Something I’m passionate about is finding a more balanced relationship with my laptop.  Recently I’ve been getting caught up in the next click, the next and the next…  An hour’s Skype call, then check emails and Google something I was looking at earlier – and most of the morning has past.  I thought it was only computer games that caught players in addiction, now I’m realising it’s the whole online world and can affect us all.  My searching is like exploring fractals, always another layer, something more to be curious about, spend time with and be fascinated by, only to remember much later that I haven’t started on my list of ‘things to do today’.

My life online seems to be taking over my everyday life.   I’m happy and involved when I’m online, and my back aches, my eyes are dry and I feel a bit disorientated when I stop.  And worst of all, a long session working on the laptop in the evening before bedtime guarantees a restless, sleepless few hours before sleep finally comes.

So how to bring more balance?  I can make a plan and stick to it, set a timer, have a break, do some unsubscribing.   I can be more aware of what I’m doing when I’m doing it, that’s being mindful.  And if I pause now and again I’ll be able to make real choices – to click or not to click!

What would a balanced relationship with my laptop feel like?  It would feel really good.  I’d regard my laptop as a brilliant resource, with me fully empowered to be its controller and I’d be appreciating the connecting, communicating and information it brings me every day.  I wish!

© Photograph and Words by Pamela Carr 2015

Many thanks to new group member Pam for sending in this great post.  JD

Sad News

Just a quick one. I have obviously been floating around in a bubble all day(no news there I hear you say) because I didn’t know about Terry Pratchett’s death today.
Whether his brand of otherworldly humour was your cup of tea or not, the author was hugely respected and followed by millions, and most read second only to J.K. Rowling, apparently. Personally, I think his very individual sense of humour always hit the mark; he had a real understanding of humanity and always managed to make us laugh at ourselves.
More information via the BBC website –, though there are no prizes for noting how many times they call him ‘Sir Terry’. It seems even HRH liked him, because I have to say I can’t think of any other authors who’ve been made Knights of the Realm (perhaps someone out there may know differently).
He’ll be sadly missed.

What, exactly, is a Blog?

My thanks to the Maccwriters members who came to my session Thursday afternoon, the subject being, appropriately, blogging. It’s a form of writing after all.

Very impressed as ever with everyone’s blog ideas on varying subjects, always very entertaining.

I was pulled up short right at the start by our own Ernest by the question ‘what is a blog?’ I realised then, that what we know can’t always easily be defined, especially when it’s changed over the years.

Here’s the dictionary definition:  A regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.

 (to) blog: add new material to or regularly update a blog. “it’s about a week since I last blogged”

Wikipedia  gives a comprehensive rundown on the subject –

I’m not an expert on blogging (only just started really) but in planning to run this session, I found out some interesting facts. Blogs, back in the 90s, were once humble journals or diaries, but it steadily caught on that the personal style of the blog held people’s attention and loyalty more than the more impersonal voice of the website.

During my search, I was both horrified and encouraged by what I found. Blogs are, it has to be admitted, often run by narcissists, psychos, airheads, obsessives or just downright nutters, but there were some that did make me think yes, blogging has an important and contributory role to improve our lives. At the least, they’re fun, sometimes thought-provoking.

I liked the idea of Narratively which features real life untold stories and journeys. There is however an invasive feature, every time you go to a new screen it goes to a dialogue box prompting you to sign up via email (you have to click on the outer background to get rid of it), but even so, the stories are wonderful eye openers. These are often worlds apart from any we know.  We are looking through another’s eyes on Narratively, and will end up with a wider perspective because of it, I think.

In the same vein, I found Waiter Rant also an interesting view, this time it’s solely through the eyes of a native New Yorker. This is a more traditional, recognisable blog, and true, the language can be a bit ripe, but the storytelling is just as compelling.

Bald Hiker also has some wonderful descriptions of places and has an impressive graphic appearance. This started as a one man blog by walker Paul Steele, but others have since joined him and the result is polished. It’s a great collaboration.

The Oatmeal is a quirky blog, It doesn’t take itself or anything else seriously. Occasionally it makes terrible mistakes – the ‘Exploding Kittens’ is definitely one of those (people should really think these things through), but on the whole, its comic creativity is usually entertaining.

My last choice was Treehugger, but, then I was faced with a question – is it a blog?. And what’s with all the hard sell? This appears to be another ‘Us’ collaboration as opposed to the lone blogger, it’s professional and manages to keep to its ethics. The minus point with these kind of group sites is – are they losing the ‘my view’ perspective that blogs are meant to have? You can see who the ‘core team’ are, but do they actually write it? – possibly not. The Treehugger blog is owned by MNN Holdings if you look at the small print, so it’s a business aimed at making money, and the blog is attached to a website, not sure which one came first. – was interesting. This explains the limits of blogging and there may be a reason for these. Blogs were never meant to make money. That was never the point. Bloggers are that solitary voice in the wilderness of the worldwide web. Sane or otherwise, it’s a one-on-one experience with a blog. You are not alone, though sometimes, you may wish you were.

Charlie’s Lyrics – ‘Wolves’

As many who frequent the group are aware, our secretary Charlie occasionally writes lyrics. His latest, is entitled ‘Wolves’, please find below.

A young girl in the forest,
she came to town that day
the day when you decided
to take my life away.

