In which I've done some stuff, but not all of it

I turned 24 this week.

"Oh no!" you're thinking, "She's going to do another column on all the things she has or hasn't achieved in 24 years and how generally ill-informed she is as a barely functioning human adult!"

Well, I'll have you know I'm not. Relax.

I'm pretty relaxed about this birthday, as it happens, because 24 is a complete non-event of an age. It's merely another step on the gradual plodding progression towards my natural, internal age, which I've known for a while now is about 43. I'm far too old by now to be any sort of prodigy, or 'youngest ever' at anything, so that's a lot of pressure off (though the days I spent trying to be the youngest ever person to master Handel's Messiah on a kazoo is frankly time I'll never get back).


 Likewise I'm still far too young to need to have done anything as concrete as legally acquiring a building or other human. I think of this part of your twenties as 'The Meander'. It's nice. If you do something significant then hey, well done you! If not, don't worry - your Mum still sees you as a six year old in a tutu anyway.

Besides, the groaning list of Stuff You Should Have Done By Now can always be balanced out nicely by the Stuff You Didn't Expect To Have Done But Have, which is the more exciting collection by far. So, for 'accumulated some savings', I can swap 'saw Dolly Parton in concert and cried.'  In the place of 'reaching a moderate level of personal fitness', I have 'invented Toblerone porridge and its sequel, Christmas cake porridge'. I may not have married or produced offspring this year, but I did get up at 5am to watch the Royal Wedding in Hyde Park with a lavish picnic, a level of commitment to public cheer that I doubt I'll ever equal again. I didn't think that by the ripe age of 24 I'd have both appeared on and humiliated myself on a TV game show, or met Dave 'Voice of Come Dine With Me' Lamb and told him that his voice made me hungry. They were nice bonuses.

I hadn't banked on reaching my partying peak and progressing to a state of complete, feeble alcohol intolerance by my mid-20s either, and yet it is so. Despite its negative impact on my already-shaky street cred, I like to think that being teetotal so early has freed up a large part of my life that would otherwise be given to weeping into my handbag on Friday mornings while Barbara from accounts hands me a Berocca and tuts. I wouldn't be surprised if my youthful recklessness spontaneously manifests itself in some surprise way instead, like getting a giant tattoo on my face or paying my council tax bill a month late.

By this point the more astute among you will be going, "hang on, she's writing exactly what she said she wasn't going to write about!" And yes, I lied. But we can learn from this. We can learn that when you write a column for nine years, some ideas are going to end up being recycled. Thankfully, I've got exactly a year to think up a new one.

In which I'll just Thwazock that


Last week, Google turned 13. It's a strange thought, that the Grandaddy of the internet, that bottomless source of wisdom and answers, is actually nothing more than a fledgling teenager. It will soon, we can only assume, start sprouting blackheads, drinking White Lightning behind a hedge and mooning over the boy down the road in poetry written in the back of our exercise books (who would this boy be? Yahoo? Surely not Jeeves?).

But as all parents force themselves to believe during the door-slamming, sebum-secreting phase, we wouldn't be without them for the world. God bless Google. God bless it for many reasons, but mainly for taking a truly ridiculous word and making it a verb that we all use daily. Imagine if that word had been 'splobble' or 'thwazock'. "Hang on, I'll just Thwazock that." Bonkers.

But the question this milestone really prompts is of course, what did we do before Google? I've come up with some theories:

1. Knew stuff

There's certainly room for an argument that we knew less before Google, not more. It may well be true. I didn't know all the states of the USA or how to properly truss a chicken before Google, though to be fair I was 10 and as such poorly informed in general. But there must be many other things that, before we could search them afresh every time we went on a computer, we just remembered instead. Things like how the Keeping Up Appearances theme tune went, or where Cheshire is. How to spell recommend. Your own postcode. Faced with one of these tricky questions in contemporary times, rather than setting cerebral cogs whirring, it is natural for one's fingers to start itching for a keyboard.

2. Encarta

When the Bravo family first got a computer, it came with one CD Rom. That CD Rom was Encarta. It wasn't the complete version, mind you, just a free limited trial version that probably caused significant gaps in my knowledge every time a search stopped short of the paid-for section. But still, I loved it. It was the source of endless, completely uncensored information, and also my main source of entertainment on the computer after I'd got bored of minesweeper and used up our printer ink on pictures of dolphins for my bedroom wall.

3. Teletext

If you were born after 1994 you may skip this section - it doesn't concern you. For everyone older, the word invokes both a rush of joy and some involuntary finger cramp, in memory of all those hours flicking though pages of yellow text to find out what the weather was going to be, or how much we could get a package deal to Lanzarote for. Teletext taught us patience. It taught us that knowledge is always out there, but sometimes you have to work hard to find it. And it doesn't always load properly, so sometimes you have to translate it from jagged half-words that look like Space Invaders. But once you have that knowledge, oh boy did you appreciate it.