The new shopping experience and ideas for my future blog…

Apparently, in Italy, they had panic buying but after a couple of weeks the shops were fully stocked again and people calmed down. To be fair, I’ve been fairly lucky because David and I did a big shop before the panic started and were able to buy loo rolls and essentials. However, I understand it has been dreadful for people, particularly the elderly, vulnerable and health workers who have worked long shifts.

I can’t understand why people cannot shop as normal. Food shops won’t close even in a lockdown situation. Apparently, the supermarkets are employing temporary staff. Anyway, recently I had a bad day, full of anxiety and decided to go to our local farm shop. It was fully stocked with fruit, vegetables, pickles, mayonnaise, salad, wine, beer, ham, bacon and it was quiet. Bliss!!!

When I told my friend, she could shop the first hour on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to our local supermarket, she informed me she was going to make use of her local grocers and the farm shop ‘because we don’t want to lose it’. Very sensible.

So, thought I’d remind people there are other options other than supermarkets:

Tips:
Go to your local shops
Farm Shops
Garden Centre (Ours has an excellent meat counter)
Small ‘I sell everything’ grocers
Pubs/Restaurants are now selling takeaways
Order online (which I’ve only done once, and hated)*
Click and Collect*

*These options don’t appear to be available at the moment. Panic buying!

After this post, I will be writing most days a diary type blog. I think it is vital to record what you are feeling, doing and seeing.

Update: David ventured forth to the local middle sized supermarket and remarked that ‘it wasn’t too bad.’ Although still didn’t have loo rolls and limited brands. Perhaps, the nincompoops now have enough sanitiser, baby food, wipes, washing powder, ready meals, etc. Let’s hope so.

Thanks for reading my blog.

 

Hastings Old Town

Walking Ideas (whilst we can)

I thought I’d better start with this topic because it is important. Especially at the moment. Disclaimer: I’m not a qualified health professional, so these are my ideas.

I’m focusing on coping mechanisms over the next few weeks which I hope will be helpful. Rather than wallowing in thoughts, as prone to do, it is better to be proactive.

A family member suggested I write again, so here goes. The best way to prepare is a plan so I’ve made a list of stuff (see yesterday’s list) but may also be inspired by some online education, virtual tours with an imposed virtual social life. This is going to be a tough period but we have to make the best of it.

As I’m trying not to struggle mentally, I feel it is vital to plan, in some gentle way, what you can do in the coming weeks. Even if you aren’t into the natural environment, now is the time to make changes to your routine and try ways of getting some fresh air and find your ideal space and interests. It’s easy to sit around and become bored so google some local green spaces or just check out some old maps you’ve probably got lying around. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been struggling too!!

As we can still go out, in some capacity, we should. Obviously, avoid busy places. Although, they don’t exist anymore. I’ve been going to the local park, woodland walks and wandering around the village.

The local park has a beautiful tranquil lake with plenty of space, away from others. It’s a few minutes’ drive so I usually take Oscar, a friend’s dog, as it has elegant wild grassy slopes, flowers, trees, fields, streams and is not too muddy. A great place to be mindful with magnificent views across the lake.

However, yesterday, I just went for a solitary walk through my local woods. This is great because it is a 5-minute walk from my home. Nothing like a woodland walk to calm your worries. I didn’t go with my friend’s dog so just walked along the top path near housing. It was quite special hearing the birds, seeing the blossom, walking through copious amounts of mud, taking photographs and not seeing anyone. It felt good for the soul and safe. I was going to go back along the road but realised the school would be finishing so turned around and ventured back the  way I had come. I tend to walk for about an hour, quite briskly to get the old heartbeat up. I take my phone, but only because I nearly got lost in our local woods a few years ago. Apart from emergencies, I tend to ignore it and I’d rather not have it on me.

Of course, not everyone has a park or woods near them. I would suggest a speedy walk along the pavements. Try to go when it is quiet (early morning/evening). I’ve had people walk round me into the road so as not to walk past me!

Walking can help mental health and overcome feelings of anxiety and creates a feeling of being with nature in a natural environment. It is useful to see what is around you and listen more and notice more than you normally do.

