Thursday, 6 November 2014


I think a lot of people have it all wrong when choosing their mate for life;  yes, we fall in love, or lust, the butterflies run amok, we get giddy feelings where we shouldn't, and we are swept along a tide of electronic impulses that thrusts reason straight out of the window.

We believe we have found our soul mates;  we talk all night, we laugh, we make love and it's wonderful, and we believe - if that's what we're raised to do - that we have found The One.

We marry, we set up home, and somewhere along the line, a few years, a few decades, the cracks begin to appear.  Where did we go wrong?  How did we lose what we once had?

I remember finding some old love letters from way back when, that I wrote to my now-ex-husband when we were parted for three months.  As I sat on the floor of my bedroom and read through them, I wondered who this girl was, who was gushing forth platitudes of love, she sounded fun, and happy, and full of optimism and hope.  I was jealous of this girl in the letter, this girl who seemed to have no obstacles in her way, who had the strength and enthusiasm to tackle anything that would dare stand in her way.  This girl who was bubbly, and mischievous, who teased in her writing, and made promises of happy reunions...

Where had this girl gone?  Who had I become?  Because as far as I can remember, and it's some years now, the girl I was at the end of my marriage held no resemblance to the excited girl in the letter.  I was angry, and unfulfilled, and so lonely, my husband was practising serious avoidance tactics, staying late at work; and when he did come home, it was not to a blissful, happy house of laughter, but one of reproach, and silence and tension.  Back then, I had not yet learnt the art of honest communication;  of being able to put into words the emotions I was feeling.  Instead, I would lash out about trivial matters, and he would retaliate, tit for tat, until we tore each other to shreds, until our union went from a beautiful fabric to a tatty and tired rag.

Because, isn't it the truth - it is not in the good times you need someone at your side, but the bad? It's not who you turn to when you're happy, but who you'd want at your side when your sad.  Whose shoulder do you want to lean on when you're tired?  Whose hand do you want to be holding when you get that bad news, that there's no hope, that there's no return from the place you now find yourself?  Will there even be someone next to you?  If there is, hold on tight.

These are not the things I considered when I had my husband, nor what he considered when he had me.  There are regrets, from both sides, but no comeback.  There is no U-turn to be made, because we made sure that there were only ashes left by the time we turned away from each other.

So the question is this:  When we choose our mates, perhaps for the second time, what are the things you should consider?  Perhaps I am now at the stage where I should overlook the tummy, the balding head, the slight limp, and look deeper at the person who lies within.  Because, at the end of the day, it is not the face you will remember, but the heart.  And I am no oil painting myself, just a normal, everyday girl growing older and wiser.

I am having major back problems at the moment, and find myself making excuses when asked out - who would want to date a person who's struggling?  Surely they would run a mile?  And so I continue on my path alone, yet there's a niggling voice at the back of my head reminding me that the grey hairs are a-massing, that the mind may still be eager but the body is tiring...  and whilst I refuse to stoop to "beggars can't be choosers" (I ain't no beggar), there is a tendency to be more tolerant, less critical, as the years pass.

How lovely to have someone next to you who makes you tea when you've had a bad day. Or cares enough still to bring you flowers in the rain?  Now I have my dog, and she's not great at the tea and sympathy.  And it's my own fault - I hold my hands up to this.  I was too young, too naive, too displaced within my own self to know that it takes two to tango, not one.  I am not saying that our marriage would have worked - there were many other contributing factors that came into play.  But perhaps if we had minded each other a little more, both of us, perhaps if we had stood by during times of trouble instead of being "too busy at work", perhaps we would have lasted the journey that is Marriage?

So now I have new things to consider:  how does he handle sadness?  Does he shy away from stress or face it head on and look for a solution?  How does he behave around elderly folk, the homeless, the underprivileged?  Does he like my dog?

I went for a meal with a guy once - and when we came out of the restaurant, there was a homeless guy sitting on the floor on a piece of cardboard, a tatty blanket wrapped around his thin shoulders.  I stopped.  I rooted in my purse and gave him some money, but I also got down on my haunches and spoke with him for a while :  How are you?  How long have you been sleeping rough?  Is there somewhere you can go when it gets really cold?  How are people treating you?

