2013 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,600 times in 2013. If it were a cable car, it would take about 43 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

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Twitter talk

I was going to share my happy bus experience today. I am not as I am not feeling that happy now. Outraged, astonished and bemused is closer to what I am feeling, all because I dared put my head above the parapet on twitter.

It followed my visit to West Bromwich and The Public yesterday. And my blog post. Not really sure how it all started as there were quite a few of us involved in the conversation.

  1. morning @westbrompaul hope you are going to help save @_the_public .Its contribution to health & wellbeing on many levels is important

  2. @brummytaff The council cannot afford to subsidise it. The Public will still be there but is likely to end up with a smaller arts offer.

  3. @westbrompaul @PaulSandars @brummytaff health, wellbeing, culture not high on the councils agenda just more tesco and poundlands

However it seems that because I live in Birmingham, I have no right to have an opinion of decisions made by Sandwell Councillors. 

@westbrompaul: @travellingcoral @PaulSandars The people of Sandwell are my priority. I make no apologies for that.” < Rt Indeed Paul

While I absolutely accept that they are not my elected members, I do not accept that I should not be able to voice an opinion about Sandwell, its councillors or The Public.

I also dared correct @sandwellleaders grammar in response to this: I couldn’t help myself.

@westbrompaul @travellingcoral @PaulSandars Paul just ask where they pay there Council Tax !

And so it continued:

  1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars i am shocked that you are confined by boundaries esp now bham is labour controlled

  2. @travellingcoral @westbrompaul @PaulSandars When will you have something positive to say about Sandwell.. There their

    And there is more:

    1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars I have a lot to say positively about Sandwell: libraries the first but need to be marketed better

    2. @travellingcoral Your off again Coral but they need better marketing.

      Grammar is clearly not the strong point of Darren Cooper. Others agree.

      @travellingcoral And you’re/ your 😉

       I just hope the advice is taken on board.

      @loveourpublic @westbrompaul @travellingcoral @PaulSandars Thanks for the tip useful 🙂

      The message is clear here. Am wondering if I will need a visa to visit Sandwell.

      1. @travellingcoral @sandwellleader @PaulSandars You can always go to Birmingham if you’re that unhappy. Bearwood & Cape Hill are busy places.

        At least Paul can spell.

        If not take advice.

        1. @westbrompaul @loveourpublic @travellingcoral @sandwellleader @PaulSandars Suggest you setup separate personal & professional accounts guys

        2. @re7ox I don’t need two, thanks.
        3. @westbrompaul No need to thank me. Just an observation. Most employees have a statement to differentiate their public/professional views.

          Interestingly, only one Sandwell councillor attended Hyper WM when it was held at The Public. She has since been reprimanded for improper use of social media. (IMHO she didn’t). Darren and the Pauls may have found it useful. I suppose I should be glad that at least they are having a conversation and not just sending messages.

          And in case I don’t understand that my views are not important to them.

          1. @sandwellleader @westbrompaul @PaulSandars 2/2 and what happens in Bearwood impacts us in B17.parking and litter. empty shops.

          @travellingcoral @westbrompaul @PaulSandars Moan to Birmingham then.

          I already have expressed my concerns to my local councillor on how what happens in Bearwood has an inpact on those that live on the border. I don’t think I have moaned to him or a Sandwell councillor. Ever. Expressed my views and challenged decisions perhaps. And got the refuse collected because my councillor understands that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason. To listen twice as much as you talk is the making of a great communicator.

          Amusingly, it ended thus:

          Next week I am volunteering. On Bank Holiday Monday. For Sandwell Library and Information Services. At the Sandwell Show. Promoting the wonderful services that are available in lovely Sandwell Libraries. To the people of Sandwell.

          I will be letting Darren et al know that, of that you can be assured.

          And bringing my passport, just in case.


A guide to cinema etiquette

I never thought I may have to add to this after a visit to The Electric Cinema, and on a sofa! Gah. I will be and hope the people who talked and texted all through Before Midnight get banned.

travellingcoral

After a lot of deliberation I decided to go with my family on Saturday to see Ironman 3. It is rated 12A so I was shocked to see so many very young children there. Really, do you want your 5 year to witness gun violence? Not only is some of the content  too violent for children, the dialogue and the plot is too complicated to follow for an under 12. If your child is not traumatised they will be bored.

I love movies, I used to love going to the cinema. I have fond memories of going to see the Sound of Music at The Gaumont in Birmingham. The whole family went and it was a experience that we appreciated and had anticipated for weeks.

Not any more. I dread going.

This is why.