Most people have parks, woodland or green spaces near them which will have a positive effect. Go on, give it a go.

Tips:
Look on local maps and explore local green spaces
Walk for at least half an hour
Don’t look at your phone
Enjoy the peace and quiet
Submerge yourself in your surroundings – Be mindful, visually and be aware of the audible range

Back to Blogging…

Sorry, it has been so long! I’ve been meaning to return for some time. Obviously, with all that is going on in the world, now is a good time to blog.

Deciding what to write isn’t as complicated as you would envisage. Focusing on what you can do rather than what you can’t, is my intention. We are, at the very least, social distancing or even self-isolating. Or, as I am, somewhere in between.

Topics will be the usual MISHMASH. The content will be suggesting and exploring ideas rather than telling you what you should be doing! The aim is to be as helpful as possible, in these troubling times.

As the whole business, is so worrying at present, I aim to inform, entertain and maintain wellbeing. The content will be researched, informative but also just fun.
Here are some topic which I will be investigating:

Health, Fitness, and Wellbeing
Gardening
Cooking and Food Shopping
Podcasts
Books/reading
Social Media, online education and virtual tours/life
Photography, films, telly, etc.

Hopefully, my new chatty approach will be interesting and if you’ve any ideas let everyone know in the comments.

Films, Gravesend, Community Pub and Snow!

So after the flu nonsense, things are slowly getting back to normal. Because of this, I thought I’d do a chatty blog post about my recent favourites.

  • Films

I went to see the Darkest Hour with my friend which, as I’m sure you know, is a British war film directed by Joe Wright, written by Anthony McCarten and stars Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. Yes, I liked it and found the drama, atmosphere and historical ambience, extremely authentic. Obviously, some of the plot is fictional but lets face it, we all got the drift! Excellent film and well worth seeing. Films/dramas are good for reminding people, particularly the very young, of what went on in the past.

The other film I saw was The Post, an American political thriller, directed by Steven Spielberg, written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer. This film stars Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks. Both Streep and Hanks performed well and you couldn’t help thinking about the film’s allusions to Nixon and Trump. The plot relates to leaked papers about the Vietnam war, being surreptitiously leaked to The New York Times and after a court injunction ending up being published by The Washington Post during the early 70s. The Post is owned by heiress Katharine Graham, who is often overruled by overbearing male colleagues. That is until she decides to publish the papers and sticks to her brave decision despite frenetic opposition. This is another good film which, enamored from a feminist viewpoint and reminded me how times have changed in the workplace. Most bosses, in this film, were portrayed as male and well over 40. The youngsters were used as message carriers, etc. However, dare I say, I sat thinking older people have enormous value in the workplace because of wisdom, knowledge and experience. Not always sure if giving an inexperienced youngster a senior position (as nowadays) unless a brilliant incumbent, is a good idea. The film shows how feminism has changed times over the last 40 years, but I must confess, found the age issue as above, more prevalent and captivating.

  • Gravesend, Photography and a Community Owned Pub!

A few weeks ago, we decided to drive towards north Kent. Having suffered flu, I was desperate to go out for the day. We drove to Dartford, and found it a bit run down and uninteresting so drove to Gravesend which was quite curious, in a strange sort of way.

We wandered about the ancient town and found a vintage market and some independent shops. We stopped for a cup of tea in a vintage cafe and then strolled towards the Gravesend Town Pier. This is the world’s oldest surviving cast iron pier, built in 1834 and refurbished in 2004 as a restaurant.

The view, which included the Gravesend – Tilbury Ferry, was splendidly gritty with the grey, glowing sky and wind turbines. Out came the Nikon camera.

The views were dull and spectacular at the same time. Grey clouds, distant industry, moving turbines and a red vessel. Many minutes were spent fiddling with the white balance and appropriate camera settings to get the gritty photo. It was exciting because I knew I could capture something different from the usual landscape photography.

The LV21 lightship is moored here and a spectacular sight. It was built in 1963 and a unique 40m steel-hulled lightship which saw most service, off the Kent coast. She has now undergone a transformation into a floating cultural facility designed to host artists of various disciplines.

  • The Community Pub!

