Farewell Facebook

In the last couple of weeks, Liesel has thrown in the Facebook towel. While she didn’t whinge and moan about the platform as much as I used to, she too has decided it’s outlived its usefulness. One recent event in particular didn’t help. A message received, apparently from a friend, contained a dodgy link. When Liesel clicked on it, it sent the same dodgy link to all her friends on Facebook. Surely a platform as big and popular as Facebook should have some basic checking of these messages? If it can filter out the slightest hint of a naked body, we know the technology exists. Fortunately, no damage seems to have been caused by the virus, other than annoyance and embrrassment, but it doesn’t instil confidence in Facebook.

I left Facebook nearly two years ago now and I have no regrets. Yes, I continue to miss some of the people and some of the groups, and I’m sure Liesel will too. But I don’t think she’ll miss the overall experience much . When most of the local news is crime-related, it does nothing to make us feel safe.

And yes, there are some events and concerts that only take place on Facebook, and we’ll miss those. But organisers should be aware that while many people still use it, quite a lot of us don’t.

Over the last month or so, a few people have casually asked whether I’ll ever re-join Facebook? Well, never say ‘never’, but it’s highly unlikely. Whenever Facebook turns up in the news, I invariably come away with a feeling of, ‘thank goodness I got out of that when I did.’ Similar to the way I feel whenever a negative story about the meat production industry appears. Thank goodness I stopped eating meat thirty years ago and don’t have to make that decision now.

No, I’ve seen nothing new about Facebook that is tempting me back. I came across an essay I wrote soon after I left. I suspect there are even more ‘features’ and bugs to whinge about now.

This is what I wrote in July 2019:

Why I decided to leave Facebook

After being a member of the Facebook community for an unlucky 13 years, it was time to move on. I certainly can’t compare the experience with that of Solomon Northup’s Twelve Years a Slave, but at times, I resented being trapped, being almost forced to waste so much time on such a fruitless enterprise while my data was making stacks of money for other people.

Facebook has been fun at times, informative and useful. Most of my Facebook friends are friends in real life too: there are only a couple whom I know solely through this online medium.

But, there were many, many times when I felt so frustrated by the platform that I thought about leaving, and even threatened to once or twice in public. There were many final straws over the years. But the real, final, final straw was one day a couple of weeks ago when I was seeing one advert for every post from a friend or message from one of the groups to which I’d signed up.

Looking back over thirteen years of my own Facebook posts, I realise there is one common, perpetual thread. I have had a moan and a whinge about Facebook on numerous occasions. It just doesn’t do what I would expect it to. Yes, it works for Mark Zuckerberg, making him lots of money and it’s ‘free’ to use so why do I have the right to complain? Because it’s sold and portrayed as being a wonderful community, a way to bring people closer together, to keep people in touch with each other, to share ideas in groups with other like-minded people.

Here’s an early ‘Note’ that I made. What makes a Note different from a Post is still beyond my understanding.

Hahaha just going through my emails and found this one: Hi Mick, You haven’t been on Facebook for a few days, and a lot happened while you were away. 3 notifications Mary, Ian, Jon and 4 other friends have posted statuses, photos and more on Facebook. Go to Facebook: See all notifications

But, Dear Facebook, I can’t see all of these messages because you’ve decided what’s relevant and what isn’t. I shouldn’t have to go through all of my Friends and tell you that I wish to see ‘All’ of their Updates rather than ‘Most Updates’ or ‘Only Important’. Facebook philosophy: if it ain’t broke, break it. (2/9/11)

Yes, one of the things that annoyed me very quickly was that out of all my friends’ posts, I would only see a small subset, selected by Facebook. If I wanted to see everything someone else wrote, I had to visit their individual page. Facebook could never understand that if I felt overwhelmed by the amount of information being presented, it was my problem, to deal with in my own way. But I don’t think that’s the issue at all. They just like to exercise control. After all, there seems to be no limit to the amount of advertising I have to scroll through. Maybe they just want to make the ads more prominent by reducing the amount of what they think of as ‘background noise’.

Facebook says “Top comments is selected, so some comments may have been filtered out.”

I would like to see them all, please, then I can decide what I think the top comments is. (17/4/18)

I accept that adverts are how they make their money, and that’s how the service can be ‘free’ at the point of use. But why do they pretend the adverts are targeted? That I’ll only see those that are of interest to me?

Yes, Facebook, I really really DO want to hide EVERYTHING from Ray Ban bloody sunglasses. Really. (1/6/14)

It’s been an ongoing battle trying to make Facebook more user-friendly, so, as they requested, I passed on some of my thoughts. To no avail.

Good old Facebook (an on-going rant, I know). On the left-hand side, under ‘Messages’ there’s an ‘Other’ button. It contains dozens of messages that I never saw when they might have been of some interest. They’re well out of date now. Research shows that Facebook puts messages there from people I’m not ‘friends’ with. Such as from my daughter who was probably Friend number 1. FB. It can stand for ‘Facebook’, ‘Full of Bugs’, or ‘██████ up Beyond all usefulness’. (30/9/12)

Got to love Facebook: the more you complain about their ‘Suggested Posts’ (adverts, often verging on the fraudulent), the more they send you. (9/2/16)

Yes, Ok, let there be adverts. But why are they so irrelevant? And bad?