People do not behave properly at the cinema any more.

Here is my guide to…

View original post 467 more words

Why did you Live Below the Line?

This week many of you reading this will have participated in Live Below the Line or know of someone who has. The challenge is to live on £1 per day for all food and drink. Some are living on nasty value sausages, cheap bread and forgoing tea and milk. Others, who are more used to eating well on a budget, have had a much more healthy and varied diet. Many are tweeting and blogging about it. Some are good, such as A Year Without Supermarkets and some are dire. I won’t name and shame them.

I am not participating. Not because I don’t care about those that have no choice to live on less than a quid a day, it is because I think the message about food poverty is being lost. There are millions in the world who live below the line every day including people in developed countries such as the USA and the UK. Thousands in the UK are now relying on food banks. Read how this happens to educated, hardworking people here.

I am already bored with reading tweets about how LBLers miss caffeine, withdrawal is kicking in or that going without butter is such a hardship. They chose to do this, for five days. Others have no choice and live like this for five weeks of five months. Most LBLers still have a roof over their head and can afford a smart phone that enables them to tweet every sip of water. What is more they are digitally engaged enough to know how to. People in poverty are often not digital natives. Yet when universal credit rolls out, applications have to be made on line. No job, no PC, where do you go to register then? Library, ah, the one that has been closed or has reduced hours because of budget cuts. Who is going to help you to register and claim?  Library staff? Those too have been reduced? Are you sure you want a complete stranger to see your personal financial information?

Great, raise money by living below the line. But get angry too.

Get angry about food poverty. When supermarkets throw food away and carrots are rejected for not being perfectly straight.

Get angry that over 400 people died in a fire in Bangladesh. A factory that makes cheap clothing so the all consuming First Worlders can have new top to go out in on Friday night. The people who died would be living below the line despite having jobs. They will have children who are now possibly orphans and homeless and hungry. That t shirt for a fiver costs more than those that died making it had to feed themselves on. How does that make you feel?

Get angry.

Can you share too much?

Or is that what social media is all about?

A few months back a Facebook friend sent me a DM saying  ‘no offence but I am having to un friend you, your posts fill up my time line too much’.  I met this person way before the days of Facebook. She wasn’t a close friend but she lives near me and we have volunteered on the same project and we once shared an employer. I wasn’t offended, just a tad surprised. Did I really share too much on Facebook? Do I retweet too often?Did I annoy anyone else? Well if I do, I am sorry and please go ahead and un friend/follow me too.

Then this happens:

A Facebook and real life friend acknowledged me in her self published book, Going it Alone at 40: How I survived my first year of self employment for ‘services to sharing and retweeting’. She even calls me the Queen of Sharing, and she means that in a good way.

We see social media as an opportunity to share information and knowledge. We both help out at social media surgeries and attend the monthly Social Media Cafe in Birmingham organised by the wonderful Karen Strunks.

I have documented my social media journey in other blogs so I won’t go over old ground. If you are interested, you know what to do.

All I will add is that all the friends I have made in the past year, who I meet with regularly, go on trips to Malvern with, go to supper with, meet at a Street Food events, and those who came to my birthday bash, I met via social media first.

Happy sharing!

Zumba with Buble and on being judgemental.

I have never been to a Zumba class before and noticed there was one in my local church hall. I have put off going because I was worried that I’d be the oldest and fattest and least fit, that it would be full of yummy mummy types fitting in a class while the children were at school and I would feel old. The real reason of course was I was too lazy and full of self-pity to get off my fat arse to go.

Yet I needed to inject something into my routine.  I either seem to cook, clean or post on Facebook, and occasionally blog. Also, it is cold and I can’t afford to heat the house with just me in it, so off to Zumba; ‘Wi’ Kay’ I went. Yes that is what her banner said. Which nearly put me off.

Anyway Kay is a diminutive, slim, fit Scottish lady with loads of energy and the average age of the people in the class is about 65. I was possibly the youngest there. My heart sank, then, I thought, well even I may be able to keep up with this bunch. How wrong I was.

Some of them were in their beige period, with sensible shoes. All very friendly, everyone came up to me to introduce themselves. Yet, I still thought, what have I done? I used to dance at the Pineapple Studio in Convent Garden. Has my life been reduced to dancing with grannies in a dusty church hall? I could barely give my name, yet alone maintain eye contact, I didn’t want to engage with old people. Not today.

Then they got out these.

bell 2I felt under dressed in jogging bottoms and trainers.

