The Power Of The Keyboard

Here we are at blog number five. In my first blog I said I would write about anything that took my fancy. I don’t have an agenda as such – things I can’t wait to get off my chest. I will just go with my own flo. It’s been a gentle lead in so far as I am finding my feet in the blogosphere. So, with that in mind…….. describes a verb as “a word used to indicate an action. For example: She ironed her dress.  He drove to the mountains…” In September 1998 Larry Page and Sergey Brin, two Ph,D students at Stanford University in California, officially launched Google. More than a billion Google searches happen every day. I just did one to get that definition of a verb. Google is also a verb. I Googled. He Googled. They Googled, etc.

The Internet and the World Wide Web (invented by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989 (my second Google search today!) have, in a relatively short space of time, transformed how we communicate, how we learn and how we process information.  Ask yourself this, my loyal 3.5 followers: When was the last time you picked up a dictionary to search for a word? Either on your laptop, tablet or smartphone, how much easier is it to type in ‘Define (insert word)’ for an immediate result? Instant gratification is what we want. When do we want it?  NOW!!

Add the plethora of social media platforms to the mix and it is clear how utterly dependant we have become on our various devices to interact. Another ‘When did you last….’ – when did you last write an actual letter or send a card when it wasn’t for a birthday of special event?  Like, when did we last send a card to someone for no apparent reason? We just don’t anymore.  We use What’s App or FB. I am sure I have RSI in both my thumbs from constant searches on my iPhone. And I wish they didn’t have that tool which tells you your daily usage. Scared me to death the first time that flashed up! Now it’s, “Ooh, whoopee, I’m down from five hours a day to four hours forty-five!!”


Three hundred words into this blog and you have no idea what I’m on about or why! Well, through the powers of search engines and, seemingly, obscure connectivity, my second blog, ‘Back In The Day’, resulted in an amazing exchange of emails with a complete stranger and I thought I would tell you about it.

In that blog I wrote about running my first marathon in 1979 when I was in the army and stationed in Rendsburg, North Germany. I week later, and completely out of the blue, I received an email from a chap called Heinz Johannson. He told me that he was born in 1935 and was from Rendsburg, where he still lives. He asked me about my time in the town as he had lots of friends through the years from the NATO headquarters where I worked. He said his wife used to manage a bar restaurant in the town and had kept a guest book.

Further emails between us revealed that Heinz knew my old boss from that time (1978-1980) who was a Major. I told Heinz that the running club I had joined was called Büdelsdorfer TSV and that our coach and organiser was a chap called Hans Tiedecks.

Now Hans was an interesting character.  A good runner, he was in his fifties then. He spoke good English, which he learnt when he was a prisoner of war in Coventry during WW2. He and lots of fellow POWs were brought to England where they worked off the land.  

I have often thought about Hans and the other runners from that period.  We had some good times and a great memory is of our Sunday pack runs. We would meet at a forest and just run the trail for nine or ten miles talking about running, life and up coming races. After the run we would repair to a typical German Bier Haus on the edge of the forest for a beer and more chat.

The NATO language is English, which was what we conversed in at work. Once the novelty of me being in the running club had worn off (quite quickly!) they spoke mostly German, which enhanced my language skill considerably. Heinz’s emails had got me thinking back to those times and Hans and the other runners.

Convinced that Hans must have passed away some time ago, I was staggered to receive another email from Heinz saying that he had tracked down and spoken to Hans. He is now 97 years old and living in a care home near Rendsburg. Absolutely amazing! I keep telling everyone that running can lead to a long life!! Heinz said that Hans was so touched that I had remembered him after all these years. He gave me his address and I am going to write to him and send photos from when we were both much younger.

Now, this exchange of emails between Heinz and myself came about because he had randomly typed in NAAFI and Rendsburg into Google. NAAFI stands for Navy, Army Air Force Institute and was set up by the British government in 1920 as a trading organisation providing goods and services to members of the Armed Forces.

I haven’t the slightest idea how it works but Heinz typing in NAAFI and Rendsburg led to him to my blog.  Remembering one of our primary school science experiments making a ‘telephone’ with two tin cans and a long piece of string, I find that incredible. 

Of course there is always a Ying to the Yang and exposure and censure and trolling which takes place across all these platforms is nasty, pernicious and all pervading and causes great damage. But, in it’s purest form, as I have detailed above, the ability to connect randomly across continents in an instant is simply awe inspiring.

I shall be running the trail this weekend and I have friends heading to Dover for some intense training in the sea. Whatever your exercise fix is, enjoy and stay strong.

Next week I shall be writing about the evolution of the paper clip.  Nah, not really.  Haven’t a clue yet!

Me and Hans Tiedecks, 1979.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *