Daily Archives: July 17, 2011 11:56 pm

30 days without supermarkets #12: Lemons and notebooks

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The advantage of cycling round London, even if it's raining, is that you can stop and take photos like this.

The best book I have read in a long, long time is John Kay’s Obliquity . The idea – that ‘complex goals are best achieved obliquely‘ – is both the story of my life and one of my touchstones for the future.  I haven’t much to report on food today, because I’ve had no reason to panic buy at a supermarket.  But this rather odd challenge has helped solve a number of other more complex problems.

I’ve had nearly 6 weeks of writer’s block. Only if you’ve had it can you know what it feels like. I sit down at a computer, and words float around in my head like fridge-magnet poetry on a continent-sized fridge. It’s as if I’d never learned to string two words together, or even worse, as if I just learned the skill of unjoining them.  I’m not talking about blogging, but about stuff that you have to write. It’s a similar feeling as I have had many times at 9.00 o’clock at night in a supermarket, when you know you need something to eat, but you don’t know how to piece it together from what’s available in the shop, or even what you want.

Something about my no-supermarket challenge made me think that if I’ve sat for 6 weeks at a computer and written nothing, then maybe sitting at a computer was the wrong approach. So  before the familiar dread of the blank page could set in,  I cycled up to the Southbank with a notebook & pen to the wonderful BFI café a couple of hours before my lunchtime meeting at the opera house, and tried that instead.

It worked, like a dream.   Much as I love computers, there are times when they become like mental supermarkets  – they offer you stuff, but they eventually leave you powerless to think.  If you’re not careful, they become the two-for-one satsumas or the shrink-wrapped courgettes of the mind. Technology is what works: a bike ride, a notebook, a pen, a deep sofa, low lighting, an Americano, a pain au chocolat,  and the Gotan Project.

Lemons? Reading other people’s blogs about their non-supermarket challenges, I came across one where they’d rediscovered old cleaning methods and materials, like using vinegar & bicarbonate of soda. Just for fun, I tried cleaning the sink with the remains of a lemon that I found in the fridge. You want to know what a shiny sink looks like? Try it.