Posts Tagged ‘Simplicity’

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sans l’internet. (+ Chiswick Park & Turnham Green)

October 14, 2012

I am sitting in Caffè Nero on a sunny but chilly Sunday afternoon writing this. Toby has gone home to our wonderful new flat in Chiswick, where we’ve been living for a week now, while I continue catching up on all the errands that need doing online (of which this – blogging – is the last). We’re not going to receive our home broadband until the end of October, and I don’t want to exhaust my phone’s 3G data limit unnecessarily, and so I find myself taking my laptop to cafes along the Chiswick High Road in order to use their internet connection.  This is how Toby and I have managed to research an exciting city break to Prague next week (which Toby booked the following day – I can’t wait to experience a new city and country, and I am sure to share some photos on here with y’all!), but just as we’ve been getting used to living in a new flat with a new layout, new light switches (when I’m wandering around in the dark, my hands automatically slap the wrong locations and I have to consciously remind myself where the switch is located) and a new commute to work,  so I’ve also been learning where the best wi-fi spots are. I actually wrote an entire blog on Monday afternoon in a Starbucks a bit further up the road, along with a picture of Chiswick Park tube station – but the wi-fi there was so erratic that the entire blog post seems to have disappeared. So:

 

And for good measure:

 

Chiswick Park was around the corner from a large Sainsburys where I spent an inordinate amount of money last weekend getting essentials for our flat. And then on Thursday evening, Toby and I got off at Turnham Green and walked to Starbucks in the pouring rain to use their useless internet. Caffè Nero’s service is far superior! This morning, we had Nana round for brunch as the first guest to our new abode, and among the many things we discussed was how we can’t live without the internet, but it’s nice (if inconvenient!) to not have it at our fingertips all the time. I remember the days of an old dialup modem that made the pingy-pongy noise as it connected – and nobody could call the house while we were online, because there was only one line… It seems like a bygone age, but it was only 12 or 13 years ago! Nowadays we can do more or less everything online, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the internet – but at the same time, I sit and watch television and films with Toby, we read books (I have started Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh – it’s very good and reminds me of my time at Oxford a great deal, and makes me realise that the university was a wonderful place but far too monolithic an institution for my taste) and magazines, I go out and about and socialise – my mum came up to visit London yesterday and I took her to Harrods, Sloane Street and King’s Road; it was wonderful. Without the internet I wouldn’t be able to blog and share my music, thoughts, reviews and so much more with you, and I would never be foolish enough to renounce it (nor would I even be tempted to), but while being without it is inconvenient for the multiple logistics of establishing ourselves in a new flat and area of the city, it’s refreshing in that it makes me actually connect – and remember how to connect – with the more natural and simple pleasures of life around me that we can risk taking for granted.

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switch off and breathe.

May 17, 2010

For all of the time that I do spend on my Macbook, texting on my phone, and attached to my iPod, lately I’ve started feeling that my personal reliance on technology, as well as our dependence on it as a society, is getting on my nerves a little bit.  I freely admit I could not live without my iPod, but to me that is an addiction to music rather than an addiction to electronics; music is something I know I could never give up, as I’ve always been around music since I can remember. As a child, if it wasn’t on TV, radio or the stereo as my mother and I danced around the living room to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody”, then I was singing it.

Even though I had my first mobile phone at 14, I can remember not even wanting one initially – I got it for my 14th birthday with a sparkly cover (my penchant for shiny things has always been well known) and I said to my dad “I told you I didn’t need one!”.  I didn’t really use it until I started my first part-time job at WHSmith when I was 16, and suddenly I had an exciting, interesting friendship group outside of school – people who were cool, who hadn’t known me for the last 5 years and had therefore formed preconceptions and misconceptions about me, and with whom I could socialise.  Suddenly I was texting and spending my credit like water, and my mobile phone seemed to come into its own.  Today, again I couldn’t be without one, and I use it to tweet, send messages, call people if necessary, record song ideas on the go and generally kill time.  But then, life simply seems to have changed in the last 10 years; it’s just expected for everyone to have a mobile phone, it’s convenient for meeting people (in the days before texts to say you’re running late or there’s been a change of plan / venue, you had to arrange meets in advance and be where you said you were gonna be, when you said you were gonna be there!), they can come in invaluable in unforeseen circumstances or emergencies… they’re a logistical and social necessity.  And yet we survived fine without them 10 years ago… Well, I’m glad in that instance that we’ve come 10 years further.

