Telephonic frustration

My mobile phone is getting on a bit. Close to six years old, in mobile (cellphone) technology, that is as good as steam-powered. I rarely use it, and mainly keep it for emergencies, like a car breakdown, or if the power goes out and shuts down the house phone.

A while ago, I cancelled the contract, and changed to SIM-Only. That saved me a fair bit each month, but also meant that I couldn’t upgrade regularly. Still, I now owned the phone, and didn’t need a new one. That sounded pretty good to me.

Until Thursday.

Because of the low use, and because I don’t have the Internet access of Wi-fi switched on unless I need it, the battery used to last me 5-6 days before needing to be recharged. On Thursday, I noticed that I had just 1% battery showing. As it was fully charged on Tuesday, that seemed strange. So I put it on charge, and a couple of hours later I noticed it was back up to 100%. So it was unplugged, and put back on the desk. Two hours later, the message alert sounded. I checked and found a text message from a relative.

But I also noticed that the phone was already down to just 16% battery.

This afternoon, I drove into the nearby town of Dereham, and made a rare visit to one of those shops that deals with multiple providers of mobile networks and phone handsets. I intended to buy a new battery, after accepting that the old one had reached the stage where it was no longer viable.

They don’t sell one for this phone. Furthermore, they no longer make this phone. In addition to that, the company (HTC) that used to make this phone has been bought out by Google, and has ceased to exist, at least in Britain. No accessories, no batteries, and nothing compatible are sold here any longer. The man in the shop was very helpful. He told me I could buy a battery online that would work with my phone, but that I had to be very careful, as many of them are unregulated imports, and the electronics might catch fire.

Not wishing to buy something that could burn the house down, I thought over my options.

Eventually, I decided to tell him that I would take out a regular phone contract again, which would provide me with a new phone, and only cost just over £6 a month more than I am paying now. He suggested a Samsung A10 as a replacement, and began to fill in my details on his computer. Almost finished, he suddenly mentioned something. “You are aware that you will have a different number of course?” I was more than a little flabbergasted. I told him that I had the same number for almost 25 years, so why would it have to change now.

His explanation made me feel as if I was being wrapped in a techno-spider’s web.

It seems that when I changed to SIM-only, I lost the option to keep my number in any other contract. Naturally, the guy who sold me that option in Norwich never bothered to tell me that at the time. I cancelled the order before he could press ‘Send’, and asked what he suggested. I really do not want to change my number. For someone with my level of technical skill, changing my mobile number is something that fills me with dread. Besides, my current number is one of those that is remarkably easy to remember.

He offered to sell me the phone, for a one-off payment. He will put my SIM in it, and that’s that. I will pay my monthly fee for the SIM deal, and have a new phone with better features, and a hopefully more vital battery. The price seemed reasonable too, at £139 all in. I smiled. “Sold!” He turned to get one off the shelf, and I was relaxed and chatting as he started on the paperwork. “Will you transfer all my contact numbers and photos over before I go, please?” I said with a smile.

He stopped completing the form, and shook his head. “I’m afraid that your HTC list of contacts and photos are not compatible with any other brand of handset, sir. Before you activate this phone, you will need to write down every contact detail, and then enter them all manually into the new phone”.

I thanked him for his time, and left.

They are out to get me. They really are.

Thinking Aloud on A Sunday


I woke up thinking about blogging this morning. Considering that I generally post things on my blog every day, and follow around one hundred other bloggers, that is not unexpected. But it rarely happens on a Sunday, for some reason.

I awoke thinking about all the people I have met through the process of blogging. In almost seven years, I have not only encountered people from every continent, but many have become firm friends. Some might even considered to be close friends. Yet in all that time, I have only ever met one other blogger in person, and she no longer has a blog.

What usually begins with some friendly comments on a post can often develop into much more. Email communication, mutual promotion by guest posts or reblogs, even collaborations between bloggers on a regular basis. Other bloggers have featured articles that I have written especially for them, and one has even published some of my writing in a ‘real’ magazine.

We come to care about each other, and even worry when postings are scarce, or non-existent. Perhaps contact them directly, to make sure they are well. And if they stop blogging, they are missed in the same way that we might miss an old friend, even though we have never heard their voice, or even know their real name. That community spirit fostered by being part of a group of bloggers is something rare in the real world, and hardly exists on other platforms, like Twitter or Facebook.

Photos from exotic lands appear alongside those of familiar towns or streets. Recipes and Crafts, Poetry, novels, even music. There is almost nothing that you will not see featured on a blog.