As we started dancing I thankfully recognised some of the steps from my ballroom dancing lessons when I was 8. I can still Cha Cha Cha you know. And some of the other moves from aerobic classes in my 30’s. And boy, my hips did ache. I couldn’t co-ordinate the arms and feet though, so I did a bit of a Michael Flatley impression with feet moving madly and arms stiff by my side. And I started counting the steps. I was used to an aerobic instructor shouting out directions, but Kay just danced and we were to follow. Everyone knew the steps and it was all rather erotic flirtatious, with hips a swaying and come zither looks. All I could think was, do they dance for their husband on a Saturday, and does he notice? Or would he rather watch Match of the Day? These grannies mean business.

Once I relaxed, it did get better. No one was watching me or judging me, I could see that the class was structured well, with a warm up, and mixed tempo like interval training, if you like. The Tango was interesting as it is a very ‘sensual’ dance and my did those ladies like a bit of sensual.

The music was an mix of upbeat flamenco, pop and Bhangra. And Micheal Buble, Save the Last Dance for Me.  I just could not equate all this with the average age of the room. Then it occurred to me, these were children of the sixties, they invented the twist and rock and roll. They were the same age as Paul McCartney and Rod Stewart.

To be honest my feelings were very mixed, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in a class with older people. Yet if it had been all young fitness freaks I would have felt worse, I know. My self-esteem and confidence has taken quite a bit of a bashing and I know that by being Active and Connecting as per the Five Ways to Wellbeing may will help improve my mental health. Being with young skinny girls in leotards may not be what I need to feel better about my body image. Who am I kidding anyway, I meet all the criteria to go on a Saga Holiday!

And you know those grannies rocked with their belly dancing scarves. They were connecting, being active, taking notice, learning and were giving. They were smiling and laughing, it was me with the long face and slumping shoulders. I was grumppy old women who would not engage.

During a break the only other young person (like my age) came up to me and asked if I had been to a Zumba class before today. She was genuinely surprised when I told her it was my first time. ‘But you have danced before?’ she asked. ‘You know all the steps and everything’. And that was all I needed to start letting go of my inner crap and start enjoying myself.

At the end the grannies  took off the scarves and wrapped up in their beige coats and went back to being a woman that maybe you would not notice in the supermarket queue. Yet for that hour they had been an exotic dancer and loving every minute of it.

I was ashamed of myself and my negative attitude and age stereotyping. Who am I to dismiss anyone, make judgement on any person? I hate it when young people only see the old woman in me and here was I, guilty as charged.

Later on that day I happened upon a conversation on twitter commenting on a discussion at #commscamp13.  I was able to contribute to that conversation and I hope,  that to an extent made amends for all the judgemental, depersonalisation I had been guilty of earlier that day.

  1. @dosticen Customers, consumers, service users, stakeholders are all terms being bandied about. Not heard citizen once

  2. @siwhitehouse @dosticen I hate ‘service user’ as used by someone talking about people living with dementia recently #commscamp13

  3. @travellingcoral I’m not surprised. It’s horrible and de-personalising (that’s a word, yeah?) #commscamp13 @dosticen

  4. @GeorgeJulian I assume you meant “What’s wrong with using the word people” & not just “what’s wrong with people” @travellingcoral@dosticen

Tweet text

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  1. @dosticen @siwhitehouse @travellingcoral Oops, this cld be why I’m not in comms 😉 I meant what’s wrong w the term ppl, but similarly… 😉

  2. @dosticen @siwhitehouse @GeorgeJulian people that’s the word, whether we are old, young, ill, well, why other words used?

  3. @travellingcoral @dosticen @siwhitehouse Language is chosen for a reason, is powerful stuff. Depends on level of passivity want to encourage

A totally locally Christmas

So it’s over. That was Christmas and I think it was a good one. Just the four of us yet for some reason I thought it necessary to cook beef, turkey and a goose. As ever Queen Delia rescued me, as her Christmas book covers all three, and with two ovens and a lot of juggling and a microwave that also functions as a convection oven I got there. Of course, it’s so much easier if you have men to cook the meat on a Weber, as per last year in Melbourne.

A few years back when I had a stressful, busy, corporate life I bought all the Christmas food from Marks and Spencer, all pre prepared. Then Aldi came into my life. I now have palpitations at the prices in any of the big supermarket chains. I need to say it now, it costs so much less and I do not compromise on quality.

The turkey and the goose were free range and English. The beef was British. All the veg was from the UK too. I made pickled red cabbage and bread sauce, glazed carrots, sprouts with pancetta and without and everything was bought on my local high street. And no petrol was used to procure these items. So I reckon it’s not just been a locally bought Christmas but a green one too. We did wheel the supermarket trolley home, as that was easier than dragging heavy bags. What we need is a Melbourne Market Jeep.