Eventually we left Gravesend and drove towards Stockbury to visit a community owned pub, the Harrow. During 2016, a public meeting attracted 150 folks to dig deep into their pockets and raise £300,000 to save the pub. Well, what an amazing place. A beautiful bar area, friendly staff serving a wonderful selection of ales, craft beer, gin, whisky and wine. Oh, and the food looked good as well. The landlady was trying to eat a roast dinner whilst serving the thirsty community. Up and down like a yo-yo, poor women. She kept smiling and seemed to enjoy her role. Wonderful place, just wish I had a jolly, well kept local like this one, near me.

  • We’ve finally had some snow!

A few days ago we had a couple of inches of snow so I grabbed my Nikon, and went off traipsing over fields to shoot the snow filled landscape, which is something I hadn’t done before because the UK snow doesn’t reach Kent very often. It was quite awkward trying to take photos and keep the camera dry. Somehow managed to take some shots whilst the snow was falling and even managed to crawl on the freezing grass for one photo. Great fun though, and I liked one or two of the results. It is true what the experts say, you have to take about 50 photos to find one you like.

  • Musings about Blogging

Recently, because of the time of year, found it tricky to find enough to write about, but as I’ve sat down this sunny, spring like afternoon, I’ve managed to find a few snippets to blog about. So the moral of the story is, if you’ve run out of content ideas, just sit down and write!

Thank you for reading my blog and don’t forget to follow.

The Ivy, Tower Bridge – Part 2

After the blogging event, we jumped on the Tube and went to The Ivy, London Bridge. It is near the station and the bridge so easy to find. The restaurant has a large glass window front with a magnificent view of London Bridge. We crossed the bridge to reach the restaurant and was able to take some wonderful night time views.

When we located the place we had trouble finding the entrance as you have to walk around the corner to actually find it. We arrived and was taken to our table. A lovely place which was exceedingly busy with lots of people having animated conversations about life and enjoying the delicious food.  We were asked if we would like still or sparkling water and my daughter firmly said ‘tap please’. I love the way she doesn’t worry about what people think, although nor do I nowadays.

The staff were friendly and told us all about the menu, but we couldn’t hear because it was soooo noisy. Unfortunately, this does seem to be a problem, but I could see that the problem would not last and many people were finishing their meals and had come from work so would probably depart which is, exactly what happened.

I had duck pate to start, lamb for my main course and then this most amazing chocolate bomb. I decided to have a beer because I had to drive home from the station, in a few hours time. Unfortunately, the glass was completely inappropriate for a female as it was large with a handle and the rime was about half an inch thick. I tweeted them about it, but was positive apart from complaining about the glass. The food and service were superb. The chocolate bomb was incredible and the highlight of the meal.  The waiter poured hot caramel sauce over the smooth mound and it all collapsed into a kaleidoscope of beauty and gorgeousness.  Oh, the  decadence of it! Yum! We are still dreaming about it. Quite sublime.

Can recommend the experience and it wasn’t too pricey. Not really. It is what life is all about really, isn’t it?

#Blogging Course and The Ivy, Tower Bridge, #London – Part 1 (Blogging)

I recently went on a blogging course in Whitehall, London. Christine and I, agreed to meet on the train and travel together. The trains were chaotic and we had to keep changing the route but eventually took the next one to London Bridge and then to Whitehall via the London Underground. We arrived, exhausted but dived into the cloakroom, knowing full well this would tip us over the lateness line. I absolutely hate being late, but we were not the only ones, due to the transport problems.

Luckily, the lecturer was just starting and we plonked ourselves down and listened. As usual, with these things, they don’t give much away, but the content (below) did remind me of what I should do in order to be a tenacious blogger. I’ve listed the key features at the end of this blog, as they may help remind others what you need to do to improve your blog.

I found this information useful, but without much substance. On the plus side, the tips I liked helped refresh my mind about what I need to do to improve my blog. My main wish is to interest people and maintain their interest. The main reason for blogging is because I love writing and researching stuff. On this basis, I will continue, and it doesn’t hurt to remind oneself what needs to be done.

