Wednesday Wondering – A Time & A Place by Helen Rolfe

Palm Beach, the jewel of Sydney’s Northern Beaches, has to be one of my favourite places. I’ve driven up there on a child-free day with a book and it’s a dream to be somewhere so special. We went up there as a family recently too. We plonked ourselves on the sand a little way back from the water and the kids dodged waves, built sandcastles and we all soaked up the feeling of a gorgeous day. Another family next to us had children of around the same age (seven and nine) and I was surprised to see that rather than running around or splashing in the water, both were sat with iPads and iPods. We didn’t take much notice of them until the daughter was shouted at for getting sand in the iPad and then they all packed up and went home.

I am guilty of “checking in” on Facebook when I’m at Palm Beach which is fun because you can check in at “Summer Bay” as it’s the location where Home And Away is filmed. However, I do think that there is a time and a place for technology.  

We have so many tools at our disposal nowadays. Through the wonders of technology, The Write Romantics formed: The RNA forum introduced us all to one another, a website was produced, this blog is worked on every week, and we keep in touch via email, Facebook and Twitter. Funnily enough we’ve never all been together in person, but it feels as though we have.

Technology has also given us apps and these days it seems that everything seems to have an “app” whether it’s to check the daily temperature, produce a shopping list for the supermarket, read the news or even order a new book. But what are our favourite apps or technologies?

I’m not a game person but I can’t imagine not having certain apps at my disposal. Living so far away from family is difficult so my favourite app would have to be FaceTime. My parents and I used to struggle with Skype: there was a time delay when we spoke, and generally we wouldn’t bother that often given that the kids didn’t really want to sit still either. My Dad bought himself an iPad because it is so instant for the internet. I asked him one day to do FaceTime and he said that he would have to read up on it first and then we could try. Anyway, I told him to get the iPad and switch it on, which he did. I told him to click on the FaceTime app and then I did the same. Instant, we were connected! Now I get to see my Mum and Dad much more often. It’s not the same as being there with them, being able to give them a hug, but it’s the next best thing. I took them on a guided tour when we bought our new house, the kids have played musical instruments for them and my parents have watched the kids playing outside or in the pool. The world has become a much smaller place for us with the help of this app.

My other favourite app would have to be the map function on my iPhone. I was a latecomer to the world of iPhones and when we first moved to Sydney I was a total tourist every time I went into the city, trying desperately to discreetly unfold my map and find my way around. But the map function makes this so much easier. When Katie Fforde visited Sydney and Dymocks bookshop to talk about her books, she agreed to meet up with me – I hadn’t met another RNA person before and the opportunity to meet up with the lovely Katie was too good to miss – with my maps I managed to find her hotel and we went down to The Rocks for sinful iced chocolates. The map function also helped me to find the train station again so that I could get home!

I’m sure that there are many writing apps out there too but I have always been deterred from investigating them, feeling that I should be writing instead. Last week I download the “cafetivity lite” app. Many of us find that we can’t work in total silence and the idea behind it is that it provides “background noise” that lets our brains tick over, mimicking the sounds of the coffee shop. There are writers out there who have found the café vibe works for them –  J.K Rowling included – and personally I do find the background noise less irritating than listening to leaf blowers or banging coming from a house across the road that is in the middle of being renovated. But each to their own.

The Write Romantics have shared with you their favourite apps or favourite technologies below and we would love to hear about yours, especially if you have any amazing, can’t-do-without writing-related apps!

Helen R 🙂

Jackie says…

I use quite a few Apps but they are mostly full programmes with a useful App. I wouldn’t be without Dropbox now as I sync my laptop, iPad and iMac with my stories. Still don’t trust it 100% so occasionally I’ll put a copy of my ‘story’ on the desktop as well. Kindle App, Notes and Pages get used all the time and of course where would I be without Facebook. eBay is my weird way of relaxing – or time wasting, as I can look at things I don’t need or want for ages. Currently looking up guitars as have started strumming again after about fifteen years! Learning a lot about guitars, but haven’t taken the plunge and bought one yet so still playing a cronky old Yamaha Jumbo which is far too big for me.

Rachael says…

Apps are still quite new to me and on my recent trip to London I had fun using apps aimed at making getting around London easier. Some worked well, like which tube to take, how long it would be and how much it would cost. Another wasn’t so successful and I ended up just jumping in a taxi!

I have also just started using apps on a daily basis. Life on the farm revolves around the weather, so downloading a weather app seemed a good starting point. The only problem is my husband now keeps asking what the weather is going to do next!

I haven’t yet discovered any writing apps, although a quick look on my phone suggests they do exist. If you know of a good one, do share it with us.

Lynne says…

I would love to have an iphone with apps on it! But my low budget phone would go into serious meltdown if asked to do anything that fancy. I saw it on Sarah Moore Vintage’s page that she had this app. She won The Great Interior Design Challenge and is excellent at anything arty. Anyway she used it online and showed the results on her facebook page and it was gorgeous!! I paint in watercolour now and again and it always has a mind of its own, you never quite know where the water will end up, but the app, called waterlogue, was just super! Google it and see for yourself!

