|Early morning foxes in next door's garden|
The Sock would like to welcome to her bloggywog all those who have followed the link from First Click
I'm very flattered that the BBC and Carol Klein have linked to my blog for the First Click campaign particularly as helping people take their first steps with computers is something I have experienced.
In the dim and distant past I worked at a University and was one of the first people to use what was then the Joint Academic Network - an early form of the internet linking Universities around the world together. I knew little about computers but even my tiny knowledge was a great deal more than most people had at that time. Knowing less made me more able to identify with those I taught basic word processing and computer use to - I knew how they felt confronted with this new technology and no question was too stupid or irrelevant to be asked and no knowledge presumed. Often a problem could be solved by asking something as simple as "Had the user had turned the computer on?" I remembered my own experience of sitting in front of a screen for some time waiting for something to happen until my boss seeing my puzzled expression flicked the switch on at the back.
And so when my elderly neighbour Mona decided, at the age of 84, to start using a computer I bore this in mind and was only too willing to help. Mona's house backed on to mine - her lovely garden being a playground for my cats over the years - and we would occasionally chat over the back wall or I would be invited around to taste the yearly vintage of Mona's sloe gin. Mona's mind was sharp but her body fragile and after years of activity she was mostly confined to her house where she lived alone. Mona's impatience with her new computer was legendary and not helped by the fact it was an old secondhand one. My phone would ring "Arabella!!! I can't get the blasted thing to work!!" I would wander around to her house to see what assistance I could offer which was mainly along the lines of "Try switching the blasted thing off and back on again - that will usually clear 90% of problems".
Eventually Mona and her temperamental computer got into the swing of things - her amazement and delight at being able to email friends abroad was a joy to behold. Sadly as her computer skills increased her mobility decreased and after two falls she could no longer even shuffle around her beloved garden with her zimmer frame. Email became her eyes on the outside world. I would send her descriptions of how her garden was growing, whether the gardener was trimming the large shrubs that now grew over her back wall tangling into mine, news on the occasional sighting of a fox in the gardens (there are now eleven living within 100 metres of our gardens - how she would have savoured that bit of news!) . Despite her extremely correct and genteel upbringing Mona delighted in a bit of email gossip about the neighbours their births, deaths, pets and various idiocies. I sent her pictures of my new greenhouse, my cats and the seasons in her own garden. At first Mona's email responses were very formal as if writing a letter until I explained the different etiquette of email and how to judge whether an immediate response was required or whether she should reply at her leisure. Mona didn't
utilize the full capabilities of her computer and the world of the internet but derived a great deal of pleasure from the bit that she did. It was probably just as well that she never found the sites where Bridge could be played online - she was an extremely skilled Bridge player and would probably have played for money and fleeced everyone!
Sadly Mona died last year but I know that using the computer had enhanced the last years of her life.
It really is worth encouraging elderly people to take that First Click.
The Sock is about to go off on hols for a week. For a taster of the usual kind of blog postings scroll down and don't miss the Sock's take on the Chelsea Flower show.