Friday, 20 September 2013

My Blunder into Social Media Heaven or Hell

I was using FaceBook search recently to look up an old friend, knowing only his name and town and was instantly taken to a profile page containing only the town location and a photo of a black dog. To my surprise all posts were public and so I began to read hoping I would gain some clues as to whether I was on the right track.

After a few minutes, I began to feel very uncomfortable and then during and after I realised what I had read, I experienced every emotion I had ever experienced. Some of them I am not so proud of.

The posts were daily, some 2 or 3 times per day and often during the early hours. I will not repeat what I read but give you only the gist.

"I couldn't sleep tonight and sat up in the conservatory just staring at where you used to sit. I thought I saw you sat there."

"I went for a walk in the fields today. Remember how you used to love walking in the long grass. It rained and I could smell the fields. Do you still go there?"

"It broke my heart. I hope you understand. I gave your bed to my daughter. They needed it more than me. At least it will be used."

It was only when I read the next post that it dawned on me:

 "I bought a cake today and lit a candle, Happy Birthday. I couldn't eat it though so it's still in the fridge. I'm so sorry old friend. I couldn't see you suffer. I couldn't look into your eyes each morning. You were the only friend to give me strength. You knew didn't you?"

I then looked at the photo of the black dog, deciding not to read any more. This couldn't be my old friend could it? I then decided to read one more post.

"Remember I'm always here for you as you were always here for me and Ivy. We both had to watch her suffer in silence. You were still here for me after Ivy went. What would I have done without you? What will I do now?  It was for the best."

I won't continue. Ivy had died of cancer a year ago. Her husband had posted her birth and death date. She was 68 went she died and they had been married for 48 years. It wasn't my old friend and I felt I'd intruded.

What was most surprising of all is that not one post had a reply, it was as though they had been written to the thin air. Had anyone noticed or was it only me? 

Immediately, I left his page and exited Facebook like someone who had just poked their head into someones open house door and taken something. But, I couldn't stop thinking about him and his old friend all day. I'm such a cynic that I guiltily thought: 'What a great idea for a book or film.' Then, I had to have a stiff drink, disgusted I'd even thought it.

I could have posted a reply, but what would I have said? Me, a total stranger and a writer to boot. Would it have been intrusive? It even crossed my mind that being elderly, he might not have known how Facebook worked. I wondered if even his family knew about it?

From that day I've seen social media in a different light. Perhaps it can be a portal into something else. If nothing else, then this post is my apology and I send it into the thin air.

This was our old dog 'Lass.' We kept her collar.

Friday, 13 September 2013

My Needful Books, My Midlife Crisis

Upon my bookshelf are 4 old childrens books. Why are they there? This is a question I cannot yet answer fully.

I caught Scarlet Fever when I was 11 and reluctant to remain in bed, I commandeered the living room sofa where I remained enwrapped in a crochet-squared blanket. My Aunt Bridie brought me a box of books her own children had outgrown, a full set of Bancroft Classics.

There were 48 of them, all abridged but nevertheless a meaty read and I got through a good chunk while wrapped in that crochet blanket. Within a few months I had read all of them.

They were the books that forged my reading taste and not only did I hang on to every word but each hardback cover boasted a beautiful printed scene and I would gaze at them long after I'd finished reading.

I arrived home from school one day to find they had gone. My mother told me: "But you'd finished reading them and they take up so much room." Grief didn't quite cover it.

Years passed and the books were forgotten until this year. I found 2 volumes in a broken cardboard box beneath a flea-market stall. They cost just 10 pence each. As soon as I picked one up, memories and emotions became so thick it was like brushing away a thick cobweb that entangled me. I recaptured one of the few happy memories I have of childhood and reconnected to a Godsend that shaped my future.

I found another in a Whitby antique shop and one recently in my local olde worlde bookshop, it was lying on a wooden spiral staircase. My mission is to find all 48 BUT not via the internet, that would be too easy. I prefer the hunt, rummaging around in dusty places, the thrill of knowing I have a mission whenever I got to somewhere new.

I look at my 4 old books and see beyond what they meant to me. Recapturing youth? Yes, but there is a deeper connection and I will call it my 'midlife crisis'. There's a greater significance and I can't quite yet put my finger on it.
My Needful Books