I adore my Macbook, and I couldn’t imagine getting through my university degrees without it.  I remember when my dad gave me his black ex-work laptop to take with me to university; I felt so grown up, 18 years old in a new city with my very own laptop!  When I knocked water all over that laptop approximately 3 weeks later and destroyed it beyond repair, I had to survive two weeks (!!!, though this felt like an eternity at the time) completing essays by hand, watching DVDs on my friend’s computer, and checking emails in the communal computer room.  It was a massive inconvenience, and it really made me appreciate just how much easier computers have made my working life.  In terms of pleasure, music allows me to keep up with (and download) all of the music that I’m interested in.  It allows me to write this blog and share it with you all.  It allows me to produce and record my songs and create albums like Quiet Storm which is my pride and joy, and I’ve felt so privileged to be able to share that with all of you.  It’s allowed me to make new friends through myspace and twitter, some of whom I now hold very dear to me.  I wouldn’t have gotten to know my boyfriend and realise just how compatible we are without MSN.

And yet, despite all of these obvious considerable pluses, I’ve felt myself getting a teensy bit annoyed.  I deleted my facebook a week and a half ago because all of the constant notifications (most of which I had turned off, except then they were clogged up on my profile every time I logged in), the tension between having high privacy settings and resulting awkwardness from restricting certain people who believe they have more of a right to my life than they actually do, the user-unfriendly profile format updates and general invasiveness of it all had just got to the point where I wasn’t enjoying it anymore.  Unlike twitter, which is quick, easy and on-the-go, I found that facebook was becoming a cumbersome site which does everything very well (and I will miss the photo-sharing facilities it had), but sorta places an onus on you to join in with every single aspect of it.  I like that only a select few of my friends have twitter; it allows me to have a little in-crowd, without having to either censor myself or let everyone in the whole world know exactly what’s going on with me.  On facebook, I found that people whom I barely knew were adding me as friends, and after a short period of rejecting them, eventually I just acquiesced because if they were that desperate to be my friend, they might as well inflate my friend count.  In short, it just wasn’t fun anymore.

And yet, I felt scared to delete it, because it’s become such an institution.  When deactivating my account, facebook’s last stand was to show me pictures of my closest friends along with “Nana will miss you.” “Sarah will miss you.” “Nathalie will miss you.” “Hannah will miss you.” “Toby will miss you.” “Mike will miss you.” My heart panged for a fraction of a second, and then I realised: all of these people have my mobile number, my email, my address.  If they really wanna talk to me, or I really wanna talk to them, I will make an effort to do so in a more personal way than facebook offers.  At that point, I got pissed off by facebook’s attempt to emotionally blackmail me into using their service, and decisively deactivated my account.  That was a week and a half ago, and I haven’t really missed it nor felt tempted to return.  I feel emancipated… I’ll let you know how I get on and if I eventually return to the fold!  But I’d like to say that I won’t 😉

I spend a lot of my weekends with my laptop taking advantage of the wi-fi in Starbucks in Cabot Circus.  Usually I’m getting work done that I can’t get done at home, but sometimes I’m blogging or doing various other things.  I remember having to steal neighbours’ wireless internet at home, and the signal constantly cutting out because I would move my laptop a fraction out of range.  I appreciate now how lucky and how convenient it is to have a stable internet at my fingertips.  But sometimes, if I don’t need to do work, dragging my laptop everywhere is somewhat cumbersome (and my laptop’s not exactly huge!).  Between laptop and power adaptor, it takes up a lot of space in my bag (leaving less for necessary cosmetics, obviously) and gets quite heavy.  So the last two weekends I’ve made a point of leaving my computer at home.  I use my Macbook most evenings, I usually fire it up in the morning while I’m getting ready for uni / work / placement / whatever I’m up to.  So in retrospect, I don’t need to carry it wherever I go (especially since half the point of my most recent mobile phone was that it has mobile internet browsing).  And that’s exactly it.  Technology is a massive convenience, a fantastically useful tool that has revolutionised my life exactly as it’s revolutionised yours.  Or if not exactly, then in similar ways.  I appreciate it and I can remember enough instances of it failing that I generally don’t take it for granted, despite being under 25 and therefore a “digital native” (if you’re over 25, you’re a “digital immigrant”, so now you know!!! 😛 ).  But I don’t want to turn into somebody who doesn’t know how to live without technology.  I used to be happy just singing songs, doing jigsaw puzzles, watching TV and reading books – no internet, no cell, no computer, no iPod, no Playstation.  I could spend days doing simple things like that, and while I’m sure that these days I’d get bored after a while, I want to know from time to time that I’m still capable of living independent of these things that I feel I need, that we’ve all become used to thinking that we need, but we don’t really.  We may need them to survive in our contemporary social landscape, but our lives won’t physically end without them.  I’m currently trying to teach myself that.

