My dad was something of a wordsmith. And he passed on his love of words to me. It makes me smile when I hear my own children use some of the words that used to trip so easily off his tongue... ‘enamoured’ being a firm family favourite and ‘recompense’ sounding so much richer than how much you are paid.
It was he who taught me the word ‘fine’ should only be used to describe the weather, not how you are feeling and certainly (husband take note) never a description as to how a partner looks if asked.
The most well-worn book in our household was the dictionary. “Dad, how do you spell such and such,” we would ask. “Go and look it up in the dictionary,” he would say. And so we learned.
Encyclopaedias and the atlas were poured over together as we discovered the world and it’s wonders. Roget’s Thesaurus was another handy word bible useful for writing essays, even letters, though who writes those any more? And when my Mum died this year I couldn’t bear to throw all those books out. Nor the dozens and dozens of postcards she had kept from family and friends. When was the last time you sent a postcard? In fact it amazes me there as still so many on sale.
All of those quaint pastimes have been replaced by one little device, the mobile phone. And I love my phone. Like so many, if I lost it I would lose so much of my world and no I don’t back it up enough. On it are precious photographs of precious events, though I do worry that so many memories would be lost if I ever dropped it in the bath, yes I take it there too. It contains all my telephone numbers, no need now for the handwritten address book by the house phone. In fact no need for the house phone.
That old fashioned device is used merely for my broadband connection, which of course is linked to my phone. And if I want to know anything, I don’t go to the bookshelf, I look it up, on my phone, as we all do. If I don’t know how to spell anything of course my phone tells me and, annoyingly, often guesses the word I am seeking incorrectly. Oh predictive text how I hate you. But I am not apologising if you often see me on my phone. All my emails are directed there.
But there are rules. We don’t use the phone at the dinner table. That’s just rude. And although they should never be used as baby sitters, I don’t object to children using iPads or even phones for entertainment and to give busy parents a short break as a reward for good behaviour. Let’s face it it’s no different to putting us in front of the telly. Bedtime stories, in fact adult stories, should always be read from books, and newspapers with a cup of tea. Because I like it that way.
Apart from that my phone is a massive part of my life. I connect with family living thousands of miles away. I have reconnected with friends of many years ago.
But apart from that I phone in person, I text and facetime people. It still amazes me that I can talk to my daughter in Australia for free and watch our grandchild at play. No need to teach the latest generation to look at the camera, it comes naturally. At two they know how to swipe pictures. We have our own chat groups and for me the most important necessity was having the mobile by my bed when my mum and husband was ill this year. It was literally a lifeline.
Next month is “scroll-free September” aimed at persuading us to ditch our phone for four whole weeks for social media and it’s the Royal Society for Public Health no less that urges us to do so. But I won’t. And it does rather defeat the argument when the accompanying press release uses a Twitter hashtag to draw our attention to their latest study.
We know there is online bullying. There is also bullying in the playground and the workplace. We know it has a negative effect on body image for young girls and boys. Social media should never replace face-to-face conversations. And the most useful lesson about social media is the power to delete block and report. As I did with the person who after my column about the burqa threatened to deliver one to me and make me wear it. He never arrived of course.
But just as the gogglebox didn’t leave me with square eyes and the microwave or even butter didn’t kill me, the phone enhances my life. I am not stupid, but neither am I a Luddite. In fact this column was written on my phone. Which reminds me, I haven’t checked my messages today.