I’ve been girning intermittently to my nephews for a while now about their messaging techniques which are fair deaving me. Both The Loon and Rama send me several individual messages seconds apart, some of which contain half a sentence, so I’m on the receiving end of a barrage of beeps. At first, I thought that something terrible must have happened, but now I know it’s one of them on the go. My Favourite Niece on the other hand can manage to send one message consisting of several different paragraphs, as can her cousin RMF, but I don’t know if I can say this is a gender thing using a sample of only four.
Rama has agreed several times to try to gather his thoughts together before sending and has even managed this on one occasion; The Loon realises it’s one of my foibles but clearly hopes I’ll grow out of it. He patiently explains that’s the way its’s done: have a thought, then press send, repeat as often as necessary. He has no time either for my complaints about his lack of capital letters and punctuation, insisting that messaging is the same as speaking and that no one speaks in grammatically correct sentences. When I persisted with my foolish demands, he sent me links to 3 lengthy online articles from The Guardian, The Atlantic and The Ringer which I must admit I only skimmed as they were putting up my blood pressure.
According to The Loon, a full stop is an indicator of tone in informal communication and that tone is one of anger. (This was news to me as I saw it as an indicator to the reader of the end of one complete piece of information.) He’s very forceful in his views such as that “cups have no place in baking” and “ml have no place in (the preparation of) coffee or cocktails”; however he has now accepted the existence of my word sitooterie, having found it used more than once used on his beloved Twitter.
Am I really going to line up with Bernard Ingham who wrote: “I was brought up to believe full stops are vital to communication” and with Deborah Ross: “The full stop is now seen as ‘angry’ and … ‘not sincere’ and marks you out as ‘old’, and the fact I can’t understand why it might do any of the above does, I suppose, mark me out as ‘old’ “. Or take on board what Susannah Goldsbrough wrote: “It’s tempting to think of punctuation as fundamental to communication, a scaffolding without which language would fall apart. But history tells us something different: punctuation is a convention … Ancient Greek texts contain no gaps between words, let alone full stops. It was a system invented (in the late medieval and early modern period, mostly) and standardised (in the Victorian period, mostly) for communication. We owe punctuation nothing.”
While I’m enormously grateful for The Loon’s technical support with setting up and maintaining this blog, and I acknowledge that he has made a slight (though grudging) movement on the acceptance of words not found in an Oxford English Dictionary, I don’t think I’m yet able to read unpunctuated lower-case messages without my hand itching for a red pen. Maybe I’ll go back and try reading his recommended articles with my mind slightly ajar this time. I’m sure it wouldn’t take him or Rama long to compile a lengthy list of things about me that are really annoying.
I wish I could remember which recent columnist was writing about a teenage girl she knew who, during lockdown, had received a handwritten letter from her boyfriend and was treating this gesture as if it had come straight out of Romeo and Juliet. She was carrying it around, marvelling that he had gone to the bother of finding a piece of paper, he’d written down his thoughts, put the letter in an envelope and carried it to the post office – this was the ultimate in romance as far as she was concerned. Take note, lads.
Rama is making great strides with his cooking skills but I’ve had to give up on trying to remove the word “vibe” from his vocabulary. It’s now his washing up technique that does my head in: he won’t use a basin or fill a sink but instead he keeps the hot tap running while he applies washing up liquid and then dabs at the item. He insists this is the right way to do it as you don’t get the water dirty and you can rinse as you go along. I watch him, horrified and fulminating against the waste of water and the overuse of the Fairy Liquid but he just ignores me! Last time Rama and I shared a kitchen, I messaged The Loon for what I thought would be moral support but he replied that he didn’t even own a basin so he did it the same way and can you waste water anyway? Really! What about all that potential saipleis going to waste? (See Make do and mend)
It was Rama who explained to me about the use of filters when I asked why so many young lassies looked so unnatural in their photos. Why on earth are they making themselves look as if they’ve been formed out of plastic? It’s been explained to me that it’s necessary in order to get ‘likes’ on Snapchat and last year, there was research done by Girlguiding (known as the Girl Guides in my day) which found that up to a third of young women will not put selfies – horrible word – online unless they’ve used a filter. Thankfully, the Advertising Standards Authority has recently decided that so-called influencers will no longer be allowed to use filters when they’re marketing any skincare products or cosmetics. I don’t know how they’re going to be stopped though, as I understand that the technology is getting even more sophisticated and presumably harder to detect.
