Being ill with my iPhone

Dr. Delgado's bedside manner did not instill confidence in his patients.'Recently I’ve been unwell. It started off with food-poisoning-like rushes to the loo to be sick, wobbly legs, aching muscles, and so forth, which morphed into days of evil, brain-mushing migraines and overwhelming nausea. Yes, its been fun. I’ve barely been able to raise a glass to my lips, never mind operating my iPhone.

As I lay on my sick-bed, contemplating life, the universe, and what the hell had I eaten? –  my phone became increasingly busy, insistent on gaining my attention..

Now at this juncture I should point out that I have a ‘thing’ about my much adored iPhone, or more accurately, the access it gives others to me. I use it for everything from 3b41bac6461377ac7b9e1be182e203f3calls, texts, and emails, to shopping, reading, writing, and ordering take-aways. I’m normally quite responsive to calls, unless I’m busy with other things. Don’t expect me to respond if I’m at the Record Office, for example, you’ll have to wait until I emerge back into the 21st century. I spend a lot of time in archives, as well as writing and researching online at home, so the phone is always on silent. It is set to vibrate or buzz when contact is made, however I need to be close enough to hear it.

dig23There’s the rub, because while I am addicted to using it, I am NOT addicted to being available on it 24/7.  Quite apart from the history work, I also want to relax without interruption. I’ve earned that right through years of bringing up my children while Mr Heartshaped marched around the world with the British Army. Alone with two small vomiting children in the early hours of the morning is not funny. Time to read doesn’t exist. Sleep was constantly craved. So it has taken me years, nay, decades, to learn to ignore calls. It all started before the advent of mobiles phones, when family meals or watching videos with my children (yes that long ago), or my very precious reading time after they were in bed, was ruined by persistent telephone callers. Ignoring isn’t an option when the caller knows Mr Heartshaped is away so you MUST be at home. In desperation, I acquired an answer-machine. Ha!

Of course, important and urgent calls were dealt with ASAP.

Heartsharped 1 – Annoying Calls 0Telephone-Item-Code-870758-BT-Relate-250-Retro

So, back to my sick-bed and my busy, buzzy, iPhone

I received constant demands for my attention even though people had been told I was too ill to speak or to deal with them. Mr Heartshaped stuffed the phone into my bedside drawer whilst muttering rude words about idiots who’ve been told I’m ill.

It got worse.

I could still hear it buzz and vibrate. He switched it off.

When I was compos mentis enough to read the messages, I was dismayed and then angry at what I found. They were all from a very small number of people, and the content gradually moved from “sorry to hear you’re ill but…”, through “I hate to disturb you when you’re ill but I really need” to “you could at least acknowledge my message”. The demanding flowed over from solicitous into sarcastic,  passive aggressive, and in some cases just plain out-and-out aggression. Why?

Nursing a migraine today, I distracted myself by trying to think about it. I decided that these people shouldn’t be allowed to operate communication technology. There should be a law. I shall contact my MP. (Eldest Offspring suggests I wait until the hefty dose of painkillers have worn off and review the situation. She’s always been sensible.)

Early Computer 2I love the Internet. We have been connected almost constantly (house moves aside) since about 1992. Oh, how I fondly remember the days of CompuServe. The electronic banshee cries as the 386 computer screams to get connected. The excitement of the page downloading.

Slowly.

Very slowly.

So slowly. You could go to the loo, wash your hands, make tea and toast, and get back to your computer before the bottom quarter of the page appeared. Yet it was all so new, so cutting edge, so exciting, and evolution-of-the-mobile-phonewe now have phones with more ‘power’ than the computers used to get the men to the moon. We have wi-fi access all over the UK; in shops, cafes, restaurants, the street, almost anywhere we go. Once connected we are instantly available to talk to our friends no matter where in the world they are, so long as they have access too. No hanging around waiting and waiting for letters and postcards; just send an email. No worrying if November is too late to send the Christmas cards to family in Australia or New Zealand; send an e-card. No waiting inordinately long periods of time for replies from banks, the utility companies, et al. It’s all texted, emailed, WhatsApped, Facebooked, Messaged….ad lib, ad nausea. I love it.  I have a couple of friends in remote parts of our planet with whom I’d be lucky to exchange half a dozen letters a year. Today I can keep in touch on a daily basis, see photos within hours, and enjoy electronic conversations about all manner of topics. It’s a such a massive boon. Thank you internet.

