight-line that points to the winter solstice sunset.
People were celebrating at this time of year long before some spin doctor had the brilliant idea of tacking Christmas on to Yueltide. Apart from the weather, Christmas is what we make it and after all the media and commercial hype, when Christmas Day finally arrives it is centred on the home, each family creates its own traditions.

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Events in our lives can be marked by where we spent Christmas. When I was twenty I arrived at Heathrow Airport at six o’clock on Christmas morning, for a six month working holiday that stretched into infinity. The airport was huge and deserted, but by some miracle I found my way to the waiting relatives; back at their home I saw colour television for the first time. The weather was mild and damp, pretty normal for the south of England, but I had forgotten how early it gets dark at that time of year. On Boxing Day I was glad to get out with the relatives for a walk and fresh air; day two, out on a misty Surrey heath, it felt right to be back, but on day one in the airport I could never have guessed I would end up living nearby, working there.

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The Game of Life – Advance to Go

Warning: Do you dare to play the game of life? If you don’t want to read about illness and death or you dislike dark humour please avoid this blog, but I hope you will continue to visit my Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday blogs.

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Christmas comes early, Advance to Go.

Christmas comes early to fit in with the traveller from abroad, not for any reason of urgency. Secret Santa for the adults.  Everyone has a good time, despite worries of germs being brought and weather descending.

Oncologist gives go ahead for next round of chemo, Cyberspouse in good health, move forward two spaces.

Someone from our club has joined the team and a third member has put she and Cyberspouse on the prayer list at her church – Roman Catholic – saying it might be a few weeks before they experience results. Cyberspouse was brought up a catholic until his mother had a row with the priest… Take another shake of the dice.

A relative’s next door neighbours have put C on the prayer list at church – Protestant – they can only use his Christian name due to data protection. Take another shake of the dice.

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Xmas Cards

After the frenetic planning of the early Christmas we can relax, just a couple of parcels and the  cards to send… but is it that simple? Play the cancer card and people in the know will not mind if you forget to send. In Australia my mother is the only relative left not on line, I post her card and start yet another Facebook messaging group; exchanging news, pictures and greetings with everyone is more fun. But what of the friends and relatives we haven’t told yet?

Christmas provides more dilemmas for everyone each year. Cards and expensive stamps or e-mailed digital moving musical cards that you can’t actually put on your mantelpiece? Who should we post to; the elderly and anyone living alone, those who don’t like social media, those who always make an effort to write a few snippets of news? Cross off those who only ever say ‘Best wishes from Bert and Betty and family’, who we are never likely to see again….

 

The Ghosts of Christmas Past – Episode One

What was your worst Christmas, your strangest? Some Christmas memories blend in, others are never forgotten. For those of us who had a happy childhood Christmas remains in our memories as a time of heady excitement; dark winter days brightened with nativity plays, school parties and candlelit churches. There was one traumatic experience that dulled the excitement when I was seven. At school we were told to write a letter to Father Christmas, the girl sitting in front of me turned round and said ‘What’s the point of writing to Father Christmas when he doesn’t really exist?’ I tried to appear nonchalant, I was not going to admit my ignorance, but I was devastated. As soon as I got home from school I asked my mother if it was true; my last hopes were dashed and she swore me to secrecy, not to spoil it for my younger siblings. I soon recovered, the Christmas atmosphere remained and there was still the thrill of presents to unwrap.

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When I was eleven we emigrated to Western Australia; our arrival was in October, we moved to our new house in December and my childhood Christmases disappeared forever. This was not the fault of Australia or my parents; I was growing up, the dark mystery of winter days was replaced by bright sunshine, we knew nobody, there were no gift bearing relatives visiting and my parents’ budget was tight. But by the following year Christmases were settling into a new pattern and we acquired family friends to celebrate with.

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My first Christmas away from home, when I was nineteen, came about when my best friend and I planned a six week summer holiday trip across Australia, inveigling a mutual friend to share the driving and his car across the Nullabor Plain. She assured me her relatives in South Australia would be delighted to have the three of us for Christmas and indeed they were very welcoming. A collection of aunts and uncles had orchards and shops. On the first morning of our stay my two friends were commandeered to take one of the aunts to hospital with a miscarriage, I was left behind to look after her young children who I had never met before. More relatives arrived and unbeknown to us they had spotted a freezer that didn’t work properly in uncle’s shop, they warned each other not to eat the chicken. A very pleasant Christmas Day was followed by food poisoning on Boxing Day.

Next week – what was I doing at Heathrow Airport 6am one Christmas morning?

Quarter Acre Block follows the Palmer family as they emigrate to Western Australia in October 1964. At  Christmas they realise how much they have left behind.