Every second Thursday I am thrilled to be part of a 3UA Writing for Pleasure Group. We are led by Margaret Hede an amazingly compassionate and supportive lady. Each fortnight we have a topic, write on it and share in the group. I am amazed at how one topic can take so many different twists. It is a delight hearing how others create their stories. We all love stories.

Today I am sharing the stories of Roma Hines and Marjorie Edwards as they reflect back to a life without technology. 

Roma’s story…

Technology is all around us.  Transport and  Communication are the BIG ONES.

Let’s start with TRANSPORT.

The year was 1944 and my first year at High School.   Living in country NSW, just arriving at High School in Newcastle needed a well -constructed plan.   Leave our farmhouse at 6.30 am on my pushbike, ride 2 miles to the main road.  Park the bike at a nearby house, catch the school bus to Stockton, catch the ferry to Newcastle side of the Hunter River, catch a bus to Newcastle West, then walk another mile to reach high school before 9 am.  Country kids are very adaptable and I accepted this as the norm.   But when Winter started, my bike ride was not pleasant.  In fact, it was freezing when the Westerlies were blowing a tailwind.

 My brother to the rescue.   Rabbit trapping being his great hobby – and source of income; he tied a rabbit skin over each handlebar with a nice wide opening for handlebar my hands inside on to the warm fluffy fur.     The warmest gloves ever.   Then he turned the wretched westerly wind to an advantage.  He constructed a little sail out of an old chaff bag, held upright with sticks threaded each side and top of the sail.  This was attached to the back of my bike rack.  Thus, providing me with protection from the cold wind, at the same time, increasing my speed by a couple of knots.

There was not much finesse with this new technology, but as the only ones to gaze suspiciously at the contraption were the cows, it didn’t matter.

And COMMUNICATION:  it’s all about getting the message through.    Right? Alexander Bell had no idea what he’d started with his invention of the telephone. In rural areas ‘the party line’ was a huge jump in technology.   Also the source of breaking boredom associated with living 5 miles from your nearest neighbour. Our call sign was two long rings and one short.   We can be excused for picking up the receiver with our hand carefully covering it, so our breathing wasn’t detected,  just in case the call wasn’t really for us.   And hanging on long enough to hear the conversation between the other two parties, just to make sure.   And anyway, if the call was to say that those Uptons were getting another visit from that drunken sod of a brother, it was only right that we should know so we could warn the other families.

Then there was Market Day.  Usually a Friday.  The farmers and their wives would down tools and head for the village centre.  Stocking up with goods, and all the local gossip.  Exchanging ideas on new farm developments over a beer in the local.    And the ladies swapping recipes at the CWA tea rooms. Communication of facts gleaned with warmth and good cheer.

 And remember Cricket in Bradman’s Day? Dad was cricket mad and a great fan of ‘The Don’.  When the Test was on between the Aussies and the Poms, we had a pre-arranged signal.  As I was the ‘housekeeper’ while Mum worked in the Packing Shed, I had to listen to the wireless; and when Bradman made his century, I would hang a big white bed sheet on the clothes line, then prop the line up as high as I could, so Dad could see it from the paddock up the farm.  So, the message got through!

                Communication whose process harmed nobody!

                No trolls telling you to ‘self -harm’.

                No one falling down the steps whilst thumbs were working the iphones.

                And best of all.   People looked into each other’s faces and SPOKE.


Confidence, standing together, facing fears

And Marjorie’s story

Neighbours gathered around the greengrocer’s van and chatted. Another day it was the horse-drawn bread truck. These purveyors of fresh goods could rely on customers, because life was simpler, one income enough, and Mum stayed at home to wash, clean, cook and sew. We were the children of post-war homes that started, however, to see a great leap forward in technology. We were amazed by flicking a switch to turn on lights and power electric appliances. The toilet moved inside!! Soon there was more power for hot water, so we didn’t have to scavenge for wood offcuts from houses being built nearby. The frig improved, and we saw the demise of the visiting ice truck delivering dry ice for freezer boxes, and then bakers and greengrocers. Cars became a necessity and convenience. Public transport lagged behind, as ever! Planners couldn’t cope with the new urban sprawl.

More and more conveniences made life easier, while more jobs and less arduous housekeeping enabled women to go out to earn extra income. More income meant wonderful consumer goods not known to us before, with washing machines, electric ovens, nicer cars, a second car, and oh, the wondrous television set! We didn’t hanker for more. It simply had us trying to keep up.

We already had the telephone in most cases. This heavy black item with twisting cord became essential. The twisting cord you might say was symbolic of future communications, that even now has many problems to untangle. But with the advent of electronics, everything we touched was constantly upgraded. The consumer society was in full swing. You had to have this new product, even that vehicle because the family next door or down the street had it. And advertising was big business.

Then came the digital revolution. Wow! It invaded everything we did, absorbing us, informing us via the internet, connecting us with family and friends anywhere, anytime. Children claimed to be smarter than their parents because it was easier for the kids to just grow with it. The adults of our generation were struggling digital immigrants. We had to migrate into a new age, piecemeal. Information technology and social media were not in our DNA.

Is this revolution good or bad? We are better informed than any peoples before us. Developing nations benefit from faster progress and cheaper goods. Sadly their peoples are exploited too. We need to be aware of that. To be responsible, as we benefit from being so well informed and easily connected across the world. And just watch for the downsides in our own lives. Being always connected to our “essential” devices, by some invisible umbilical cord, can seriously invade family time and even chatting with friends. We are expected to carry a phone everywhere, for security and safety and connectedness.

Time is spent on computers in some form, rather than getting out and about and enjoying the world in nature. Even walkers have their eyes on a little screen and their ears plugged. They can’t hear the birds or the sea, or the wind in the trees, and can’t see you! There is no break from it. While more opportunities for business, travel and recreating open up, we can’t have a day off from the phone, from the tensions of keeping connected. It must tag along.

The revolution in technologies is marvellous overall. And it needs power! We forget that just complaining about its cost. The cost of petrol, of heating our homes, of bills for phone and internet. These are closer to us than the problems arising from producing this power, and their effect on the health of our planet and ourselves. In Australia, electricity consumption per capita increased five times between 1962 and 2014. Add to that the considerable offshore energy consumption by companies like Google and Facebook. The data we use. We also produce, in a year, about 20 metric tons of carbon emissions, each! Let’s all slow down a bit. Go outside and tend that tree.

Sharing our stories are a wonderful way of connecting. Have you thought about talking to you Grandma or nanna and hearing her stories of life before technology as we know it today? if not these stories may prompt you to do so. I hope so. 

I invite you to post your story for the pleasure of other readers. 

You can connect with me at di@diriddell.com or on Facebook on https://www.facebook.com/ConfidenceBeyond50/

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