I’ve decided to have another look at blog themes, although will keep the rolling blog format. I need a strategy for social media as I want people to read my blog. I find reading other blogs, interesting too, so will keep an eye out for fascinating blogs to read and follow. As far as improving my skills, I am taking a photography course and may decide to do a Photoshop course too. I already use CANVA.

Another thing I plan to do is look at old blog posts and do some updates. I like the ‘break a story’ idea as I get out and about so could do more of this so long as it will interest people and remain relevant.

Anyway, after this event, we rushed back to London Bridge for our delicious meal in The Ivy. To be continued…

 

Blogging Course (Key Points)

Checking up

Look at your blog and check colours, fonts, style and branding. Compare to others. Have a responsive layout. Plugins, links, platform?
Have a Media Kit (with case studies, traffic, engagements) – This is when you have lots of traffic!
Skill Up – Html, editing (photo shop), etc.

Branding

Is the theme consistent with your brand? Imagery/photos (you could be known for your pink, filtered photos). Know your style. Have a dialogue with followers. Go to networking events.

Enhancing

How are you doing as a writer? Tone/style…is it consistent? Visuals – Are they good enough. Photos should be very good. Text over pictures – CANVA is good for this. Search engines love videos. User experience – check for broken links, updating blog posts and make sure dates are relevant. No popups (although some disagree with this advice).

Promoting

Traffic
Networking and ask peers to share (something that I won’t do). Meetups, trade shows and FB groups. I haven’t found FB groups all that good. Collaborations, link ups and identify similar blogs.

Subscriptions, giveaways, competitions, list posts and check your headlines. Be controversial (finally found something I’m good at).
Break a story (e.g. review a new restaurant/exhibition).
Evoke an emotional response. Be personal and find new content/ themes.

Social Media
Have a strategy and be methodical. Post three times a day (Twitter), once on FB, once on Instagram but keep it the same and scheduled. Engage others through content, peers and brands you like. Use news stories that are relevant to what blog about. I often use studies to back up what I am blogging about. Network with journalists. Pitch stories to local newspapers.
If you write about a product encourage the business to retweet (promote) what you have written.

Monetising

Advertising with Google Adsense. Free to sign up and put the code on the blog. Affiliate marketing. Instagram is good with links.(This is not applicable to me at present.)
Sponsored posts – Someone pays you to write a post, newsletter or podcast. In other words, go freelance with your writing/photography. If you are an expert on something, then write an ebook/course.

Effectiveness

Check to see how effective you are with Google analytics, FB insights, Twitter insights, reader surveys, etc.

Secrets of Silicon Valley – Review and Opinion

It does not matter whether you watched the above programme, you will read here about the far-reaching effects of social media on society.

The Persuasion Machine

The above documentary is a fascinating insight into the realms of a futuristic world that is here now, in Silicon Valley, and makes you think. Yes, really makes you think. Jamie Bartlett, a cool, bun wearing hipster, sets out on a expedition of self discovery concerning the effects of social media on society, culture and most importantly, you.

America has become a contemporary idyll that has to be sustained for many reasons but mainly, these days it appears, political aspersions by rich and powerful men. We were shown many interviews where Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook Founder, is forthright in his hope that Facebook will connect everyone globally and will also help society create a globalised world. Barack Obama was said to be a kindrid spirit and felt the same way and was shown on stage joking that he was the man to get Zuckerberg in the shirt and tie. By his second term he had mastered the ubiquitous social media and enjoyed the capabilities of the online platforms.

Ultimately, Facebook has helped Trump come to power and without Facebook, his Facebook writer, Theresa Hong, Cambridge Analytica, tells us “he wouldn’t have won”. Cambridge Analytica used data relating to around 220 million Americans to target potential voters and possible donations. These few words clarifies the effect of using social media for not only social interaction, but also fostering political influence. The social media campaign was submitted by teams of computer personnel from Google, Facebook, YouTube and other ‘creatives’. Hong even shows us the empty offices where they used to sit during the Trump campaign.

