Join my VIP list for alerts on new books! Join my VIP email list

Going Internet Cold Turkey

How will we research in future?

Sunday, May 2, 2021

A couple of weeks ago, I went up north to do some refurbishment work to my house (the house I own but not where I live—it’s a long story).

What should have been a three-day trip away turned into two weeks—blame the pandemic. You see, when lockdown happened across the UK in March 2020, the construction industry was allowed to continue. Manufacturing, however, was largely shut down. This has meant that all the manufactured materials associated with building, or repairing anything to do with a property, are now in very Short Supply.

Fortunately, I rarely travel anywhere without my laptop, and I also had all my notes for the book on which I’m currently doing structural edits. So, between waiting in vain for things to turn up or be delivered, I was still able to work. The house is furnished, but otherwise empty.

And it has no phone or internet connection.

Because I’ve been away so rarely over the past year, I have around 3Gb a month of data allowance on my mobile phone. Normally, that’s plenty. But, I also have free access to a wi-fi connection when I’m at my desk.

No problem, thought I. People go on writers’ retreats in remote locations all the time, where they luxuriate in the lack of distractions such as phone signal or internet access in order to really get into the creative zone. They come back with oodles written, thoroughly refreshed and relaxed.


It seems that I am not one of those people.

I hadn’t realised how often I just nip onto my browser to look up a quick fact, mid-chapter—sometimes even mid-sentence. What I find can often alter what I write, or the way that I write it.

A few examples of questions from my current work-in-progress include:

What headgear is worn by female uniformed police constables in the UK?

Answer: a bowler with a curly brim.

What is the minimum and maximum time you can serve in the Royal Navy?

Answer: you can enrol between the ages of 16 and 39 and serve up to 22 years, although the minimum length of service is four years.

How fast is average walking pace, and how long would it take to walk 1.3 miles?

Answer: average walking speed is anywhere between 2mph and 4mph, thus it would take you between 14 and 26 minutes. For my purposes, bearing in mind this walk was undertaken in the dark and in heavy rain, even allowing for some urgency, I reckoned somewhere between 20 and 25 minutes.

What make of motorcycles are used by British police motorcyclists?

Yamaha or BMW Motorcyles
Answer: most likely Yamaha or BMW.

Is there a flower that symbolises justice?

Answer: black-eyed Susan.

Who said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”?

Edmund Burke quotation
Answer: this is actually a bit of a grey area. Although this quote is often credited to Edmund Burke—including in a speech by John F. Kennedy in 1961—he didn’t use those exact words. It’s also attributed to John Stuart Bell, who said something similar, but again, not those exact words. Indeed, it appears that the earliest (closest) use was by the Rev. Charles F. Aked in 1916 in a speech asking for restrictions on the use of alcohol: “It has been said that for evil men to accomplish their purpose it is only necessary that good men should do nothing.”

Of course, back when I first started writing, it was pre-Internet, so I collected reference books, dictionaries, and encyclopaedias. It’s rather sad to note that charity book stores in the UK have largely stopped accepting encyclopaedias because everyone has been throwing them out. How things change. Makes me wonder how will we do our research in the future?


This week’s Word of the Week is bibliosmia, meaning the act of smelling a book for pleasure.