I realised a few days ago that, apart from taking out the bins and refilling bird feeders, I hadn’t left the house for at least a week. Possibly longer. This is an era of strange hibernation, when I am constantly in contact with people every single day and yet see very little of the world.
That’s a shame (and it’s something I immediately started to fix) as this is also one of my favourite times of year. Every time that I feel the January cold on my face I remember being 17 and walking the three miles from my girlfriend’s house to home, late at night and freezing cold. Like the weather in Autumn – still my favourite season – winter is a time when I feel like anything in possible.
But not so much this year. If there was a word to describe January 2021 it is “waiting”. Everyone is waiting for something: waiting for their turn to get a vaccine, waiting for the shit to hit the fan about Brexit, waiting for signs that our government might be going the same way as that of Donald Trump. We’re all waiting for something, like the moment when the pub is closing and you’re waiting on the corner outside to work out where you go next.
Meanwhile, Kent is its usual self, a place that’s both conservative and radical. It’s also one of the places that is likely to feel the worst effects of Brexit, with parts turned into lorry parks and food prices on the rise. These are the kinds of things which disproportionately affect the poorest, and Kent has more than its fair share of poverty.
This week also saw the arrival of my Remarkable 2 tablet. For those who have managed to avoid the company’s endless adverts on Instagram (or is that just me?) it’s a thin, light tablet designed to be written on which has an incredibly readable e-ink screen. I finally succumbed to buying one after reading Rev Dan Catt’s review and then finding that Relly had bought one too.
My original thought was that I’d mostly want to use it as an e-reader, as a lot of my books are DRM-free ePubs which don’t really work particularly well with a Kindle. Actually, I think I’ll get a lot more use of it from the task it’s best at: writing notes. It is really nice to write on, much better than an iPad.
So given that I have a 12.9in iPad Pro, why did I buy this? Mostly it’s the same reason that I bought a Freewrite: I like devices which offer a distraction-free environment for doing one particular thing. Just as the Freewrite is really good at just hammering out a draft, so the Remarkable is just focused on taking notes. If I brainstorm and take notes on my iPad, even with Do Not Disturb on, there’s the siren call of doing something else. I could just check Twitter, or I could just check what’s happening in the news, or I could just watch one video on YouTube. On the Remarkable, I can’t do any of those things – and that’s a really useful brake on my level of distraction.
Like Dan, I do my best thinking by just scribbling something down in a notebook. That gets turned into something else, and copying notes by hand into the best format to take them further is a valuable part of the process – essential if I want to really understand whatever it is I’m working on. Adding the little bit of friction involved in moving from a single-purpose device like the Remarkable or Freewrite improves the work and makes it more considered.
This week I also realised quite how much I’m aching to travel again. Mythical places like Manchester, Oxford and Bristol, which I’m now convinced only exist in my imagination. I have a new rucksack that’s sitting, ready to be packed. I’d even accept a train trip into London as a valid piece of travel, rather than one of the world’s most dull commutes.
Like half the people I know I watched the first episode of It’s a Sin. Unlike everyone else, I’ve only watched the first episode, and I don’t know if I will watch any more. It’s clearly brilliant, but I am just not sure that I need to be taken back to that era, which is a time that I have enormously mixed feelings about. You should watch it, because it really is good, but it causes me too much pain.
This week we also watched Joker for the first time, and my feelings towards it were exactly as I expected (and why I had avoided it for so long): I didn’t like it. All I could hear in the back of my head was a chorus of emotionally under-developed men’s rights activists cheering that here was a character who was fucked up by women and took revenge against society. Against the background of where politics and society are right now, I don’t think that the movie’s joke really lands.
A couple of weeks ago Phil wrote that “I’m quite tired and feel like I’m plodding on through identical days until some unknown time when maybe things will be OK again.”
I think everyone is feeling that way right now. I know I am. But writing it all down helps. So here we are.