Monday, 27 July 2015

The Gadget Show (and tell)

You know how some people are desperate to show their new tech off?  It used to be the placing of mobile phones on the table in the pub, now it's the slight shift of a cuff to reveal a piece of rubber replete with lights that signal to other people that you know precisely how many calories you have burned / miles you have cycled / breaths you took as you slept.  
Well I should like to offer you an alternative.  With each acquisition of a new piece of tech, something else is pushed aside; stuffed into a draw writhing with black and white cables twisted like serpents around their now defunct devices.  
So if you're bored of people wearing their Fitbit or Apple Watch like an Olympic medal, why not take advantage of the fact that I am disgusted by the amount of gadgets I've held on to and have a trawl through all the crappy old stuff still lingering around my house instead: 

1: iPod Shuffle - 2Gb, 4th Generation 

Uncharged and unloved, I found this in a Cath Kidston tin that used to house a mug, but now looks after screws, coins and other detritus that is fished out of the pockets of clothes before they go into the washing machine (never mine though, mine are always emptied out before they go in the basket!).  The iPod came out of a donkey pinata on a sales floor having been hit very hard by a man in an ill-fitting suit.  Dropped from the arse of a paper ass.  Useless.  The mug, however, gets used on a daily basis.

2. iPod Nano - c.2010

This used to be good.  Then it went through the washing machine in the pocket of a pair of my running tights (if only I had thought to put it in the Cath Kidston tin!!). Horrified by my failure to save it from a good soaking in Fairy Non-Bio, I put the iPod on top of the log burner to dry it out.  To my amazement it came back to life, except that it will only work if plugged into a docking station, thus removing the only thing I liked about it: I could take it on a run.

3. iPod classic 80Gb - c.2007

This is good.  It lives in a docking station in my kitchen and stores an awful lot of music that is mostly unsuitable for my children to listen to (what can I say, I bought an awful lot of hip-hop in my teens and it all got transferred across - and I do quite like the fact that sometimes Ice Cube will randomly pop up on my playlist, oh the panic!).  It did however go missing for about three months, which made my husband cross because he bought it as a present for me.  This means that I also have....

4. iPod 80Gb - c.2006

This was bought second-hand from a colleague to replace my 'missing' iPod and gets used on car journeys.  One week after buying it, I found my old one (see point 3) hidden on a shelf after one of those crazy pre-holiday "let's hide everything valuable" sessions.  This made my husband frustrated at the dip in my usual powers of detection - were these powers to disappear, no one would ever have a matching pair of socks.

5. Nokia Lumia Smartphone with a smashed screen

That's one big ol' stack of tech crap
Dropped over a year ago because I failed to observe what I thought was the hilarious instruction "Please remove your phone from the back pocket of your *pants* before sitting down".  Ha-ha!  It said "pants" instead of "trousers".  How the phone mocked me back as it leapt from my clothing onto the hard, unforgiving, bathroom floor.  It was going to cost more to repair than it would to buy a new phone which is why I've also got...

6. Another Nokia Lumia Smartphone

Technically good but aesthetically terrible thanks to the alarmingly cheap tomato-red plastic casing.  I only had it for 8 months before I was due a new one on the contract for my (smashed) original phone.  This one I found today in the compartment of an old handbag.  Why?  Because that's where I store stuff of course!  At least it Iooks like it should belong in the handbag, unlike the Lego Ninja Turtle complete with nun-chucks that I found in another compartment.  

7. Amazon Kindle 2GB

This was extremely good over the period of December 2012 - January 2013 when my husband bought it for me as a Christmas gift.  I like the idea of having lots of books in my bag, I hate the idea of having to charge my book up.  My husband loves me, but is frustrated by my lack of Kindle participation.
And finally (because even I'm getting bored now)

8. A Compaq iPAQ - oh yes!

Bought circa 2001 by my husband as a gift for me (not again!), this was the tech to end all tech as far as I was concerned.  I absolutely loved it, revelled in the Tube Map app with it's little chugging sound and felt quite the business woman about town as I used it to synchronise my email and calendar.  Then I was given an Orange Smartphone by work.  Oh dear.  The iPAQ now lives in its original box in the loft...
All of this serves to remind me that I am not a technical innovator, and unless I can operate a 'one in, one out' policy then I've just got to start saying "no".  That's why when I recently received a Fitbit (courtesy of an app download, not my husband this time!), it went straight to a place that I knew would find it a home, one of the greatest tech inventions of all time: eBay.  

Like this?  Then you might like my book: Reasons to be Cheerful, Part One.  Available on one of those other great technical innovations: Amazon.

Thursday, 9 July 2015

What I've learnt (so far) from stand-up

Last night I took part in the finals of 'You Must Be Joking' 2015 at the Newbury Corn Exchange.  130+ people in the audience, 1 stage and 8 comedians - 6 of which were competing for the prize - me included!
I came to stand-up around a year ago having been in part inspired by seeing friends flex their creative muscle, and in part wanting to challenge my old drama teacher's view that I wasn't right for the stage (in fairness to her the production was Godspell and my audition was awful).  It felt like the culmination of a year in which I have shared stages with rappers, spoken word artists, poets and musicians at open mic events; a way for me to see if I really am "good enough" to be on a proper bill.  Here's what the experience has taught me:

The worst is (probably) not going to happen

I did not get booed off.  Nobody told me that they hated me.  Nobody died.

People generally want you to do well

The audience turned up because they were looking forward to a good night out - they did not arrive hoping to see someone have a panic attack, after which they could boo them.  And then tell them that they hated them.

We are all of us unique

I did poems about childbirth and swimming costume challenges, one guy sang a song that made me spit my drink back into the glass (through laughter, not disgust), another appeared in character as an MP, and the winner had a great act that started with, and culminated in, what happens with your Tesco club card points when you die.

What you do will affect others

I had some marvelous texts from my female friends (mostly unprintable) to say thanks for "****ing doing it for the girls" - as the only woman in a night that had six male contestants, two professional male comedians and a male MC, it felt good to be seen as standing up for the interests of over half of the room.

Often the only thing stopping you, is you

The only person that has ever said "you can't do this" to me, is me.  The next time you think "I can't do that" - try writing down why.  Unless it's because you need a PhD or because you need to transform yourself into a Russian gymnast, the likelihood is it's because you've built yourself a big old wall of fear.  Smash it down!

We are never the finished article 

All of this has been a fantastic learning experience for me.  I'm learning more about language - crucial for my work.  I'm also learning about stagecraft, communication, and comic timing.  I'm learning about myself too - who says you get to 30, 40, 50 and then just stop?  Learning keeps us alive.

You don't have to be the best

I didn't win, and that's ok.  I got a taste of something fantastic, a chance to consider if it's for me and the opportunity to see what goes into making a very polished performance.  I also made some people laugh.  The experience alone was worth it - I was good enough.