“The Best Gift You’ve Never Heard Of” – you might want to change that strap line since I see your advert on Facebook nearly every damn day! (1/9/17)

No software is 100% perfect. And something like Facebook doesn’t stand a chance.

<a href=”evalInSandbox:Error: Permission denied for evalInSandbox:Error: Permission denied for <https://facebook.com/&gt; to create wrapper for object of class UnnamedClass
I beg your pardon? Not another Facebook bug, surely? (9/7/13)

And it’s not just bugs. They’ve introduced many ‘features’ that just don’t work properly or, if they do, are just plain annoying. I’m not alone in thinking Facebook was turning into bloatware and some people even tried to address the issue. An add-on initially named ‘Better Facebook’ helped tidy up the screen but, because Facebook changes its underlying code to ‘improve’ its software at least weekly, it was very difficult for this one part-time guy to keep up. Then the Facebook lawyers came along and forced him to change his software’s name anyway.

http://socialfixer.com/blog/2013/06/21/4-reasons-why-facebooks-user-interface-is-a-nightmare/

Reassuring to note that it’s not just me who thinks Facebook is a PITA these days. (21/6/13)

Full of bugs, did I say?

Holy moly, I’m locked in. Can’t log out of Facebook. Oh well, ‘Close tab’ it is. (6/8/12)

That ‘recent activity’ of mine: ‘Mick liked St John Ambulance’? It’s a lie. I wasn’t even online 30 minutes ago. I was watching Doctor Who. Facebook really is pants. (Nothing against St John Ambulance, by the way.) (22/9/12)

Good old Facebook. It’s now repeating items in the Newsfeed as I scroll down. So, Suzanne’s watched a YouTube video several times and Marko has several painful shoulders. And Baylen keeps talking about Madonna. (17/7/12)

It tried hard to be my friend, reacting to my interests and concerns. But even here, I just don’t understand why it would send me some football news and trivia when I have never shown any interest in the sport and probably only mentioned it a couple of times in passing. Unexpected pun there.

Apparently West Ham have beaten Liverpool at Anfield for the first time since September 1963! And if my Facebook feed is to be believed, nothing else happened today! (29/8/15)

It used to notice when I disappeared for a few days, or even a few minutes, and it tried to bring me up to date with lots of stuff of no interest to me.

Facebook sent an email saying:
A lot has happened on Facebook since you last logged in. Here are some notifications you’ve missed from your friends.
There are zero notifications from my friends. I only logged in 5 minutes ago. And with 1.5 billion users, I’m sure a lot has happened, but 99.99999% is of no interest to me, thanks! Just as this status is of no interest to anyone but me. (23/8/15)

Another recent complaint of mine:

Last week, Facebook was giving me one ad for every other post. (20/1/19)

Earlier today, it accused me of ticking the box that said Facebook could track my location, even when I’m not using Facebook. No I didn’t. It might be your default setting but if asked, I would never have said that was ok. Go to settings and check everything, they’re sneaky bastards. (13/4/19)

Dear Facebook, I ticked all the boxes telling you not to follow me, look at my location, track my movements. Yet you still suggest restaurants near to me wherever I am. Just stop lying about any concerns you have for my privacy. Apart from anything else, it’s Sunday and most of them are closed. Useless piece of crapp. (2/6/19)

In response to other peoples’ problems, I responded with my own tuppence-worth.

Facebook is full of bugs, each update fixes some and introduces new ones. That’s why we love it so much… (9/9/14)

To be honest, I find most Facebook ‘features’ a PITR but I’m not allowed to whinge about it any more! (27/11/17)

No, that didn’t stop me whingeing of course, although it may have slowed down the flow. Slightly. I tried to help fellow users when they had something negative to say.

I use Social Fixer. It fixes a lot of Facebook’s ‘features’, but it can’t do anything about the different subsets of posts that appear on different devices. Worth what we pay for it, I guess. (29/12/15)

This one’s almost prophetic.

There’s a very thick book waiting to be written about the ways in which Facebook manages to pis people off. So glad it’s free. Worth what we pay for it. (8/2/16)

Well, if not a thick book, this might well become a very long blog post. And what an embarrassing typo that was. More of my profound responses:

Yep, totally agree. Especially annoying when you’re seeing stuff that you don’t want, while other posts from people that you would love to see never appear due to Facebook’s ‘I know best’ algorithms. Grrr. (25/2/16)

Yes: also can’t post photos to other groups… it amazes me how Facebook can come up with a new bug every week… (12/4/17)

Don’t think so! But I have noticed a couple of other groups I appear to have dropped out of, so I’m leaning towards the Facebook bug theory (16/4/17)

It’s likely to be a Facebook problem: they release ‘upgrades’ every Tuesday. (28/2/19)

Sorry I can’t help. My GLW rolls her eyes every time I moan about Facebook’s bugs, inadequacies, inconsistencies. Sadly I have had to disable Social Fixer because that was screwing things up too. Still, it’s worth what we pay for it … (2/6/17)

There are so many ‘privacy options’ now, but I don’t trust them. I’m fairly confident with these internetty type things but if, say, I’ve not, in fact, ticked all the boxes to say ‘Don’t track my location’ and all its variants, then how is a less computer literate person going to get it right? I think they’ve been forced to make a show of concern for our privacy, but either they’re deliberately misleading us, or their algorithms just don’t work. As I mentioned before, if, as required and requested, it’s not tracking my location, how can it possibly suggest ‘nearby’ restaurants that I might be interested in?