We ended up having a short chat, and for those brief moments, I hope that I connected with him as a fellow human being, for there but for the grace of God, go I.  And it must be awful to sit in the cold and be ignored, unseen, uncared for by passers-by.  The point here is this : when I had finished my little chat, I looked up for my date, thinking he was close by in support, perhaps even rustling in his own pockets for a few euro which he could well afford.  But he was 100 yards away down the road, looking into shop windows.  That, my fellow readers, is what put me off him straight away.  No compassion.  Arrogance.  And a sign of the man within.

So now my priorities have shifted a little - I am not looking for cockiness, but for kindness.  I am not looking for arrogance, but compassion.  People facing second-time-around have travelled the road, have had their knocks, and carry their baggage upon weary shoulders.  If that trip has not taught them how to be there in the bad times, then I most certainly don't want to see them during the good.  If he doesn't want to see me tonight because I have a cold, he won't be seeing me tomorrow night either, when I'm hot to trot and back in action.

Shoot me down if you will, there are readers out there who constantly criticise what amounts to my own opinions on these blogs - throw those stones.  But mind your glass windows lest a stone comes back at you. Someone once said:  when you point your finger at someone, there are three more pointing back at you - try it.  And make sure those three fingers find no fault, before you lash out at someone else.  The reader of whom I speak knows who she is - so this paragraph is written especially for you - feel privileged.

In sickness, and in health.  Those words mean a lot.  My parents celebrated their 64th wedding anniversary recently.  Sixty four years.  Think about it.  My father has just bought a treadmill so he can stay fit during the rainy season - and he even got my immobile mother up on it.  We laughed so much, she managed two steps before admitting defeat, and to see the two young people they once were look at each other with their wrinkles, and their aches, and their flailing bodies, and share that "moment", is something too beautiful for words.  I salute them.

Do you think they had a blissful, calm-water sailing?  Ha.  Be real.  They suffered. And struggled. And fought.  And survived.  And today, as I watch them sit in their matching chairs alongside each other, my dad reading the paper, my mother knitting quietly, facing their Winter years, knowing the path ahead is not very long, I realise this: there is a lot to be said for the older generation, for commitment and loyalty, and love, because it had the staying power to move through all the seasons - spring, summer, autumn and winter.

I'd just be happy to get through the silly season.

In sickness, and in health.  At the moment I can offer myself in sickness, with the promise of better things to come in my health.

Mind each other.

Friday, 31 October 2014


Everywhere I turn these days, people are fretting themselves over very little.  In fact, it seems they have now developed a new pass-time of worrying, as if their lives are so empty that this is all they have left to do.  Have we become a nation of worriers to replace a nation of warriors?  It is very worrying.  In fact, I am very worried about how many worriers are out there.... I shall stay awake all night tonight worrying about how much worry there is in the world.

Tonight someone asked me a question : should we start a Forum where people can complain about things? Like services provided, or quality of goods, or general dismay at the misery of life in general? What, I asked, like a kind of Whinge-a-Holics Anonymous?  Is this what the world has turned into, or just in this little bubble called Ireland, where thoughts are never far away from the nearest pending doom and gloom, like taxes.  Or little Johnny's failure to understand Algebra (which he will never use unless he becomes a scientist, and let's face it, he never will if he doesn't get Algebra to begin with - another worry).  Just turn on the television or open a paper in this country and tis no wonder we worry - we are thrown asunder with worry of obesity, underage sexual encounters, disease, the dangers of leaving a peeled onion in your fridge, the concern that your house might go up in smoke if you keep your money under the mattress.....  and all the while, sales of Xanax are on the rise everywhere.

There's a new buzzword in town : Generalised Anxiety Disorder.  This in itself is a worry, because this type of anxiety doesn't have a real name, or a category to belong to, so it's just dumped into the "general" category so that clients can worry a little more about the real cause of their worry.  After all, it can't be identified, so it must be worrying, no, to live with this type of uncertainty?  I mean, if the psychiatrists and psychotherapists can't identify it, I mean, what chance is there?  Worry, worry, worry....

