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OMG, my mobile’s started sending me messages off its own bat about road works, traffic and the like. Is it becoming a sentient being like some of those spooky Synths in ‘Humans’ on the tele on Sunday nights? Help! As one of the humans in the series said: ‘I’m an analog man in a digital world.’ I can relate to that big time.
‘What’s an Instagram?’ asked my partner recently while he was reading the newspaper. ‘Well,’ I said, ‘it must be when a working mum or dad rings up in a panic one night and asks their mum to do the school run in the morning because they’ve got an urgent breakfast meeting.’ ‘No,’ said my long-suffering partner (we have these kind of conversations a lot these days). ‘It says that restaurants are Instagram-ing pictures of plates of food around.’ ‘Oh dear,’ I said, ‘I haven’t received any, have you?’ No, he hadn’t – oh god, are we getting left behind? And why was he asking me about Instagram? I’ve hardly got my finger on the pulse of social media – he should’ve phoned a grandchild.
Maybe it’s to be expected from oldies like us, but I’m sure other grown-ups find themselves grappling with new tech these days too. Very, very occasionally even my daughter asks me for help (eg when her other laptop is at the fixer’s after a small person + spilt drink event) – she’s nothing if not optimistic. Her Chromebook doesn’t do Open Office which I’ve got, a personal best in downloading, it has to be said. And when she was driving to Hay recently her phone beeped. You might think it’s handy for a working mum on the move to have their mother sitting primed in the passenger seat to pick up an email for her.
‘Can you check it please, mum,’ she said. I had a eureka moment but then she said, ‘Mum, can you just reply that I can see them on blah de blah date.’ Well, I tried to ‘just reply’, honest – but I now know that hitting teeny tiny letters with my arthritic old index finger (don’t even think of me doing it with my thumbs) which then pop up all over the place on an alien phone while squinting through the bottom of my varifocals in a moving vehicle is not my forte. And now she tells me she’s got predictive text on her new phone – no, I don’t think so – it would have me reaching for the gin.
And what’s What’sApp, for god’s sake? Is it part of the Snooper’s Charter? My daughter’s got it and she can read 12-year-old granddaughter 2’s texts with it as her new phone has the old contacts list from the upgrade downgrade she passed to her daughter who uses it to send uplifting downbeat text.msgs. Does granddaughter 2 know her mum can read her texts? Well, her spelling is very creative so maybe she’s texting in code. And WordPress sounded good to me for creating your own website for free, but could I set it up? No, I could not. My daughter said she’d help me, but we don’t get to talk much apart from a ‘hi’ at handovers. Grandson hurtles at her as she walks through the door. She lifts him up and he takes her face in his hands and holds it an inch from his nose so she can’t see or talk to anyone else: ‘Mum, mum, can I have a lollipop? I’ve had one already, but this will be the final, final one,’ he cries or other such welcome home greeting and WordPress gets put on the back burner again. But granddaughter 3 (aged 10) did it for me – it took her five minutes.
And I’ve got a new plastic card – they say it’s contact-less, like those toilet flushes in airports, I was thinking. But you have to slap it down on the reader thingy and that smacks of contact to me – this new techno-jargon makes no sense at all. Microsoft invited me to ‘Get Inside Scoop for Windows 10’. What the hell is Inside Scoop? An app? A platform? (I’m showing off now). Well, according to Google, it’s an ice-cream parlour in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. But should I get Windows 10? I’ve only made it to Level 7 – sorry, I mean Windows 7 – oh my lord, are they getting get rid of it? My computer guy warned me never, ever to get Windows 8 – my daughter got it and things kept popping up all over the screen which didn’t exactly make her day. Dear Mr Gates, I understand that you might want to draw a veil over Windows 8 and Windows 9 seems to have passed me by, but can you hang on to Windows 7, please, at least to see me out?
My partner was foiled by another technological so-called advance recently. All he was trying to do was to get back into the country, Officer, really he was, but he’s just got a new state-of-the-art e-passport. After wending his way for half a mile down the zigzaggy queue to the machines, instructions there were none and not even a helpful person like at those new-fangled self-service machines in the post office. Are us Brits meant to know what to do? Is it part of the citizenship test? And although the machines can read faces and match them with a photo, they don’t like glasses, something a lot of oldies sport – no, not as a fashion statement, but just for seeing. My partner had kept his on and was ushered into a darkened area where a long queue of bespectacled people were awaiting the third degree from a zealous immigration official in a tiny room lit by a single light bulb. And they call it progress.
I asked cool teenage granddaughter 1 about Instagram – she’s my Techno Guru, as Marc Bolan from T. Rex would no doubt sing were he still around. ‘You have to download the app, gran,’ she said not looking up from her phone. Oh god, I did manage to download an app once, but how? Then she said: ‘I don’t have Instagram anyway, gran,’ and she doesn’t have fb either since she reckons the powers-that-be can watch you on it like Big Brother and she knows what she’s talking about. And guess what? She’s into collecting LPs – remember them? I should try and track down the T. Rex album so she can play it on the turntable she got for her birthday – hmm, analog man 1, digital world 0, methinks.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.