But back to my sickbed.

The downside is that people believe you should be available to them 24/7. There is no let up; no escape from unrelenting communication. This includes bosses who are outraged when employees don’t respond outside working hours.

imagine-an-oasisIt doesn’t surprise me that more and more people are going ‘off grid’. This expectation of instant availability results in deep frustration for the message sender, but great irritability for the person who is being contacted in their ‘down time’. The notion that because we have this technology, we should be attached to it hip and thigh, all the time, even in the middle of the night, is ridiculous. My phone is also my alarm clock, but I do NOT appreciate a barrage of texts at 3 o’clock in the morning. Or in the middle of my dinner. Or when… well, you get the picture. This culture of ‘how dare you ignore me’ is rife, ignoring it is my stand against the unrelenting invasion of my peace and quiet, the time I spend reading, or time with my family.

As for those people who were selfish enough to bombard me with texts and emails whilst I was sick check your ‘Friend’ status, or WhatsApp. Today I deleted about 80 texts, and more than a dozen WhatsApp ‘chats’. NONE were important.  The senders will know who they are because I have blocked or unfriended them.

The Apocalypse never happened.

No wars were declared.

The sky didn’t fall.

The sun still rose.

Your life didn’t collapse around you because I didn’t answer when you wanted me too.

Life is too short to put up with that kind of selfish nonsense.

7539d7b1a902be32cadf56bdab4a168dAhhhhhh…..

peace perfect peace.

Game Show : Blog Tour

Game Show by Allie Cresswell

Buy your copy here : £1.99

Imagine that for one night only you could do absolutely anything you wanted and get away with it.
Welcome to Game Show.
It is 1992, and in a Bosnian town a small family cowers in their basement. The Serbian militia is coming – an assorted rabble of malcontents given authority by a uniform and inflamed by the idea that they’re owed something, big-time, and the Bosnians are going to pay. When they get to the town they will ransack the houses, round-up the men and rape the women. Who’s to stop them? Who’s to accuse them? Who will be left, to tell the tale?
Meanwhile, in a nondescript northern UK town, a group of contestants make their way to the TV studios to take part in a radical new Game Show. There’s money to be won, and fun to be had. They’ll be able to throw off their inhibitions and do what they want because they’ll all be in disguise and no-one will ever know.
In a disturbing denouement, war and game meld into each other as action and consequence are divided, the words ‘blame’ and ‘fault’ have no meaning and impunity reigns.
Game Show asks whether the situation which fostered the Bosnian war, the genocide in Rwanda, the rise of so-called Islamic State in Syria and the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar could ever happen in the West. The answer will shock you.

This is a compelling and forceful book which I highly recommend everyone to read. As an historian, it took me to past events that I wish hadn’t crammed themselves into my mind all at once, but in the context of this book they are important to remember.  More of these later.

I found it difficult to get hooked into the reading at first. There are many characters introduced to the reader quite quickly, and repeatedly being engaged with one and then pulled to another could have resulted in putting the book down. The author’s writing however, is consistent, intelligent, and seductive; you want to know where these characters’ experiences will take them, so you must keep reading. The slow build throughout the first part of the novel reaches its apex about halfway, and from there on all the strands start to come together ever more tightly.

The characters are well-defined, and you will have mixed feelings about some of them, like others, and detest some. The overlapping of lives, and the stark contrast between the Game Show and its contestants and the wretched desperation of the family and people in Bosnia, are handled with unmitigated skill. The pace and tension build to a crescendo in one story, only to sweep you up and do it all again in the next, leaving you both mentally and emotionally exhausted by the end. Thankfully there are moments of ‘comic relief’ to ease your reading journey.

The question posed in the synopsis asks – could this happen in the West? Well it has…the Holocaust. Germany was a civilised land of art, literature, music, and more, and was no more anti-Semitic than many other nations. It took poverty, hunger, greed, a desire for power and someone to blame, coupled to an extreme political party and its leader, for people to turn on one another. Sounds remote? This book is set in 1992, but speaks directly to us now. Currently, we are in a situation where ‘poverty, hunger, greed, a desire for power and someone to blame’ are causing problems in many nations, including First World countries. So no, the answer did not shock, and Game Show goes much deeper than that.