What is worry, by definition?  "Worry is to feel, or cause to feel, anxious or troubled about actual or potential problems".

See, there's my worry right there - that you can now worry about potential problems - surely there is a potential problem in anything and everything these days?  What if that chicken has salmonella? What if I don't wake up in time for work tomorrow?  What if the car doesn't start?  What if they cut my electricity off?  What if my husband has an affair?  What if this pimple bursts all over my new pillowcase?

How about this one : What if you don't fucking wake up tomorrow, now THERE'S a real worry.  Or not.  Because if you don't wake up tomorrow, you'll have nothing more to worry about - you have reached your destination.  Please collect all personal items as you depart Life....

I am so sick of listening to people moaning, complaining, worrying and whingeing, all the while doing absolutely nothing to change the things they are moaning, complaining, worrying and whingeing about.  They always seem to find me, these worriers.  I think I give off a radar signal of "I don't give a shit about anything!" and they home in on it like flies to a cowpat.  Perhaps if they hover close enough to me, their worries will fade into the background.  That worries me.  See, now I'm worrying.

But I don't, really.  I don't sweat the small stuff.  Anything that has happened to me has, eventually, become part of my past.  And so whatever shite I might find myself quick-sanding in, shall too become part of my past - I just have to paddle a little faster for a little while.  I don't get into debt, therefore I don't have to worry about not being able to pay my bills.  I live within my means, and I sleep peacefully at night.  I don't mix with assholes, so therefore I don't have to worry about having to be polite to them under false pretenses.  I don't eat shit food, so I don't have to worry about whether I'll live to be 61 or 64.  I don't drink, very rarely, so I don't have to worry about what I'm doing to my liver.  See, it's all about choice in the end, isn't it?

Your actions will have a consequence - so choose what you do wisely.  I wisely choose not to worry, because worry takes away from the only thing that's actually real in this world : the very moment in which you're standing.  At the moment I am in a lot of pain - I have a prolapsed disc in my back that has been hindering me for the past good many months.  Am I worried?  Not one bit.  Am I in pain? Oh, for sure.  And lots of it, too.  So I channel my energy into making sure I'm doing the best I can at this point in my life to limit further damage, whilst assisting my body to heal as best I can.  I've seen the neurosurgeon - it may warrant surgery;  this I shall find out next week when I have my next MRI scan.  Am I worried?

No.  Because either the MRI scan is going to show no improvement (meaning surgery), or it's going to show improvement (meaning yaay, no surgery).  Either way, surgery or not, the outcome is surely going to be the same - the elimination of pain, either through self recovery, or an operation.  What's there to be worried about?

The amount of shit I listen to on a daily basis beggars belief.  I think I made a conscious decision to not be like someone I know - he is the world's most prolific worrier, and I see how much stress worrying puts on him;  his mind is never at rest.  He is always fretting about something, and if he has nothing to worry about, he makes something up.  That's very sad, all that energy wasted, and I feel sorry for the torment he's in, mentally.  He's actually very funny, the things he worries about.  Like driving over a manhole cover is going to damage the tyres of the car.  Or what people could be saying because I walk my dog with a man who is unmarried and single, and who is one of my very best friends - yes, friends. Or what will happen if he tries to sneak in some contraband into the recycling bin, like a rag, or a bottle.  Will he be caught?  Will he be in trouble?  Will he ever be able to settle down, be normal like "other people" (define normal?). Another friend worries that he will be poor, whilst being comfortably wealthy.  Worry, worry, worry.

I can honestly say I have mastered the art of thinking about absolutely nothing, whilst simultaneously looking relatively pensive.  It's quite an art.  You can feign interest in a brain-dead conversation whilst planning your dinner, or ponder the outcome of your next Scrabble encounter without blinking an eye.  Blankness is a wonderful ability, and I am so grateful I have trained myself into switching off the clatter and chatter that so many brains suffer from.  All that gibberish, voices fighting to be heard, all the bullshit your ego spews at you and tries to get you to buy into, and detracting you from lovely peace and quiet.  It must be very worrying.  To others.