There has been a lot in the news over the last few years about ‘fake news and the role that ‘social media’ plays in its promulgation. In November, 2018. I was asked whether I was voting in the General Election. My response?

Go away Facebook. It’s not the 2018 General Election. I’m not American so I can’t vote, anyway. I’m not even in America so I couldn’t vote even if I were allowed to. Which I’m not. But apart from that, congratulations on your political astuteness and your targetting algorithms. (11/18)

Why was I bothered about the location thing anyway? Because Facebook kept giving me duff information based on the wrong location.

Facebook hasn’t any idea where I am yet it keeps alerting me that friends are nearby when they’re really not! (28/3/13)

Buy and sell groups near you
Dagenham, Barking, Romford Selling & Advertising
16,564 members
No it ain’t, Facebook, it’s nowhere near me. Just stop it. (2/8/17)

This particular bugbear hasn’t bugged this particular bear for the whole time, though.

Since when did Facebook start telling me where it thinks I am? (4/12/16)

I think the first time was when it suggested, at a very early hour on a Sunday, that I was at the nearby boxing gym. I was still in bed at home.

Facebook has plenty of other things to comment on too. It spent a lot of time inveigling itself into my life.

Facebook keeps nagging me to wish you a belated happy birthday. So. Happy belated bleedin’ birthday, Pauline. (Alright, Facebook? You interfering festering pile of bloatware.) (8/11/16)

Just another example of it doing stuff I don’t need it to, when I would prefer it to just show me my friends’ posts.

It’s been a long time since I even thought about this feature. Now I’m no longer a member, I can’t check whether it’s still a thing.

OMFG (as the young people might say) Facebook comes up with another winning idea: couples’ pages eg https://www.facebook.com/adam?and=eve (15/11/12)

Another daft idea:

Sorry Facebook but I won’t be paying so that my nonsense can be read by more of my friends and subscribers. But if it’s this earth-shattering, I might reconsider: http://www.messengernewspapers.co.uk/news/whereyoulive/timperleynews/9960209.Saucepan_fire_in_Timperley/?ref=mr (4/10/12)

Sometimes, other people’s comments chimed with my own thoughts.

Blimey, wish I knew how to find my way back to the old facebook layout. Not that I ever seem to have the time to use it much! (19/9/11)

I think I promised a while ago to stop whingeing about Facebook’s bugs and ‘features’ that mean I don’t get to see everything I’d like to. Well, I am not alone: read this exchange between George Takei and a Facebook spokesman… and especially the comments that follow. https://www.facebook.com/georgehtakei/posts/475040805858711
I know, I know, Facebook is worth exactly what I pay for it, but it could be so much better. (14/6/12)

I blocked them too. Wish Facebook could do something but “freedom of speech” bla bla (17/6/16)

So, even in the early days, Facebook was changing things unnecessarily and annoying people. I’ve finally bitten the bullet and deserted a ship that is, surprisingly, not yet sinking. It’s been a long, long process of attrition. Sometimes I went literally minutes without having a whinge and a moan about Facebook.

Remember when you had to type a post into a box preceded by your own name? How quaint!

…is going to try “The New Facebook” … Whooppeeeee…. (6/8/8)

…can’t find anything on this dog’s dinner of a new facebook (15/9/8)

…is an old fart of a technophobic luddite and so is happy to have found a way back to the old facebook layout! (17/9/8)

…can’t send message in Facebook . I’ll respond to your messages just as soon as Facebook works again. Grrr. (1/11/8)

Publisher? Box? Wall? Posts? Streams? What’s on my mind? It’s a lovely sunny day and I’m sitting indoors fighting Facebook… (16/3/9)

…wants to know how he can possibly ‘Like’ everyone’s Status when he hasn’t even been on Facebook for nearly 24 hours. (1/5/9)

…is glad Facebook fixed the bug whereby I like every status. Now they just need to fix all the other bugs. (1/5/9)

Now I can have a username for my Facebook Profile. So it says. Only I can’t. It’s been “Checking Availability” for a million years and it still won’t give me my username. (20/6/9)

Why does Facebook keep telling me there are several new posts and then give me the same ones again? And again. And again. (15/7/9)

My Facebook no longer works in Firefox. Keeps telling me: “Cookies required Cookies are not enabled on your browser. Please adjust this in your security preferences before continuing.” It doesn’t tell me how often I have to enable cookies, though. Bloody computers. (16/10/9)

Oh, Mick, why didn’t you just give up on Facebook? Well, better late than never.

