Alexa-When Will You Take Over The World?

My wife bought me one of those Echo Dot gadget thingies for my birthday. You know, one of those hands-free things you can instruct to perform various things for you, such as playing particular songs, tell you the time, etc.

Yes-that’s as far as I’ve got at the moment. Technology is not my forte.


All of a sudden, there’s another presence in the house. When my daughter is telling me how to address it, she turns her back on it, whispering, as though it is listening in to her. Does it watch us as we pass?

My son, James,  bellows at it like a sergeant major: “ALEXA, WHAT’S THE WEATHER LIKE IN MANCHESTER?” 

Of course, we live in Manchester. But perhaps Alexa knows better.

I feel all self-conscious when I hold a conversation with it, my manners kicking in. When it does what I’ve asked it to I can’t help but say thank you.

If you was to look on my daughter’s phone you’d see a video that she made, giggling and whispering upstairs on the landing. “I’m about to annoy my Dad.” She then shouts down the stairs: “Alexa, sing a song,” and you’d hear me shouting ” Piss off Millie!” in exasperation as Alexa starts singing a nursery rhyme during a crucial moment in the tv programme I’m watching.

This morning, while it was just the two of us, I thought I should try and make an acquaintance of him. Or her. It. Perhaps Alexa is gender fluid.

Even though we’d already had a formal introduction, we needed to familiarise ourselves with each other. My attempts fell on deaf ears. Or speakers.

Several times I was pointedly ignored, greeted by silence every time I requested The Beatles’ White Album.

Then James emerged, clutching his schoolbag, to witness my one-way conversation. “Dad-it’s not called Siri, it’s called Alexa.”

Siri is the name of another hands-free gadget thingie my friend has in his car. I’d been calling mine by the wrong name. It looked like it was quietly fuming. Siri; Alexa. Maybe they were cousins.

“Alexa,” the disc lit up in response, “do you know Siri?”

“Only by reputation.”

The reply was instant. I was sure I could detect a certain tone, a nuanced knowing.

 “Only by reputation.”  I think if Alexa came with eyebrows one of them would have been raised.

I’ve read enough sci-fi to know that we are on that road now. This is just the start. Next there will be Replicants. And Cyborgs. And toasters that know better than you just how you like your toast. Burning it black every time you get its name wrong. A technological wonder, but a very jealous mistress.

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In Greece; Forever England

Since City Jackdaw has been flying, I think I’ve probably made a Remebrance Sunday post every year. Except yesterday.

As usual we spent the day, which coincided with the Armistice Centennial, by visiting the memorial on which the names of past family members are listed. It’s this personal connection that gives context to the wider impact of that war.

As I didn’t post yesterday, I will share this photograph today: it’s from when I visited the grave of my Gt Grandfather, Timothy O’Sullivan, in 2007, ninety years to the day since he died. He is buried in Thessaloniki. A plot that is forever England.

R.I.P

Blue Sunday

I took my lad to watch Manchester City today. Talk about a lucky mascot: the last time I took him we won 7-2. Today’s result was a 6-1 win. I think I will hire him out.

Before the kick off both sets of players and supporters honoured the life of the Leicester owner tragically killed with four others in the recent helicopter crash. Some things transcend football.

Cemetery Of The Forgotten

This is the time of year when the act of remembering seems to take precedent, whatever your persuasion. From a pagan perspective there was Halloween/Samhain yesterday. For those of a Christian mind today is All Saints Day, followed by tomorrow’s All Souls Day. Even if you don’t wear either of these labels, Remembrance Sunday is also almost upon us.

Maybe it’s when we see see the seasonal decay of the world around us, combined with the shortened hours of daylight, that we instinctively turn inward, thinking about our own mortality and of the roots from which we have sprung.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Yesterday, my daughter and I visited an old cemetery in Harpurhey, Manchester. It’s one of those old cemeteries where it seems burials no longer take place, and to see flowers placed upon a grave is a rare thing indeed.

It’s a cemetery of the forgotten, a cemetery where the dead who reside there have nobody left in the world who can enshrine them in remembrance.

There, among the mouldering rows was a particular grave that we were seeking out. A grave that held the remains of ten people that had connections to us both. Ancestors of four generations.

I remember the first time that I stood on this spot with my father. I asked him who the John Murray was that was listed on the headstone, curious as this man was the one who shared my surname and went the furthest back in time.

“I’m not sure,” my Dad replied. “I think he was an uncle of your Granddad’s.”

Once I began my family history research I soon discovered that this man was actually my Dad’s grandfather.

How easily things become forgotten. Lost.

Not long after that day I began my search, born of curiosity and an undefinable sense of belonging. Of the ten people listed on that headstone, three of them I had known in life. Seven, (possibly eight), I now have photographs of.

Mindful of both the responsibility I have acquired and of the passing years, yesterday I brought my eleven year old daughter with me to Harpurhey. The next generation. To her I will eventually pass the baton.


I have since learnt the stories of each of my listed ancestors, of the lives, struggles and triumphs unheralded by these simple dates and names.

Their stories I have recorded, and tell to my children.  In this way I keep these people alive.

In regard to my blog, these stories are for another time. For now, I list the people here.
May they be forever remembered.
Charles Hewitt 1847-1884

Amelia Hewitt (née Wolfenden) 1847-1901

John Murray 1862-1926

Kate Amelia Murray 1903-1926

Frank Murray 1912-1928

Kate Ann Murray (née Hewitt) 1872-1939

Frank Murray 1950-1954

Millicent Murray 1899-1989

Margaret Murray 1914-1990

Fred Murray 1915-1992