Facebook, with other platforms, finds out your intimate traits including political views, sexual orientation and personality. The concern is obviously the disruptive power occurring and a new unpredictable world throwing us all into a political turbulence, never seen before. The technology community has, indeed, “opened a can of worms” that it was, evidently, mobilising against. Freedom to connect doesn’t just let us share holiday snaps and family news, but also provides a world of targeted advertising and bombarding political views.

Jamie Bartlett finds out just how powerful Facebook is. It has huge repercussions for our society as the data informs how we think, what we like and how we like it! A psychologist Michal Kosinski shows Jamie how Facebook and internet driven data cleverly informs about personality, background, education, etc. here so people like Trump can turn the statistics into votes. The persuasion machine can now secure you a place in the White House. Allegedly, Trump spent eighty-three million dollars on his social media campaign. One hundred, almost identical ads, were placed in one day, to see which one did best. This constant stream of cosy ads aimed at families, must have driven the public mad. You can imagine what they thought -*All right! I’ll vote for you, just stop the ……. Ads!* Cambridge Analytica were using data on around 220 million Americans to target potential donors and voters. Armed with Cambridge Analytica’s revolutionary insights, the next step in the battle to win over millions of Americans was to shape the online messages they would see.

 

“An algorithm that can look at millions of people and […] hundreds of thousands […] of your likes can extract and utilise even those little pieces of information and combine it to a very accurate profile,” Michal Kosinski tells Bartlett. “It can also use your digital footprint and turn it into a very accurate prediction of your intimate traits, like religiosity, political views, personality, intelligence, sexual orientation and a bunch of other psychological traits.”

 

Just in case, you were smugly thinking they can’t find much about you because you don’t use Facebook, think again. Amazon, Google and other internet sites, drive data to inform the nerds, all about you. Well, that is what Jamie Bartlett appears to discover.

A clause relating to media legislation The Telecommunications Act of 1996, which was designed to make the internet safer, confirms the lack of responsibility of any media platform: “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be treated as the publisher or speaker of any information provided by anther information provider.”  This means the platform is not responsible for the content that is posted on it. Facebook does not own the information like Uber doesn’t own cars and AirBnB doesn’t own any property. Is this not just business and the formulation of an economy? The difference is the tech giants are not drilling for business they are generating it.

The trouble is this is infiltrating out lives and manifests a persuasion machine that is being exploited by, shall we say, unsuitable beings. As our visible footprint appears to revolutionise how democracy works, fake news is infiltrated online by emotion. It is not all about the written word but also inducing emotion by imagery. A picture of a sad looking Theresa May, which is easy to find, and a jolly Jeremy Corbyn, acting like he has won the election, plays on your psychology. This, I find hard to believe, but the point is illuminated by focusing on the fake news about Hilary Clinton, which may have lost her the election.

Social media and the internet seems to be having a profound consequence and projects negativity and misinformation that we haven’t had before. However, we’ve always joked never to believe what you read in the newspapers and the internet does provide us with an array of useful information. It is difficult to evaluate but maybe we will all become tired of social media. In fact, a recent study denotes that this is already happening with under 18 year olds choosing other platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Funnily enough, I spotted the article on my Facebook feed by Mashable UK here. My Facebook newsfeed shows a definite slow down of posting by ‘friends’ and more articles and ads. I find myself reading books more and getting out and about so although they reckon that people spend fifty minutes a day on Facebook, this I think, will change as we get bored with it. Maybe I’m kidding myself, but look at Twitter and how people got bored with that!

Also, this wide reaching knowledge has been around for a long time and probably for longer than we realise. Information has always been extracted by ten yearly census, loyalty cards, where we live, if we go to a posh school or university. I’m not sure that the internet can be blamed for everything. Although I am continually shocked about how much people look at their phones and wonder what books are not being written and art not being created because of the mobile phone addiction.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed social media for connecting with other people. It is a way of joining an interesting conversation but it just has to be contained. These days, blogging is my favourite way of communicating although originally, I favoured Twitter due to the micro blog element and fast moving commentary.

It is our responsibility to read and educate ourselves on these matters. There are plenty of outlets providing information on all sides of the political spectrum and if we, as a society, rely on Facebook then maybe we should broaden our horizons. Don’t you think?

 

Watch the programme here: Source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0916ghq