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illusions.

January 10, 2010

I was on the way home from work at the hospital on Friday afternoon and it began to occur to me while I was sat on the bus, for no particular reason, that just as we all want different things that can help us on our journey to happiness, so we’re all coming from different places with different perspectives. I thought back to Monday night and Tuesday morning, when I’d spent the night at Mike’s place, and playing games with his son Billy.  He messed about with his food, he splashed Mike while he was having a bath, he was bashing a toy meerkat on the floor the next morning looking for coconuts.  He’s three years old, and he’s a bright kid, but he’s a child that is almost totally carefree.  And why shouldn’t he be?  That’s one of the luxuries of being so young, that we don’t realise is a luxury until it’s passed us by.

Does that make him “immature”? In a way, yes – but with none of the bad connotations that the word usually carries.  He’s a child, he’s got a lot of growing up to do, experiencing of the world and everything that entails.  So as a child, we can’t blame him for not understanding the complexity of relationships, people, and a hundred other things that fall under the umbrella of “life”.  But just because he’s a child, that gives him a get-out clause that we don’t afford other people whom we presume should know better.  So I was sat on the bus, wondering if maturity and immaturity is just an illusion? Is it a concept that we’ve invented to fuel our own feelings of superiority and comfort us when we’re feeling insecure?

I know that I’m certainly guilty of this.  Through the years, many many people (parents, teachers, friends, colleagues) have told me that I am “mature for my age”, “wise beyond my years” and so on and so forth.  I appreciate the compliment, but it’s meant that sometimes I’ve looked at people my age, or people whom I’ve just thought should know better than to behave in the way in which they’re behaving, and the first thing to my mind is “they’re immature”.  Is that really just code for “oh, I am better than them”?  To me, it seems to be a way of dressing up a superiority complex.  Looking at it now, I think that when we see people as “immature”, it’s not because they’re mentally or emotionally stunted – or at least, it’s not their fault.  They just have a different viewpoint of life / whatever the issue or context is, because they’ve been through different things or they’ve been raised a certain way, that they approach the complexities from a different angle.  I’m sure that I’m not the deepest person around, and that some people think I am shallow. I like to think I am not, but then who likes to think of themselves as shallow? 😉  I like to think I’m mature, but then who likes to think of themselves as immature?

So I am trying to restrain myself from automatically judging people as “immature”. Yes, I may disagree with the way they express themselves in connection with certain situations, and I might think that if it were me, I would do things differently, approach the situation differently, or have a more nuanced viewpoint.  But we’re all learning, and maybe instead of judging someone else, I should learn to take a step back and see things the way they do.  Sometimes I think too much, and perhaps simplicity is better.  Mike and I did say sometimes that it would be nice to just be able to switch your brain off  and not overthink things – I’m certainly guilty of at times taking things too seriously.  And perhaps, sometimes part of ‘maturity’ (whether it exists or not) is letting loose and having fun.  I honestly believe more and more as I get older that levity and laughter is vital for sanity.

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tattoo your name across my heart.

November 27, 2009

UPDATE: the finished article! : destiny fulfilled.

This is what Phill & Mike think I should do, because they are jokers.  Seriously speaking though, I am considering getting a tattoo.  It’s something I have always wanted to do, but it’s also something I have been somewhat reluctant to do because in the past, I’ve had ideas for designs and then changed my mind for a variety of reasons – I think that it is something that you really have to think through carefully.  Is it going to hold its meaning through the years? Is it in a place where you can hide it when necessary (e.g. job interview, angry grandparent)?  Is it personal and unique, or something that every Tom Dick and Chavvy has? Will the colours fade and the tattoo look tacky in time? These are all primary considerations for me – the pain doesn’t bother me at all (I have a high pain threshold, and I have had multiple injections in the roof of my mouth – WITH A NEEDLE before you get any ideas! 😛 – so I am not really afraid of needles nor pain. I can stand it).

