The dangers of an online presence

If you’ve ever had any bother with family, colleagues, anyone, then an online presence – as the youngsters call it – is just asking for trouble.  You can get around the dangers a little by having an anonymous account or accounts, but you have to be so careful not to leave any clues about who you really are, especially if whoever you’re trying to avoid is good at putting two and two together.  And if those people are good with technology, you’d better be damn sure you’ve covered your tracks and left no trail for them to follow.  I left a trail.

I don’t really want to go into the details, even though it’s a bit like shutting the stable door after someone broke in and shot the horse with a bolt gun, or whatever, but I’d be pretty embarrassed to write about it because I’m just not one of life’s sharers.  No offence meant if we’ve been internet friends for a while, but I know now that I can’t necessarily trust anyone online and I should have had the sense to realise that earlier.  At heart, it’s what I believed all along but you kid yourself sometimes out of …don’t know …loneliness, perhaps?  But, that being said, I would like to get the main facts off my chest because I’m going to have to delete everything I’ve ever posted to the internet: Facebook, Twitter, My Space (I know!  Shut up!) and this, too, unfortunately, once enough of you have read it.  I might print a few things out that I’ve been proud of.  Maybe not.  Probably not.

So … deep breath and all that …it started a long time ago, so long it’s like I was someone else.  I was very young, definitely a lot more stupid, if you can imagine that being possible, and I was naive.  Maybe ‘naive’ isn’t strong enough: gullible is what I was.  I was taken in by bigger personalities than mine: more interesting, more daring, more glamorous, which wouldn’t be hard because I was never even slightly interesting or glamorous back then and I’m still not.  But I faked it really well, just so they would accept me, and it was obviously convincing; some of them looked up to me, while others resented me very deeply for that respect, which they could definitely tell I didn’t really deserve.  They were able to see through me more than most and they knew that I knew, which made for a tense atmosphere.

Eventually, I got involved in doing stuff that I’m not prepared to disclose on a public forum, even one I’m about to leave forever.  Though I fooled myself into believing I was led into it, in reality, I kind of just lost my head, believed my own bravado and dragged a few others along with me.  I’m so very sorry for that now, but sorry isn’t always enough.  Sometimes, there are only really two options: run or face the consequences; sometimes there aren’t even that many.  I had the choice and I decided to run.  I cut my ties, dropped all my friends, although by then I’d cottoned on to the fact that none of them were really my friends.  I lived for years watching my back.  But I got complacent.

Everyone seemed to be using the internet and I was curious, in spite of being a bit of a Luddite.  At first, I just used the old MSN messenger and then I was commenting on news sites and in forums.  When My Space came along I got that and I stalked Friends Reunited because I’d grown pretty curious about people whose paths had crossed mine.  Then I got Facebook and I made sure I only added people I’d met recently in the real world and nobody I’d known before; nobody from the bad times and nobody I hadn’t actually met.  I was so careful!  Then I joined Twitter.

Now, I started out doing what most people probably do at first, which is following famous people and tweeting about boring things: stuff on the telly, news stories, whatever was trending, etc.  Then I started tweeting jokes and pictures I’d made and I followed back the people who followed me rather than just celebrities.  I started to get more followers than seemed reasonable and, from among them, I made friends.  No!  I thought I made friends.  When you think someone is a friend, you let your guard down and tell them things you wouldn’t otherwise tell anyone; it wasn’t that I just blurted out my life history but instead of sticking to the jokes and suchlike, I got sucked into private conversations in which I let slip little bits of truth, then more bits and more.  The truth, people, will not set you free.

Snippets of information were being shared with people I wouldn’t have chosen to trust, long before I realised; by the time this fact filtered back to me, the grapevine had grown too large for me to shut down and the very bunch I’d been avoiding had found me again. Believe me, you never know who’s hiding behind those cartoon avis, meaningless @ names and eggs.  So, here I am. Telling you this so you know why I’m not going to be around and aren’t left wondering, because it may not have always seemed like it but I have liked some of you and I feel I owe you an explanation.

It’d be a lie if I said I was simply going offline because I do most of my work via the internet these days, but it won’t be like it is now and you won’t know it’s me, I guarantee it.  I won’t use any of the many names I already have, so it’s no use expecting to find me under @morningstar or satan@sky.com, nor @lucifer1089, and @lucifer666 is already taken – I’ve checked, so don’t bother looking.  I won’t follow you or add you or friend you again.  We won’t talk.  I’ll just be an online presence.

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Team GB Success Causes Medalmania

With the runaway success of Team GB at the Rio Olympics, British people are now expecting medals for virtually every activity.  The phenomenon was first observed after Adam Peaty took the gold for the 100m breaststroke on day 2 of the Olympics, whereupon a fight broke out between two pensioners at the early-bird swim in the Wavertree Aquatics Centre in Liverpool over the pool attendant’s refusal to hold an award ceremony using some benches and a stack of floats as a podium.