We all agree to buy presents from lists, so we get what we really want and need, instead of piles of tat that clutters our lives. This means we don’t get into debt by falling into the Christmas trap of spending for spending sake. I bought three hampers of homemade goodies from Maidens Fayre, again most ingredients were locally sourced and I’m supporting a local mumpreneur. We still get little surprises, such as keyring torches courtesy of corporate rebranding, Hobbit Related goodies from our lovely friends in New Zealand and a beautiful china tea set from a new friend who I met though the Four Week Shopping Locally Challenge. And this years Christmas crackers were cracking!

So despite my brother related meltdown moment on Christmas Eve, I’m pretty sure that my nearest and dearest had a good day. All rounded off with Dr Who.

Oh, and I got twitter earrings!

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The Samsung Saga

I posted on Facebook yesterday that my blog today would be about mistakes made on the RTW trip and I have failed to do so. Partly because we mad so many mistakes it is too much to cover in 30 minutes or indeed one blog. Unless I make a list. Which probably I will.

Interruptions

The main reason for the #fail was that I got interrupted by a phone call. now I am sure there is something in the Pomodoro guide about  this, maybe in a real work situation I would complete the task and let it go to answer phone. Yet our home phone isn’t exactly a busy phone. And I was expecting an update on the Samsung sub woofer that could have burned my house down saga. So I had to answer it. Which took a big chunk out of my 30 minutes set aside to blog.

The Samsung Saga

Our blu ray DVD player broke down in early October just as it went out of warranty, wouldn’t you know. So we took it back to the retailer we bought it from to see what the damage would be. After 2 weeks we had heard nothing from them. Now this retailer is really local as I can see their car park from the rear window of my house. It is also an independent retailer and you know how I bang on about that. Yet this is the first thing we have ever bought from them in over 25 years. Because I do not like the owner. At all.

Fire

A few days later and I was in the lounge when I heard a very odd crackling sound then I could smell electrical burning.  Panicking a bit, I unplugged everything in the hi fi corner, and started to investigate where it had come from. Because I could, I also posted about it on Facebook, as you do. That message was seen by someone who works in the 999 response centre for the Fire Brigade and after some persuasion from him I reluctantly called the fire brigade. Two fire engines with sirens, arrived and there were lots of firemen in my house to investigate the source of the burning smell.  After a a discussion with one of them about Bill Bryson, eventually they discovered that if you plugged in the sub woofer it set on fire. If I hadn’t been in the house and noticed the smell and unplugged everything I would not have had a house to come home to. Which was a bit scary.

The sub woofer was taken to the retailer and they told us they would not continue with the repair of the DVD player until they had heard from Samsung about the sub woofer. A week went by. Nothing. In week 2 they loaned us a very inferior DVD player. Week 4. Nothing.  We complained and they loaned us a blu ray player. Still inferior to the one that was broken. And time ticked by. We were told that the speaker had been sent to the factory for inspection. Blah Blah blah. Over a month had passed and nothing had happened.

The power of social media

Fed up with lack of response from Samsung I tweeted them. And emailed them and posted on their Facebook page. What is happening about my speaker that nearly burned my house down? I got a pretty quick response, funnily enough. They needed the reference number for the repair which I didn’t have. Neither did the retailer, I forwarded the email from Samsung to the retailer and copied in Samsung and tweeted them about what I had done.

Still nothing from the retailer. I started to visit them daily, to be told that they would contact the rep. and then yesterday I got a call from Samsung. It was quite clear that she knew nothing of the saga. She was lovely and helpful and shocked when I told her it wasn’t smoke but flames coming out of the speaker. And that the original date of the return of the unit was October 13th. Then I got another call from Samsung repair centre to book a collection date. I told them I didn’t have it. I thought they had it, they didn’t. The sub woofer is still with the retailer not with Samsung.

Getting shouty works

I rang the retailer with my angry head on. Why did you say you had sent it to Samsung ?Denial that they had said that.  6 weeks had passed since we had taken the offending sub woofer to them and NOTHING had happened and I was not pleased. I may have mentioned Watchdog. I got a bit shouty.

Lovely lady from Samsung called again today (the interruption). Seems shouty works as have been offered a replacement or full refund.

Someone, somewhere had not done their job right and she knows it.

So do I accept a replacement of go for a full refund? do I want to continue a relationship with them? I don’t think I do.

The 30 minute blog

Distracted moi?