So with that all said, I’ll unveil what I’m thinking off.  At the top of my right collarbone / shoulder, about an inch high (maybe less, but about that – so fairly discreet), I want an A. Because that is the first letter of my name.  Simple, personal (I am unlikely to change my name) and effective!  But not just an ordinary A! I toy about with various ways of writing my name during moments of boredom, and a few years ago I found a way of writing the ‘A’ that I like:

Ok, so you need to imagine this with the lines being straight as opposed to wiggly and uneven, and it would just be the solid black in the middle without the feathered edges, but you get the idea.  I think it looks edgy without trying too hard, and it is personal and unique without being outlandish or silly.  Simple, but effective – in other words.  On top my shoulder, its somewhere I can keep it hidden from people (and easily show-offable), but it’s not in your typical lower back / upper back / bicep region which could be passé / common.  I am quite excited – although it’s still only a plan I have and I haven’t made any kind of appointment, I know exactly where I would go to get it done, who to speak to (friends have recommended me), and Mike says that he’s up for going with me.  So it may well happen! Plus, since it’s just in black and not too big, it shouldn’t be too expensive.  I like this plan.

I just hope that a) when my mother / grandmother eventually sees it (which I know ultimately will happen), they won’t freak out too much; b) they will respect my right to choose to do what I want with my body.  I won’t feel guilty about getting it done, but I will feel sad about hurting their feelings, so I just hope that they will be mature enough to not let their feelings get hurt 😛 c) I don’t think it can be confused with anything stupid that I have somehow overlooked.  So it’s all systems go!  What do you think?

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apples and oranges.

September 20, 2009

For close to 4 years now, I’ve been an Apple convert.  The time has passed by quickly, and I don’t regret making the switch one bit.  My first Apple product was technically my 40GB iPod photo which now looks like a giant brick! I can’t believe I used to carry that around with me! But then, I can’t believe I used to carry my walkman and 5 or 6 cassette tapes to school each day, nor that I used to have a little bag with my discman and a few CDs in it that I used to wear around me.  Something I forgot until my iPod had to be sent away for repair during my second year of university was that CDs JUMP.  How we’ve come to expect perfection!  Or I have, anyway – I have no patience for songs skipping, I have little patience for my iPod taking a while to get its head round a song I want it to play.

However, I never considered getting an iPod as becoming an Apple convert.  Once I saw how easily my iPod worked and how straightforward the menus were, I became interested in getting an Apple laptop, especially as my current laptop was slower than a dinosaur.  During my first year of university, I had lots of problems with anti-virus software and protecting my computer.  It became ridiculously slow, and in addition to that, the laptop I had had a poor attempt at imitating Microsoft Office.  In the end, I had enough, and just before Christmas 2005 I ordered my first Apple laptop, an iBook G4.  It took me a month to get used to the fact that there was no right-click button, that the tabs and x’s and everything were in different places.  Also to get used to the fact that as a Mac, my computer was practically already virus-immune without constant annoying updates from AVG and Spybot and Norton Anti-Virus.  The resolution and picture quality was far superior than what I had been used to, and although there were several software compatibility issues, they were a lot easier to overcome than I had feared.  The aforementioned Microsoft Office was no longer needed, as I didn’t require any spreadsheets, and I could open and create word documents in TextEdit.  So it was all good!

Of course, it’s not all been problem-free.  I’m now on my third iPod (which is just over a year old), a 120GB silver iPod classic.  I’ve had it just over a year, and apart from the fact that the click wheel only clicks in the headphones, it is behaving quite well. For a while it was working extremely slowly, but the iPod software update on Snow Leopard fixed it and it’s back to normal.  I have had a lot of iPod issues in the past, having to send back my iPod time and again and getting replacement ones.  Particularly in the case of my first iPod (the photo one), I got into a rhythm of hitting it and knocking it in order to get it to behave and function, which in retrospect was quite ridiculous.  My second iPod, a 5th-generation iPod classic with video, still works, though it went through a period of deleting itself of all my music which was why I got a new one.  Because I have such a huge amount of music (though 120GB is more than enough space, and I haven’t come close to filling this iPod yet, with 35GB still free!), having to reload it onto my iPod is a MASSIVE pain, and now I use a handy program called iLinkPod to back up my iPod every month or so.  It’s a great security blanket, and ensures that I never lose my songs (something which is a much more real concern with digital music – it’s far easier to lose a file than to lose a CD), nor my formatting – I am a little bit anal about how I categorise my songs and make sure that everything has the correct artwork.  So with my new iPod, I bought AppleCare to keep it under guarantee for a lot longer, and I feel a lot more secure now.  And everything is working fine!

