Showing posts with label Facebook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Facebook. Show all posts

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Two days in James Herriot country

The advantage of moving around a lot is that you feel at home in most places.

And that was certainly the case when we made a two-day trip to North Yorkshire this week. We lived in James Herriot country for three years and I’ve got very happy memories of our time there.

We renovated a three-bedroom farmhouse with glorious views across the fields and moved in when my daughter was four and my son was two. Even now they are virtually grown up they still talk fondly about our Rye House days. I’m not surprised, because they had the best social life ever. My daughter’s primary school was a short walk down the hill and most of her friends lived a stone’s throw away. She had tea at a different friend's house every day of the week and she still keeps up with loads of them on Facebook.

When we drove into the village at dusk we peered across the school playground, marvelling at the new classrooms and trying to spot whether the wooden bird my daughter made was still on display. Her year 1 teacher (one of her favourite teachers ever) was called Miss Wright and drove a retro white VW Camper van. She worked incredibly hard and 14 years later we half expected to see it still parked outside.

As well as seeing friends and family, we also made our regular trip to Bettys in Northallerton for coffee. When my son was little I often took him there for homemade lemonade and a toasted teacake after school and he once melted the heart of an elderly waitress by saying “Bettys make the best teacakes in the whole, wide world.”

He was absolutely right, of course.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Wish you were here - the death of the postcard

From pictures of Tower Bridge at night to images of sun-drenched Provence, the summer holidays are never complete without sending a postcard or two. I love choosing my favourite cards and mailing them to family and friends.

So I was shocked to be sent an O2 press release this morning saying that the age-old tradition of sending holiday postcards is dying out. Apparently only a sixth of us bother with them these days while more than half of youngsters under 24 have never sent one in their lives.

It's not that we don’t want to keep in touch with loved ones when we’re away. No, apparently the good old-fashioned postcard is being usurped by texting, phoning, Facebook messages and emailing. 

When O2 questioned 2,000 people about their reluctance to send postcards, more than a third claimed postcards are too slow. Another third said buying stamps and finding a postbox is too difficult (what a weedy excuse) and nearly one in ten worry about the postman reading their messages (I think they've got better things to do!)

Maybe the answer is to combine the best of both worlds and design your own postcards. A company called Cards in the Post lets you upload your own images and messages online, then creates real postcards and mails them out for you. As the company says: “We love the internet. We think it’s great. But you can’t beat receiving a real physical postcard in the post from someone.”

My thoughts exactly.

PS. The postcard above is called A Lemon from Beirut by the artist Chloe Cheese. A friend sent it to me years ago and I love it so much that it’s still propped up in the kitchen. 

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Do you ever leave work at 5.30pm?

Working late last night, I finished the piece I was writing and keen to get it out of the way, clicked send. I was stunned ten minutes later to get a reply from the person who’d commissioned the article. It was 10pm!

Whatever happened to the far-flung days when we’d all finish work at 5.30pm and skip merrily out of the office, safe in the knowledge that we wouldn’t be back at our desks until the next morning? We sometimes went wild and stopped for a drink on the way home, or heaven forbid, went to the cinema. Now, with emails, mobile phones and loads of us working from home, work is a rolling 24-hour enterprise. It’s so extreme in the newspaper world these days that friends of mine work from 8am to 9pm, and are still expected to be on call right round the clock.

That’s why an interview I read with Facebook COO (chief operating officer) Sheryl Sandberg this morning was like a breath of fresh air. In a recent video interview, she relates how she walks out of the office at 5.30pm on the dot every day - so she can have dinner with her children at 6pm. She admits that telling people she was working shorter hours to spend time with her family was a challenge at first but now she’s quite open about it.

“I was showing everyone I worked for that I worked just as hard,” she says. “I was getting up earlier to make sure they saw my emails at 5:30am, staying up later to make sure they saw my emails late. But now I’m much more confident in where I am and so I’m able to say ‘hey! I am leaving work at 5:30.’ And I say it very publicly, both internally and externally.”