And like anything in this life, worrying started somewhere.  It is a learned behavioural pattern, like everything else we're made up of.  And you've got to take control of those little voices in your head - the ones that tell you you're not good enough, or strong enough, or pretty enough, or clever enough. The ones that snigger at your efforts to improve yourself.  Drown them out by telling them, quite simply and in plain English, to fuck off.  Because that's all it really takes.  Be in control.  Listen to how you think, sure, sometimes you think quite nice and helpful things.  But be quite happy to discard the thoughts that increase your blood pressure and stop you from sleeping, because these thoughts are not your friends.

Are we designing a nation of worriers, I'll ask again?  We have labelled our children whom we once would have described as enthusiastic or full of energy, as having ADHD.  We have labelled quiet and pensive people as insecure.  We have labelled mentally weary people as lazy.  We have embraced high sugar foods as a staple in our diets, and wonder why we are so tired and overweight.  We have labelled, we have labelled, we have labelled.  And we have created a nation of anxiety that has served nothing more than increased customers for the pharmaceutical industries.

My benchmark is self-made.  How do I feel about myself today?  Well, sometimes I've pain, sometimes I'm happier than others, sometimes I'm lazy, sometimes I'm giddy, and sometimes I'm just plain bored.  But I go with whatever I'm feeling, because if I am agreeing with my mood, there's nothing to worry about, not so?  Conflict, that's the real concern here.  Conflict in the mind, a constant barrage of questioning and doubting, that's what causes worry.

I just couldn't be arsed.  Worry sounds like an awful lot of hard work to me, for no return whatsoever. I've had tough days, and I've pulled through.  I've had poor days, and I've still eaten.  I've had cold days, and I've warmed up again. It's history, isn't it?  Aren't we supposed to learn from history to improve our futures?  And my history has told me that despite some of the hardest things anyone could ever go through, I am still here.  So why worry?

I'll leave you with this thought to ponder - or worry about.  The choice, ultimately, is yours.

Why worry? 

In life there are only two things to worry about:
Whether you are well;
Or whether you are sick

If you are well, 
you have nothing to worry about.

If you are sick, you have two things to worry about:
Whether you'll get better;
Or whether you'll die...

If you get better,
You have nothing to worry about

If you die, you have two things to worry about:
Whether you'll go to Heaven;
Or whether you'll go to Hell

If you go to Heaven, 
You have nothing to worry about

If you go to Hell,
You'll be so busy shaking hands
with all your friends,
You won't have time to worry...

So why worry?

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

MADE IN HONG KONG..... part two

Gary Collins
(at said address)

Dear Mr Chan,

You have no idea how happy receiving your letter has made my family and I!  I could not believe my eyes when I read that you had found my brother-from-another-mother Mr K.P. Gary!  He and I spent many years travelling the world together, but sadly I lost touch with him a long time ago.  He once stole a girl I loved, and also my watch, but that's another story, and anyway, she is fat and old now so I don't mind that much anymore.  I have since got a new watch, too.

I am so terribly saddened to hear that he has passed away;  in fact, it has so broken my heart that I wonder if the percentage of my share could be negotiated upwards?  Because of the undue stress and upset his death has caused me, and the shock of your letter, it would only seem fair that you consider giving me the larger portion of the share, in fact, the entire estate should now fall to me because we share the same name, ie Gary?

My wife is a judge in our Supreme Court and she says by rights that estate should be legally transferred in its entirety into my account.  She is currently investigating what our options are, and we are prepared to travel to your company to ensure that everything is above-board and legal.  Mr K.P. Gary (his name was Kenneth Paxton) was a very honest man, and he would like to know that his money has fallen into the rightful hands.

Oh!  I have so many plans to make!  So many people to tell!  The local newspapers have been notified and they are interviewing me on local radio in the morning! I am so excited, I am nearly peeing in my corduroys here.  I will be famous!  And so will you!  Everyone will know of your kindness, your hard efforts in trying to reach me!  I will make sure of that, so that you, too, can bask in the light of fame.

Again, I cannot thank you enough, and if you give me your physical address, I will go right ahead and make travel arrangements - perhaps you could arrange for a limousine to collect us at the airport, because we shall be very tired after our long trip.