The introduction of an Apple Store to Bristol has also been a great advantage.  Up until the opening of Cabot Circus last September, there was an Apple retailer in Temple Meads which was more or less hopeless when it came to fixing any issues that I had.  Problems with my first laptop and its CD drive went unrepaired because they were so pathetic in their service that I just preferred to persist with the problem than get it fixed by them. (When my CD or DVD would skip upon putting it in the drive, I would just beat the base of the computer and it would work.  Again, I am glad to say those days are long gone!)  When my hard drive finally corrupted (I think to be fair, that was my fault because in Spain, I would leave my computer on my bed and it would overheat lying on the thick blanket that I had bought), it was easier just to buy another laptop than get it fixed by them and face their judgement.  Also, their costs would probably have been close to the cost of another laptop anyways.  I bought my second laptop in Easter 2007, and I still have it today!  The one time that I had a problem with it, last Christmas when it would only work with the power adapter plugged in, I took it to the Apple Store in Cabot Circus, who repaired it and although they had said that providing a new logic board would cost £400 (a price I decided I was prepared to pay), they fixed it for no charge.  It was a lovely Christmas Eve present, and to this day I’m not sure if that was a mistake… I just got out of the store clutching my laptop before they could change their mind!

Updating my operating system to Leopard and recently Snow Leopard has kept my laptop current, and although it is 2 and a half years old now, I don’t feel that it’s been left behind or is lacking anything. I have got a Microsoft Office replacement now called NeoOffice, so that I can plot my anti-snacking spreadsheet and make a beautiful printable CV.  Using the real Microsoft at work has made me appreciate Apple all the more.  My Dell laptop starts up and shuts down so slowly; it installs updates at a snail’s pace; Microsoft Office is actually not that user friendly, with certain apparently-advanced functions being a rigmarole to discover.  And don’t rely on the help section – it only helps you with incredibly obvious things, and anything more technical is a struggle to even find according to their index system.  I conclude that their help sections must have been written by morons, and this week at work, I have solved my queries by using Google, seeing that the Microsoft help section had failed me so.  In short, I can’t see myself going back to Microsoft.

However, there is one area of my life where I’m not willing to let Apple in.  The iPhone, while I appreciate is a marvellous piece of kit and has so many useful (and useless! 😉 ) apps as well as a slim touchscreen, iPod capabilities and Safari web browser, is just far too common.  I see it everywhere. In addition, it’s expensive and I’m not really into buying phones on contract (I get easily confused), so I prefer to buy them SIM-free and then just keep my standard O2 Simplicity contract, which gives me unlimited web browsing, and enough free texts and minutes for £20 to keep me satisfied. I see iPhones everywhere, and while they are pretty and fantastic devices, I prefer to be a little bit different.  I have the LG Prada II, which is a beautiful sleek black touchscreen phone.  However, it also has a pull-out QWERTY keyboard (one of the main selling features for me) so after a little bit of teething, I can text pretty damn quick. I also have the internet and a camera and all the other important things I wanted in a smart phone.  But for me, it is more beautiful than an iPhone, it has the designer name which makes it a little more special to me, and I have never seen another one being used in public.  I am confident that the iPhone is probably a superior piece of kit, but not by much – I am happy without all the extra apps, as long as I have my QWERTY keyboard, free internet browsing, emails, beautiful phone and unique phone.  The LG Prada II has taken me a few months to get my head around (the instruction manual is not very clear, and it does randomly do crazy things such as restart when I receive more than one email), but I have grown to love it and appreciate its quirks as much as its beauty and functions.  As I’ve only had it for 5 months, I’m not really looking into what phone I might get next (iPhone or otherwise), as technology these days (particularly with smart phones) evolves so quickly that I won’t even think about it until my current phone starts getting tired and a new one will be necessary.  However, I know that Dior have got a beautiful phone on their website…