Back in 1999, Mrs Gnomepants V1.0 and I went to visit her granddad who lived in Scarborough. I think I’d never been to Scarborough before, let alone it’s Fair although we may have got the train there once before a few years previous, I can’t remember. I do have some vague memories of catching a train somewhere but that may have just been Wakefield.
Anyway, on this particular occasion we drove. As I hadn’t driven a car since 1995 (which felt like an aeon previous then) and, I think then, we didn’t own one so we may have hired one. Added to this, being a wary driver, I didn’t really fancy driving on motorways so we drove to Scarborough along A and B class roads instead which was fun, especially as we got to see parts of the UK we’d never seen before and that I’ve completely forgotten about since.
I think it took us 6 hours. Stan, Mrs Gnomepants v1.0’s grandfather, pissed himself at the totally unnecessary drive and route we had taken to visit him. A standard Motorway drive would have taken just under 3 hours.
This was the noughties. At that time there was no cheap satnavs, no smart phones and no Google Maps instead we used old fashioned AA roadmaps (dated 1992) and vague directions printed out from the pirated copy of the fledgeling Microsoft Routemap we had on floppy disk.
One place we drove through was Sledmere in East Riding of Yorkshire. I was so taken by this monument I stopped the car to take this photo with my newly acquired fancy Canon wind up camera with electronic zoomy lens. I later added it to my now defunct Haunted Inns of Great Britain website along with pictures of the Three Mariners in Scarborough.
The monument is a replica Eleanor Cross and you can read more about it here:
Not all of my photos have exact dates of when they were taken. In the old days, only really fancy cameras recorded the date when the photo was taken. Not only that, a lot of photos I have are of people I still know and I don’t really want to be posting them online without permission in case they have a privacy issue. I am a considerate blogger these days.
So to fill the days where I don’t have photos I can post on the day they were taken I thought I’d post pictures that don’t have exact dates or people I don’t know anymore.
Today we have three chaps I met when I was a student in the then newly formed Sheffield Hallam University back in 1992-3. I was there “studying” HND Chemistry, still unwise with the world and very broke. As a way to meet new people and on the advice of the student guides I had read, I had joined the Sheffield Hallam Amateur Dramatics Society. It was a fun thing to do, lots of drinking and lots of mucking about.
Todays photo shows three of the funniest guys I met there. The name of the bald guy at the back I have no idea, but the guy dressed as a Mexican in the middle went by the name of Paul Brewster-Davis and the guy in the tartan was a chap called Gareth Tucker. I have tried to track them down in the past but have not been successful and I doubt they would even remember me now.
Gareth and I got on really well and we would often talk about common interests like Viv Stanshall, weird 1960s sci-fi films and obscure comedians. We also both dressed in black shirts one night with white dog collars and went round student bars pretending to be priests. What a laugh! It was sad to lose touch with him.
Before we begin, yesterdays picture of the day was from 2011 and not 2016. Doh!
Today we see the rare demin coated Gandalf-Stegzy in the wild. This was taken during a walk through Delamere Forest in 2005 back when walking through Delamere Forest was a thing. Now Delamere Forest is mostly a middle class family centric Center Parcs knock-off aimed at those with free thinking, liberated self-expressionist pedestal children with names such as Calendula and Spatula, like many places in Cheshire seem to be these days.
As a youth living in South Liverpool, I spent a fair bit of time in Bishop Eton Parish. Not only did I have a bar job there, but in my younger, informative years, I spent a good while singing in the church choir. The redemptorist priests had a house there within the grounds, the gate house and boundary wall you can see in this picture which was taken today in 2011.
Taken to document possibly one of the proudest moments of my life, today’s picture shows how a GCSE in Physics, a bit of string, some baking trays and a slow leaking radiator valve can all be combined to prevent a fuse box from shorting out and causing a disaster.
Having been notified that there was water dribbling from the upstairs bathroom, down the kitchen wall and into the meter cupboard, investigations revealed that the valve from the recently removed radiator had burst due to age and was issuing water at a very slow rate but sufficient enough to be problematic.
Application of a spanner reduced the leak to a slight dribble but the resulting issuance was in that awful hinterland of too much and too little. Then the long dead Mr O’Malley’s tobacco stained voice echoed in my head and said – “Capillary Attraction”.
A visit to the shed to collect some string and grabbing a handful of containers later, I had fashioned a rudimentary collection device which stopped the flow downstairs until such a time as the emergency plumber could attend.
I still remember his face when he saw what I had done and if you look up the word Impressed in a Pictionary, you’ll see that same face.
In my youth I regularly visited the gentleperson’s establishment of Bishop Eton Parish Centre, known locally as Birch House, a church club. At the time, it seemed like the centre of the universe. Cheap beer, cheap cigarettes, quirky vending machine in the entrance and two hi-reward fruit machines. It also boasted a friendly hostess and a bloody handy lock in.
