infiltration of emoji

I’m feel we ought to discuss this overwhelming infiltration of emoji. These weepy/winking faces, clapping hands and dancing women have taken over our heads, words and minds. Even those with ridiculously high IQ seem to be substituting curious pictures for wordy description and true emotion and, to be honest, I’m wondering if this can end well for our world at large.


Emoji first entered our vocabulary in the mid 90s. A Japanese tech developer dreamt up the colourful team way back in that pre-iphone-era. Of course there really wasn’t much demand for the technicolour smiley face cult before we had the tools to litter them. Now billions of emoji are flung through the ether each year and I’d say that we’re now pretty symbol obsessed.

On any given night out, Mini (back home) can send me anywhere in the region of 50 little characters (via email) to express her love and longing. I return around 30 of the damn things hoping that this will coax into putting down her screen and placing her head on the pillow.

Instagram is infested with the latest craze of these pictograms. Thumbs up for something impressive, fire for this heat wave, ice-cream at the ready and any assortment of multicoloured hearts to tie in with real words, an image or both.

So, should I be concerned? Is it not enough that we now dream in photographic squares, communicate in status updates and tweet more than we speak? Instead of finding the words, we seem to reach for the icon. I’m all that smiley faced with tongue hanging out about the emotionless-emoji thing.

This column first appeared in The Lady where I am their Mum About Town.


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Are you a sharer?

imagesA partial sharer? Or maybe an over-sharer? In our socially dominant world, it feels curiously imperative we fit into one of these rigidly defined categories.

For example: He’s not a sharer. Private remains under lock and key and He finds the world of over sharing a little ludicrous, but (thank goodness) in a (mostly) non-judgmental way.

I suppose he has to – while still married to me. He’s grown to accept that I’m an over-sharer because, even before social media was an integral part of my work as well as more-leisurely life, I couldn’t ever help myself.   Intricate operations, deepest darkest feelings, property purchases and silly tales of family life were spread far and wide. With EVERYONE.

Then came along a number of platforms where I could draw, snap and write … indiscreetly. And over-sharing me couldn’t have more satisfied. Of course, I’m not alone. Social media is awash of people like me and, while mostly the others don’t give a damn, there are always those who whine – perhaps as they try to share but simply can’t.

Pushed to explain to the Smalls, I rationalize that these social playground antics are my escapism and that, in reality, no one is really any smugger than the next. Crafting, editing, dreaming… none of this is really about seeking approval or counting those likes, for me. In a nutshell, it’s just like them drawing a picture or writing a story before seeing it (proudly) up on the classroom wall.

I’m ready for you: let me know what you really think about social-sharing…


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paper love

love of all things paperA book before it is opened. An unscathed sheet of textured watercolour paper.

A glossy magazine with a clean spine. Rolls upon rolls of unused wrapping paper. For me, all of these are new beginnings, the cherished feeling of starting afresh, a vision of pristine treasures.

And, if you can associate these images with my intense pleasure, you will understand my confession. You see, I am a passionate paper addict. Simply the touch, smell and vision are enough to give me that giddy joyous feeling.

Some explanation is due. Firstly, I grew up in bookshops. The antiquarian ones which sell mainly 19th century and early 20th century books, so many of which are beautifully bound and printed on fine paper – or even vellum. My father dragged us up and down the country (and occasionally even abroad) to visit these dusty shops as he searched for potentially valuable tomes to buy for his book business.   My brother and I spent hours gazing at the children’s section as we waited for him to scan the shelves, muttering Austen and Bronte quotes under his breath. And I remember it striking me pretty early on that those books were real and alive. It was as if their own history told tales of more than the stories simply printed within their boards.

So you could say that paper was integral to my childhood. Next stop on my paper trail was boarding school. Here I spent seven years obsessing over technicoloured writing paper and matching envelopes, resulting in a flow of incessant correspondence to any number of addresses in my little red book. And my love of sending and receiving greetings cards has never waned. Mostly I try to find the time to make my own quirky versions but, failing that, only the most unusual paper creations will do.

Each and every year of my teens, I wrote a journal of my innermost thoughts. I would love to report that these books are brimming with genius ideas and stories. But they’re not. Kept under lock and key, they will amuse very few when I am gone. I remember the attention to detail given to the selection of these books each December; the paper quality, binding, cover design and width of lines were all crucial.

Nowadays, I seem to be one of the remaining few to laugh in the face of online scheduling. So, again, my annual diary purchase takes precision with ample research and a certain amount of paper-fondling.

Most weeks I fail to resist the urge to purchase a new book, magazine, notebook or roll of tracing, sugar or squared paper. I jot on a spiral bound reporter pad, I sketch on acid free, cold press watercolour paper and I wrap religiously in brown kraft paper with string to match.

That emergency overwhelming too-much-on-my-plate feeling always calls for paper and only paper. Making a handwritten list sets the world straight once again. (When Moleskin joined forces with Evernote, I tried that modern type of to-do list but only managed to add more stress, no satisfaction and double my head spin.)

And now I’m going to go right against the grain here. Paper reading is THE only way; reading newspapers and magazines on a screen only makes my eyes sting. And please don’t get me started on those ageless, unemotive e-readers. How on earth could a percentage ever seem fit to describe how far I am through a powerful novel?

Where would the Rotring ink, Pritt stick and digital images fix themselves if we had no paper in this world? Orbiting aimlessly around our heated screens and furious keyboards? I want to persuade you all that a paper diary, a new leather-bound notebook and a pad of yellow post-its are NOT redundant relics of the past but some of every day’s vital ingredients.

This article first appeared in In Clover magazine.  Quite separate from my blurb, this magazine is a true treat, especially for those who know that deep down the offline print world is a sacred place…


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Master Pan

This week I’ve mostly been thinking about Peter Pan. Ever since I sat less than two miles away from Kensington Gardens (where J.M. Barrie first introduced this mischievous character to Wendy in her pretty nightie), I have been reliving the magical story of the boy who could fly. Seen through the eyes of dramatically creative directors, Timothy Sheader and Liam Steel, the Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre‘s vision is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Peter Pan in Regent's Park

Peter Pan in Regent’s Park

Of course, the story is one which we all know only too well; Never Land, the Lost Boys and a mystical escape from the Darling household. And, even though I’ve always been a firm believer in fairies, dreamland and even the odd pirate, I have never felt the need to drill down any further than the familiar all’s well that ends well fairy tale.

Perhaps prompted by the recent shocking James Rhodes headlines, I have done a little extra curricular reading into Barrie and his Scottish childhood. And my naïve head has been turned as the ‘boy who never grew up’ has taken on disturbing significance. James Matthew Barrie, it transpires, identified strongly with children in a way that these days would certainly rouse suspicion. On top of this hideous thought, I discovered that Barrie’s older brother was killed in a skating accident aged only 13. Attempting to copy the mannerisms and manners of his lost brother, Barrie had tried his best to comfort his grieving mother and – in a similar way to Michael Jackson – he went on to show all the signs of someone who had lost their childhood. Of course, Pan was never allowed to leave boyhood as this was where his brother life had cruelly been cut short.

But curiously this wasn’t the part that most disturbed me. What hit me hard was the level of powerful adult regret and longing not to grow up. For Peter Pan, growing up is some kind of death sentence. However death isn’t the only negative theme in this world famous book. The terror of forgetting and being forgotten is highly prominent too.

And that is where the dagger digs deepest, for me. As these are questions I often become fixated with: who are we when we are gone? how will we be happy to be remembered? or will we simply be one of those lost boys?

This column first appeared in The Lady where I am their Mum About Town.

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