Posted in Personal life, Writing

Writing On The Run

somerset monument, hawkesbury upton, glouceste...
Image by Synwell via Flickr

Sending a text on my mobile as I jogged past Hawkesbury Monument the other day, it occurred to me that I was only a stone’s throw from writing my blog on the run. So many of my friends update their Facebook status from iPhones and Blackberries that I’d been thinking about investing in a smart phone myself, so that I could post to my online blog while away on holiday.

It’s not the first time I’ve hankered after equipment to help me write while travelling. Years ago, long before the rise of the internet or the miniatiurisation of the mobile phone, there was a clever little gadget on the market. A bit like a miniature version of the shorthand machines used by courtroom stenographers, it was like a tiny typewriter but with just four keys, one for each finger of one hand. You tapped the keys in a different combination for each letter of the alphabet. Even in a shaky commuter train, you’d be able to write legibly, because when you got home, the machine would spool out what you’d typed in normal letters. One of these devices would have made my daily commute across London suburbia more productive, but my salary as a lowly editorial assistant wouldn’t stretch to one.

Another reason I wanted it is that I’d never learned shorthand. Several times in my teens I had bought teach-yourself books, but even with daily practice, I knew that it would take a long time to master. With the short-termism of the typical teenager, I couldn’t make the commitment. Every year or two after, I would think to myself “If only I’d stuck at it, my shorthand would be fluent by now”.

So if I do write my column on the run, I’ll have to use an even more old-fashioned device to record it – my brain. I just wish my head had a USB port so that I could back it up with a memory stick.

(This article originally appeared in the Hawkesbury Parish Magazine, May 2011.)

Posted in Writing

The Power Behind the Blog: Battery Chargers

Protection Is Better Than Cure . Hyderabad_Sind
Image by Northampton Museum via Flickr

As I plug in the second four-way electric extension lead on my desk, I wonder how I can need so much electricity to  write my blog.  Despite the blazing sunshine outside, it’s always a bit shady in my small-windowed Cotswold cottage, so three of the eight sockets are for lamps, feeding my passion for task-focused lighting, rather than a bright ceiling lamp.  One desklamp spotlights my computer, the other two perch, uplighting, on the piano behind me. But what are the other five sockets for?

Well, there’s the handset for the landline – one of four dotted about the house.  Who’s prepared to put up with a single, wall-mounted phone these days?  They’re so last century.  There’s a computer charging lead, because (I hope) my netbook’s one-hour battery life will expire before my ideas do.  My mobile charger is in permanent residence on my desk. If I put my tiny phone anywhere else for it’s overnight recharge, I’ll have forgotten where I put it by the morning.  Those 1980s  brick cellphones did have one upside:  you’d never be able to mislay them. Ditto my iPod and camera rechargers.  Yes, I could zap them both via a USB port, but they’d get in the way when I’m typing.

So eight sockets it is, then.  But in this energy-conscious age, isn’t this rather a dissolute way to operate?  Having avoided battery-operated toys as far as possible for my small daughter, I appear not to practise what I preach.  So yes, I do feel guilty.

But at last redemption is in sight, for we’ve ordered solar panels for our roof. Embracing 21st century technology with a vengeance, we’ll soon be generating as much energy as we can use.  In fact, more – and the surplus will be fed into the National Grid.  So I’ll be able to beaver away at my netbook with a completely clear conscience.

And it’s not just the desktop gadgets that will be getting extra use. Washing machine, dishwasher, cooker, food processor – all of these will be buzzing away whenever the fancy takes us.  True, I’ll no longer have an environmentally-sound excuse for avoiding hoovering and ironing.  I might even buy a tumble drier – though it will take years to erode my conscientious objection to this alternative to garden wind-power.  And hot baths will no longer be a rare, guilty treat instead of power-saving showers.

So the only finite energy resource that I’ll be tapping in future will be my own.  I don’t think I can get an electrical hook-up from the solar panels to my brain, recharging the electrical impulses that zap round between the neurons.  So I’ll just have to look out for a suitably recharging hat.  Now, where did I put that solar topi?

(Dim lights, segue into Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun“.)