As a famous businesswoman at the top of her field, Sheryl Sandberg can call the shots more than the rest of us, but I definitely think she’s on to something.

PS. BT has put its iconic red phone boxes up for sale at an eye-watering £2,000 per box. I don’t know about you, but I’d far prefer one like this chic green one – spotted at Bicester Village the other day…

Monday, 6 February 2012

Why this year's snowfall made me sad

We were walking along St Giles when the first snowflakes fell. With temperatures below zero and our feet turning to blocks of ice, the snow had been threatening to arrive all day – and finally it had. With a vengeance.

My teenage son took one look and immediately walked faster, keen to get back to the warmth of home and the excitement of his Xbox. I felt a bit sad. This was the first time snow hadn’t made him leap up and down in excitement. Up until a year ago he’d take one look outside and think “sledges, snowmen, snowball fights with the boys next door.” Before I knew it, he’d be grabbing a jumble of clothes (no coat of course) and would be frantically unlocking the back door, desperate to hurl himself into the wintery world outside.

He’d be as happy as Larry all day. He’d get through four changes of clothes (all those snowballs), build a snowman taller than himself and rootle about in the garden shed for the sledge my mother gave him. I remember the year he came back inside at the end of the day, soaked to the skin, exhausted and beaming with happiness. He then rushed upstairs to post a cheery message on Facebook. “Yay, no school,” he wrote. “Thank you snow.”

But now he’s 17 he’s not interested in a paltry few inches of snow. It might make the dreaming spires of Oxford look even more beautiful, but he needs several feet of the stuff to play in. He wants to leap off mountains and do scary twirls in the air on a snowboard. Sadly, our current frosting of snow just doesn’t cut the mustard as far as he's concerned.

PS. My husband times his work trips to the Far East impeccably. While I’m gingerly picking my way along the icy Oxford pavements in my grippiest shoes and wondering whether I can get the car out, he’s on a flight halfway across the world. Next stop – Kuala Lumpur. Temperature – 25 degrees C.

Image: Oxford snow by tevjanphotos, Oxford Light

Monday, 16 January 2012

Could you give up Twitter or Facebook?

Blimey. I thought I’d set myself a tough challenge for the New Year by giving up alcohol for January (successfully so far, but we’re only halfway through!) and resolving to blog every day for a month. But one thing I've never contemplated is relinquishing Facebook and Twitter.

But that’s what writer Tom Cox has done. Well, he doesn’t exactly say he’s given up Twitter but he’s deactivated his Facebook account and says he’s doing just fine without it. Better still, he’s got cracking with his new book and no longer wakes in the middle of the night and reaches for his iPhone.

As he writes in today’s Guardian: “No matter how positive you feel about Facebook or Twitter and the ways in which they’ve enhanced your life, it is unlikely that anyone will ever lie on their deathbed and say ‘you know what? I’m really glad I spent all that time social networking!’”

Hmmm, he’s definitely got a point. The only trouble is that I could give up Facebook and LinkedIn without a backward glance or twinge of regret (I’ve never really got the hang of either), but Twitter? Now that would be hard.

Since I signed up to Twitter two years ago I’ve had a whale of a time. I’ve discovered fantastic press articles (this month’s Vanity Fair profile of Rebekah Brooks for one), gleaned brilliant tips on writing and blogging, got advice about renovating a house in France, got back in touch with old friends (hello Constance!) and made lots of new writer pals. Admittedly I’ve procrastinated for England (and France) over my work and probably wasted hours and hours of time, but so what, it’s all been good fun.

Perhaps the answer to the social networking conundrum is to go cold turkey on the accounts that you’re not bothered about and stick to the ones you enjoy. And perhaps I should be ultra-disciplined and leave Twitter alone between nine and five. Lots of writers tell me that they’re on Twitter chatting to people at the crack of dawn but by nine they switch off and get down to their manuscripts. Well, that’s what they claim anyway…

What do you think? Could you give up Twitter and Facebook? I’d love to know.
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