Monday, 11 March 2013
Eight years ago I was teaching RE (among other things) in a Catholic school, and so had the perfect excuse to keep a Conclave Alert. Lunchtime saw me and the priest-chaplain desperately trying to get a good look at the Sistine Chapel chimney on the first full day of the Conclave via the two very old computers in the staffroom. The internet connection was dire, and there was much frantic refreshing of pages amid cries of, "Is that smoke?" "That's definitely smoke!" "Oh, my goodness, it can't honestly be white, can it??" and "No, it's black!"
This time around, internet connections are good enough to watch films online. Even mobile phones allow this facility (assuming one hasn't used up one's data allowance!) Technology still suffers from occasional glitches - especially in schools, which appear to get fobbed off with sub-standard equipment and poor connections - but it is far better than the technology of eight years ago.
Lots of internet sites will be training their webcams on that most famous of chimneys. The race is on to see who will spot the first wisp of smoke. The timetable for the Conclave has been published (be aware that Rome is 1 hour ahead of GMT), and the times when smoke can be expected have been detailed. Pope Alarm is a text and email service which offers to let people know as soon as white smoke is sighted. Unfortunately, the text service is only available in the USA and Canada... and it's proved so popular that they aren't able to take any more numbers for texting. The email service is, however, open to everyone.
The Sistine Chapel chimney even has its own twitter account (several, actually!): there's @PapalSmokeStack, @ConclaveStove, @ConclaveChimney, @PapalSmoke and @PopeAlarm. We're almost spoiled for choice! Plus there are all the Catholics on the blogosphere who will be blogging and tweeting away.
Perversely, I am no longer teaching in a Catholic school, and I'm teaching Science. Not much scope in the curriculum for loading up the Catholic Herald's Liveblog which is due to start at 9am GMT. And using one's mobile phone in class is generally frowned upon... the students aren't allowed them either. Stepping out into the corridor in the middle of a Science lesson might also prove tricky... a lump of potassium filched from teacher's table while her back is turned could cause havoc if dropped down a drain.
Hmmm. Now there's a thought...