Once again, thank you from our hearts to yours - we can't wait to meet you, and treat you to a fried scorpion or whatever the fuck you slit-eyed weasels eat over there.

See you soon!

With kind regards,
Gary Collins

MADE IN HONG KONG..... part one

Today I am going to share with you a genuine, real, in-my-hands letter that a friend of mine received through the letter box.  I am not going to edit it;  there is no need.  But I can't help wondering are there little slitty eyed people sitting on the other side of the world that think us Europeans are so incredibly thick that this might actually work?  Or more frighteningly, DOES it work?  Here it is, verbatim.  Address has obviously been omitted to protect him from unwanted house-calls....

I am going to respond to this letter, and will post my reply as a sequel to this... watch this space!



Collins, Gary
(address was correct)

I am Mr Billy Chan the auditor of Acru Asset Management Ltd, Hong Kong.  In the course of my auditing job, the afcountant and I discovered a floating fund of seven million, five hundred thousand US Dollars in a dormant account opened in 1997 in favour of a foreigner, Late Mr K.P. Gary [in bold print here, where all types of names are inserted to suit the recipient], who died in 1999.  Every effort made to track any member of his family or next of kin, has failed.  We are making contact with you to stand as his Next of Kin since you both have the same last name.  [actually, they had it back to front, but I digress....]

Our intention is to transfer the sum in the aforementioned account to a safe account overseas.  We therefore propose that you partner with us by providing an account that will serve the purpose of receiving this fund.  For your assistance in this venture, we are ready to part with a good percentage of the entire funds as your share.  After going through the deceased's records and files, we discovered that:

No one has operated this account since 1999.
He died without any heir; hence the money has been floating.
No other person knows about this account and there was no known beneficiary or next of of kin.

If we do not remit this money urgently, it would be forfeited and subsequently converted to company funds.  This money can be approved to you legally if all the necessary documentary approvals are secured in your name.  You would be required to show some proof as the next of kin, which we will provide you with and guide you on how to make your application of claims legally in accordance to the inheritance claim policy of the company and that of Hong Kong.

Please respond by stating your telephone and fax number on this letter and send it back to me by fax or email.  As soon as I hear from you, I will send you detailed information on the modalities of the transaction and also give you a call.  With your ability to follow our instructions, the entire process can be concluded in 14 working days.

I look forward to your prompt response.

Yours truly,
Billy Chan
Hong Kong

[I will not include the private fax number or email on the letter, just in case someone that reads this decides to give it a go.... seriously??]

I am about to prepare a response to this letter, and oh, I am going to have such fun.  Watch for the next post.

Sunday, 12 October 2014


We are living in extraordinary times.  Everything manufactured today is with a shorter lifespan to increase repeat sales and keep industry turning. Washing machines, fridges, dishwashers... gone are the days where you could buy something that would last you twenty years, like my parents' fridge once did. I don't recall as a child them ever replacing any appliance, and as such everything aged gracefully and still limped along doing its job just fine, albeit a little worn around the edges.  But even age gave it a certain grace, a longevity that today's generation knows nothing about.  The dented toaster, the chipped cup that your father always drinks out of.  It is memories that are made of such things.

Today things are much changed;  things are disposable - everything from paper plates, to mobile phones, to seasonal clothing, and even cars. Everything replaced, dumped, renewed, and kept up to date - either because society says it must be so, or because things just don't last as long as they used to. In Ireland, the first two digits of your car registration denotes the date the car was manufactured, such as 07.... or 09.... or worse still... 01. And this puts pressure on folk when they feel they need to upgrade to keep their belongings fresh and new.  I'll bet top dollar if they took off the registration numbers of cars for sale, you'd be surprised at the year and model of car you'd choose blind.  Then such things as mileage, design, and functionality will come into play, and you will no longer be coerced by status.

Marriages and relationships are far more disposable these days, too.  Gone are the 50th anniversary parties - celebrating long lives shared, memories made, roads travelled, obstacles overcome - to be replaced with "oh, you're divorced?  Shame."  Have we, as a nation, become too fickle and dismissive of our emotions along with our belongings?  Do we walk the walk as well as we talked the talk when we first hooked up together?  Are the pressures of daily existence now no longer conducive to going the distance when it comes to Love?