When I started blogging, I imagined it would be something like an online diary of my day-to-day life. Something to look back on in years to come, and recall specific days or events. I had no idea that it would be so much more than that, and might become such a large part of my life.

But I’m not complaining. Here’s to seven more years.

Christmas Cards

There was a time when I used to send over one hundred Christmas cards. I was so obsessed with missing the posting dates, that I resolved to send them early, very early. For many years, I would ensure that they were all in the post by the second week of November. This understandably irritated some of the recipients, as by the time they were receiving more cards, my one had long been lost or mislaid.

The large number I sent was not only to family members, and long standing friends. It also included former school friends I had not seen since I was seventeen, work colleagues from jobs I had done in the past, and even neighbours next door to houses I had long since sold and moved from. And that amount didn’t include those I might hand out personally, to people I was working with, staff at hospitals, and people at places I encountered in my everyday working life.

This may seem excessive, I agree. However, I saw it as a way of keeping in touch, mostly with people I would never see again, or rarely met up with anymore. And most of them seemed to enjoy that contact; returning cards containing recent photos, family updates contained in short letters, and very often a change of address notification, as they moved around. I would generally receive almost the same amount, often more than I had sent. It made me feel good, to keep up that annual tradition of ‘touching base’ with so many people, far and wide.

Over the decades, I noticed some changes in my address book, and noted that some people no longer sent me cards in return. A few had died, and some had gone so far as to inform me that they would no longer be sending any cards. That was fair enough, I still sent them one anyway. The arrival of the Internet meant that some people began to send a generic ‘Electronic card’, adding every contact in their email address book, and just clicking ‘Send’. I could understand that too, as postage costs in Britain were becoming steep, with the price of a stamp far exceeding the cost of the card inside the envelope. But I budgeted for those increases, and carried on sending my hundred-plus cards every year.

Once I retired and moved here to Norfolk, I decided to send the cards later, waiting until the first week of December to post them off. Without the large salary I was used to, I did notice that the continued price increases in stamps was making it an expensive annual proposition, on a greatly reduced income. But I bit the bullet, and carried on regardless. During the last six years, my contact list has reduced considerably. More deaths in the family, friends lost too. Some people may have misplaced my change of address, or just decided that enough was enough. And the postage costs had risen to new highs. A second-class stamp (slower delivery time) now costs 58 p. In old money, that is over eleven shillings. For someone of my age, that seems to be outlandish, and almost unthinkable, to post one small letter or card. (For the benefit of my American friends, that is 73 cents)

So, sending one hundred cards would cost me £58, ($73) plus the purchase price of the cards. I can buy nice cards for around £2.50 for a pack of ten, each less than half the price of the stamp needed to send them. The few cards that I like to send abroad are also ridiculously expensive to post. A small card to America is over £2 by air mail, and similar cards sent to France cost almost £1.50 each. This year, I finally began to think seriously about my card list. I checked off all the people I hadn’t heard from in years, and crossed through all those I know have died. Then I went through some others whose addresses I am no longer sure about, and excluded them too. By the time I had completed my reluctant ‘cull’, I written just forty-one cards. They will be posted today, the latest I have ever sent a Christmas card.

So, if any of the sixty-plus people who didn’t get a card from me are reading this.
Sorry about that.

Blogging contacts

I have had a ‘musical interlude’ this week, and have been posting about quite a few songs once again.

But I have also been thinking about blogging of course, and in particular the way it has enabled me to contact complete strangers, people I would never have met otherwise.

I receive quite a few emails asking me questions about living in Norfolk. People who are thinking of relocating here often discover my blog when researching places to consider living in. Just yesterday, I was contacted by a lady from the London area, who is hoping to move to this region in the near future. I was able to offer her some thoughts about life in a rural location, and its positives and negatives, as well as suggesting some suitable places for a non-driver to live in Norfolk. We exchanged a few emails, and she thanked me for my time and consideration. Just a small thing of course, but something that would never have happened without blogging.

On a similar theme, I received an enquiry from a couple in the north-west of England last year, also about living in Norfolk. After various emails between us, they moved here, and settled in the north of Norfolk, quite close to the coast. They then kindly invited me to come up and see them in their new home, something I plan to do in the future. Another chance contact that would never have been possible, if they had not read my blog.