In the January edition of Best of Scotland, free inside my Sunday newspaper, there was a 2-page article about a Glaswegian internet star who’s a “fitness and vegan influencer”. Some of the points she was making about diet and lifestyle were perfectly sensible and there was an interesting-looking recipe for lemon and garlic spaghetti included but in each of the 4 photos of her, she had her tummy on display including one where she was pouting in a long-sleeved sweatshirt which was hoiked up at the front and tucked into her bra! As you do, in your kitchen, on a winter’s day, in Glasgow. In another, she’s wearing a cableknit woollen cardi but it’s falling off one shoulder, the better to display a matching bra top which I thought must be very scratchy. Honestly, is this really women’s liberation? Is this what we marched for in the 1970s?
In The Observer on 21 February, I spotted “Tobacco giant bets £1bn on social media influencers to boost ‘lung-friendly’ sales“. In this article, Rob Davies and Matthew Chapman write about how British American Tobacco are using influencers on TikTok to promote nicotine pouches to young people to compensate for declining sales of their cigarettes. The writers provide examples from Sweden, Spain and Pakistan of how these products are being marketed – one video from Sweden was captioned: “Every basic bitch in Sweden between the ages of 14 and 23” and an 18 year old boy was quoted as saying “that half the girls in his class” were using the nicotine pouch “partly thanks to paid partnerships with Instagram influencers”.
There were some of these influencers making the news at the end of last year, claiming their travels to Dubai were work-related while the rest of us were restricted to our local authority area. Catherine Bennett was writing in The Observer on 28 February about Dubai’s popularity with ‘celebrities’ and holidaymakers and their closed eyes and minds to its “arbitrary detentions, prisoner mistreatment and indentured migrant labour”. Can these folk also really be unaware and uncaring of the fact that two daughters of the ruler of Dubai have been kidnapped, forcibly returned and subsequently locked up after trying to escape? Sheikha Shamsa was snatched in Cambridgeshire in 2000 and Sheikha Latifa was grabbed from a boat in the Indian Ocean in 2018.
The father of these two young women – Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoun – owns 62,000 acres in Wester Ross. He bought this land more than 20 years ago for about £2 million but has rarely if ever visited, claiming that the main property is too small to accommodate his family and their staff. He recently applied for permission to build another lodge house – and this was granted! Is he really a fit and proper person to be owning land in our new Scotland? I’d like to think that if he ever does show up that the local bobbies will be straight round to ask questions about the kidnap of his daughter off an English street and the current whereabouts and welfare of both Shamsa, who would now be 39, and Latifa, now 35.
Not all young folk though are totally obsessed with their online lives. There’s been a successful recent pilot scheme in Scotland to get young people aged 18 – 26 walking with the Ramblers organisation. The project is called the Out There Award, the courses are free and they include routes in towns and cities as well as over the hills and far away; funding came from the Scottish Government and from the People’s Postcode Lottery. Obviously it’s all been affected by lockdown but will hopefully pick up again over the next few months. See https://www.ramblers.org.uk
I hope you heard about Skye, a 10 year old Welsh girl who started a campaign against the inclusion of plastic toys as giveaways with children’s comics; Waitrose is the first supermarket to declare they’re going to stop selling these. And that reminded me of the 9 and 7 year old sisters – Ella and Caitlin McEwan from Southampton – who in 2019 started a petition against the inclusion of plastic toys with takeaway fast food. They had success with Burger King but not so far with McDonalds, though they claim they’re working to give away more books, board games and soft toys instead of plastic trock.
Contradictory as ever, I was pleased to hear on the wireless that singer Iona Fyfe campaigned successfully to get Scots recognised as a language on Spotify – whatever that is exactly.
Finally, though it’s nothing to do with the price of fish ( I used to love using that expression with bairns in my working life as it really confused them ), many congratulations to the University of Aberdeen who have decided to return to Nigeria a Benin bronze head, one of thousands of treasures looted by British soldiers in 1897 or as the university put it “acquired in such reprehensible circumstances”. See also Bringing them all back home Part 2