Initially, the problem seemed to be confined to sporting activities.  The Hull Ladies’ Crown Green Bowling Club hired local lad Reece Shearsmith at great expense to decorate them for their victory over the Humber Bowling Demons Ladies’ team, choosing to play Housemartins hit ‘Happy Hour’ instead of the national anthem during the ceremony.  In Cornwall, a last-minute sprint gave Mevagissey man Dan Polter a victory over Devonian outsider Alan Hammond-Jones in the charity egg-and-spoon race at the parish church of St Kentigern, before a ceremony on the village green, attended by local dignitaries and Derek Thomas, the Conservative MP for St Ives.

However, as the Team GB Rio medals have stacked up, so has medalmania in the UK.  The insistence on being given not only a medal, but an accompanying solemn ceremony with a podium, a flag and music, has now spread into less obvious pursuits.  Police had to be called to a branch of Aldi in Cardiff when a woman demanded to see the manager after she claimed to be due a gold medal for getting her shopping into the bags at the same speed at which it had been fed through the scanner.  She was charged with common assault, fined and banned from all branches of Aldi in Wales for twelve months.  Further incidents of medalmania include unrest caused by people who were upset at not receiving medals for ‘getting a Renault Captur into a tight parking space’,  ‘putting a USB stick into the slot the right way up first time’ and ‘understanding all of the lyrics of Come On, Eileen’.

While many of the incidents of medalmania have been dealt with in a timely and relatively trouble-free manner, the authorities are concerned that the attitude could become ingrained in British culture, adding billions of pounds to the cost of an already strained infrastructure.  An emergency session of parliament was called to discuss the growing crisis.  Michael Fallon was awarded the gold medal for ‘shouting for the longest before being told to pack it in by the Speaker’.

A Busy Life

When people ask me what I do, I silently judge them for their nosiness before telling them I’m a copywriter.  I then explain what a copywriter is, unless they’re fans of ‘Madmen’, in which case I explain what a copywriter isn’t.  But I don’t really have the time for writing at the moment.  Just the creation of that sentence has guaranteed that the bathroom I should be cleaning will, at best, be left with a smeared mirror, while the sentence explaining about the smeared mirror has probably ensured I won’t have time to mop the floor.  If I don’t stop explaining stuff, the bathroom will be a no-go area for all those not in possession of hazmat gear.  As usual.  But the heart wants what it wants and a writer writes and meta crap like that, so I’m neglecting the list of jobs that are mounting up in order to write this.  I’m sure my expected visitors will at least be polite enough to pretend they can’t see the mess as long as they’re here and will only comment on my inadequacy once I’m out of earshot.

There are always things I should do, but don’t.  Find more work, sleep more, get more exercise, wash a dish now and then, train one of the cats to switch the kettle on … important stuff like that.  And there’s also the other list; the things I shouldn’t be doing, or shouldn’t be doing as much: eat less sugar, tweet less, yell less at political programmes, write fewer lists …  But, at the risk of accidentally plagiarising Hallmark’s output for the last century, the thing I should be concentrating on, should have always been concentrating on, is appreciating the things I have while I have them instead of worrying about what I used to have, think I should have had or wish I could get in the future.

Shortly after my dad died at the end of 2014, my mum went into a care home.  Her dementia had left her with short-term memory problems and some confusion, so visits immediately took on a Groundhog Day ambience, only on a 5-minute loop instead of a 24-hour one, and we struggled to have a conversation.  However, a life spent playing board games and doing quizzes had burnt those processes into her brain, so we could still enjoy some quality time together with the Trivial Pursuit or Ludo and little flashes of the intelligence beneath the fog would surface even as she was asking which colour pieces were hers each time it was her turn.  I’d leave when it was time for her to have dinner or for me to go and do mum things instead of daughter things and it’d be just another little interlude in a busy life.

So, when she had an accident last month and went to hospital, we lost those games and had nothing left but Groundhog Day and it was hard to take.  We were all looking forward to the day when we could get her back to the home and slip back into the routine that would let her be herself again, in some small way.  Sadly, that didn’t and won’t happen as she died in the early hours of Wednesday.  Comfortable, clean, sleeping, not alone.  We could all do a lot worse.  Since then, I’ve been cleaning, decorating, making more phone calls than I usually make in a year, eating fast food because I have no time to cook, writing when I shouldn’t be writing and, as ever, not appreciating what I have while I have it.  From now on, when people ask what I do, I’ll give them the honest answer; I fiddle while Rome burns.

Curses

May you always be caught as the lights turn to red.