I see Facebook is playing up again; giving a random and different selection of ‘news’ items each time the button’s pressed. (11/12/9)

“A guide to Facebook’s home page: A simplified design provides easy access to your entire Facebook experience.” If this is ‘simplified’ then I am eternally grateful that Facebook isn’t becoming far too complicated and over-burdened with way too many ‘features’. (5/2/10)

Nice to see Facebook have introduced anti-time-wasting enhancements. Most of the ‘buttons’ no longer work. (15/3/10)

Thanks for all the birthday greetings… but where, oh where, on this latest version of Facebook, can I find the list of my friends’ imminent birthdays? It used to be on the front page, but it’s well hidden now. Or is it cos I is too old? (23/3/10)

Facebook and Adblock Plus and Firefox – major incompatibility issues. My money’s on the bugs all being Facebook’s, since I have no other problems with Firefox nor Adblock Plus. (IANAG) (17/8/10)

“People who aren’t friends with David only see some of David’s profile information. If you know David personally, Add David as a friend? on Facebook..” But unless I can see more of David’s information, how can I be sure it’s the correct David? (16/1/11)

Oh I’ve been given the new Facebook profile. Now with more ways to show and tell my story. Well, it can’t be any more bug-ridden than it was before. Can it? (18/1/11)

Did you know that from Friday, Facebook will start using your information – your ‘likes’ etc. in ads that will appear on the profile page of your contacts. It’s legal and is mentioned in the fine print when you create your account. To stop this do the following: Account, Account Settings, Then click on Facebook Ads ( tab…), choose “No one” on the drop-down menu and save changes (18/3/11)

Facebook gets on my thrupennies sometimes. Where I had a link to ‘Groups’ on my Homepage, I now have an option to ‘Create group’. I want to access my old groups, not create new ones. Any ideas? Facebook’s help is useless. Cheers. (10/4/11)

Ooh another Facebook bug. I ‘recommended’ a link a few minutes ago and on the ‘Home’ page it’s telling me I’m recommending the link I actually recommended yesterday. (4/5/11)

Facebook has changed its user settings without telling us again. Face recognition for photo tagging auto-enabled. Disable at will! http://tinyurl/&#8230; (7/6/11)

Don’t think much of this new idea from Facebook, Fred Bloggs and two other friends posted about BBC. So what? Let me decide if those posts are in any way connected. Facebook’s going the same way as MySpace did, getting too damn ‘clever’, by which I mean ‘impossible to use’. (8/8/11)

<rant> So now Facebook tells me about every new friendship one at a time instead of summarising, thus forcing other potentially interesting news items well off the bottom of the screen. Royal Mail would call this ‘modernisation’ or ‘the way forward’. I won’t say what I call it.</rant> (17/8/11)

Oh wow Facebook have actually fixed something. “Fred Bloggs is now friends with Jane Doe and 43 other people.” That’s all I need to know. There was no need to list every one individually. I’m sure there are more Facebook bugs/features on the way. (22/8/11)

Dear Facebook, please can I decide what are my ‘Top Stories’? Also, please fix the ‘Older Posts’ link at the bottom so that I can find any Posts / Stories that you’ve incorrectly relegated. Thanks. (16/9/11)

As far as I can see, in Facebook, if I subscribe to somebody, it’s like they’re my friend but I’m not theirs. I can’t see the point. Is Facebook trying to be Twitter? (3/10/11)

Just below this status box, Facebook says “19 RECENT STORIES, 2 MARKED AS TOP HIGHLIGHTED STORIES FIRST · SORT BY RECENCY”. Recency??? Never seen that word outside psychology text books. So, thanks, Facebook, for broadening my vocabulary. Now go away and fix some bugs. Please. (22/10/11)

Oh FFFFFacebook snafu stop it. (23/11/11)

Haven’t had a moan about Facebook for a while, so I’ll rectify that right now. “Tom Friendlyperson and 5 others posted about Christmas” it says, then displays these 6 postings in a clump, with no regard to the ‘Sort: Recent Stories First’ legend at the top of the screen. Funny thing is, there are other statuses that mention Christmas too, but Facebook has arbitrarily ignored those. Guess it’s worth what I paid for it. (17/12/11)

Exception in createSidebarSection: Error: Permission denied for <moz-safe-about:neterror?e=netReset&u=https%3A//www.facebook.com/%3Fsk%3Dh_chr&c=ISO-8859-1&d=The%20connection%20to%20the%20server%20was%20reset%20while%20the%20page%20was%20loading.> to call method HTMLDocument.createElement
Even if it was, why do I need to know? And what am I supposed to do about it? Oh, you need me to log in again. Good old Facebook, always thinking about my security. (31/1/12)

What’s on my mind, Facebook asks. I’m staring at a Facebook page which my browser thinks is ‘done’ but which is (apart from the header and the left hand column of Favourites, Groups and Apps) totally empty. Devoid of content. Bereft of reading matter. Depleted. Blank. (20/2/12)

Good old Facebook number 462: You signed up to be one of the first to get Timeline (no I didn’t) and now it’s ready to go. Learn more, watch this video. The video you requested could not be loaded. Try again later. (Thanks, I’ll give it a miss, then.) (23/2/12)

Groan. Facebook. Trending articles. (21/5/12)

Oh F-F-F-Facebook! When did it start popping up with little tabs at the bottom of the screen? And how do I stop it? If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a hundred times: I wish they’d spend more time fixing bugs and giving us what we want rather than introducing new ‘features’ that we don’t want. (11/2/17)

Since my acquisition of a smart phone, I’ve been able to enjoy Facebook on two devices, on the PC and on the phone. I expected to see the same things in both places, even if what was carefully selected by Facebook’s algorithms was a mere portion of the whole. But no. The subset of posts I see on the phone is different to the subset of posts I see on the PC. So the notion that FB’s algorithm determining what is and isn’t important to me is demonstrably rubbish. It just randomly picks a few posts to throw my way. The alternative theory, that FB is deciding what to show me depending on whether I’m on a phone or on a PC is just too creepy to contemplate, and surely even Facebook wouldn’t do that?