Lock-ins, for those not in the know, are when an establishment continues to entertain selected patrons after the doors have closed and alcohol sales are required by law to cease due to the time of day or night. Of course, once the doors are closed and the curtains are drawn, there’s no telling what goes on in there. Drinking mostly. Occasionally until 4am.
As well as a patron, I was also a member of staff and frequently had to facilitate the lock-in despite having a job to go to in the morning. However, in those days the clock was weird and 4am was just a time on the clock while sleep was something that happened for six hours between eyes shut and 7am in the morning. Being a member of staff I was also fortunate enough to be able to monitor the usage of the fruit machines and determine when it would pay out, which it often did, in my favour.
The club was owned by the local parish church and used for functions and meetings of local groups including a group of professional males who followed a sinister type of catholic free-masonry, a Women’s Institute knock-off, a couple of local self-build groups, the youth club (complete with a local weirdo who liked to stare at the girls) and a weird and secretive “invite only” quiz league. It really was a happening place.
Sadly, land values around the area rose and the thought of a quick cash injection for the church became too much for the clergy. As a result, in the early noughties, the club closed its doors for the last time. The building, a graded listed building, was earmarked for “redevelopment to luxury accommodation”, which meant falling into disrepair, catching fire and it and the ground eventually being bulldozed and turned into a gated community of several houses.
Thankfully, the name, if not the memories, lives on in the street name – Birch House Close. Bless.
In February, with tensions high in the sales office (heightened by a distinct lack of sales calls, the removal of temps, a visible drop in sales attributed to Brexit, the falling pound and poor high street sales), I was called to a meeting to be told that my and five other employee’s role was at risk of redundancy.
Now, I’ve been made redundant four times previously so, as you get more experienced, you start to notice the signs; Whispered meetings, lack of work, telling glances between senior managers whenever future plans are discussed. So it was no surprise that Az (my manager) laid out the company’s situation and plans in front of me. A month later, after playing all the silly redundancy games where they offer you a role clearly not suitable for you, meetings to discuss what you do and the passing over of duties to others, I was put on garden leave with a fairly nice redundancy package.
This was fine until a few days into my break from work, it became frighteningly clear that globally, something more worrying was brewing. Covid 19.
I’m now on the fourth week of my non-work period. I’m bored, feeling isolated and unwanted while still trying to stay positive, focussed and constructive. Sadly, with the whole virus thing going down, it seems that the jobs market is already starting to show signs of trouble.
The business man in me says “Why would a company hire an employee now when the likelihood is that that employee could be forced to self-isolate and stay at home?”. Furthermore, why would an employer put themselves and their employees at risk by conducting interviews with complete strangers? (Which, if you think about it, is perfectly reasonable: An office full of people already immune to each other’s coughs and sneezes probably doesn’t want an unknown token carrying untold maladies being added to the mix).
I console myself in the fact that those people I left at my former place of work will no doubt face further challenges themselves: further drops in sales, lack of product being shipped from China, inter-office infections and associated absences and had I not been released when I was, I would be undergoing the same concerns I had then now.
But now the big smelly kipper. As long term readers will know, I have suffered from coronary heart disease for nearly 20 years now. I say suffer, that’s the medical term, I feel fitter than a whole Irish pub of fiddles. But by “suffering”, this allows me the grace of a free NHS provided annual flu jab. This, in turn, means that I fall into the “at risk” category which means that I need to engage with “social distancing” and potentially self-isolation.
Practically, I have been in self-isolation for nearly 4 weeks now. Apart from my Monday night Dungeons and Dragons session, the occasional trip to the shops, library and interview, and a trip to Liverpool to see the family, my social contact has been virtually non-existent. Then Mr Johnson says “Don’t go seeing people unnecessarily” which has put the kibosh on Dungeons and Dragons and with fewer interviews coming through I’m already doing a damn fine job of keeping away from the hordes of infected zombies out there. However, next week, it seems Mrs Gnomepants v2.0 is on leave so I will have someone else other than myself to drive up the wall at least.
Such a shame I didn’t have time to continue the advent calendar thing. The run up to Christmas became far too manic for me to do anything regular and weekend after weekend just had me doing non-internetty things (like World of Warcraft). Anyway, a Christmas and birthday was had during the hiatus. Which was nice.
So today I used the birthday present that Amazing Wife of the Future bought me. It was a Hovercraft Experience at High Cross Hovercraft in Leicester. Aparently hovercrafting is much more popular than you think and there are competitions and courses all over the UK. Someone asked whether you could use a hovercraft on a canal which would be really cool if you ask me. Sadly you can only use hovercrafts on tidal waters/estuaries and privately owned bodies of water.
