Me and my mum made a plan to Skype once a week while I'm away. Setting that up brought its own fun and games. Mum said she didn't know anything about 'webcamcoms and whatnot'. I told her not to worry as I'd take care of it. Last year, we decided to set an upper spending limit of 20 quid on Christmas presents to stop us cluttering up each others houses with crap (it's my fault. Buying my older brother a popcorn maker was probably the last straw). But I wasn't sure I'd be able to stay within this new enforced budget with a webcam. Largely because I quickly realised, I didn't know anything about 'webcamcoms' either.
I headed straight to Curry's Digital in Westfield, an oasis of calm in the Christmas consumerist madness out on the streets. Stacks of Beats headphones, walls of iPhone covers and a short Asian who could see I hadn't a clue what I was looking for.
After the one thousandth 'whatdjamacallit' conversation she'd had that day, she led me to the webcams. She showed me one. 19.99. "I'll take it!" I said, too enthusiastically.
Anyway, we set up Skype on mum's computer, installed the camera, which was disarmingly easy and after a tearful goodbye I headed states side and looked forward to my first injection of home via the world wide web.
It was lovely seeing my mum's face pop up on my laptop screen a week later. We'd never Skype'd at home and didn't always speak every week but here we were looking into each others eyes and connecting in a way that the phone doesn't quite allow.
We laughed about all the crazy things that had happened to me so far (which you can read about at eastendtowestcoast.blogspot.com), the troubles and the triumphs, she told me about what was in the news back home, the snow, the soap stars, the dodgy lasagnes, we laughed, we reminisced but most importantly we connected.
On the morning of my birthday, I spoke to mum and my big brother, Phil, his missus and my lovely niece and it made being here on my own... OK. More than OK, it was like an injection of love straight to the heart.
In a time when we no longer live up the road from the family or even a drive away, it's still possible to maintain strong connections. You just need to get inventive about it.
A few days later, I caught up with a really treasured girlfriend on Skype and got another big hit of home. It was great to catch up and it reminded me that loved ones were only a megabyte away.