My mother always said why would you want someone else's leftovers, a terrible way of phrasing things, it has to be said.  But in her day, marriage was for life, relationships weathered the storms, and priorities were in their rightful place, so you can understand that mentality. My parents have been married for 64 years. It's a pity we don't have the same values in each other today.  There is no respect anymore, no tolerance, or understanding, or compassion.  There is only the quick-fix solution of a get-out clause that's never far from anyone's mind.  After all, we are a modern day mish-mash of children that have survived broken homes, broken marriages, and broken dreams, so why should we bother trying to invest in something worthwhile second time around?  

I haven't dated in a long while.  Oh, I've had the occasional coffee, the random meal here and there, but nothing that I thought would amount to much more than a date. I take love very seriously, and I know what suits me and what doesn't. It doesn't revolve around money.  It doesn't revolve around the car they drive.  Nor does it revolve around what he can bring to my table - I have enough to feed myself there, and have provided for myself for a very long time. But what I have discovered - and shoot me down here if you disagree - is that people have started treating others as commodities, sexual objects perhaps used to pass the time of day, and only ever a short skip and a jump away from the exit door.  After all, there are plenty of other de-scaled and gullible fish in the sea, not so?

What happened to old fashioned romance?  Where have the men vanished to, the ones who open doors, who want to protect their woman, provide and care for them, the ones who'd rather head out for a night with their partners rather than get drunk in a local with their mates?   Have women become so self-sufficient that men have become effeminate?  I don't want a mouse.  I want a man's man in the fullest sense of the word, with a heart as big as the ocean.  And I will find him.  I might be seventy by the time I do, but I shall not give up.  Nor compromise.  

It's hard, today's dating world.  Always starting over, getting to know someone, going through the same old "so tell me about yourself"  time and time again, opening oneself up and risking a little more, and coming away with a little less each time.  Negative dating experiences don't teach you a thing; they drain you.  They suck the lifeblood out of you, and create more hermits and recluses than we care to admit, me being one of them. They make you stop bothering.  I wonder is it really worth it in the end?  It sure is exhausting. 

And yet I know there's someone out there looking for someone like me, just as I am looking for him.  Thing is, how will we ever connect?  I've asked the Universe - so far, she hasn't replied, or at least got her wires so badly crossed that what she sent me was worthy only of placing back on the shelf for someone else to take a chance on.  I think Ms Universe has blown a fuse. But I know, too, that she does things in her own time, and perhaps I had lessons to learn along the way, things to experience, trials to overcome, before I'd be ready for the next phase of my life.

We live in a world that is so connected by technology, but we have never been more disconnected as a human race.  That's awfully sad.

There is new life arriving in my family soon - my beautiful, baby granddaughter is due in December.  A Christmas Gift.  A baby angel sent down to learn our ways, and perhaps teach us hers, so that we might not forget that despite it all, the greatest of all things, is Love.  I shall tie a ribbon around her and hang her on my tree.

What is not disposable to me is my heart.  I will forever stay true to it, because it is the essence of who I am.  I don't care who thinks I'm too soft, too compassionate, too giving, too close to my emotions.  I like my heart just the way it is.  But don't for one minute underestimate the strength I have. For I will surprise you when you least expect it.

So you can keep your random dating, your casual sex, your frivolous frittering, your constant changing of partners.... I'm afraid I'm old-school.  

I am not disposable. 

Are you?

Thursday, 18 September 2014


I am sitting in my kitchen with the Love Zone playing romantically in the background.  Songs about holding, touching, kissing, loving.... and the dog's getting mighty sick of me going over for a hug. She's not that partial to the two-step either.  I haven't tried a Waltz...  She did, however, perk up when I rattled the snack packet.  Sigh.