Anyway, here is a picture of me looking at a hovercraft with a bunch of people, because, dispite knowing that the event was today, I didn’t remember to charge my GOPRO+3 and Amazing Wife of the Future’s iPhone 5 ran out of battery as did my iPhone 4s. Such is life.
Driving (or should that be piloting) a hovercraft is a difficult thing to do really. First off you’ve got to put your weight into the turn you want to make. I suspect this didn’t matter on the old cross Channel hovercrafts that ran from Dover (if you went on that can you confirm that passengers didn’t all have to lean into the turn?) but on the smaller individual hovercrafts you have to kind of do the opposite of what you might do with riding a motorbike, that is, lean into the direction you want to go.
Following a bit of training I did two loops of a circuit in the pissing down rain which was great fun before returning to a drier but bored Zoe. A good day, a fab experience and another thing off my bucket list.
Let’s see….Modes of transport I have done:-
Sit on lawnmower
Facebook are enforcing their real names policy like jackbooted fascists. Pressurising members to use their real legal names rather than any assumed, stage or preferred nom-de-plume. Please see my previous post for their reasons why – Facebook Real Names Policy – Intro.
This is the second post of this series.
People ask why I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants. I usually say “Mind your own business”. Sometimes, however, I’m not so rude about it; the reason I use the name Stegzy Gnomepants is because people know me by that name.
I started using the internet in 1986, but back then the internet was bobbins and was more like Ceefax than the internet we know and love today. Back then I used the handle Stegzy and remained using that name until about a month later when my parents got their telephone bill and the internet was taken away from me.
Tardis yourself forward in time to 1998 when I bought my first PC. It was a Pentium 266. It cost me £1000 or there abouts. Top of the range. Fast modem (56kpbs). A whopping lump of RAM (something like 16Mb). A cavernous hard drive (approx 512Mb). I connected to the internet and restarted my online life as Stegzy.
Internet fashions came and went. AOL IM, CompuServe, that weird virtual world that Demon Internet had for a few years, Usenet newsgroups – all using the name stegzy. The Gnomepants bit came shortly after, when, as more and more people began using the internet, names were getting quickly claimed by other users. Yes, another Stegzy started to appear. I had to distinguish. Someone I knew then affectionately used to call me Gnomepants, I adopted that name as my online personalities surname.
This was the early 2000s. Then came Freeserve chat. I used the name stegzy there as well as evilgnome. Sometimes, for anonymity, I would use the name gnomepants. It helped separate my real life from my online life. It kept people from my work, past and those I didn’t want to communicate with, out of my online adventures where, if they found out about my activities, they would have ruined it. Ripping me away from my special place. My escape. My hide away. Where I was safe from those that would interfere. A place I could be myself without fear of judgement or prejudice.
Next came Livejournal. You can find me there using the name Stegzy too and all entries from there have been preserved here on WordPress too. That is when the real Stegzy Gnomepants blossomed. 2004 came and went. Sometime during this period a bloke called Zuckerberg created a service called Facebook…you might have heard of it.
So lets look at this again….1986 I begin using the name Stegzy. Stegzy Gnomepants circa 1998. People I meet on line know me as Stegzy Gnomepants. I spend the majority of the period 1998-2004 online as….Stegzy Gnomepants. Then some bloke comes along and creates a website called Facebook which nobody had heard of.
Ok, let’s carry on…Myspace – Stegzy Gnomepants. Hotmail – stegzy gnomepants. Google! What name shall I use? Oh I know, I’ll use my real name…Nobody knows me…ok I’ll use my assumed name….Everyone knows me! Stegzy Gnomepants.
2006ish. Good online friend Dan4th (Hi Dan if you still read!) tells me about some website where American kids hang out. Fascist books or Fuctbook or something. Oh yes…Facebook…I’ll sign up. Stegzy Gnomepants.
Blogspot arose – Stegzy Gnomepants; WordPress – Stegzy Gnomepants; Hell, I’m Stegzy Gnomepants on the BBC, Ebay, everywhere. Search google. You’ll see me using that everywhere and I have been for a very very long time.
Once more lets step back and look –
Me – Known online as Stegzy Gnomepants since 1998
Zuckerberg – Known online as Facebook since 2004.
Think that makes me win.
2014. Facebook decide that I must use my real name. A name nobody on the internet knows me by.
I teach Social Media for Business during the day. In my lessons I advise that to be successful online you need to remain consistent across all platforms. Use the same username where possible. The same avatar. The same contact details. Thats how people know who you are.
Mr Zuckerberg, if I’m to change my name just for your silly little empire, then my influence will have no weight. Businesses will not use me as an influencer. I cannot be a potential brand ambassador for your clients. I am the celebrity. I am the authority. I am the connector, the expert, the agitator. I am the journalist and the activist. I am the personal brand personified. That means my identity is nothing to you.