May your socks start to slip as you run for the train.

May your bladder fill up as you get into bed.

May you exit the salon into lashing rain.

May The One Show come on when you’ve lost your remote.

May you email your boss with a kiss at the end.

May a pair of tights stick to the back of your coat.

May you spot the text typo just as you press ‘send’.

May you go a whole day with your top inside out.

May you think you’ve got tea when you’ve drunk the whole cup.

May you ruin your photos by trying to pout.

May you get in the ‘down’ lift and find it goes ‘up’.

May you buy the wrong ink for the printer you own.

May your laptop keys break so there’s no ‘e’ or ‘r’.

May the Crazy Frog ringtone get stuck on your phone.

May a gull take a dump on your freshly washed car.

May your series link fail so you miss your best show.

May you make a mistake and put talc in your stew.

May your nettles run wild but your roses not grow.

May you see this and realise it’s about you.

A Sonnet for Liam

It’s now 16 years since my brother, Liam, died from complications connected to his MS.  He was as dark as I am fair, with brown eyes that I always envied and a wiry strength that stood him in good stead as he carried out his gardening work.  He was my big brother, yet now I’m older than him and that’s not something I can quite wrap my head around.  So this poem is for my little big brother.

 

We never looked alike in any way,

Our hair and eyes as different as could be.

But when together, we had much to say,

With common int’rests binding you and me.

The music that we liked, the books we read

Were oftentimes the same or close in style.

We’d talk of these, and many things you said

Would paint upon my face a cheerful smile.

Now that you’ve gone, a chasm stretches wide

Between contentedness and lonely strife.

An unexpected, unwelcome divide

Has brought a core of sorrow to my life.

I never could replace you with another,

My one and only missed and cherished brother.

 

Trends (A poem incorporating a Twitter trending list)

On Twitter, there’s a golden rule,

To break it you must be a fool:

Stay in the safety of your friends,

Avoid exploring breaking trends.

For there be dragons, trolls and hate

Pedants and know-alls lie in wait.

A brief scan down the list will show

There’s not that much you’d care to know:

Bill Clinton raging at the crowd,

No Star Wars spoilers are allowed.

Ken Livingstone’s not paid his tax

(His book-keeping must be quite lax).

The IPL opening ceremony,

For cricket fans a better day than many,

Showed some style with joie de vivre

And more acts than you would believe.

On Ladies Day at Aintree races

Women show their pristine faces,

Framed with feathers, jewels and net,

Quite the fascinating set.

Pope Francis, from the holy Vatican

Showed the waiting people that he can

Tell his church to stop its messing,

Give all its people every blessing,

Divorced or separate, gay or straight,

Don’t hold your breath, there’ll be a wait.

Some call for our PM to quit

“Resign Cameron!” (He’s in the shit!)

No Friday feeling, I surmise

In Number 10 where Cameron lies.

It’s not all gloom, I’ve been too hasty

Some tweeters can make Motown tasty,

Smokey Bacon Robinson

And Lionel Rich Tea follow on.

Will Dortmund lose to LFC?

I hope so, but let’s wait and see.

Remember, if your timeline’s cosy,

The trends are best left to the nosy!twitter

Conspiracy theorist thwarted by Lemmy’s birthdate

A professional conspiracy theorist from Kent has expressed disappointment that Ian ‘Lemmy’ Kilmister, of the band Motörhead, didn’t die five days earlier, when he was still 69.  Dan Lessing, 44, claims this ruined his chances of fabricating a perfect conspiracy theory from the tragic coincidence of both David Bowie and Alan Rickman dying aged 69 from cancer, the disease that also killed Lemmy.  “I’m totally devastated at the deaths of these giants of the entertainment world.” Lessing told us, “But as they’re gone anyway, it’s just a shame I can’t make their passing a little more dramatic and sinister with a rumour that dark forces were involved.  Or the royal family, which is much the same.”

The father of four, who gave up his insurance sales job in 1997 to focus on perfecting a conspiracy theory about Diana, Princess of Wales, said he had considered trying out a couple of theories regarding Bowie and Rickman, but added “Everybody knows there have to be at least three for it to catch on.”

Mixed success

Some of Lessing’s better known conspiracies include the Wingdings font predicting the 911 attacks, cars which run on household rubbish being suppressed by the oil industry and the existence of a cure for the common cold since 1968.  While these have gained considerable support, many of Lessings attempts have fallen flat:

  • In 2004, he said that David James had died in a car accident and been replaced in the England squad by a female lookalike from a rugby union club in Hull
  • In 2010, he claimed there was evidence that Ken Bruce was the Grand Master of the British cadre of the Illuminati
  • Since 1999, he has cast doubt that the Battle of Hastings happened, insisting that the Bayeux Tapestry was just a big comic strip, intended only for entertainment purposes

In spite of experiencing these setbacks, Lessing sees great hope for his profession in the future due to the rise of social media.  “In 1997, I spent weeks sending letters to newspapers and telling people in the pub what had really happened to Diana – God rest her beautiful soul – and it cost me a fortune in stamps and beer.  Nowadays, I only need to tweet once and it turns up everywhere.”