The shotgun hung on the door
and the truth lay in my heart
that in this family of hunters
I was the lone wolf.

And the young girl when she came here
you sent her on her way
but she left the gate unlocked
and as you slept, I escaped.

I found the wolves in the trees,
I waited for their howls
but the wolves they embraced me,
and drew me to their folds.

The light shone in the forest,
and it revealed the truth
that I belonged with the wolves
I didn’t belong to you.

And I’m not sorry, father,
that I was left to roam;
I learnt to run with the wolves,
I found forgiveness on my own.

When the lightning struck the church bells,
inside the altar cracked
but the wolves we kept on running
and the people, they attacked.

They saw the young girl in the woods
and brought her in to die,
they left her to the wolves
they didn’t hear her cries.

And when her father came looking
they said she’d passed on by
but the wolves didn’t return
and neither, father, did I. 

And though I grew older,
my heart did not turn black.
I’d let the wolves in my heart,
left the hunters in my past. 

And I’m not sorry, father,
that I was left to roam;
I learnt to run with the wolves,
I found forgiveness on my own.

Copyright @ C. Heathcote

Encyclopaedia Internetica

Many thanks to Phil for this week’s piece – enjoy.

The 24 tome Encyclopaedia Britannica
was the fountain, the source of all knowledge
to Z for Zygote from A for Aardvark or Anneka
and it got me through graduate college.

Now it sits there neglected and unused in its corner,
the bookcase a home for our trinkets and junk.
It’s been sidelined and now houses much arthropod fauna.
to a haunt for spiders and mites it has sunk.


In a click of the mouse you can google
any artist from Dali to Brueghel
or those scientists like Darwin or Dawkins,
Einstein’s theories or Stephen Hawking’s.
Your search engine in one millisecond
will unearth for you hits which are fecund.
There will be some noise to filter away
right there on your screen amongst this array
(Hits on a town in Northern Australia
in evolutionary terms are a failure).

So “Goodbye” to thumbing through all that was trad.
“Hello!” to the age of lap top and i-pad,
freeing up hours for tweeting your mates.
Now how do you sign up for internet dates?
What a shame I’m too old for internet dates!

© Phil Poyser, Macclesfield

2015 – Let the Year Begin

Outside the kitchen window
a trespassing cat
behaves nervously.
A dog fox,
large, healthy, and red,
trots past.
Aloof. Athletic.
Hurdler, it clears the garden fence.
I watch it all.
Behind me, the porridge
boils over.

Many thanks to group member Patrick Prinsloo for sending in this in. It’s not quite a haiku but very evocative in the same way nonetheless.

Should-Reads vs Good-Reads

Hi Everyone – hope you had a great Christmas and are still brimming with good will and jolliness (and not indigestion)

This week Sally emailed me with something literary to mull on –

Hi, I don’t know if this is useful for the blog.

It made me think about who is recommending these books. Some of the sources are the Pulitzer Prize and the New York Times. Would I like the same novels as them ? I don’t know that I would. I think that they are looking at novels from a high art angle, looking for technical excellence. Which doesn’t always result in what I look for, which is a good read.

Before I looked at the list I thought about what source I would use to guide my plebeian tastes. I decided that I would look to the local library lending figures and, happily, they are included in this survey.

My heart sank as I looked at the top 50 and realised how many of those I’d read. I blame A’ Level English Lit for most of them. Hours of my life that I’ll never get back. I admit that I am glad that I read these book. Glad to be aware of these styles of writing and approaches to writing. I can’t get away from that and there was no way to get that knowledge without losing those hours of my life. 

Then I thought about which of these I have no regrets over. Which ones am I very glad to have used up part of my life in reading them. And I saw a theme emerging in terms of novels and authors. (I like using ‘And’ at the start of a sentence. It was forbidden in A’ Level English Lit.) Sometimes, strangely, I valued an author but not, particularly, their novels. I’ll have to ponder on what that’s about.

I’ve recently started writing fiction. This has helped me to see, clearly, who I am as a writer and the arena  I would like to sit in.

These are the novels I happily gave some of my life to (in the order they appear in the list);


Brave New World (although, ‘After Many a Summer’ was the most stunning when I read it)

Fahrenheit 451


The Handmaid’s Tale

The Good Earth

Cold Comfort Farm

The Remains of the Day

Breakfast of Champions

Bridget Jones’s Diary (though more as the newspaper pieces)

Far From the Madding Crowd

Flowers for Algernon

The Lovely Bones

The Poisonwood Bible

Thanks to Sally for that – took me a little time to work out that if you clicked the title it took you to the Amazon page where you could peek inside and sample whether it was something you want to read (Doh!) Have fun. I managed about 14, but sadly way back when. I’m determined to read a spot of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, though doesn’t look like he’s appearing on the shelves in Tesco any time soon. Must pluck up courage and use that Kindle Santa bought me this year (yes, I have finally succumbed to evil temptation, if only to halt the build-up of old paperbacks on all the surfaces in our home).

Like Sally and myself wondered, there may be others you could suggest as more suitable for should-reads, please feel free to comment.

What are you reading at the moment? I’m reading Jo Nesbo’s ‘The Snowman’, a frosty bit of Nordic Noir, and not a hint of Aled Jones in sight.

What are you writing? I’m working on a Hebridean ghost story, loving the research too.

The Maccwriters will be re-convening at the library in the New Year.