Also, why does it bother to tell me about a post that it doesn’t want to or can’t show me? What am I supposed to do about a message like this:

This content isn’t available at the moment. When this happens, it’s usually because the owner only shared it with a small group of people or changed who can see it or it’s been deleted.

But it’s not just Facebook that annoys me. Sometimes the whole internet is ganging up on paranoid little old me.

I’m sure I used to be able to compose more than one email at a time, without the drafts being deleted. Thanks, Yahoo. So that’s Yahoo, Twitter, Facebook, AVG all ‘improving things’ and adding features that make them harder to use. (26/11/13)

And.

The internet is breaking up before my eyes. Facebook displays a different collection of statuses every time I refresh. Twitter is displaying some tweets twice. Flickr claims to be uploading my photos but is blatantly lying. Radio Downloader is taking over 30 minutes to download a 15-minute long programme. Yahoo won’t even retrieve emails I’ve just sent to myself. Yes, I could turn it off and on again – but where’s the fun in that? (1/6/14)

In my experience, if my browser, Firefox, stops working, it’s usually Facebook causing the problem. “Firefox is not responding” crops up every now and then, for a variety of reasons. Too many tabs open, or a sudden loss of internet connection, they’re reasonable excuses. But usually, deleting the Facebook tab gets things moving again like some electronic laxative.

I’ve always been concerned about Facebook’s inconsistencies in what it deems acceptable. It seems to love right-wing hatred being perpetrated on its platform. Yet it censors photos with the slightest hint of a female nipple.

There are a few good features that I like, such as the ability to hide all those annoying games and apps that peppered the site in the early days. That’s a setting that seems to work. Not to mention the option of muting users whose posts would otherwise monopolise the Facebook page, or ‘timeline’ as my ‘wall’ is now called, at the expense of other people’s more interesting offerings.

But the best way by far to improve the look of Facebook was by implementing an add-on, ‘Social Fixer’. This gives you the ability to hide the adverts, to conceal some areas of the screen so it appears less cluttered and to more easily change some of the settings. You can even change the overall look of Facebook: for a while, I enjoyed a pink Facebook rather than the drab, default blue.

Frequent bugs, hiding stuff I’d like to see, too many ads, inappropriate ads, security settings being too difficult and dishonest, it’s just not worth my time any more.

Since leaving Facebook, I’ve seen nothing to make me regret the decision. According to various news items, it’s going to become even more bloaty and ambitious. It’s likely to implement its own e- or crypto-currency. So not only will they know where you are, they’ll know what you’re spending your money on.

The moderators who have to sit and view hundreds of disturbing videos and images every day are not employed by Facebook, but by a firm sub-contracted by them. They are badly treated and they can’t remove much of what they see because Facebook’s rules aren’t stringent enough.

When I downloaded ‘my’ Facebook content before closing the account, one of the things I saw was a list of adverts that I’d clicked on. Haha. I didn’t click on any of them out of interest, I just clicked so that I could ‘hide’ uninteresting, repetitive and dodgy adverts. If they count those clicks as a sign of interest, then they’re misleading the advertisers. Surely I’m not the only one who hides adverts?

I’m sure I’ll miss some of the groups I belonged to, especially the funny ones, and I’ll miss the people. Some of whom I interact with mainly on Facebook. But as I write this, three weeks on, I am glad to have thrown it away like a tatty old sock. One of the unintended side-effects is that I now have to look for other things to whinge about and that’s got to be a good thing.

—– The end —

Well, that’s the essay what I wrote, just to get it out of my system. I agree, it needs a bit of editting, but other than reformatting for this blog post, to be honest, I can’t be bothered.

I knew it was the time to leave when we returned from our travels. During that 10 months away, I’d rarely looked at Facebook, so I knew I could live without it. That’s 10 months of far more interesting posts than this one, by the way.

That last sentence though: “One of the unintended side-effects is that I now have to look for other things to whinge about and that’s got to be a good thing.” Actually, I have been trying really hard not to whinge about anything and everything. Live and let live, so to speak. But then along comes an incompetent government, full of self-serving no-good-niks, so what am I supposed to do?

 

 

 

 

Auckland to Christchurch

Auckland is built on a volcanic bed consisting of about fifty volcanoes. Each is considered extinct though the field as a whole is merely dormant. There have been 90 eruptions in the last 90,000 years.

It is located on an isthmus which is just 2 km wide at its narrowest. There are two harbours: the northern one takes you to the Pacific Ocean and the other takes you to the Tasman Sea.

It is home to one third of New Zealand’s total population and everyone has very strong thighs. It’s a very hilly city and some of the hills are quite steep. We know: it feels like we’ve climbed most of them during the last couple of days.

We had breakfast courtesy of Joanna and Ian, while we all chatted, and so Liesel and I left the house on both days a little later then planned.

Two days, two Museums, fourteen miles walking in Auckland, two decent eating places, many fantastic views, zero bungee jumps and Christmas music seeping out of some shops.

