Any News? Or How Much is That in Old Money?

Today’s musings: The Internet is both a blessing and a curse and why people like me shouldn’t have a Kindle.

The plus side of having instant access to world events is the resulting transparency. We are no longer held in the dark about the goings on of those behind the scenes.

I remember my grandfather always being so hungry for news when I was a teenager. He never missed the six o’clock news and would rush to his room to listen to his transistor radio, which by the way was on full blast because he was hard of hearing. This might have been at least partly due to the fact that he was fond of cleaning his ears with his pipe cleaners. Yes, he loved his pipe. Back then I wondered why he was so keen on finding out the latest news about the upcoming budget or the war in the Middle East or even the price of milk. In truth, he was probably more interested in Irish news than in world events. He listened to the news religiously but I can’t remember him ever discussing it. He was a tall man who towered above most other men his age. I don’t remember him speaking much either, and he usually answered in monosyllables. But he took his nettle juice every year and planted according to the moon’s rhythm. R.I.P. Pada.

Later, when I went to work and live in Dublin and returned for a visit, he would always ask things like, ‘So….how much would gas be up there now?’ Or ‘What’s the price of a sliced pan?’ Although amused, I’d tell him how much I spent for rent and groceries and electricity, or whatever he wanted to know. Invariably he would answer, ‘How much would that be in old money?’ Since I come from a family who love to outdo each other in witticisms and puns, this has become a private joke—you wouldn’t get away with anything, especially mispronouncing a word—I remember once telling my older brother I was going to take an aerobatics course. Well, I never lived that down. This, ‘How much would that be in old money?’ has become synonymous with our upbringing in so many ways. It makes no sense to anyone else.

What has all of this to do with the internet or smart phones or the immediate accessibility of information? How would Pada have fared in today’s world? His life was so linear, routinized and manageable. I don’t think he would have availed of these new methods. He would have continued reading his daily paper and listening to the news every morning and evening. I think he would have been overwhelmed by the sheer abundance of global news and corruption stories we are now facing.

We are bombarded with so much information about everything and anything. I do see the irony of this post as I, too, am blogging about blogging. Nevertheless, I’ll continue. We have conspiracy blogs, fashion blogs, food blogs and political blogs, everything your heart desires. We also have immediate access to currency converters, knowledge sites like Wikipedia and the Gutenberg Project where we can read all the classics. And while I credit this outpouring of information for bringing awareness of world events, inequality and injustice and generally offering more transparency to all of us, it can fry our brains if we don’t control it.
Take writing, for instance. I’ve always had a longing to write and I’ve always been an avid reader. I enjoy writing poetry and have several journals filled with all sorts of life events, musings and sketches etc., but it’s only been in the last few years that I have taken it seriously. Now I expect to publish my first novel by summer this year (if I don’t get cold feet) and then continue with the other two.
Before the dawn of the internet, there would be a buzz about a certain book like Johnathon Livingstone Seagull or The Diary of Adrian Mole by Sue Townsend (brilliant fun) and then books like The Stand by Steven King (I put off reading that one for almost two decades, but it was captivating), Anne Rice’s The Vampire Chronicles or Erma Bombeck’s If Life is a Bowl of Cherries What am I doing in the Pits? These books would be passed around and we’d all be on the same page.
Oh, to be an author, I’d think. I could work from my lovely villa by the sea and watch my gardener trim my box trees hedges as my peacock wandered leisurely though the immaculate lawn. But I felt as if I wasn’t ready; I didn’t have the maturity or life experience to write a novel of substance (it’s debatable whether I still do).
One of my favourite books on writing, besides Steven King’s, is Brenda Ueland’s If You Want to Write. Her message was simple, ‘Write What You Know.’ I can’t remember much about it because it was a long time ago, but I do know that it was inspiring.
I can hear my son saying ‘Too long, didn’t listen.’
Never mind…the point of my writing this is to emphasise how important it is for our mental health to switch off and take some quiet time. There are so many voices telling us what to do, what to eat, what to wear, how to write etc. etc. I could go on forever. Our brains are not able to cope with this constant stimulation, at least mine isn’t.
I regularly have to drag myself away to spend some time walking in the woods, gardening or meditating with no music, no internet and no television. This works wonders for my sanity. There are enough conversations going on in my own head so I don’t need hundreds of others.

It’s just another drug to keep us high.

The most insightful inspirations come when we turn off all electronics and listen to our inner voice. And yet, it cannot be denied that the Internet is a valuable tool. But is it making us more intelligent or turning us into a new genus of human unable to survive without being plugged into some information device? Have we already lost control? If we’re not doing Sudoku or the Daily Crossword puzzle, watching a movie or browsing for news, we feel as if something is missing.

I must emphasise how grateful I am for modern technology. It enables me to keep in touch with family and friends separated by land and sea. When I think back to the first time I came to Germany there is no comparison. It was always lovely to receive and write letters. That’s something I miss, but having instant access to friends and family is wonderful.
Oh yes…getting back to why people like me shouldn’t have a Kindle. I have a hard time making up my mind. I am also impulsive and keep downloading books. The problem is that I flip between them, depending on my mood, and this not good for my brain.  As a special treat, I love to read a real book and feel the paper on my fingertips, but I try not to buy too many of them these days because I’m drowning in them and can’t bring myself to get rid of them.

I believe that if something becomes too common or too easily available, it loses its value. And we must value our own work. I’m going to try to focus on one book at a time, okay maybe three. That’s my promise to myself. I also promise to make up my mind about a book cover very soon and get my own book out there. Recently I uploaded a sample of my novel onto my Kindle. It was quite a thrill to see my words in print. So, what I’m saying is…I’m ever so grateful for the fact that I can self-publish…Amazon is great for this, but I need to get a handle on it and a grip on myself. It’s like being in a bookshop and wanting to read ten books at once, or not being able to decide between five meals on the menu or…you get the idea.

What do you think?  I’d love to hear your opinions on this. Do you like pound shops where you you can buy everything for a pound or a dollar? Or do you prefer to spend more and value your purchase more? Would you rather save up for that designer handbag or buy a cheap imitation?