The use and abuse of power against people has been repeated many times by the West just since 1945; Kenya, Vietnam, Abu Ghraib, are three that spring to mind, as well as the several waves of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans. The use of rape as a weapon of war is well documented, and while it is right that this is an important theme in the book, I feel it was over-used. Sexual violence encompasses a broad spectrum, as does torture, and it would have been fitting to have included those too.

What the author does highlight most effectively, is the political constipation that allows these events not only to happen, but to continue to happen and to spiral out of control, with none taking action to stop it. Leaders can be caught up in the chaos, as demonstrated by the Stanford Experiment (see end notes and appendices in the book). They can also be so caught up in their political careers, busy cow-towing to political behemoths, they become too paralysed to do what they know is the right thing.

Game Show - Allie CresswellIn addition, the advent of reality TV and its repeated pushing of the boundaries of acceptability, is also most powerfully highlighted. To my mind, the author’s big question isn’t ‘could it happen’, but who will stop it? If we can treat our fellow human beings so viciously and brutally, then without restrictions and rules, it is inevitable that reality TV will continue to push boundaries. Where will it end? Allie Cresswell shows us a very real possibility ‘Game Show’.

As you may have guessed, this book touched me deeply. It is powerful and emotional,  BUT it is exceptional.  I highly recommend reading it.

Game Show Blog Tour brought to you by @rararesources

Game Show Tour Dates

She’s Bad News – Blog Tour

Shes Bad News Banner

She’s Bad News – Elle Spellman

What would you do if you woke up with super powers?
For Bella Brown, life hasn’t gone according to plan. She’s almost thirty, still living in her uneventful hometown, and her dreams of becoming an investigative reporter have fallen by the wayside.
That is, until she wakes up one morning to find she’s been gifted with some amazing new abilities. What’s a girl to do with heightened senses, super speed and the ability to lift a truck one-handed? Bella quickly discovers that her new powers can easily help her land front-page leads at local newspaper, The Hartleybourne Gazette. 
Soon Bella’s out every night chasing down local criminals for stories, while keeping her powers a secret from everyone besides flatmate Chloe. But when a burglary-gone-wrong accidentally turns her into the mysterious Hartleybourne Heroine, Bella finds herself on the front page for the wrong reasons. Her secret becomes harder to keep as she tries to track down the source of her powers, and especially when crime reporter Matt Gilmore is intent on unmasking the town’s new vigilante…
Suddenly, having an extraordinary life is far more dangerous than she ever imagined.

She's Bad News - Author Photo ES HSBSIt would be very easy for any reviewer to classify this story as a nice easy read with nothing much to think about, or that it is a silly book, and over the top. Yes, it is all those things, but it is also much more. It very subtly addresses weight issues, the diet industry, workplace bullying, amongst other things.

Elle Spellman has written a fun superhero novel, where an ordinary girl accidently acquires some super-powers. It is funny, cringeworthy, sad, and scary. Yes, there are sections that could have been edited more tightly, others that should have been cut or condensed, but all in all this author has given us a book that covers some interesting issues and does it within the confines of a delightfully eccentric, entertaining, and thoroughly enjoyable story.

Bella, our heroine, can be irritating, but is adorable. She is the girl who left her mundane life, went to university and graduated with a journalism degree, and hoped for a bright future in London with a national newspaper. Sadly, she finds herself locked into a job with the local newspaper where she writes the Better Self column, covering slimming aids, the health benefits of asparagus, and such trivia, but not anything she regards as journalism. Layla, her boss, is a bitch, and belittles Bella at every opportunity. No matter how many article idea Bella tries to get approval for, Layla cruelly shuts her down, telling her that she is overstepping, and to leave the journalism to the reporters.

‘You’re responsible for Better Self, not Bella Brown Investigates…read the PR, write the reviews and the copy. It’s all I want you to do.’

