There is a whole new world these days in the place called cyberland; it is, of course, the world of the Internet, where all you need to join is a computer or a mobile phone. Being a newcomer to this world myself — going on line, as they say, just over two years ago — I am only now beginning to understand it all. The first thing that anyone needs to learn after they join is, of course, the cyber language. When I first heard people talking in this 'cybertalk', I thought they were from a different planet. I was at that time still working in the ambulance service, and used to hear them talking about downloading and megabytes and using other such terminology. I never had a clue at the time just what they were talking about, and it made me feel somewhat inadequate.
It was not until some time later, after I had been invalided out of the service, that I found myself at home all day with not much to do. It was this point that I decided to buy a computer and go online, just to fill in the day and keep my mind occupied. So I bought myself a second-hand computer and started to learn how to use it. I didn't go online straight away; I decided to wait until I could handle the basics first, and looking back on it I think that was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I eventually did go online, it was with a dial-up connection which, compared to today's standards, was really slow, but it was enough to get me 'surfing', as they call it.
During my surfing, I found several sites for ex-service personnel where you could register your details with the intent of finding your forces buddies. Some sites did this for free, while others charged a membership fee. I left my details with three different sites and went back to them every so often just to gain a feel for them. One in particular was exactly what I was looking for: it was not too military, for example, or regimental; I felt relaxed while posting in the forum section, so I tended to ignore the rest of the site and just concentrated on that particular one. They welcomed me when I first came in and made me feel comfortable. It turned out to be a good decision for me in the end, as not only did I find my best mate who I thought was killed in the Falkland War, but I also made contact with several other people I had served with during my time in the Navy. In fact, finding my long lost pal who I thought was dead was quite a topical point for some time in the forum section, and the good news was shared by everyone on the site.
Not only did I manage to make contact with old mates, I also purchased an electric scooter for my wife, who has emphysema and can not walk very far. It happened quite by chance, as we were discussing the subject of mobility at that time in one of the forum sections. After the initial contact with the person who had a scooter for sale, we made arrangements by sending post messages to each other through the site and in fact I even used the online Route Finder to navigate my way through England to buy the scooter. When I arrived to collect the scooter, it was great to actually meet the person I had been talking to over the previous weeks, and we had a good time discussing various aspects of the site in general.
In fact, I learned a lot more about being online and all aspects of computing from that site, as we have what we call a techie section, where we can post various questions in the knowledge that our resident guru, who happens to be an IT instructor, will answer them. There seem to be no limit to the skills I have picked up since joining that site. On another occasion, we were discussing headphones and I happened to mention that I had broken my ones and was looking to replace them. I could not believe the response I had to this: I was sent links to various sites that had them on offer, along with other helpful suggestions. In the end one person purchased a pair for me through eBay, as I did not have a credit card and so could not leave a bid. When I asked for his address so I could send him a cheque to cover the cost, I was told not to bother and to consider them a present.
No matter how often I asked, he would simply not reveal his address — it just proved the point that I had noticed some time earlier: that I was among decent folk. I suppose we all had that one thing in common, that we had all served in the forces at some time in our lives. There is a wide range of members on the site: young and old, men and women, and of course they all have that one thing in common, the forces' sense of humour that only we can understand. There are disagreements among us and different outlooks, yet there is always that cheery banter that seems to come naturally to us all.
There is one person I must tell you about before I go. He is an older member and in fact is 73 years old. Ho got his first computer when he was seventy; his grandson had left it there so that he could do his homework in a peaceful enviromment. Anyway, Sid (as we will call him) was curious as to how this 'contraption', as he called it, worked. So his grandson set about showing him the basics and how to go online and so on. So Sid found this particular site and enjoys his visits there — so much, in fact, that when his grandson comes home from school and wants to use his computer, there is Sid, chatting away to us online. In fact, things got so bad that the poor grandson could not get on to do his homework at all! The problem was soon solved when Sid's son presented him with his very own laptop, who bought it for him as a birthday present. So now Sid can stay on his favourite site for as long as he wants, and has been given the honorary title of 'senior silver surfer'.
It just goes to show that in the cyber world, everyone can join in!