Deirdre says…

I don’t do Apps as I don’t have the necessary gadgets;  I just don’t feel the need.  I use my nice little phone for calls, texts and telling the time, and that’s it.  For photos I use my camera (it is a digital one, not a Box Brownie!).   I do sometimes look at people’s all-singing-all-dancing phones and pads and whatnots and think they look like fun, but then I remember how clumsy my fingers have become and how I have to find my specs even to answer a call and I remember why I’m better off sticking to what I’ve got.  For now…

I’m easily pleased, technology-wise. The little everyday miracles my computer comes up with give me a rush of excitement that most people will have got over long ago.  For example, in Word, Find and Replace is just the best thing.  I’m one of those old-school trained typists who puts two spaces after every full-stop, and privately, I still think it looks smarter in a printed document.  But these extra spaces don’t work with e-readers, and publishing houses as well as Kindle Direct now demand one space only. At first I thought I was going to have to go through my whole ms and change them one by one, but of course you don’t.  All you do is put two spaces in the Find box, one space in the Replace box, press a button and it takes care of the lot in seconds!  Like I said, I’m easily pleased.  Excel spreadsheets still amaze me, too.  Those dinky little bits of programming that perform tricks with columns of figures, marvellous!

Another bit of software I’m potty about is Family Treemaker.  Since I got this I’ve been slowly gathering all my bits of research together and making up my trees which I can then view in umpteen different forms.  That makes me feel really clever, like I’ve done it all myself.  But the bit that really sends my pulse racing is the way it’s linked to so that each time you add a new person to your tree, a tiny green leaf appears which leads you straight to the publicly held records on that person.  I’m sure there are plenty of people who find it more satisfying to traipse to the records office and trawl through the tomes but I’m not one of them. The little green leaf does it for me, every time!

Alex says…

My only problem with this week’s Wednesday Wondering is narrowing it down to only two apps. I have to admit to being addicted to my iPhone. I claim that I need it with me all the time for my work but the truth of the matter is that I’m far more likely to be checking Facebook than my work emails.  I use Facebook and Twitter on my phone all the time to keep up with the other Write Romantics and to run our Twitter account.  Although those are the apps I probably use most they aren’t my favourites.  My absolute favourite is the BBC Radio iPlayer app which I use to catch up with my favourite radio programmes.  As well as listening to the Radio 2 Folk Show or BBC Scotland’s Travelling Folk (usually while I’m doing the ironing) I’ve found lots of fabulous dramas and comedies which I wouldn’t have come across otherwise. Last week I listened to Her Majesty’s Secret Service with the very gorgeous Toby Stephens as Bond and it was brilliant. 

My second favourite apps are the instant messaging ones which allow me to keep in touch with friends and family.  I’ve got 3 of these that I use with various friends although I think Facebook Messenger is the best of them. Finally, I’d like an honourable mention for the dictionary and thesaurus app which is really helpful.  It will even pronounce the word for you in case you’re in any doubt about how to say it. You definitely don’t get that with a book!

Julie says…

My simple (and rather boring) answer is that I don’t have one. I have an iPhone but the only thing I really wanted it for was to be able to keep up with Facebook and my emails on the move as I travel quite a bit with work. I have an iPad too but more by accident. Mark wanted one so we got one a couple of years back but then we actually won one in a competition so that’s become mine but I hardly use it. If I’m honest, all I use it for is commenting on Facebook when watching the Eurovision Song Contest as it’s easier to write on than my iPhone. So you could argue that Facebook is my favourite App. I’m just not one of these people who has an interest in techology. I hate computer games, I don’t really like shopping and I don’t ever feel the urge to know the temperature and time in Uzbekistan!

Jo says…

Try as I might I cannot get on with touch screen technology and therefore, although we have two iPads, numerous iPods and a Blackberry Playbook in the house I am what you might call app-phobic! I use to laugh at my mum, back in the day, for not being able to work the video recorder and later to send a text message. I have taught students from 14 to 80+ a range of subjects, from pre-entry literacy to degree studies, but teaching my mum to send a text still feels like one of my biggest achievements!

Well call it karma, if you like, but my kids now laugh at me and my attempts to use the iPad. I touch it and it load screens and things that I don’t want, whilst I shout at the tablet to take me back where I want to go. Then I tap something I actually want and the darn thing doesn’t move! I think it’s like that episode of the Simpsons, where Homer tries to dial out on his phone and gets an automated announcement saying “Sorry, but your fingers are too fat to dial this number”. Either way it’s a no-no for me and almost as bad as my experiences with voice recognition technology… but that’s a story for another day!


4 thoughts on “Wednesday Wondering – A Time & A Place by Helen Rolfe

  1. Hi Helen, absolutely loved your intro to this post. Can’t believe that a family would go to the beach and the parents would spend the time on their Pads/Pods etc. Actually, I can. It’s quite sad. I work with someone who is constantly checking her phone and I can’t bear it. I know people who do it too while you’re mid-conversation. it’s downright rude! The only time I’ve done that is when I met Alex for drinks last week and we were eager to hear whether Helen had won the Joan Hessayon Award so we both had our phones out … although we had no reception so it didn’t help!!!
    Julie xx

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