Alice, Bella’s sister, doesn’t treat her much better. Everything is about Alice. She contacts Bella at anytime she deems fit, ignoring the fact that Bella is at work, for example, or anything else Bella may be doing. Bella may as well answer her mobile at work, she not a reporter, after all she failed at journalism.  As Bella tells us:

‘She would either call my desk phone all day, hire a sniper to take me out, or worse, take a three-hour drive…and turn up at my office just to make a point.’

Chloe is a health and fitness trainer and Bella’s best friend. She’s as mad as Bella, and though a bit annoying and ‘preachy’ at times, she has Bella’s best interests at heart, and helps and supports her. Add to the character mix the attractive crime reporter and the mysterious CEO of the company that produces NARCIS Ultra-Boost, the slimming pill that Bella must review, and the stage is set for madness, mayhem, and mishaps.

She's Bad News Cover HSBSShe’s Bad News is pure escapist fun, with a subtle lifting of a mirror to reflect the insanity of our world. A world that bullies, denigrates, and belittles those who don’t meet the standards of others. One of the things I liked about Bella and her acquisition of superpowers, is that she remained the same – a curvy overweight, awkward, sweet, down to earth girl. The superpowers gave her back the confidence and self-worth that was being slowly chipped away by her boss, her family, and others.

There is plenty of laughter, plenty of action, and some scary moments, as Bella uses her powers for crime-fighting investigative good. I just couldn’t read the last few chapters fast enough. Whatever the need for editing, She’s Bad News is a one of the most fun and enjoyable books I’ve read in a long time. I’m keen to read whatever Elle Spellman writes next and I hope she’ll bring us a Bella sequel.

Highly recommended.

Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe

JohnsonSunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe – Debbie Johnson

My name is Willow Longville. I live in a village called Budbury on the stunning Dorset coast with my mum Lynnie, who sometimes forgets who I am. I’m a waitress at the Comfort Food Café, which is really so much more than a café … it’s my home.

For Willow, the ramshackle café overlooking the beach, together with its warm-hearted community, offers friendship as a daily special and always has a hearty welcome on the menu. When a handsome stranger blows in on a warm spring breeze, Willow soon realises that her quiet country life will be changed forever.  Perched on a windswept cliff on the coast at what feels like the edge of the world, the café and its warm-hearted community are a haven for lost souls who happen to wander by with a heavy heart and a story to tell. Serving up the most delicious cream teas; beautifully baked breads, and carefully crafted cupcakes, there’s nothing a cup of tea and a delicious treat won’t fix. For tourists and locals alike, the ramshackle cafe overlooking the beach is a beacon of laughter, companionship, and security – a place like no other; a place that offers friendship as a daily special, and where a hearty welcome is always on the menu.

When I started reading this I didn’t realise it was part of a ‘Comfort Food Cafe‘ series. I had a quick look at the synopsis for each of the other titles, and they all sound fabulous. That said, Sunshine at the Comfort Food Cafe works just as well as a standalone,  certainly  I don’t feel that I have missed anything, in the way that you do sometimes with a series. It took me a while to settle into the book, but once we got going, I was glued to it.

Willow, the central character, doesn’t have it easy as not only does she work cleaning as well as waitressing at the cafe, but she is also she is her mother Lynnie’s carer. Sadly, Lynnie has early onset dementia, and as this progresses, Willow’s struggles and issues are heartbreaking.  I could make a long list of the things that pulled me into the heart of this book, here are but a few. Willow’s pink hair, Doc Martens, piercings, and tattoos (very close to home…); the journals they both keep, one to remember, one to unburden;  the dogs; the colourful array of characters. There is something a little magical about it.

Then enters Tom, a boy from Willow’s childhood; an inventor and rich, but still geeky and awkward, yet totally on Willow’s wavelength – let’s just say Zombie Apocalypse. Read and you’ll understand.

It would be easy to go down a clichéd and superficial route, but the author has dealt with issue of dementia in a real yet sensitive manner, and is to be applauded for that. She’s written a lovely book full of love and optimism, humour and tears. I’m going to arm myself with the previous books, and will read them all at some point – that’s how much I enjoyed this one. Seriously, just go and get a copy and read it.

BE WARNED: you’ll need a supply of tea and cake, and tissues to wipe your damp eyes….