Tuesday, 22 June 2010

The Longest Day

What a very long day this has been and, because sleep is completely eluding me tonight, light has rolled into darkness and is almost about to become light again, it seems that 21st June truly IS the longest day & it appears to have some sort of grudge against me!

Followers on Twitter will have seen me refer to “Fanny in the Corner” ... Fanny (clearly not her real name) is the spinster daughter of my favourite, now long dead, great aunt – she is 80 years old and, when we used to live in Catatonia by the Sea, she used to visit us about three or four times a year. The visits were meant to last about a week but one week usually became two and two often became four. She’s a sweet old dear and was really no trouble at all. She lives in London and, since moving here, I’m ashamed to say that we actually see considerably less of her now that we live in London too than ever we did when we were on the South coast. Just after we moved to London, Fanny had a fall and had a stroke. She’s been in and out of hospital ever since. Her patch is North West London and we now live in Essex. Getting to North West London on a frequent basis is something that just doesn’t happen. I heard yesterday that despite living in a really excellent care home she’s had yet another fall and is, once again, back in hospital.

Twitter friends will also have seen me refer to “Doddery Dave” who is my 89 year old father and whom, rather guiltily, I left in Catatonia when we moved to London. He knew the circumstances of our move ... and, being a very good Grandpa, fully understood and approved of a change of school for his grandson. Since we moved he, too, has been in and out of hospital. He suffers from Parkinson’s Disease and leukaemia and is a very, very frail old gentleman. Getting to see him is even more problematic than traversing London to get to see Fanny.

Doddery Dave actually spent all last week with us – I’ve managed to arrange that he will move into a super sheltered flat very nearby at the end of next month and he had to come to London to sign papers and set up the date of his move. He will be sad to leave Catatonia but is happy at the prospect of once again being closer to his family. I am an only child and son is his only grandchild. He misses my son a great deal.

I took him back to Catatonia on Saturday and called him on Sunday to check that he was okay. He wasn’t at home but, as he has a “lady friend” (who would see him more frequently than he prefers if she could) and usually goes out for Sunday lunch with her, I wasn’t unduly concerned. I should have been. He hadn’t been out to lunch, he’d fallen over and had been admitted to hospital. The hospital didn’t contact me and nor did his lady friend – until today. A good part of the day has been spent in receiving calls from aforementioned lady friend who has been intent on telling me what a bad daughter I am. I needed that ... like a hole in the head!

When not receiving accusatory calls, I've spent the day on the ‘phone to two different hospitals, trying to find out how my aged relatives are. It would be a very welcome simplicity to just hop in the car & go and see them but I have a son who attends school and a husband who flits off to Europe every three minutes. Getting to see aged relatives isn’t simple at all.

I feel absolutely miserable and I truly don’t know what to do – so, instead of sleeping, I thought I’d tell you about it all.

I will aim to write about something more cheerful in my next blog.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Grown-up Live Tweeting - The Value of Journalism Conference

Last Friday, with many collies wobbling in my tummy, I did something I hadn’t done for a very long time ... I went out to work.

I was on the tube by 8.00am, dressed like a grown-up, carrying lapdog in case and was even wearing make-up.

Where did I go to? The LSE ... where I had been told to say on arrival, “I’m with the BBC” which would lead to instant access to the lecture theatres in the bowels of the earth somewhere under Holborn. It had been such a long time since I’d said “I’m with the BBC”. The words still have a nice ring to them.

I was to “live blog” at the conference on “The Value of Journalism” run by the BBC College of Journalism in conjunction with POLIS (headed up by Charlie Beckett) at the LSE. I was positioned at the very front of the Sheik Zayed Theatre and then due to an unannounced gremlin, the live blogging programme wouldn’t load correctly. I was asked by Jon Jacobs (known to his many Twitter followers as @thoroughlygood) to live tweet the event.

My usual position for tweeting is on my sofa. If I look up I can either see a wall or the television. If I look to my left, if my husband’s around, I can see a snarling face and hear the words “Twitter is a thief of time” uttered as often as I care to listen to him. Live tweeting at the conference was very, very different. If I looked up I could see the panel of journalists about whom I was tweeting – and, terrifyingly, some of them actually smiled and nodded at me. If I glanced to my right, I could see what I was tweeting on a very large screen which – if I’d have had time to think – may have caused apoplexy but I was too busy listening, paraphrasing and trying to reduce some very erudite statements and arguments into snippets of 140 characters or less.

I wobbled beforehand but didn’t really have time to wobble during. I had wished beforehand that I hadn’t managed to dye my hair an Adams’ Family shade of jet black and that I hadn’t lost my right contact lens two days prior to the conference. Naturally, everyone would notice the middle aged biddy with jet black hair squinting lopsidedly into her reading glasses as opposed to paying any attention whatsoever to the journalists on the stage. The only thing that did make my stomach churn on the actual day was seeing live tweets from some very sensible names. My heart sank when I realised that I should really be known as @hardnosedjourno on Twitter rather than @RedMummy which didn’t really seem to sound grown-up enough for the task in hand. I didn’t have time to worry about it for too long.

Prior to the event, I asked one or two trusted friends if they thought I’d be “up to it” – one suggested that the people at the conference would be able to spot a fraud a mile off and the other thought it would be quite good fun if I didn’t enjoy what was being said as, apparently, my blogs/tweets are funnier when I’m grumpy. So helpful ... both pieces of advice instilled me with huge bursts of confidence!

How much trouble could I get into if I just stated what the people on the stage were saying? These people know what they're talking about ... Jon Snow, Janine Gibson, Danny Finkelstein, Steve Hewlett, Rory Cellan-Jones inter alia ... all well-respected journalists - how could I possibly go wrong? Well, as I was tweeting under my own name, I seemed to get into a fair bit of trouble with a few of my own followers who were somewhat bombarded by many tweets with the #voj10 hash tag. I did open tweet that I was live tweeting from a conference but had little option but to wave them cheerfully on their way when they unfollowed me. Oh dear ... how will I EVER survive without them?

It was a fascinating day and a very tiring one. I can’t remember concentrating quite as hard as that – well, since the last time I concentrated as hard as that. Would I do it again? Oh yes. I’m just waiting for someone to ask me!

Husband – of course – still considers that Twitter is “a thief of time” and says I should get a “proper” job. What he means is that I should get a job that someone pays me to do. Well ... I guess, on that level, he has a point – but oh heck – it felt good to be back amongst media people again. One freebie day can’t have done too much harm, can it? The very worst thing that could happen because of it would be for him to divorce me.

Now scanning job pages in local press for work as cashier in supermarket!