Tonight I had a long visit from a French friend of mine;  a very attractive one, at that.  And ten years' younger than me.  The only thing we have in common is that we are both single.  She has been single for 8 years, me slightly less but single nonetheless.  And it's not for lack of trying to meet folk, but it seems Ireland has moved very firmly into the 21st century and social chat sites and texting is the new way to date.  Somehow it kind of lacks that personal touch?  Remember that?  When people actually spent time together, and emotions were judged by the eyes, not the punctuation?  Comfort was felt by warm arms, not a smiley face.  God, I hate those smiley faces, I'd like to smash every one of them to smithereens.  Emoticons, they are called.  One to depict every emotion you may be feeling.  In a text.

Is this what new life has evolved to being, or is it our age?  Have we inadvertently become so embroiled in technology that we've forgotten how to be human?

I was training one of the largest technological companies in the world last week.  I had fourteen people sitting in a semi-circle, no more than six inches from their neighbour, yet there was no eye contact.  Instead, they were all tap-tapping away importantly on their laptops, eyes averted, heads down, as I waited patiently for one of them to realise I was ready to start.

"Do me I favour," I started.  "Put those damn things down, put them under your seats."  Guiltily, one by one, they all complied and offered me their attention for the duration of the training.  "Isn't it terrible," I asked them, "that none of you have taken the time to say hello to the person sitting right next to you?"  I then proceeded to make them turn to the person on their left, and introduce themselves. These are people that work together every day, eight hours a day, and actually have never taken the time to get to know more than one or two people around them, this company that houses over 3000 employees on a daily basis.  They have no idea whether the person next to them is happy, sad, struggling, shy, introvert or extrovert.  Whether they have brothers, sisters, partners, wives, husbands, children.  Instead, every ounce of their focus is solely placed upon the electronic device in front of them, the only means of connection to other (human) computers possibly sitting only a few yards from them.  I find that unbelievably sad.

"I have no computer," I said.  "Well, actually I do, but it's here, in my head.  I have no fancy equipment, I have no overhead slides or media aids to change your minds today.  I only have the most powerful and original computer known to man, and I intend to push your buttons today until you wake up your own.  Are you ready?"  Suddenly we had connection - we had human connection and sparked interest, and the electronic devices lay obsolete between their feet for the rest of the day.

I belong to a social networking site;  I am as guilty as everyone else of suffering isolation, of sitting in front of a computer screen "chatting" to like-minded strangers, sharing one-liners, having a laugh, sometimes being bored out of my tree.  And as I was typing yet another retort the other night, I suddenly felt so old.  Here I was, hoping to meet new friends with whom to share good times, perhaps head out to watch a show, or a band, have a meal, see a movie, yet the chances of that happening were sub-zero with the way socialising has gone.  I was never going to meet any of these people.  Some were faceless, preferring rather to interact anonymously. Regardless, the personality will eventually unfold through the written word, whether the author believes that to be true nor not.  Each of these people, like me, were sitting probably on their own, in their homes, in front of a screen, talking to other invisible people and convincing themselves that it was good company, that it whiled away another night where live conversation was not available.  Ridiculous.  And never-ending as long as that "log on" button was being activated.  It is addictive.  It becomes part of your nightly ritual.  You feel you may be missing out on something wonderful if you don't log on for a night.  And that, in itself, is extremely worrying.

So I have stopped.  For now.

Now I spend most of my time alone, so technology has allowed me to remain in virtual contact with people, in the vain hope that it will fill a void.  But it cannot, how can it?  How can pushing a few buttons and adding a smiley face replace live chat with a real human being who likes being in your company?  It's like trying to fill a bucket that has a perpetual hole in it - a fruitless, pointless waste of your time.

Perhaps you are lucky.  Perhaps you venture out and meet one of these people, and you become friends.  On opposite sides of the country.  And so your textual relationship begins.  "Hello, how's things?"  "What are you up to?"  "How was your day?"  "What did you have for dinner?"

Who gives a shit.  How is answering these mundane questions ever going to give you what you really seek : a real, live human being with whom to share everyday mundane things, but at least they will be real, like cutting the grass.  Doing the dishes.  Cooking.  Snuggling up in front of the fire.  Chatting.  Oh my God, remember chatting?  Laughing?  For real, not online.