Ok I am a procrastinator who doesn’t seem to get much done although I am busy all day.  I am a the Friends character Monica with a Phoebe rising, or the other way round, I am not sure. I want to be a better writer, so I am experimenting with the 30 minute blog.  Yesterdays blog took  up most of my day and nothing else got done. I had heard about the Pomodoro method and I thought, hey I will try that for my to do list and to blog is on that list. So in front of me is a timer set to 30 minutes and when it pings, I will publish.

Thinking smarter or faster?

So I have to think fast and not waste time looking for the perfect picture, as that sees to be what took up most of my time yesterday. Or too many links. Less typos perhaps. And not strive for perfection.

Facebook eats into my life too much

The day started with me ranting at a post on my Facebook timeline from Lorraine, queen of day time TV. I know its not her posting, but you know it really irritates me that it is all about not having bingo wings and the perfect Christmas dress. I rarely watch the programme, I think morning TV is a distraction we don’t need, and when I do I am dismayed to find that it is really all about making women feel worse about them selves. The men just watch to lech at Lorraine. Maybe I will watch it tomorrow and count how many times they say perfect. Let that eat into my time instead of my Facebook and twitter timeline.

Social Media is better than watching the news

It is, really it is. It is often on twitter before the tellybox anyhow if something major happen. Yesterday there was a big explosion and fire at a factory in Langley. A FB friend  lives close by and reported that it had happened, after calling the fire brigade. I knew more about the situyation form her and later tweets from the various news stream I follow on twitter that I would hav done from the telly box.  I also know that Larry Hagman had died before it was on the radio of TV.  And I like that it is short and headlines not subtext. If I want to find out more, I can, but hey I’m a headline person.

The explosion meant…

My husband works in Crosswells Road for the Special Library Service delivering books to the housebound. He was telephone to say they had had to evacuate the building so he went to Thimblemill Library for the rest of the day. It meant he couldn’t take the van back or bring our car home which had the coal in it for our fire. But that was a minor inconvenience.

For the people who lived nearby, the fire meant they had to spend the night in temporary accommodation, not knowing if they had a home or car to go back to. I know this because my FB friend  (another one I have also met in real life) reported this. She knows her car is a write off. She is not sure what state her house will be in. She is also a local Labour Councillor and while she was upset and afraid, what struck me was that she cancelled all her appointments, not just because she had a lot of stuff to deal with, but to support the local residents. I know her and I am sure she has personally visited everyone to see what she can do to help. That is humanity. I would have her in my corner anytime.

Seven minutes on the clock. 633 words. And that is all folks.

The #4amproject

What is the 4 am project?

I first heard of the 4 am project over a year ago. I had started following @karenstrunks on twitter via people I had met at Social Media Surgeries. Karen had been driving home one night at 4 am and it had struck her how different the world looks at that time. The idea for the project was born.

Made in Birmingham

This is now a global project but it all started here in Birmingham in 2008. Social media has enabled us to play a part in building a global picture of the world at 4am.

My involvement

I met with Karen at one of the monthly Social Media Cafes she organises in Birmingham.  I have been on a bit of a mission to actually meet people I met first through twitter and she was on the list. Her blogs are brilliant and she is a real enabler in so many ways. The next 4 am project was coming up and she persuaded me to join in.

Street furniture

When I attended Planning Camp I learnt a lot about street furniture. So it seems has Winchester.

The decline of the high street

This was the theme  of my first contribution to the 4 am project. I had got involved with the Portas Pilot bid for Bearwood and I had started noticing the empty shops more and also the general neglect of what is essentially community space. I wrote a bit about it on my blog Post Travelling Blues. I called it litter and light.

Litter and Light

We chose a different location for the 4am project this time and we knew it would be interesting to see the contrast between Bearwood in Sandwell and Winchester in Hampshire. There were some common themes, again in litter and light.

Turn off the lights?

It was shocking to see how many empty shops in Bearwood had lights left on all night. The wast is shameful. Yet in Winchester we found that so many of the Building Societies and shops also left not the odd one of two lights on but loads of them blazing away. From a security point of view there may be valid reasons to do this, yet the waste of power appalls me.

Things really look different at 4am

They really do. Looking at the photographs today a few things struck me. I had walked past this shop in daylight (well gloomy rain filled light ) earlier and never noticed this display. Now all I can see is legs and handbags.

Or this one.

The once busy pubs were all shut up and chairs on top of tables.

Yet here there was a whole team of staff laying tables at 4am.

Who would have seen this in the daylight?

And what a gloomy, dirty and neglected bus station for such a beautiful city.

Yet again, I was glad I was not waiting for a bus…..