Ghostly apparition

Our wanderings took us along some busy roads, so we were glad of the opportunity to take a ‘short cut’ through Myer’s Park. It’s a cute littel patch of green, with a fab children’s playground, and we were entertained by a man playing his piano-accordion.

Sculpture in Myer’s Park

Our destination was Auckland Domain, one of the bigger parks in the city and we couldn’t beliece how green Auckland is. Yes, there are plenty of high-rise buildings but there are green patches and trees in between, totally different to Tokyo.

We happened to pass by the art gallery and it just happened to have a café and we went in by mistake and had a coffee.

Mojo Coffee, above the art gallery

We sat outside, but under cover. It was warm and the sky was blue except for over there where it looked like a big black storm was brewing.

Ominous

We walked through Albert Park, where the sculpture that I thought might be a sundial turned out not to be. I couldn’t find a plaque so I can’t say what it really is.

We said hello to Queen Victoria and I made a short speech from the podium at Speakers’ Corner.

Queen Victoria

Bollocks to Brexit! And I am unanimous in this!!

Auckland Domain was hilly too, so it was only fair to test-sit many of the park benches.

There’s a word for this kind of tree

The trees were fascinating, multiple trunks in many cases; the paths were very well maintained. And as if that’s not enough, there were some really interesting sculptures too.

Numbers are the Language of Nature

At the top of the hill is located the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The views from the top are wonderful, a fine reward for all the effort. The Museum is very interesting but very moving too. There’s the history of the Maori settlers, the arrival of white Europeans with their Christianity and firearms as often seems to be the case.

There is a butterfly collection which is very pretty, but it feels a bit wrong to collect that many specimens.

Butterflies

As it’s a War Memorial, there are stories of all the conflicts that New Zealanders have been involved with, usually for the sake of the mother country. There are two Halls of Memory listing all Aucklanders lost in battle. And if that’s not enough, there is this:

Let these panels never be filled

We walked home and when we were caught in the rain, we took shelter in the bandstand for a few moments.

The Maritime Museum is down by the harbour so we knew this day’s walk wouldn’t be as long.

Millions of dollars

I couldn’t resist the temptation to have a go on one of the electric scooters operated by a company called Lime.

Mick on the scooter

Liesel wasn’t too keen and I didn’t go too far as I didn’t have a helmet but some other people were going by at very high speed.

In the museum, I chose to join the guided tour at 1.30pm. Liesel sat and read her book while Tony took me and all the others around for two hours. All the others? There were none. I had my own personal guide, and he explained everything, from how the Maoris arrived here in the first place, right up to Sir Peter Blake winning the America’s Cup for NZ in 1995.

Waka tiwai – river boat made from half a log

Tukutuku panels tell a story

On the way back home, we were very nearly tempted by this pub:

That’s a good deal

But really, this is my new favourite venue, and there is no prizes for telling me why:

Harbourside

This was a surprise too: Tony had mentioned the Rainbow Warrior in the museum earlier, but we didn’t know about this memorial:

Rainbow Warrior memorial

It was a short stay in Auckland, but we’ll be back very soon.

Our flight to Christchurch was short and sweet and again, we had seats a row apart.

It was good to be by the window, not above the wing, and I enjoyed the bird’s-eye view of Hagley Park.

The Oval in Hagley Park

We’re in Christchurch with my sister Pauline and her partner Andrew. We’ll be here for Christmas and until we get kicked out.

It’s our first visit here since the catastrophic earthquakes. Pauline’s house was finally re-built last year, after waiting six years.

A Day in Naha

We woke up this morning to news of a big earthquake in Anchorage. All our friends and family are OK, with minor damage to property. As far as we know right now, there are no reports of fatalities nor serious injuries. It’s a world away to us right now, but we’ve seen pictures of huge damage to roads and bridges, shops and houses. Sending love and good wishes to all in Alaska.

Liquor store in Anchorage

We took a gentle stroll to nearby Fukushuen Garden. Naha and Fouzhou in China, are two close and similar cities bonded by friendship that share ties of amicability. BFFs, in modern parlance. The garden has many interesting Chinese features, including a pair of pagodas that are modelled on Fouzhou’s twin pagodas.

Mount Ye and the Pavilion of Ye

Pavilion of Ye, waterfall and rainbow bridge

I thought this was a negative too, at first

Cheers!

Hobbitses live here

The entrance fee was ridiculously cheap: the equivalent of about £1.40. You have to wonder, how can they maintain the gardens with such a small income? Or, conversely, what do gardens in England do with all the money from their (relatively) extortionate entrance fees?

One of two enormous Chinese vases, behind glass

We fed the turtles. Well, we tried, but they’re just not as fast as the fish. If a turtle doesn’t grab a pellet of food within a microsecond, a big, greedy carp comes right up and devours it. We watched the heron too, wondering if it has its eyes on a fish supper. It walked silently from rock to rock, a ballerina en pointe, its eyes gazing a gazely stare into the water, but there was no bird on fish action. Liesel was just grateful there were no baby ducks on the menu, like that day in St James’s Park!

Turtles v carp: ¥100 for a box of carpfood

We wandered home, ate, read and wondered what to do on our final day here in Naha. As I write, it’s just gone midday and mainly we’re just sorting stuff out, a prelude to packing tomorrow morning. Not very exciting, I know.