I have a 3x4 keypad on my phone, but it has a mind of its own and often replaces letters with numbers I have not asked for, or predicted what I want to say - how dare it do that?  It's rarely right anyway, as I found out recently when I texted a client to say that I would leave documents for collection in my car, before realising my car has autolock.  So I quickly rectified the message and pressed send. The next day, said client texted me to say he had never laughed as much as he did at my text.  What did I say?

"My ass locks automatically;  I'll leave it at the front door instead."  My ass.  Locks.  Automatically.  Oh. My. God.

Have we lost the ability to interact with each other on a meaningful level?  Has texting replaced a genuine smile, a warm body to snuggle up to, a comforting hand on your shoulder after a bad day? I'm afraid on a lot of levels, it has.  You have to watch the tone of your words - yes, the tone - because you no longer have a voice to judge it by.  So many messages can be misconstrued, misinterpreted, misunderstood, ending in arguments, and hurt (virtual) feelings.  Emphasised with an emoticon.  :-)

Even Facebook, people have taken to writing what they've had for breakfast, how they're feeling, what they're doing - who the hell cares?  Yet there we are, checking our pages daily just in case, just in case, we miss breaking world news.  I used to love getting a handwritten letter in through the door when postie arrived.  Making a cup of tea and settling down to read what a friend had written, taken the time to do, sat down and thought of me specially, and written - by hand - a lovely, long, newsy letter bringing me up to speed on their lives because we were separated by oceans and continents away from each other.  Now?  Now I get hurriedly sent emails telling me how busy they are and they'll get to me eventually.  Thanks for that.  Nice to know I am on someone's list, albeit at the bottom of the pile.

I have a few letters in my collection box, which one day will be collectors' items and probably worth a fortune.  I have a handwritten note, dated 1945, written as a reference about my father, by his school Principal.  The writing is beautiful, cursive, in fountain pen ink, the letters uniform and flowing, showing a little personality, a little care.  I have a love letter written by my first boyfriend when I was about twenty, that is so poetic and beautiful coming from such a manly man, and it is a treasure.  It still evokes tears when I read it, because it transports me back to the very moments we shared, and all the feelings are evoked all over again.  Real life.  Real people.  Today, when you apply for a job, you don't even get an electronic response.  What the hell has happened to society?

So do you find yourself involved in a virtual relationship with a virtual man sharing virtual conversations?  Do you listen to love songs on the radio and send a text to let them know you are thinking of them when you do?  It's funny that no songs have been written about textual love yet.  I am surprised, and am sure that it will come.  Am not so sure, however, that it will catch on.

"Text me, baby, one more time"?

"I love the way you text me"?

"I can't help falling in text with you"?

"I'm getting texted in the morning"?

People these days make out via text.  They have arguments by text.  They make up by text.  And they break up by text.  Possibly without ever having met.  I understand that long-distance relationships are hard;  both parties are busy with their own lives in their own region.  But surely, if you are after the same thing, there will come a time when phones need to be pushed aside and plans made to close the gap between you?  Or will it continue to be textual, with an occasional live visit just to make sure all the working parts are still in order?  Every time you meet will be like the first time, if there's large gaps between visits.  It's like a treadmill relationship, on the spot, going nowhere in a hurry.

There have always been jokes made about women and batteries.  How we keep a spare set in our drawers for when those lonely nights come a-calling.  Be that as it may, at least batteries still let you feel something, pardon the pun.  I spend more money on charging my phone these days, running to the sound of a beep, and being disappointed time and time again by the content.  Need I remind you: "Hey, how are you?"  "How's your day going?"  "What are you up to?"  Like I said before, who gives a shit, really.

Wouldn't it be nice to at least see, "Hi, would you like to go out for a bite to eat tonight?  Catch a movie?  Go for a walk?  Have a coffee?"  Any one of those would surely beat another night sitting at home either in front of a screen, or staring at your phone wondering when, if ever, the time will come when we can happily use it again for what it was originally intended : to make contact so that further plans can be put in place for real life to continue.

I hate virtual reality.  My heart beats.  I am woman.  And I need man.  Not an Iphone.  And if I am to be at the bottom of anyone's list of to-do's, then he'd better keep texting virtual women, because I won't be around for too long.

I am worth a lot more than that.  I hope.