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#2019 Connections, characters and a stone ball.

Half-way into January. A small step into a new year. And I am another year older. How did this happen?

I could answer part of that by reminding myself that as I was born in January and have just had a birthday I am a year older. But half-way into January (over half-way now - several days have passed since I started this blog) and a small step into a New Year; how did these happen?

Time doesn’t stand still. I've said that before. In November's blog. I called it out as a cliche then too. It is. But if cliches can be good and I think this is a good one. Time is animated. Time moves. I wittered on about this at length. In November. Two months ago. Two months filled with frantic present hunting; over-eating; over-spending; under-sleeping; and wrapping (always late on Christmas eve - so late that I risk Father Christmas finding me sitting on the floor surrounded by paper and string - the sellotape always runs out at about 11.57pm on Christmas Eve, doesn't it? - hot chocolate insulating itself against the cold with a thickening milky skin; the last embers dying in the fire, all the wood in the basket used up, and the polar expedition gear required for the trek to the wood store at the back of the garage, not being to hand; the glass of the toddy, that in years passed we left out for the big man, empty and me mourning gently as I reflect that it has been several years since I had to leave my tooth marks on the reindeers' carrot. I miss that carrot. I don't miss the year it was a parsnip). Two months during which the excesses of Christmas conspire to make us feel guilty, sluggish, faintly sick, and throw us into a new year packed with obsessive planning, ambition, resolution, and blinkered we'll press on no matter what positive thinking. We live in the era of New-Year-New-Me. Dress it up however you like, the period after Christmas is a resetting of the self. It is a recalibration; a seeking of the equilibrium that was lost some time at the end of August - I seem to lose it a little earlier each year. You too? All that inner reserve, the drive, the determination seeps away in little rivulets that swell until we stumble, tanks-empty into autumn and find ourselves giving-in to everything. Or is that just me? Hmmm. Perhaps it would be better to recalibrate when we feel the need; individually. Why stick to next year, next week, tomorrow? Following the flock is giving in to the collective panic of not being good enough and feeling judged by others. Recallibrate for yourself. When you feel it is the right time for you. After all your yesterday is history, your tomorrow  a mystery and your today is a gift which we call the present - wrap your today in the layers of your life's aspirations that make you you and carry it forward with you. And don't worry if you run out of string.

So ... I've just glanced up at the title I gave this blog. I seem to have drifted a little. Time to pull back - to write what I intended to write. Oh! ... that feels so good. Writing anything feels good. It's been a slow couple of months - struggling to find words; always finding something else to do - wrapping and eating mainly. And filling my time with #shouldbewriting. However, here I am; back to blogging. Self indulgent drivel - yes, probably. But drivel is better than nothing at all.

So ... Again. So - why start with #2019 connections?

I've been thinking a lot recently about the dilemma faced by parents regarding permitted social media time. What amount of time staring at a small screen is safe? Not just for our children but for us too. I'm pretty sure I'm not the only parent to have been told "I wish you'd stop looking at your phone" by one of my children. Deeply shaming. And makes arguing that they limit their time a tad hypocritical. Have you asked yourself how much time you spend each day engaged with likes, comments, flicking through 'news', or playing games? It's easy to find out. I usually average just over an hour. Which is terrible. I could do a lot with that hour. But then ... I would have missed the birthday greetings from dear, distant friends who I haven't seen for months; three of them for years. I would miss the almost daily collaborative and gently competitive puzzle-solving I do on-line with my son and his girlfriend - I would even have missed reading that her father did a 'little dance of celebration' when he joined in and cracked the big word in the puzzle which had stymied the rest of us. I would miss the comments and likes on my Instagram feed which, of course, are an addiction of sorts, driving me to post more pictures, usually of Bertie Baggins and Four-legged-friend - like this one

I would also miss the news which I filter by scattering my reading across different platforms, hopefully pruning out the real news from fake. I would miss the posts that make me smile - Richard E Grant on his Oscar nomination. And the ones that make me feel that it is #goodtobealive - look at  #4ocean and @natgeo. And ones that in equal parts inspire and make me cry - one of the best of these, in my opinion, is @charliemackesy. 

In conclusion, therefore, I would miss my connections. Of course, I could live without them. I could interact with them less. I could stop using them as tools of procrastination. I resolve, perhaps - it is a New Year after all - to continue monitoring the time I spend on social media but not to stop it. As parents, I think we have a duty to monitor our children's social media use and time. There is plenty of research to suggest that it is to blame for a rise in bullying; in mental health issues; in rates of low self esteem; in a reduction in physical exercise and deteriorating health with a consequent rise in obesity rates; and in a shortened attention span. Yes, I understand and agree with all of these negatives. But it is also a source of education; of instant referencing in any academic subject our children choose; of connection with fellow students and of collaboration internationally in school projects. It broadens connections and connectivity in a way that my generation as children couldn't even dream of because we had no idea that one day these connections would be facilitated by computers in our pockets. There are many many positives and as parents we need to get the balance right for our children. There is no right and wrong. We don't live in a nanny state. We must decide ourselves what guidelines we lay down for our children. And set them a good example.

Oooh ... rant over. Was it a rant? Really? Or more of a guilt-motivated preachy procrasti-ramble?I have no idea now why I inserted the word 'characters' into the title above. I am - as I have stated already - another year older. Maybe, this is therefore a senior moment. Maybe, I intended to post more of these characters -

Mr Plod


Mr Bounce. Otherwise known as Mr If-these-ears-were-bigger-I'd-be-Dumbo. Or Mr If-I-jump-a-bit-higher-I'll-jump-right-out-of-this-harness. 

They were coming to me for a treat - plodding and bouncing - across a ploughed field, where we later found this

It's a little bigger than a golf ball and looks like a flint stone. A natural freak of time and Geology? Or as a friend on social media (... !!) suggested a "neolithic petrosphere?" 

An on-line (... adding to my browsing minutes) search revealed that petrospheres are usually decorated with concentric carvings. They are interesting historical artefacts - the sort of artefact that hints at a past we don't really understand. Historians suggest they were probably used to exercise an early system of democracy - the person holding the petrosphere could talk while everyone else had to listen.  Basically, speak when in possession of the sphere or shut up. This made petrospheres symbols of power. However - despite it being tempting to try it out the next time we sit down to dinner - I don't think mine is a petrosphere. I suspect it is just a flint ball. Sometimes, found flint balls were wrapped in leather and used to polish leather skins; sometimes they were tied to the corners of skins to weigh them down; sometimes they were gathered and used as ball bearings to move heavier stones; sometimes, they lay undiscovered in the soil (once the floor of a vast ocean) until brought to the surface by a plough and were found by a dog-walker with a (minuscule) social media profile to feed and ... well, a growing collection of ... um ... other stones -


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