Along the shelf was the “Easy-Riter”, which is not how I spell “writer”, nor indeed “Easy Rider”. If only I had a sense of humour. Then I picked up a pad which opened to a sheet - thick A4 card, not paper - full of instructions that you’d have to bend out of the way before you could write anything. I didn’t read them, but the next possibility opened up to a similar-but-paper sheet of instructions on how to download - something. Didn’t read far enough to find out what, but sent a kind thought towards whoever had thought to (1) perforate the edge of that sheet of instructions, and (2) make it light enough to screw into a small ball.
The A4 pad I eventually bought is free of obstacles to me just opening it up and writing my notes. Except - there is a small logo in each of the four corners of every sheet, front and back. That doesn’t matter particularly, except that I think each of these tiny logos might be scannable, so I shall have to keep my smartphone out of range of my A4 pad. I know they might be scannable because this A4 pad also comes with instructions on how to download - something. But they’re printed on the inside front cover, so they won’t get in the way, and I’ll probably tear off the front cover anyway.
My instructions are headed “Enjoy 100% of your Oxford notebook,” with the subtitle “Scan - Save - Organise”, and beneath that is a picture of an A4 pad different from mine - opens sideways not up and over - with a phone lying on it. Beneath the picture is the message “Download SCRIBZEE for free”. Why? No reason given, but at least there’s a special offer. Further down, beneath a horizontal rule, there’s a final instruction: “With SCRIBZEE by Oxford take advantage of an Evernote Premium special offer.” Again, why? “Evernote lets you stay productive, at work or on the go.”
That’s kind of Evernote. But I’m pretty sure I can “enjoy 100% of my Oxford notebook” - sorry, I’ve been calling it an A4 pad - just by scribbling notes on it. 95% of it anyway, because as I said, I’ll tear off the cover. My notes will consist of quotable remarks, observations, headings (underlined) and times from the digital recorder I’ll also have running on the table in front of me. I’ll also have my phone there, of course, and I’ll have to tear off that cover because it has a barcode on it. I’m not saying that my A4 pad is on heat exactly, just because it has a barcode, but. Full stop. Enough of that.
Snipping off the corners of each page won’t be necessary after all, I suspect, although I reserve the right to drop my phone into the cup of coffee I’ll also have on the table if it starts behaving inappropriately. Or pour cold water on it (memo to self: carry bottle of water). The idea is to record the sessions I’ll be attending, noting down remarks of particular interest (and their timing, as I said, so I can find them again on the recording), so that I come away with my own written and recorded record (sic) of what was said. Yes, it will all go into the public domain pretty quickly via YouTube, but I like to do my own thinking with my own notes. Handwritten, yes.
Exactly how old am I, you ask? I know - I sound very old. But I don’t feel old because I see the weirdness of note-taking equipment decorated with deliberate misspellings, nor because I don’t need Evernote’s permission to stay productive, at work or on the go. Nor do I feel old because I’ve no idea what SCRIBZEE might be (I’ve heard of Evernote) and don’t intend to find out, and nor do I feel old because all that verbiage about enjoying 100% of my Oxford notebook (I bought an A4 pad, and not the one in the picture) makes me giggle. It’s an inadvertent art form.
No, I feel old, because back in the old days, we used to do stuff. We used to start doing stuff, do it, and then stop. When I were a lad, walking up the cobbled streets of the old mill town in my clogs and my enormous flat cap, my ears sticking out, while the backing track played a dirge and the voice-over delivered an old-grandad monologue about the quality of the bread from the local bakery - back then, lad, I would go to the corner shop and I would buy an A4 pad with the pennies I'd saved up, and by ‘eck, lad, I would write notes on it. You mark my words. Write notes. In ink, lad, or pencil when times were hard. You don’t see that these days.
For me, the pleasing detail today is the first step. If I want to enjoy 100% of my Oxford notebook, step one is to scan. Then I save. Then I organise. The bit where I actually write something down is somehow implicit. Scanning is what I do to enjoy an A4 pad of ruled paper. Not writing. Yes, it is paper for writing - oh, never mind.
I have friends who swear by various forms of novel-writing software - these are programmes that do everything for them except actually have an idea for a novel. If you go by the writing on the sides of the buses around here, they’re in a Zen state of “Connecting Communities”. Get on the right one and it’ll take you to Truro, but that’s incidental to the greater, present-participle objective of “Connecting Communities”.
Have I mentioned that before? I think I have. Senile old fool. But at least I can spend my last years getting 100% enjoyment out of scanning, saving and organising the pages of my notebook. So much easier than actually having to write anything. Oh, brave new world in which so much of the focus is on visualising ourselves doing stuff - connecting communities, writing our novels, scanning our notes - rather than actually doing any of it.
News just in that social scientists are planning to use anonymised (I assume) Facebook data to work out how we behave. Other scientists are putting tags in sharks to work out where they swim, while the owners of drones are peering in through upstairs windows and over fences and reaching conclusions about - I don't know what. Some drone-owners aren't even scientists, I'm told, but never mind that now.
There's even a piece in this week's New Statesman magazine (“this week” in the sense of the week in August 2018 when I put this up at Wix) about how millennials are using Tarot cards to understand the directions their lives are taking. [That's how I like to spell 'millennials'. The spellcheck here doesn't seem to approve. But see the post above the picture about the spellcheck that escaped into the real world in my local A4-pad store. We know what you’re like, spellcheck.]
So my question is - then what? Scientists find out that we all spend our time checking our phones constantly. We find out that sharks gravitate to Massachusetts beaches where the police chief looks like - you know who I mean. We find that, for example: gravity works this way; dark matter is that; quantum science obeys these rules but not those; Schrodinger's cat was once a kitten and likes tuna (or doesn't); we're about to meet a tall dark stranger who will sell us a double mocha latte with chocolate powder sprinkled on top.
And then what? Science is about fear, isn't it? We're afraid of the unknown, and to the extent that we've lost the bearded-man-on-cloud explanation, we've replaced it with science. Everything's okay once scientists have demonstrated that there's a reason why it does what it does. We're all so relieved that the inexplicable something wasn't actually supernatural; it was in fact [insert bizarrely convoluted rational explanation here]. So that's okay, then.
One day, scientists will discover that all our romantic encounters are in fact being stage-managed by fat little flying babies - with wings as aerodynamic as bees' wings - carrying bows and arrows. They'll demonstrate conclusively that gravity works that way because the Angel of Gravity wants it to work that way, and a group of researchers will publish a paper demonstrating that quantum science was dreamed up by a very patient white-bearded figure in the course of a busy six-day week working on his hobby.
And all that will be perfectly rational and acceptable because scientists have explained it. Nothing woo-woo here; move along please; the scientists have got this one. The Federal Aviation Authority will come up with clauses governing the behaviour of small flying persons, and a number of dating websites will merge with baby-care centres.
And then we'll all relax. We'll go back to our phones, while sharks continue to swim, secure in the knowledge that we've found the key to all the mysteries. And then, gradually, without admitting it to ourselves, we'll get bored. We'll decide that we need a hobby. We'll switch on the technology, we'll fire up the digital assistants, and we'll get busy.
On the first day, we'll turn on the light.