Sidetracked: The Things That Stop You Working

Confession time. I last worked in an office environment more than thirty years ago. All I had on my desk back then was an electric typewriter and a landline telephone. The answering machine still had tape cassettes in it. I got to work in the mornings, worked all day, ate lunch at my desk, and went home at five-thirty.

OK, it was not without its occasional moments of drama, like the time I accidentally got locked into the building one night and had to climb out of an upper-storey window and then scramble across rooftops to freedom. Or the time, one week into a new job, when the boss said, “Right, we’re off on holiday next week. If the bailiffs arrive while we’re away don’t let them take anything…”

But generally, the biggest no-nos were arriving late or sneaking off early. People didn’t even leave their desks to smoke. In fact, I used to work sandwiched between two people who both chain-smoked and would leave cigarettes burning in their ashtrays while they nipped out on some errand. They didn’t like it when I stubbed out their cigs in their absence. My excuse was if I had to smoke passively while they were around, then I was damned if I was going to do it while they weren’t.

My how things have changed. (Eeh, I remember when all this were fields, etc.)

Highland Cows on Orton Scar

And when I set up in business on my own as a freelance photojournalist back in 1988, my word processor was an Amstrad 9512 that had no internal memory and required the insertion of a Start-of-Day disk to remember what it was in the mornings.


If there was a mouse anywhere near it, it would have looked like this:


I was pretty technologically advanced by owning a computer at all, I can tell you! Not to mention my Motorola brick phone. Groovy, man.

motorola brick phone

Distractions were simpler in those days. They involved staring out of the window:

staring out of windows

And a game of solitaire meant shuffling the deck before you began:


Early computer games were not exactly Fortnite:


But now we’re overwhelmed with daily distractions. Not to mention four-legged ones:

Lulu being cute

But that can sometimes be a good thing, as at the moment when I confess to anxiety in the run-up to my new standalone crime thriller, DANCING ON THE GRAVE, coming out next week. I need something to take my mind off it, and I thought I’d share with you some of my favourite sites for getting sidetracked:

They Fight Crime!

For the weirdest would-be detective pairings, just click the link. This one brought up: “He’s a hate-fuelled devious inventor from the Mississippi Delta She’s a chain-smoking hip-hop safecracker with a flame-thrower. They fight crime!”

they fight crime


I’m hopeless at crossword puzzles, but somehow I can’t leave this one alone.


Internet Movie DataBase

Always on my favourites’ list for when I want to know obscure facts. Did you know that Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, director of The Tourist, is 6’8¾”?


What is your Pro Wrestling Name?

Mine came out as Full Metal Darkshadow, or the Diva alternative was Titanic Callgirl. How about you?


But just in case wrestling is not your thing, how about your Blues Name? Mine’s Steel Eye Davis.

blues name

So help me out here—or sink me deeper—what procrastination aids do you use to while away the help you concentrate while you’re mulling over a storyline?

This week’s Word of the Weekis ultracrepidarian, meaning one who is presumptuous and offers opinions or gives advice on matters of which they have no knowledge. It supposedly comes from the Greek artist, Apelles, who overheard a shoemaker criticising the shape of a foot in one of his paintings. The phrase became, “Ne ultra crepidam judicaret.”Which can be literally translated as, “Do not judge beyond the sandal.”