Music and Vision homepage


Ask Alice, with Alice McVeigh

Temptation in electronic form
for ALICE McVEIGH, musicians' agony aunt extraordinaire

Dear Alice,
I understand you recently got your first laptop. As a fellow writer and music journalist, is this a good move?
I like having one space in my house dedicated to my writing, and I'm not sure I could ever see myself impersonating a commuter on a train.
G Phillips

Dear G,
I know what you mean. There is something spooky about a computer seemingly attached to you by an invisible umbilical cord (I always want to write 'chord'!!)
And having a laptop can lead to frightful excesses, such as the case of my husband's workoholic boss (a good friend of ours) who we strongly believe sleeps attached to his laptop, as he's been known to email between 3 and 5am, in (and this is the scariest part) extremely cogent vein.

But I'm personally more worried about what my new-found freedom is likely to do to my rate of productivity. Before, like you, I spent hours glued to my computer in one small part of the house. I might have the cricket/tennis/whatever on in the next room -- and I'm not pretending I didn't, er, listen to it occasionally, when inspiration flagged -- but now the temptation is terrible to just swipe the laptop and go watch. I used to envy Simon the freedom to hoick his laptop outside (back when we had decent summers, unlike the last one) and work surrounded by swishing trees, chirruping birds, and the sound of Peter next door doing his lawn. I find myself though in constant state of interruption. Ants make a beeline for me; Peter stops mowing to pass the time of day. I wind up with only a mere soupcon of publishable prose.

(Plus, of course, who knows what I've missed in the cricket?!)

As for working on a train, this idea also had huge appeal -- in theory. I imagined myself composing immortal prose on the 4:30 to Cannon Street, en route to performing immortal music with my quartet (ha!)
In practice, however, I haven't yet found the nerve. What if I drop it/lose it/leave it on the train? How can I balance it -- my new and silvery sheeny wonderful Dell -- with my old and glowy and wonderful cello -- along with my mini-suitcase full of music, lights and stand and the book I've been looking forward to reading on the train (currently the fantastic Half of a Yellow Sun, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie).

Half Of A Yellow Sun. Buy now!!!!!! Do not pass go!!!!!!! Do not collect 200 pounds!!!!!!!!! Buy this book first!!!!!!!

In other words, as I lacked enough money to buy one of the tiny, featherlight ones, was it practical to buy a laptop at all??
And now you'll excuse me as the cricket's just starting ...

Copyright © 9 November 2007 Alice McVeigh, Kent, UK

Ask Alice




 << M&V home              Alice's previous columns >>