This is more interesting

This is very pretty… we need Shazam for flowers. Or, alternatively, we could just take notes from the captions by the plants in the garden.

Hiroshima

Hiroshima.

The word itself is evocative. Visiting the town was difficult. Were we being intrusive? Invasive? Or were we visiting with good intentions in our hearts?

Yes: definitely the latter. What a moving experience. We spent some time being interviewed by several school children. We passed on messages of peace and love and they gave us origami cranes.

The Atom Bomb Dome

The A-Bomb Dome from the Peace Memorial Park

Before the war

After the bombing

From a survivor

A sentiment close to our hearts

The Museum was very crowded, hundreds of school students reading about the war and the bomb and there were some fairly graphic exhibits too.

140,000 of these small tiles, one for each victim

140,000 tiles make up the picture

The willow tree that survived the A-bomb

Hiroshima Castle

From the castle towards the town

The Peace Bell

The Peace Bell was made in 1949 to console the souls of the people who died from the A-bombing, and to hope for peace.

We sat and thought for a while beside Hiroshima Castle before heading for home. It’s a lovely city and the people, museum staff, passers-by, children were all very friendly.

But I suspect the story from that August morning in 1945 will probably be at the forefront of our minds for a long time to come when we hear the name Hiroshima.

International Travel

No matter how you try to make plane travel stress free, it never is. We had no mishaps, other than Mick leaving behind his reading glasses, but it was still stressful because of immigration.

American immigration agents are always either smart asses or jerks. Do they go to special school for this? After a day of travel neither is better than the other.

Having made it through immigration and customs in Seattle, we rechecked our bags, got our seat assignments and headed to the terminal. You know Alaska is no longer your home when you do not encounter anyone you know waiting at the gate. I knew no one.

Anchorage has changed a lot since I was here last but I’m pleased to say the mountains are still stunning and nothing makes me feel more at home.

Mom and Dad picked us up and drove to their house. We were met by the motor home aka land yacht was parked across the drive. Tomorrow my family is driving to Fairbanks for the week to support my nephews in a state soccer tournament. Can’t say I’m looking forward to the 358 mile drive but being in the motor home is a little like taking the train. You can sleep, eat, make a cuppa, read, watch a movie and enjoy the scenery.

Light Relief

växjö-pendant-lampLast week, we bought a light fitting from Ikea. Yesterday, I installed it. We now have something remarkably like a flying saucer floating above the dining table. All we needed now was a lightbulb that would actually fit. None of our existing ones have the same fitting, of course. What we should have done last week was open the box in the shop, read the instructions and then purchase the correct, presumable Swedish screw-fitting lightbulb. Or read the instructions on the shelves telling us we needed custom lighbulbs. (There are no such instructions.)

So today, we returned to Ikea and purchased not one but two bulbs. Both physically fit but one is brighter than the other and we don’t really know how many candellas or lumens of brightness we need, nor power consumption. All we can say is, we would like it as bright as an old-fashioned 60-watt or 100-watt incandescent lightbulb.

On the way back home, my mind replayed the conversation that must have taken place one day in a dark, smoky room somewhere.

There’s too much CO2 in the atmosphere, greenhouse effect, global warming, we should do something about it.

Yes, I agree. But what?

How about these new energy-saving lightbulbs? We can force everyone in the world to use them instead of the old, reliable, bright, incandescent ones.

So each household will use less energy?

Well, sort of, yes, that’s right.

But they’re not very bright, are they.

We’ll get used to that. And brighter ones will come along soon.

They take a couple of seconds to light up when you turn them on, correct?

Yes, that’s to save even more energy.

Oh of course! But some people like to dim their lights at night, and you can’t do that with these new-fangled energy-saving lightbulbs.

Not all of them, no, but there are dimmable ones available. You just need to buy a special dimming device with each such bulb.

Won’t that use more resources when we’re meant to be saving on energy and materials?

A bit, maybe. The idea is to give people the impression that they’re doing something for the environment: they won’t necessarily be saving any actual energy, overall.

Oh, is that why they’re manufactured in China?

Yes: all the energy saved by not lighting up people’s houses properly is instead used for transporting lightbulbs half way round the planet.

Seems good to me. And when these bulbs stop working, they’re just thrown away?

No, they contain some very dangerous and rare elements and they should be disposed of in a controlled manner, not just thrown out with the rest of the rubbish.

Old lightbulbs came in a cardboard box, is that still the case?

No, of course not. These lightbulbs are much more expensive. They’ll be sold in non-reusable blister packs made from non-recycleable plastic. And there’ll definitely be no way to check that they work while you’re in the shop.

Hardly a giant leap forward, is it?

No, I think it’s fair to say, they’re not to everybody’s taste.

One more question, if I may?

Of course.

Lightbulb: is it one word or two words?

 

L at the end of the T

This is a conversation I had with myself earlier when Radio 2 played a horrible, horrible song for the millionth time this week. Why not play a CD? Ah, good idea. Oh, except we can’t, we got rid of the stereo system. We can play a CD on the DVD player, that’s still connected. Oh, good idea, yes. Except we can’t. Why not? All of the CDs have been packed. So Radio 3 it was, for a while. Back to Radio 2 for Paddy O’Connell sitting in for Jeremy Vine with a loud Brexiteer and a brash Remainer both shouting over each other and reminding me why we don’t listen to the Today programme any more, nor watch Question Time on TV: it’s all manufactured confrontation, everything has to be black and white, one thing or another.

