What am I? A writer, an artist, a photographer and a web designer?
I love the technology of the twenty-first century, and indeed I feel absolutely at home with online journals, blogging, the twittersphere and every aspect of social networking. Indeed there is a whole networking, communicating side to the my online life that could never be replicated in ‘the real world’, as they call it. Most importantly for my current life I would never have met my wife Emma without match.com, and I would not have ended up there without the collected help of my friends list over here on livejournal.
More recently I have been finding the ability to network and forge friendships via the medium of twitter that I would still not be able to do in the ‘real world’, as they call it. Only last week, the journalist Rosie Tratt put out a request via twitter for some thoughts on a new site design for a new website of hers, and I answered that call. I ended up offering to take the image she was trying to make work but which sadly cut off before the bottom, together with another image and join them together seemlessly. My point? If I had been in a crowded room in which Rosie had called out the enquiry I find it very unlikely that I would have said anything at all. As it is, I was able to make my introductions, give my answer, and thus, the communication had begun.
Where does the conflict of interest come in? Emma and I have been watching the BBC’s Edwardian Farm and I have been yearning for what does seem to be a simpler, if harder life. I can’t help thinking, that in some ways, our country has developed too far. So much of what we produce these days is actually produced overseas because its cheaper that way. People are beginning to talk seriously about regionally and seasonally (to the point that it is now becoming an annoying marketing buzzword) when it comes to food but in some ways I wish we could be more regional and seasonal about many more things – that local people could live local to their work and produce things that are used locally instead commuting great distances and importing goods from afar that could just as easily be produced over here. And if we did all live local to our work, we would have more of an opportunity to spend our free time working our own bit of land to help (partially) sustain our own lives.
Would I be happier in the Edwardian age? Maybe, maybe not – actually probably not. Much as the nineteenth century looks nice when shot through the fancy filters and soft-focus of television, it was a hard life and I wouldn’t have the time (or the energy?) that I have now. What’s more although I write long-hand, in ink, in a leather bound notebook, and I think can only work like this, I type up my work on an almost daily basis. For me this is part of the process. A school friend recently reminded me of a Tall Story competition which I won (longest category) and this made me remember that my early work were always let down by the lack of research that went into them. The greatest pleasure when it comes to writing is the writing and going back even just 20 or 30 years (let alone the hundred or more to the Edwardian age) and research was a harder task of going to the library, and maybe not just your local library but the county library, or one in London even and hunting down books, and then tracking down leads to talk to people… The internet has made that easier. Currently, as I have written about before, I am making use of twitter and facebook to bounce off quick questions, much as you would speak up in a room full of knowledgeable people and ask a question, and get a reply; the difference being in that those people do not have to be in the same room, or indeed even the same country. I may write long hand, but the computer (or smartphone) is always close at hand to ask a question, or search for a matter of detail. In short, research is easier.
All of which brings me to the conflict of interests of which I mentioned. Whilst I yearn for a simpler way of life; what one might fashionably call the good life, I also require a simpler way of life which is broadband enabled. Last year, Emma and I had a holiday from home. For the whole week we didn’t watch the television and we tried not to use the computer: the former was easy but the latter was harder. For the most part the computer did stay off, but the smartphones were used. I live in the internet age, and I can I enjoy it; I live it, and it is an invaluable part of my personal and professional life. But I like the simpler, non-technological pleasures too.