Young people, breakfasts and hobos

May 20, 2010

A very early start this morning for a breakfast meeting (along with about 60 others!) with the Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police and Andy Hawthorn of the Message Trust in Manchester Town Hall.

There is no doubt that the Message Trust do some fantastic work around Manchester (and they are expanding into other areas of the country) with their Eden Projects, partnerships and buses and their latest project “Shine Your Light” provides a real opportunity for young people to change the way they are perceived by, and in, the local community.

The stories that young people have of how their lives have been changed for the better by engaging with the Message Trust projects in Manchester are inspiring, I just wish that the Message Trust would work more openly with the mainstream denominations. But, a free breakfast is a free breakfast, especially as it turned out to be a full English breakfast – something I usually only get when I’m staying in a hotel!

Walking to the meeting at 07:30 (that’s how committed I am to free food) I passed a number of street sleepers. It had been a warm night in Manchester but I still wouldn’t have wanted to be in that position. I was, perhaps, a little more aware of them than I would normally have been because, when I usually go in to Manchester, it is at a time by which they have normally disappeared off the streets or, at least, are not still asleep in their sleeping bags/cardboard boxes – they are, for the most part, invisible, and, for the last 2 days, I’ve been looking after a homeless young person.

Now, let me tell you straight away that this has been ‘virtually’ looking after a homeless young person. I downloaded an application for my iPod called “iHobo“. It’s an application written by a charity called Depaul UK and your task is to look after a homeless young person for 3 days.

For want of a better analogy, it’s a little like having a virtual pet (remember Tamagochi?) and can be really intrusive at times. It also doesn’t help when your ‘iHobo’ tells you he needs money for a warm drink and then promptly spends it on drugs (I was quite surprised by this aspect as it seems to reinforce the view that all young homeless people are on drugs and I quickly lost sympathy with my hobo as he threw away the food and sleeping bag that I offerred him because he wanted drugs instead)

But it is a reminder that there are young people out on our streets who need looking after by charities like Depaul and Centrepoint … if you have the technology, download iHobo and give it a go. If nothing else, it will make street sleepers more visible to you.


All Things Change

January 26, 2010

I am a steady person … I find something I like; and I stick with it. I’ve mentioned before that I always use Nokia phones, Fujifilm cameras …

The last month has seen me rethink my attitudes somewhat!

It all started with my phone contract being up for renewal. Not a problem – Orange does plenty of Nokias. The trouble was, they didn’t do the model I wanted. I had options: I could go to another network, buy a phone sim free … or pick another handset manufacturer. Well, I’ve always been with Orange and have never had a problem with them. And they were offering me a fantastic deal to stay with them (it is always worth threatening to leave!) so, if I wasn’t going to get the handset I wanted what should I do? I tried a couple for a few days and didn’t like them but eventually settled on a Motorola Dext. It does everything I need it to (and then some) but it took a while to get used to it and, truth be told, I’m STILL getting used to it but we’re colleagues now if not exactly ‘best buddies’ like I have been with my Nokias. (Word to the wise, here. ALWAYS order your new handset over the phone/web. Then, if you don’t like it, you have 7 days to return it. If you get it from the shop you have no such luxury).

Just after Christmas, in all that cold and filthy weather (but before the snow came) my car decided to make a passing acquaintance with a road barrier. Well, that’s ok, I’m insured and I get a courtesy car. Thing is, the garage gave me an automatic. Now, I’ve only driven an automatic once before (for about 5 miles in America!) and found it a very disconcerting experience. But I was stuck with it for at least a fortnight so I just had to get on with it. I feel the need to whisper this bit – I rather enjoy it! It is certainly a more pleasant driving experience in city traffic – all very relaxed. I’ll be glad to get my own car back and, when I come to change it I won’t be buying an automatic, but I’ve had fun with the little Corsa while I’ve had it and have renounced my prejudices against cars that change gear for you!

But perhaps the biggest prejudice that has been loosened, more than my prejudice against automatic cars or even non-Nokia phones, has been my experimenting with an iPod. When the snow came down in January there were no buses, or traffic in general, on the first day. So, to get out of the house and for something to do, my wife I walked to the Trafford Centre. We got there at 3pm – only to find out that it was closing at 4pm (because of the weather) and not all the shops were open anyway. One shop that was open was the Apple shop. I’ve always enjoyed going into the store to have a secret sneer at the arty bright young things for whom every gadget must be white (or brushed aluminium) and, given that it was one of the few stores open, I could see no reason not to walk in, snigger silently, and walk out again knowing that, yet again, I had not been lured by the dark side. I tried, I really, really tried … but I walked out with an iPod Touch which (and I’m not even going to whisper this, I’m going to use sign language) is absolutely brilliant! Of course, once I made this confession to my select fiends, I mean friends, on Twitter and Facebook I was bombarded with “bet you wish you’d got an iPhone now” and “time for a MacBook, fatty” … well, no, I don’t and it isn’t. As with all change, for it to be fully accepted and embraced it needs to be slow and steady and a positive experience. Too much change too quickly doesn’t help. I may, at some stage in the future, get an Apple laptop (as long as I can have it in white or brushed aluminium, of course) but, as long as Steve Jobs and his devil’s minions keep the price of the iPhone so ridiculously high I shall not even be tempted, let alone succumb.

You’ll be relieved to know, I’m sure, that my camera is still a Fujifilm ….