Vox pop – December 2008

‘What’s the perfect stocking filler for the business writer about town?’

Roger Horberry, Alp Associates

Sorry to be so obvious, but I do love my iPhone. The music app from Brian Eno (‘Bloom’) is worth the price of admission alone. And the rather fine maps mean the business writer about town shouldn’t ever get lost.

John Simmons

Obvious perhaps, but a Moleskine notebook comes with me everywhere. Perhaps it’s the power of branding but no other kind of notebook does nearly as well.

Mike Reed, Reed Words

No business writer – hell, no writer – hell, no human being – should be without an iPhone 3G. God, it’s wonderful. It’s like something that dropped through a wormhole from about 50 years hence. The phone aspect is negligible. What makes this piece of kit indispensable – and knocks the BlackBerry into, through and out the bottom of a cocked hat – are the applications, or ‘apps’. The iPhone comes with a very handy app for writers built in – ‘Notes’. Tap a quick note to yourself as you stroll along – good for those, like me, who always forget their paper-based notebooks. The pre-installed Maps feature is pretty handy too: nothing less than a detailed streetmap of the entire planet, which also uses GPS to show exactly where you are. On a recent business trip to Oxford, I stood peering at an utterly inadequate tourist map before remembering my iPhone, which showed me exactly where I was and how to get to where I was going. Genius. But these are mere basics. What really makes the iPhone is the App Store, where you can download hundreds of ludicrously useful and fun things, chosen by you to suit your life. Very few of these cost more than £1, and many cost nothing at all. So why not have the complete works of Shakespeare on your iPhone? All the plays, poems and sonnets. Everything. Free. If that’s not enough, try the ‘Classics’ app: a beautiful looking e-book that gives you a clutch of great works – including Paradise Lost, A Christmas Carol, Treasure Island, Huckleberry Finn, Metamorphosis and more – for 59p. 59p. I don’t understand it, but it’s true. Among my rapidly expanding collection, I also have some great games (Wurdle is a terrific word game, and Dropship is a great arcade-style spaceship-and-shooting game), Camera Bag, which instantly gives your photos a range of different effects, Shazam, which recognises any song you play it (handy when there’s something on the radio you can’t place), the BBC News Reader that downloads the day’s news for you to read at your leisure later… It goes on. All this without even mentioning the completely revolutionary touchscreen interface, the keyboard that guesses (usually correctly) what you meant to type when you make a slip, and the fact that it looks stunningly beautiful. The new iPhone strapline seems to be ‘This changes everything’. And so it does.

Jim Davies, totalcontent

I bought a pen on ebay the other week. No ordinary pen… it was a 1960s sterling silver Parker 75 just like my father used when he was alive. I not only really enjoy writing with a fountain pen again, but it reminds my old man every time I pick it up. So for Christmas, pocket a pen. You won’t look back. And join Sarah McCartney’s ‘Campaign for real ink’ on facebook.

Nick Asbury

Anyone who writes all year probably needs a break – I recently had a go at drawing. Despite being a feckless amateur (and I still am) it does open a door to a different part of the brain – slowing you down and getting you to see the world in a different way. There’s a book called Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, which is a pretty well-established beginners’ guide. Haven’t completed it myself yet, but it’s very good and I keep telling myself to go back and do more. Probably won’t be sharing my drawings for a while yet though.

Ben Afia

Have you ever been out and wanted to capture an interesting bit of text in better-than-mobile-phone quality? In a playground I saw ‘Adults may only enter if accompanied by a child’. And there was the Royal Mail van with ‘Delivering Value’, including capitals. If I had the time I’d write in and have a rant about it. Then there are meeting flip pages that someone has to type up. The simple solution is a pocketable digital camera that’s small enough to always be with you. So my stocking filler is the waif-like, 10MP, Sony T77 compact camera. At just 15mm thin it’s barely noticeable as it nestles in your pocket or briefcase. But it’ll still give you decent enough quality for prints or your blog.

Martin Lee

I’m not sure the perfect device is on the market yet, but in my imagination it’s a jamming mechanism for blocking Blackberries from working. Because what every business writer surely needs is peace and quiet. If the device I’m thinking of hasn’t yet been brought to market, then how about a bin, or a canal, in which to fling said infernal devil machine?

Tim Rich

Dear St Nick, ‘What’s the perfect stocking filler for the business writer about town?’ We writers are an advertisers’ nightmare. What do we buy for work? A toner cartridge now and then, perhaps. Possibly a jotter or two. And, resentfully, a new computer when the current model starts to wheeze and groan. We’re not really big hitters in the consumption stakes. And so the temptation is to answer this question with reference to yet another modest business writing bauble. Given the monkish austerity of the times, perhaps I should ask for a pebble from a beach to be used as a paperweight (sourced using sustainable methods, of course). Sod that. I think we writers should be raising our expectations. I think we should be more demanding. So I’d like two of these please.

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