A few years ago, on one of those rare occasions when I felt romantic (it’s happened twice since 1996), I ordered a print off the internet.
It was a photograph of Mrs Canavan and I holding hands and looking happy and content together (that’s also happened twice since 1996).
All I had to do was send in the photo and the web firm would put it on a canvas. I filled in a form, picked the size I wanted, and waited for it to arrive through the letterbox.
It never did, mainly because it wouldn’t fit through the letterbox.
I got home from work to find one of those little Post Office cards on the doorstep, telling me the item they’d tried to deliver was too large and needed collecting from the local sorting office.
This caused slight alarm bells to ring, mainly as I thought the size of print I’d ordered was roughly that of a postcard. The idea was that I’d put this small, subtle photo in a frame and surprise Mrs Canavan on her birthday.
What I collected from the sorting office the next day was, and I think this is the technological term, massive.
It was 1.5m wide and another metre in depth. The guy behind the counter, who presumably had seen the contents and must have thought my partner and I the most conceited couple in the history of St Annes, had to help me carry it to the car.
The photo was so embarrassingly huge that later that evening, when Mrs C walked in, instead of being touched at my romantic gesture, she treated it like a stray dog and demanded we get it out of the house as quickly as possible.
It has been in the shed for the last five years. I’ll never get that 20 quid back.
I recount this tale because I went to dinner at a friend of a friend’s last week and was staggered by the array of photographs on the wall.
Now I’m a fan of having the odd picture around the house. It’s nice to have images of one’s family, placed discreetly on window sills and mantelpieces. But walking into this house was like wandering into the Tate Modern. I half expected a turnstile by the front door demanding a £5 admission charge.
There were huge frames on every wall, the piece de resistance in the lounge where, above the fireplace, and approximately the same size as an articulated lorry, there was a mocked-up picture of the family – mum, dad, and three children – dressed in safari gear and peering through trees. The men were wearing loincloths.
‘Lovely pic,’ I murmured, in a horrified trance.
“Yes, we were in Kenya,” laughed the dad, before giving me a wink and a nudge, and adding “not really – it was done at a studio in Fleetwood. It’s great isn’t it, you’d almost think we were in Africa!”
No. Not at all. It was without doubt the worst photograph I have ever seen.
I don’t get it. His three children lived at home. He knows what they look like. And why the safari gear? Can you imagine when one day those poor kids bring a girlfriend or boyfriend back to the house? They’ll never be able to form a long-lasting relationship in their entire lives.
Of course, if having massive family portraits is your thing, then fine. But it’s not for me thanks, especially if I was dressed as Tarzan.
No barracking here, Gemma
I feel really sorry for Blackpool girl Gemma Worrall.
Since she went on Twitter and posted the following – “If Barraco Barner is our president why is he getting involved with Russia? Scary” – she has been besieged with folk from all around the world having a pop at her.
But what has she really done wrong? She’s made a spelling error, ok, a massive big spelling error.
But does that make her a bad person? Not at all.
My sisters suffer from dyslexia and would never claim spelling to be their strongest suit, but both are good people and work as deputy head teachers in schools.
The problem, of course, is that we live in a very odd world these days.
Social network sites mean ordinary people making ordinary everyday comments can, for the first time, be thrust into the limelight. Where once only celebrities had to be careful what they did or said in public, now we all do.
Sites like Twitter and Facebook mean our comments are out there for anyone to see and they can get us into trouble or, as poor Gemma found, into hugely embarrassing situations.
A friend of mine, a big Manchester United fan, got a job at a newspaper in Liverpool and shortly after made a very derogatory remark about Scousers on Facebook. He was taken into the editor’s office and given a written warning.
Last year loads of people tweeted photos of a man alleged to be James Bulger’s killer Jon Venables, an individual who must remain anonymous. Everyone who tweeted was charged with contempt of court.
In November 2012 Conservative peer Lord McAlpine announced his intention to seek libel damage from every Twitter user who had linked him to incorrect accusations of child sex abuse.
The world has changed. Everyone, especially the younger generation, are forever on sites like Twitter and Facebook and suddenly we all have to be responsible for our actions and careful what we write.
Gemma’s mistake was just that – a mistake, a genuine error. Embarrassing sure, but it doesn’t make her bad.
Hopefully her 15 minutes of fame won’t last too long, though chances are she’ll probably do a spot of research before her next tweet.