Friday, 12 February 2016

Mobile Phones, Stage Two

In case you're wondering - I have half mastered my android!  I did what I should have done in the first place - called the T... help line and asked if I could switch phone number and credit to my new SIM.  In my own defence, I should say that I did read the site but they only gave advice on how to move the phone number from another provider and did not so much as hint that the credit could be transferred, too.  Anyway, a nice young man (this expression somehow always reminds me of Miss Marple in the Agatha Christie novels) listened to what I said even if he also got it backwards at first but when I'd explained again, he said no problem.  And no problem it was!!  Within 5 minutes my mobile number and my remaining credit were on my android.  Yippee.  Now all I have to get used to is the ultra sensitive touch screen - one false brush of the fingertip and .....!!!!!  Like to hear an example of what I mean?   I had to reset my Twitter password, mainly I suspect because of a malheur with typing it in initially.  But I'm getting there.

My contacts were not transferred but this is a blessing in disguise because I have names and numbers on there which I can't account for.  Who on earth is Carol C.???  or Joe scones???  Can't remember ever using those numbers for anything.  So I have been spring-cleaning and only tapping in those names which I know I will need. 

I can now sit on the bus and stare at my Twitter feed if I have a mind.  Only thing is, I much prefer people-watching and people-listening.  One of my favourite Dire Straits' songs has a line "all I can do is kiss you through the bars of a rhyme".  Doesn't have to be like that.   Life is for living isn't it?

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

Wonderful World of Mobile Phones

I'll admit it to anyone - I am not into mobile communication.  Computers yes, mobiles, no.
Many moons ago my daughter gave me one of her old mobiles.  It was simplicity itself and I had no great problem in using it.  When I retired to Ireland my son and daughter-in-law helped me choose a similar simple phone - with this one you could take pictures and make videos but that was about all.  Again it served my purpose.  But it did get a bit of a battering - I let it fall on the pavement a few times and there was a scratch on the display.  So last Saturday I bought a new phone, an android!   I wanted to keep my existing number and I also had some credit left (I'm a pay-as-you-go person) so I checked with the girl on the service desk of the store (it is a big store in UK and Ireland and the name starts with T...) and she said yes, of course, you just take the SIM card from your old phone and put it in this new one.
Hah!!  When I got home and sat down with my shiny new purchase, I discovered that the SIM in my old phone was too big for the android.  Eeek.  I checked on Google and this is apparently a normal sort of problem.  Cutting to size was advised.  I didn't fancy doing that myself but there is a shop in town which specialises in unlocking phones, repairing pcs, etc.  I popped down to him, thinking this would be a matter of 10 minutes.  But no, he said, he couldn't do that.  Go back to the provider.  He wouldn't advise cutting the SIM to size. 
So I went back to the provider who has a website.  I chatted online to someone who told me to get a SIM card to fit my android at the T... store and then my data could be transferred.  Eh??   I already had a SIM which fit the android, it came with it, after all!  Somewhat mystified I did as I was told and the girl at the store (very helpful) sold me a small SIM, opened my android and said "oh, you already have a SIM that fits".  Doesn't anyone ever listen any more??  Never mind, she said, call the service desk and they'll change the number and transfer your account. 

So now I have a new SIM card which cost me 5 Euros, which I'm not sure I needed, and when my patience and nerves have recovered, I will ring the customer help line.  On the website it just says that I could move my phone number to the new phone but does not say if I could take my contacts and credit with me.  And there's me thinking I'm out of touch with the wonderful world of mobiles.  No one gave me a straight answer to my questions.  I might as well have been talking to a robot each time and when I "pressed" the key word "SIM" and "keep number" I got a standard response but no one actually heard what I was asking.

In addition, when I had a look at my a shiny new android I felt I was being put in charge of a space station.  There are so many buttons and apps on the screen, you have to register here, there and everywhere.  Talk about lost!!  All I want to do is send and receive text messages, be able to make and receive calls, take some photos now and again - oh and maybe, just maybe use Twitter.  Is that too much to ask?  Hello - is there anyone out there?

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Surveying Things - Why do I fall for those questionnaires?

I'll admit it to anyone.  I'm a sucker for those tests with names like "how happy are you?", "is your partner right for you?".  I just caught myself today reading partial results of a survey by a Harvard professor carried out on X number of males over Y number of years.  It seems as we get older we prefer quality in our relationships rather than quantity.  Do I profit from reading this result of hours of copious research?  I don't think so.

