In preparation for World Book Day, we ventured out into the arctic March weather to source a printed book using a voucher my eldest daughter had been given at her school. The said voucher meant we could choose one of eight selected books for £1 or have £1 off any other children’s book. Groovy. We parked the car and the ticket machine wasn’t working so we left a handwritten note saying we’d paid our £1 but the ticket machine was out of order. Not a great start. We then walked along the high street noticing the number of shops with ‘Closing Down’ notices in the shop window. We found our selected bookshop and were about to open the doors when we noticed the sign on the doors saying ‘10.30am’ opening on Sundays. Typical. We were there at 10 excited about browsing through all the gorgeous children’s books only to be turned away. In fact, the only retail shops that were open were the well-known coffee shops so we duly went into one and spent a vast amount on unplanned hot chocolates and caffeine. Maybe the organisers of World Book Day have teamed up with the coffee vendors and have all opened later so members of the public are forced to part with their cash elsewhere. Or maybe it’s just the demise of high street shops. As the Internet matures and offers a 24 hr shopping experience and instant delivery, the high street shops are being left behind and are giving up. After happily drinking her hot chocolate, my eldest daughter asked if she could return to the ‘Stones’ bookshop that we had tried to enter earlier. I think she thought we were going to look for pebbles rather than books. Half an hour later, we emerged as happy customers clasping our new books but rather shaken by the whole retail adventure. In the afternoon, we popped over to the allotment where life was much more straightforward.
I’ve been enjoying my break from social media. Not reading updates has meant more time for reading news and I’ve recently started trialling a daily online newspaper. Each morning I’m informed that a new edition awaits and I eagerly start downloading to see what the world is waking up to. I rarely buy a printed newspaper but it probably takes me just as long to find the section or page I’m interested in reading as it does to download a section via the newspaper app. I like the fact that I can select what to read although the ads do interfere with swiping through pages at times. I watched a video today which was included as part of an article. One quick tap and the video sprung into life and this really made the text feel real and alive. I wonder if I’ll still have time to read the news once my Facebook fast is up? Also less recycling which is another bonus.
I read an article today introducing ‘SaypU’, a theoretical phonetic alphabet with 23 letters. In this global spelling system, the letters ‘c’, ‘q’ and ‘x’ would be banished. A back to front ‘e’ or ‘schwa’ would be used in print so ‘agree’ becomes ‘ɘgrii’. The idea behind this spelling system is that it helps everyone recognise the sounds in English and this simplifies the whole language learning process (similar to the Esperanto concept). My daughter has just started learning to read using synthetic phonics and in her phonics book she has to learn which words are ‘tricky’. There are thousands of ‘tricky’ words because English isn’t phonetic (unlike Finnish). The idea of a simplified spelling system has its appeal (spellcheckers would be out of business) but you would still need to learn a series of symbols and the richness of the language would be diluted. The huge tapestry of accents would also cause problems. Keyboards would have to change and this would also signal a move to abbreviate and shorten words even further.
Today I’ve been outside soaking up the gorgeous sunshine and blue skies. It’s been a screen-free day and even my mobile was out of use due to poor reception coverage at a local adventure park. One of today’s highlights was watching a group of prairie dogs in action. Prairie dogs inhabit a complex network of tunnels and keep together in close-knit families. This reminded me of an amusing BBC video that was doing the rounds on Facebook where the prairie dog’s ‘bark’ sounded like ‘Alan’. Perhaps that’s why this mammal is called a dog even though it’s a member of the squirrel family. When my Facebook detox is over, I’ll share the video link here on ‘Forty to One’.
Whilst my Facebook detox continues, I’ve actually turned to Hootsuite for scheduling a few posts. The tools provided by Hootsuite enable me to prepare future posts and I quite like the fact that I can spend a few minutes adding an entry and I can then rely on the social media assistant to post on my behalf. I was in a bit of a dilemma as this almost counts as checking Facebook but I’ve turned off my personal page so I resisted the urge to check all the gossip and news that appears on a daily basis.
I added a post on Sunday and Hootsuite reliably informed me today that ‘1 people like this’. The syntax error caught my attention as it’s not the sort of thing we see in Facebook. Perhaps I should offer my proofreading services to Hootsuite when the forty days are over.
Allotment vocabulary is fascinating. As well as ‘chitting’, today’s discovery has been ‘drill’. Previously, the only drills I encountered were in English Language Teaching (ELT) where new grammatical structures were repeated by students in order to process new linguistic terms. From today ‘drill’ has acquired a whole new meaning. In gardening terms, sowing seeds in a line in the earth is referred to as a ‘drill’. So I’ve been ‘drilling’ instead of ‘Facebooking’ today and have soaked up the welcome burst of sunshine and fresh air. Whether my onion sets will mature to edible varieties remains to be seen but digging, planting and weeding feels more rewarding than liking, posting and sharing.
Today has been the first day we’ve been able to venture outside and we spent the morning at the allotment. Instead of ‘chatting’ via Facebook or other social channels, we were ‘chitting’ seed potatoes for our plot and the only Posts I was concerned about were wooden posts for new tayberry bushes. There’s nothing like fresh air and lots of mud to warm the spirit. I hadn’t been to my plot for a while but it was like visiting a long lost friend and great to be able to start planning crops for 2013. Before Lent started I would spend half an hour a day checking updates so I’ve decided to reinvest that half hour and spend the time in other ways. Tomorrow we’re off to find leek seeds!