Through blogging, I have not only met people from all over the world, I have also become involved in some of their lives, to varying degrees. I have reviewed their books, promoted their blogs or endeavours, and received the same favours in return. I am lucky to have been invited to visit them, and stay with them in far-flung lands or places more familiar, if I ever get the chance to do so. Many have become close friends via email, though we will probably never meet. In some cases, I know as much if not more about their lives than most people I meet physically every day in Beetley.

I often use the terms ‘blogging community’ and ‘blogging friends’. Both are very true, and real to me. This small community has endured for over five years, those friendships have developed during that time, and continue to flourish. If you are undecided about becoming a blogger, or unhappy with the way your blogging experience is turning out, then just carry on. Eventually, you might well enjoy the richness of knowing so many good people, and feeling as if you have genuine contacts, all over the world.

Twitter Twat

I am not sure if I have done the right thing today. I had the mad idea, that I should get a Twitter account, so as to broaden my  readership by shamelessly promoting my blog, on this previously unknown (to me, that is) Social Network. Although I do not have a Facebook account, and doubt that I ever will, I have been re-posted on Facebook, so have received some welcome exposure there. I concluded, with no research, so on a whim, that Twitter was less offensive, less intrusive, and somehow more acceptable.

Like most of these things, it seems very easy, when someone else is doing it. As with any foray into some new technology, I experienced all sorts of difficulties, as well as doubting that it was a sensible idea in the first place. After ‘importing’ contacts (great phrase, that) and sending a huge ‘group’ e mail, I had a basic Twitter account operating. As far as I can tell, the address for this is; Pete Johnson @beetleypete. Unlike e mail, or WordPress, I do not know if you have to enter the whole thing, or just the @beetleypete. I have managed to tweet links to a few posts, though it would appear that I have to go through all the old ones, and press the button to add to Twitter. That will take some time…

I did manage to get in touch with a few old friends, and follow some useful links, like Norfolk Travel news, and BBC Norfolk. Whether those friends actually want me to be their follower, is another question. My first attempt at messaging one of them, resulted in an embarrassing three tweets, as I completely forgot the limit on words typed! Adding links, and suggesting articles, is also haphazard, as only the smallest part of the link appears, and you have to trust that they can be bothered to open it up. Replying to a tweet, a bit like commenting on a post, will send to all those in the thread, unless you look carefully, and delete some first. I have one follower, who I canvassed by sending him the information, that I had signed up. A charity follow, I suspect; not unlike a charity shag, for a person not blessed with an attractive appearance.

If any of my Blog friends are on this network, please add me, or whatever it is that you do, so that I do not look like a complete Nobby-No-Mates! I have to put aside some time soon, to forward all my posts onto Twitter. I am just trying to spread the word, but I am uneasy, and not sure if this is the way to do it. I fear I may end up becoming a Twitter Twat.

(I just checked, and this post has appeared on Twitter. Done something right…)

A happy blogger

During the last few weeks, justifiably inactive outside for the most part, due to inclement weather, I have written and published a lot of posts. I have also added a new category, allowing me to explore my love of Film and Cinema, and there are still quite a few Ambulance stories up my sleeve, for later. Including this one, I have published 183 posts, and managed to keep hold of a following of more than 50 other bloggers, as well as e mail contacts from friends and family.

More than this, I now have new contacts and friends, people that I have never met, yet feel strangely close to. We might have otherwise spent our lives in understandable ignorance of each other, but we are able to cross divides, and to learn about different lives, and other hopes and aspirations. Some are watching my film recommendations, and they are actually pleased, when they already know one that I have suggested. Others are fascinated by the tales of my days in the Ambulance Service, even if the harsh realities of that job often seem too fantastic to be true. I have received help and advice with problems, constructive suggestions, and felt sincere affection, just from small comments after a post. These people span the full range of ages, backgrounds, and types. Outside of the blog however, it is unlikely that we would ever feel it natural to meet up, or become close. Putting all else aside, this is truly the power of being a blogger; human contact, communication, new experiences, and the sharing of ideas, and information.

I consider myself very lucky. I have not yet attracted the attention of many mad people, and only a few Religious zealots. Since I blogged about it, they have also stopped trying to sell me ladders, and foreign holidays, though a lot are still peddling their books, by liking posts, and pretending to follow blogs. They are a minority though, and to be expected in the age of electronic access. What I am left with, is a core of good blogging friends, and I truly believe that I will endeavour to remain in touch with them, whatever happens. And one of these days, if my financial situation ever improves, I may even go and visit some of them. So, you are warned!

I am one happy blogger today.