Half term break and surely it is time for Dora the Explorer to be treated to a Bank Holiday car valet; she has been very, very patient and looks a little grubby. On Radio 4 I hear someone describing an app which will apparently count the number of bugs collected on Dora’s number plate during any single car journey – all in the name of science. Once I have Dora clean again, it will be a great time to download the app.

I am intrigued. The Bug Splat app wants drivers to log the number of critters we kill during any car journey so that scientists can monitor which species of insect are thriving and which are in danger of extinction. I wonder if they can up the ante a little and turn the number plate into a bingo card with high scores for elimination of any critter that is multiplying too quickly or endangering a crop, and negative points for crushing the wings of a bumble bee or dragonfly.

I like the accountability of this app and find myself wondering if we could use it in other areas of motoring. I have time to think of this, when I am being particularly patient on a single track country road, quietly waiting for some cyclists to realise that I am stuck behind them while they discuss where they want to be going and then again when I am waiting for some ramblers to realise that they are walking in the middle of the road. I consider whether an app could be created to reward my patience and lack of road rage. I guess the black box already has this covered, but I am quite needy and like the idea of someone keeping a tally of my little behind the wheel courtesies.

This is turn reminds me of family summer holidays in Cornwall on similar single track roads, when we used to play a car game to guess whether the approaching driver – for whom we had obligingly pulled over – would acknowledge our courtesy with a cheery wave, a thumbs up, jazz hands, a two fingered salute or nothing at all. The game was popular with my children who opined that ‘camper van man’ was more likely to give a polite acknowledgement than a local tractor driver intent on mowing down any visiting ‘grockles’. My children liked to rate a summer season in terms of politeness and still refer to the Summer of ’99 as the pinnacle of good motoring etiquette.

I visit mum and tell her about the Bug Splat app but she is not impressed – she is already annoyed that I have delayed our lunch to wipe down my number plate after a particularly insect-infested journey across the Cotswolds to reach her. ‘You are all so busy swiping these apps, that you have no time to look up and speak to people,’ she says. She has a point but I explain that in this instance I have been wiping not swiping in my effort to contribute to scientific research.

Mum is still sulking that none of us will buy her a smart phone for her 95th birthday this week. On my last visit I explained the concept of apps to her and reasoned that as she has access to everything she needs on her iPad, she doesn’t really need an iPhone. Because she is still sulking she decides to single out Facebook for her attention.

Mum understands the point of Facebook and sometimes asks me what people in the family are posting – or ‘pasting’ as she likes to call it. However, she can not understand why we do not just get outside to make real friends – especially now that Boris is letting us do so. She brandishes a snippet of newsprint she has been keeping for me – a letter written by a senior to her local paper. It reads;

Dear Sirs,

‘I am trying to make friends while applying the same principles of Facebook. Whenever I see someone I tell them what I have eaten, how I feel, what I have done, what I will do later and I give them photos of my family, pets and garden – whether they want them or not. I listen to their
conversation, tell them I ‘like’ them or give them a ‘thumbs up’. …I already have four people following me: 2 police officers, a private investigator and a psychiatrist.’

A Silver Something

Mum has made her point well; I am a sucker for a news cutting. It is a thumbs up from me.

I leave mum’s promising her that I will try not to get addicted to any particular app and that I will not validate myself in terms of the likes or thumbs up I get when I ‘paste’. We agree that I can keep the Bug Splat app because it will make me feel better about killing so many little critters when I whizz through the country lanes, and Dora will be pleased because it will necessitate wiping down my number plate after every car journey. Appiness may not lengthen a bug’s life, but at least I have nominated Bug Splat for a science award – I have given it five likes and hope it will get a few shares from readers of this blog.

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