Yes I know you say I can create a PAGE but with a page I cannot interact with people as a person. Like things as a person. Interact, engage and amplify as a person online. Especially with products, services or similar which anyone can see me liking, make a judgement on my character. My beliefs. My choices. People that judge. People who I have no wish to share my identity with.
Someone said about my last post on this matter “If you don’t want to adhere to the Facebook’s terms and conditions don’t use it”. Something I am considering. Very hard. Perhaps over to Google+, who realised a very long time ago, forcing your “product” to use something in a way they don’t want to leads to failure. Isn’t that right Google Wave?
So when the call comes I will depart from Facebook. I will leave it never to return. You can continue to read my exploits here on WordPress or follow me on Twitter (@stegzy). Facebook postings will decline. I’m sorry if you, like Zuckerberg, no longer want, care or give a stuff about what I say, like or want to share with you. I’m sorry if you no longer want to fuel our social media narcissism together. But if that’s the way you want to play, I’ll let you take your ball home by yourself. Just mind you don’t trip over those toys you claim I threw out of my pram.
Recently Facebook began enforcing their so-called “Real Names Policy”. You might remember this making the news back in September when Facebook began closing or suspending the accounts of transgendered people and drag artists who were not using their “real names” on their profiles.
After the wails of protests became too loud for the Facebook PR machine to quash, an agreement was made and some of the users affected were permitted to keep their chosen Facebook names. (http://bit.ly/14YEmTy) However, even after the apology, the Facistbook Facebook name policy police continued to crawl the site looking for suspicious names. No doubt using some hair brained algorithm which looks for commonly suspicious names.
Often on Facebook, people create accounts for their pets and one of the more common Facebook profiles of yesteryear was Facebook profiles for cats. Profiles with names like Kitty Whiskers, Charlie Puss and other feline similes would be common place. Similarly Doggy Woofwoof, Rover Dog and other animals were common too. Facebook started to prevent such accounts being made but recently, two members of the Facebook community I know of who both have names with cat themes had their accounts suspended. So it seems likely that Facebook’s algorithm is working through its cat thesaurus.
Facebook’s terms of service state that people must use the same name “as it would be listed on your credit card, driver’s license or student ID.” Which is great. Except I know plenty of Mikes whose name on their driving licence says “Michael”, Jims whose passports say their name is James. Indeed, I know lots of people who don’t actually use their full name on social media because of safety, privacy and historical reasons.
For as long as I have been on the internet, I have used the internet name “Stegzy Gnomepants”. Why? Because my real name is, quite rightly, none-of-your-fucking-business. I have been on the internet since 1998 using that very same name. Look for me on google, you’ll find my accounts everywhere. Stegzy Gnomepants. Occasionally Stegzonopolis Gnomicpantalon. Rarely some other variation. It is my distinct expression of my personality. My expression of creativity. How I wish to be known on the internet.
I also use the name because I realised long ago, the only reason people need your name is so they can compile data about you. Attribute demographic and personal information to form a picture about your personality and psyche. Your political beliefs. Your sexual preferences. Your needs. Not just for marketing purposes. But for sinister reasons. As dear old Edward Snowden pointed out.
There is no need to create a state like the DDR in former East Germany. Not when people freely give every aspect of their waking life to those who want it but don’t ask for it. That is the world now. There is no need to worry about people communicating anonymously when they are forced to use their real name on services they have tied to one identity. We’re being shepherded back into a society that thousands died to prevent 100 years ago. Technology designed to promote democracy is being used to control us. Prevent uprisings. Quash political unrest and difference of opinion. Exactly how Egypt and parts of the Middle East failed to do.
Anonymity causes people to misbehave. Anonymity allows people to do bad things. Anonymity allows people to abuse children. This is what those whipping up the pre-constructed moral panic are saying.
However, it’s the opposite. It’s anonymity that protects us from surveillance. Anonymity prevents abuse. Anonymity saves lives. Anonymity is a right. A way of life.
So, the axe is about to fall. The sword of Damocles may drop at any moment and over ten years of Facebook usage is about to come to an end. I will lose contact with friends I have made long before Facebook because that is how they communicate. I will lose memories. Fond and painful. Over the next few days I am intending to write about this situation. Discuss alternatives. Express distaste and moot alternatives.
Going forward. You can always find me elsewhere. Follow my comings and goings on WordPress (stegzy.wordpress.com). Tweet me on Twitter (@stegzy). Analyse my mind on LiveJournal (stegzy.livejournal.com). Say “Hello” on Ello (@stegzy). Flick me on Flickr (stegzy). Hell, if I’m on it, I’m on it as Stegzy. But as for Facebook. How long I am there is dependent on how quickly their police come for me. Enjoy my last days there. Because when they say stop. I will. By taking myself elsewhere.