We made our final trip to the tip today to dispose of some wood that we can’t really leave in the garden waste bin, even though technically speaking, it is garden waste. We had to take the old, much loved, heavily used but no longer wanted office desk too. Several people on Facebook Marketplace expressed an interest but none were interested enough to make the journey to Chessington. Hopefully, someone will visit the bric-a-brac area at the tip and find the desk of their dreams. Everything else that we offered has been given away to people or taken to a charity shop. And John came along as planned to take away the washing machine, microwave and a few other bits and pieces.

So everything in the house now is either coming with us or is being left for the new people. Today, I dismantled some furniture, packed up the PC and all the peripherals, while Liesel packed up more kitchen stuff including the contents of the spice drawer. I never knew we had so many spices, all in glass bottles, and that box is really heavy, man.

I think we’re on target to have a nice, relaxing weekend. At the last minute, we’ll pack up the TV and the phone connection and all that stuff.

We briefly discussed going out to the pub tonight but, nah, we’re both too knackered. We’ve got books to read, radio programmes to listen to, beauty sleep to catch up on and then, we’ll see what occurs early tomorrow morning!

Achill Island

There really is no point in trying to come up with more and more superlatives. If you need more, find a thesaurus, look up ‘gorgeous’, ‘lovely’, ‘awe-inspi\nring’ and ‘incrediy moving. It was a pleasant drive to Achill, on good roads, with little traffic, in the sunshine.

There were some sheep on the road, we had the beaches pretty much to ourselves, we had a picnic on a beach but on the whole, we just enjoyed looming at the stunning Irish landscapes.

Keem
Keem

Rush hour traffic

Where’s Liesel?

Mulrahanny

That’s Impossible, Mummy

I went for a walk in Chessington a couple of days ago. During that time, I chatted with four former colleagues at Royal Mail.

Our own Postie, Michael, is very helpful and we’re happy to return the favour, to make his day-to-day duty a little bit easier.

Duncan, the Delivery Office Manager, had a hip replacement last year and says he hasn’t felt this good for a long time. Royal Mail senior management don’t get any better. Duncan has just been copied in to a long thread of emails discussing the sale of Chessington Delivery Office and moving the staff into the spare space the Epsom office. All the plans have been made, values estimated, timetables agreed. But there’s just one problem. Royal Mail sold this office ten years ago and have been paying rent ever since.

Paul usually works indoors, serving customers who come to collect items that couldn’t be delivered. He also prepares the up to seven, yes, seven, door-to-door leaflets (unaddressed junk mail, pizza menus mostly) that have to be delivered to each house. 99% of which go straight into the recycling box.

Steve had two knees replaced last year and is recovering well. In fact, he chose to retire a few weeks ago too and syas he’s loving it. Not having to get up at 5 o’clock in the morning. Not knowing what day of he week it is. He thinks he might get bored one day, in which case he’ll look for a very part-time job.

But he has grand-children too and I have a sneaky feeling he will be spending more time with them.

It’s a funny feeling spending time with our Martha and William, knowing it’s never going to be enough time, but also planning to leave them for a year while we go travelling.

William has just turned 5 months of age. He has a gorgeous, cheeky little smile and if he doesn’t become the number one joker in his class at school, I’ll be very surprised. He will be able to pick us out in an ID parade, no problem, given the amount of time he scrutinises our faces, while trying not to laugh.

And here we are now, boasting about Martha, just over 2 years old. She is incredibly bright. Not only can she count from 1 to 10, she knows when he has 2, 3, 4 or 5 balls in front of her. Proper counting.

Playing in the garden today, she slipped on the slide, and when her Mum asked if she was alright, she said, “I’m fine.” She usually refers to herself in the third person, as Moo-moo. So, pronouns too.

And when her Mum asked if she wanted to climb up the slide, for the second time in two days, and we just looked at each other the first time, she said, “That’s impossible, Mummy.” What a concept for a 2-year old.

Salisbury and Ireland

Salisbury has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. A Russian migrant, his daughter and a police officer were affected by Novochok, a nerve agent that can only be made in Russsia. They’re still cleaning up the town, but not everyone wears a biological protection suit. So when Liesel and I went to meet a friend there, we chose to wear ordinary clothes.

A lot of ordinary clothes, as it happens, because it was one of the coldest days of the month. None of us walked as far as we would have liked, from the car park to a coffee bar to the Boston Tea Party for lunch, a quick visit to the bookshop and then back to the car park.

The car park was free of charge for up to three hours, in an effort to attract visitors to the town again.

Today, we drove to Reddish to see Jenny, Liam, Martha and William. We’re staying in an Airbnb place because their house is in a state of flux right now, and probably will be until they can move to their new house.

In a first for Liesel, she asked our Airbnb host to sign her book. Our host happens to be Fionn Davenport, a travel writer who wrote the Lonely Planet Guide to Ireland that Liesel was reading on the drive today, as we’re off to Ireland next week.

Small world, innit?