I mean, if you start analyzing why you're happy, most likely you're not.  Or you're bored, or maybe you're hoping something startling will come up that will change your world.  I think most of us are happy - not all of the time, that would be boring, but most of the time.  So why do we need all these surveys and books on self-improvement and stuff like that?  Certainly they are very useful, they can prod us into admitting that we make this or that mistake.  I have personally profited from reading different books on coping with life's problems.  Almost all of them say the same thing, don't they?  And I guess it just depends on whether you like the author's style.  There's usually a new version of the same thing out every year so something for everybody, right?

Why do we read this stuff, attend seminars, keep journals?  Personally I find some of it a lot of fun.  You can always learn something new.  Do we really alter our personalities, though?  I'm inclined to think that for most of us the answer to that would be -yes/no.  We try some of the methods then we slip back into our old habits a lot of the time.  That's being human.  Besides, there's something irritating about people who refuse to be fazed by anything and have their lives completely under control, isn't there?   It's like visiting someone's home and finding everything in its place, neat and tidy, no dust anywhere and every bit of furniture matches the design of the place.  Wouldn't you prefer a place where the sofa cushions are a bit shabby but your hostess has a story of how she got them?  Or the sofa is wrecked because the kids have been playing on it or the dog likes to sleep there in the afternoons? 

I remember when I was diagnosed with cancer and undergoing chemotherapy I promised myself that when I got back on my feet again I would never ever make a fuss about little things.  Did this noble resolution last?  No, it did not.  I was about a week back at work when I flipped my lid about someone not putting paper in the printer when they'd used it up.  Dooh!!!

I can't be cured of those self-help, what-type-are-you questionnaires and although I don't buy any more self-help books, I do skim through them in the bookshops just to see if I'm missing anything.
I guess nobody's perfect, right?

Thursday, 14 January 2016

Winning the lottery

On nights when I can't sleep, I imagine what I would do if I won the lottery.  I start off at the "smallest" amount or around €250,000 and work up from there.  By the time I've divided up the smallest amount, I find it's not enough.  So then I move on to the next amount and lately I find that even if I won a straight million there wouldn't be enough money to do some of the things I'd like to do with it.  I mean, by the time I've given some to children and grandchildren, bought an apartment in the sun and maybe another one near my daughter, there isn't as much left for charities as I would have envisaged.  And all this dreaming doesn't help me fall asleep, either.

Of course we all know that the real riches are good health, good friends and freedom from serious worries of any sort.  We just don't appreciate any of these things until they are taken away from us. Winning lots of money isn't necessarily going to make us happier or more content or so the experts tell us.  A couple of years ago I read about the making of a television documentary - I think it was being made in Germany - where former winners of the national lottery were interviewed about their lives following the winning of so much money.  The consensus was, apparently, that it was the greatest misfortune in the majority of lives and that many of the winners had seen their marriage and/or relationships with their families - children and siblings - deteriorate to the extent that many of them no longer had any contact with close family.  I have to admit that I have not seen this documentary so I can't confirm this.  If true, it is a sobering thought, isn't it?

My favourite philospher, Ralph Waldo Emerson, wrote in his essay on self-reliance "no one can bring you peace but yourself".  He reckoned that you might think that the return of a close friend, regaining your health or a sudden surge in good fortune would make you happy but really you and I need to be happy within ourselves.  I suppose it kind of makes up for not winning the lottery this week - I didn't even come near! - but at the same time I'd like to be given the chance to scotch all those ideas and prove you can really enjoy life with a million or more in your humble bank account. Here's hoping!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Happy New Year with No Resolutions

Happy New Year to all my readers! 

So here we are, almost a week into 2016.  Soon we'll be accustomed to writing 2016 instead of 2015.  All the excitement of ushering in the new year has long since abated as most people are back at work, schools are open today in Ireland and things will soon settle into routine again.

I haven't made any New Year resolutions. I gave this up years ago when I was still smoking and resolving to give it up, because by the end of the first week of January I was back on the cigarettes again.  I did kick the habit but that was not at New Year and had nothing to do with any dramatic resolutions I made.  In fact, I knew I could not afford cigarettes when I retired and this cold fact together with Alan Carr's books on how to stop smoking were the motivating factors in giving up without any withdrawal symptoms.  And am I glad I did give up smoking!

