Tracey’s text appeal brought to book

Good friends: Martyn Ware who played at the book launch party in London last week.
Good friends: Martyn Ware who played at the book launch party in London last week.
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If you think you’re a text addict then think again. Star reporter Rachael Clegg chats to the Sheffield lecturer who has written down the 60,000 texts she’s received over the past eleven years

“SAW Gallagher 20 mins ago...” or so begins Tracey Moberly’s latest book.

Rule of thumb: Tracey Moberly who has compiled text messages to create a book.

Rule of thumb: Tracey Moberly who has compiled text messages to create a book.

It’s a text from 1999, one of thousands referred to in her book, Text Me Up.

And Noel Gallagher is just one of several celebrities to grace Tracey’s 332-page text messaging account.

Others include Pete Doherty, Heaven 17’s Martyn Ware and Mr Nice author Howard Marks.

It goes without saying that Tracey, aged 47, a part-time lecturer in political activism at Sheffield Hallam University, is an obsessive texter.

Text Me Up: One of the thousands of messages sent to Tracey Moberly.

Text Me Up: One of the thousands of messages sent to Tracey Moberly.

The Hallam lecturer and artist has recorded every text she has ever received since 1999 into note-books and on the computer.

“I didn’t save my very first text because the technology was so new then and I didn’t know what to do with it,” she says.

But from the second text onwards, she started writing down every single one of the SMS messages to have reached her over the past eleven years.

Now, her texts have been immortalised in Text Me Up, which is out this month.

Text messages: Tracey has recorded every text she has received since 1999 into notebooks and on the computer.

Text messages: Tracey has recorded every text she has received since 1999 into notebooks and on the computer.

“I started writing down all the text messages I received and it just grew and grew and then, in 2005, they brought out a computer programme which enables you to download them all. That made life a lot easier.”

The book tracks Tracey’s life journey through texts.

“They are all other people’s words and talk about everything from current day events to random things.

There are so many potential interpretations to the texts though. People are going to read such different things into different texts.

Some of my friends write really rude texts, which may appear really strange to people, but to me it’s just normal banter.”

Putting all her texts into a book is a brave thing to do.

Tracey’s personal life over the past eleven years is now between the covers of the book.

“In one way I am putting myself out there but I haven’t included any texts about my two children,” says Tracey, who now lives in London.

The book starts with Tracey coming out of a tumultuous marriage and re-entering single life.

Her first encounter is a tattooed barman, ten years her junior, who she refers to as ‘My Object of Lust and Desire’ or ‘The Object.’

‘The Object’ and his tattoos are the subject of the first texts in the book, as Tracey’s text pal, Hel Elvis, writes: “Wat is the type/brand of tequila ‘the object’ had tattooed on his back?’

The discussion over ‘The Object’s’ tattoos continues over several texts in the book.

Several celebrities are also featured.

Says Tracey: “There’s a text from a friend which says ‘Just saw Noel Gallagher’.

Other texts include exchanges with Libertines’ star Pete Doherty and Howard Marks, with whom Tracey discusses a ‘voodoo puffer fish.’

But the most the most bizarre text, according to Tracey, was about a mystery woman called Elizabeth: “There was one text that was really weird. It was from someone saying ‘My battery’s running out – can you phone me urgently and ask to speak to Liz and she’ll put me on to you.”

When Tracey read the text she acted immediately. “When you get a text like that you think it’s an emergency, so of course you follow it up straight away, but when I phoned I was put through to the Buckingham Palace answer machine.

“I thought that was the perfect hoax text but later I checked the number again, called it and actually got through to one of the PAs at Buckingham Palace.”

Not all the texts in Text Me Up are trivial or surreal.

In 2003, when the war in Iraq broke out, Tracey was receiving up to 350 texts a month. “It took me months to transcribe my text messages from my handwritten note-books to computer so I chose 17 texts to represent each month by a process of printing them out and randomly selecting them each with a pin,” she says.

“The texts that were coming through at this time were all about protesting in London, I received lots of texts saying things like ‘I’m in Parliament Square, where are you?’ which is interesting.”

And being something of a text aficionado, Tracey says that the nature of texting has changed since the phenomenon was introduced in the late 90s. “People’s texts were much shorter back then, with lots of abbreviated words like ‘Gr8’ but now we have better phones, such as the Smartphone, so texting is much easier. In the past few years text messages have become much longer and more conversational.”

Since text messaging was introduced technology has progressed massively and with Facebook, Twitter and instant messaging Tracey can be in constant communication heaven.

“I love communicating because I love people,” she says.

And to sum up her observations about the changing nature of texting, she says: “It’s all rule of thumb really – and that pun wasn’t intended.”

Just for the record

Tracey Moberly started recording all her text messages in 1999 and has since amassed a collection of 66,000 texts.

Tracey lectured at Sheffield Hallam University in 2010, when the General Election was taking place.

nShe is also an inter disciplinary artist, and lectured in art at Manchester Metropolitan University. Her work includes textile design, embroidery and painting.

Tracey is also good friends with Sheffield pop pioneer Martyn Ware, founder of Heaven 17, who played at the London launch party for her book last week.

Text Facts

SMS messaging was first used in December 1992, when Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old test engineer for Sema Group used a personal computer to send the text message “Merry Christmas” via the Vodafone network to the phone of Richard Jarvis

Standard SMS messaging is limited to 140 bytes, which translates to 160 characters of the English alphabet

In 2007 text messaging was the most widely used mobile data service, with 74 per cent of all mobile phone users worldwide, or 2.4 billion out of 3.3 billion phone subscribers, being active users of the Short Message Service

In November 2006, New Zealand Qualifications Authority approved the move that allowed students of secondary schools to use mobile phone text language in the end-of-the-year-exam papers

Sexting is slang for the act of sending sexually explicit or suggestive content between mobile devices using SMS. A genre of texting, it contains either text, images, or video that is intended to be sexually arousing.