When we asked him if he was working on anything at the moment, he said he was keeping a close eye on some 69-year-old celebrities and had a ‘special project’ in the pipeline; he refused to elaborate much due to fears that someone may steal his theory. He hinted, however, that it involves Jeremy Corbyn, a Russian cloning laboratory and a reported grave robbing at Highgate Cemetery in 1948.

Not a New Year’s Resolution

I don’t have much will power.  By way of illustration, I have yet to sort out my wardrobe, having vowed to do it by Christmas.  2013.  So, New Year’s resolutions are pretty much an invitation from me to me, saying ‘Dear Oonagh, Please be a massive failure.  All the best, Oonagh’ and nobody wants that, least of all the people who would have to listen to me moan about it for the rest of the year.  I do, however, want to make some kind of effort just to have something to boast about on Facebook and there’s so much scope for that; I could virtually do anything even half decent and it would herald a better me; it’s one of the beauties of maintaining consistently low standards.  This is why I have decided to avoid New Year’s resolutions completely and do twelve ‘New Month resolutions’ for 2016.  Surely even I can maintain a change for one month.

 

Many people are doing ‘dry January’, which involves swearing off alcohol for a month, but I don’t drink the stuff as I’m enough of an idiot without exacerbating factors, and others are doing ‘Veganuary’, which – as you may have guessed if you have the deductive skills of anything more sentient than Donald Trump’s hair – is living a vegan lifestyle for the month of January.  The meaner among you may suppose that this involves marching up and down outside butchers’ shops, carrying protest placards, wearing hemp and shouting “I’m a vegan!”, but it really just means living a cruelty-free lifestyle by not eating or drinking any animal derivatives.  This is also not an option for me; not because I crave the blood of chickens or have an insatiable desire to attend ‘club your own lamb’ parties, but because I’m already vegan.  What I have decided to try and do throughout January is to eat no food that contains added sugar.

 

If you have ever seen my Twitter account, you may be reasonably convinced that I live on Hobnobs, chocolate, cake and tea, because they’re all a bit of a running theme.  You may also be convinced that I have ‘The Bumper Book of Cracker Jokes’ and I’m just tweeting them all for a bet; neither of these things are true.  I do eat Hobnobs – which fall into the ‘accidentally vegan food’ category – and I also eat chocolate and cake and I drink A LOT of tea, I mean in ‘the Guinness Book of Records people are on the phone for you’ kind of amounts, but the chocolate and cake are rare treats, partly because I need to find the vegan versions but also because I don’t have much money for treats.  I’ve spent it all on tea, hemp clothes and The Bumper Book of Cracker Jokes.  Given that I’m not the cake fiend I seem, it should be pretty easy to give up sugar for a month, right?  Right?  WRONG!

 

Apparently, there’s a rule that says all food apart from salad and tripe must contain sugar, and I have my suspicions about tripe.  There’s sugar in my ‘healthy’ cereal.  It’s in most of the bread in the supermarket.  It’s in my delicious vegan pesto (that I add to far too many things, if I’m honest).  It’s even in salt and vinegar crisps!!  So, sugar-free January may prove somewhat trickier than I’d presumed.  It took me over an hour to find bread that was both vegan and sugar free, which is why there are eight loaves in my freezer and another on the worktop.  I won’t inflict a Venn diagram on you, but if I were to do one of food that is vegan and sugar free, it would have a similar amount of items in the centre as a Venn diagram of ‘Things said by the Kardashian family’ and ‘Things that broadly make sense’.  It’s looking as though I may spend January eating fruit, veg, porridge and nine loaves of bread – oh, and ready-salted crisps.  I’m beginning to wish I’d opted for ‘New Week’s resolutions’!

A Guide to Health and Safety in Christmas Songs

Many Christmas songs contain lyrics that might lead revellers to do things that have a high level of risk.  In the very popular ‘The Christmas Song’, for example, the lyrics make ‘Jack Frost nipping at your nose’ seem like a harmless winter occurrence, whereas it is actually very dangerous to allow extremities to become frostbitten and can lead to tissue loss and permanent disfigurement.

As a precaution, I have highlighted some of the most severe examples of health and safety violation in some of the most popular Christmas songs.  Be safe, people.  Happy Christmas and I’ll see you in the New Year – if we all survive!

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