In recent times I have half promised myself to lose weight without actually going on a diet.  A diet suggests you are going to finish with it sooner or later and return to your old eating habits.  I decided that I would cultivate healthier eating without going into a swoon at the sight of an excess calorie.  So far I have lost around 3 1/2 kgs or nearly half a stone over the past 12 months or more.  I have put on a pound or two over Christmas, no doubt of that.  All those yummy things like mince pies, roast potatoes, Christmas cake and Christmas pudding have taken their toll. The good news is that I can get rid of the excess pounds without too much difficulty - well I guess it's easy enough when all the goodies are eaten, I simply don't replace them.  From now on I will be reducing the food portions on my plate.

In December the weather was so bad - one storm after another - that I didn't get out for exercise as much as I normally would.  I love watching the stormy waves and trekked out to the beach as often as feasible.  I try to walk for an hour a day and will stick to this, weather permitting.  This is a great way of keeping my weight down while enjoying myself at the same time.

So all in all, I feel pretty upbeat about my plans.  While in Germany I bought a few women's magazines which all had more or less the same headlines on the cover :  how to lose belly fat or those excess pounds put on over the holidays and - almost in the same breath so to speak - recipes for chocolate cheese cake and yummy cup cakes.  Which sort of mirrors my own weaknesses and struggles against temptation - when you've finished reading the recipes for low-calorie diets, you turn the page and there's the cheese cake recipe. Life's a bit like that, isn't it? 

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Happy Christmas Everyone

A very Happy Christmas to all my readers!  I hope the festive season is filled with joy for you.

I will be spending Christmas with my daughter and her family - I have two boisterous grandchildren to keep me occupied!  It is a wonderful time for children and always takes me back to my childhood in Ireland.  We didn't have a lot of material things but we certainly knew how to enjoy what we did have.  My mother made the Christmas cake and the Christmas pudding in November and I can well remember the excitement of watching her mixing in the ingredients. If I close my eyes now I can get that unmistakable whiff of whiskey - a very rare thing in our house as none of my parents drank much alcohol.  Us children were allowed to stir the pudding and make a wish - I don't recall what I wished for or if any of my wishes ever came true.  More likely I had forgotten about them by the time Christmas arrived.  On Christmas night the neighbours came to play cards with my parents and we were allowed to stay up late which was a treat in itself.

I'm not going to say that things were better or worse long ago.  We were often told by the older generation that we "never had it so good".  Looking back now, I have to smile a little - we didn't even have television until I was a teenager but we listened avidly to the radio.  Radio Luxembourg was the station for pop music and innovative quiz shows!  I think Christmas is still a very special time and from what I have observed when walking round the city, children are still awed by the lights and the Christmas tree and all the trappings.  Long may it last!

God bless you all this Christmas!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Small Talk for Beginners

This is the festive season, the time when you are invited to lots of gatherings, the office party and the department get-together.  Most of the time it's fun but:  Have you ever sat next to someone at a dinner party and found that  you couldn't strike up a conversation with them?  No matter what you said, they always came back with a syllable or a short sentence and never provided an opening of any sort for the next bit of conversation.  And the person on your other side is so engrossed with his/her neighbour that you can't escape that way!   It goes a bit like this:
 "Isn't this soup delicious?" (OK not a Booker Prize question but you're trying)
Answer from non-small talker:  "Yes, it's good."
"Have you seen that film XYZ, everyone seems to be talking about it?".
Answer:  "No".
And so the whole meal progresses with everybody else - apparently - enjoying scintillating conversation with their neighbour.  In the past I have always felt that I must be boring, dull, a torture to to have to endure my company for a three-course meal.  Not any more, though.  Now I still try to talk to my neighbour at dinner, but if I don't get much of a response, I simply wait and see if they try to be sociable and if not, well the food is usually worth concentrating on!

Do you know people who are able to engage with total strangers?  They are worth their weight in diamonds, rubies and gold!  They hold forth about anything and nothing - usually some story from their day, some little contretemps which has everyone laughing as they tell it. And everyone feels included.  These are the people you gravitate towards at parties where everyone else has formed into little groups of those who know each other and you are left holding onto your wine glass as if it would save you from drowning.

Small talk is an art, there is no doubt about that.  Small talk means having a ready store of little anecdotes which make people smile.  Not everyone has the knack.  There are those who think it is being superficial.  I reckon it is being a life-saver.  But making conversation with the person sitting next to you is a necessary part of a dinner party, however shy you are and however hard it is to break the ice.  It requires practice, of course.  But a good tip is to watch those who slip easily into conversation with strangers.  Yes, it means a bit of hard work to be entertaining but as Ralph Waldo Emerson put it "good manners are made up of small sacrifices".