digital diary 27 march - 1 april 01 digital diary 27 march to 1 April 2001
while visiting prehistoric cave art in France - comments added later

27 March 01

This is my first attempt at writing on a handheld computer (hh)

as we come out of the channel tunnel into France...

At present it is slower than handwriting but not much... and it is easier to learn and to do than I expected.

I still can't do an exclamation mark

This is the right thing for you says someone.

31 March 01

Outside la Grotte des Combarelles in southern France.

In the stillness beginning to write on the handheld as I look up to see a square valley - about 100 meters each way, walled in by the overhanging limestone cliffs in which caves form so easily.

On the right is a cottage built into the cliff.

I'm adapting very easily to this version of handwriting - it's only slightly different from anyone's habitual handwriting - a good (if unconscious?*) example of ergonomics.

*I learnt later that the stylised 'Graffiti' alphabet which the handheld is programmed to recognise came of an 'open source' development of the Apple Newton electronic message pad.

The Newton was programmed to learn to (gradually) recognise an unrestriced handscript but people did not have the patience to wait for it to do this. Then someone proposed the simplified Graffiti alphabet (an unvarying set of capital letter forms) and people found they could learn it immediately and begin using the computer in minutes. (What I call 'zero learning')


Still at Combarelles. The air is still. Walked in wood of young trees. No sound. Lay on soft layer of dry curled leaves looking at tops of trees against the sky. Just heard a cuckoo. The few early visitors have left and this little valley is empty and still except for occasional passing cars on the road past the open end.The deep roaring sound of inflated rubber on tarmac and of engines at speed.

I was very pleased to find, in this first attempt, that I could indeed compose a coherent digitised note on the spot.

1 April 01 - 05.04

My first note in the night to be written on hh...

And at first just to measure how long it takes me to write in words per minute. I've just found that I write at about 20 wpm by hand - what do I guess is my speed on hh.? (05.14) I guess 40-49 words in 10 mins. - 5 wpm or a quarter of my handwriting speed - and I guessed it would be a half.

So what? Can I adapt what I write to this speed or do I have to wait until I can write faster?

Both! I can write poetically at this speed and I can write less poetically later.,.

...but why write less poetically - ever?

s i l e n c e

the unexpected answer!

this is a poem is a poem

05.43 that's enough for the moment

16.45 Outside Cap Blanc cave - my first electronic writing in nature - sitting on a rock in the shade of an ivy-clad tree.

A cuckoo is calling from across the valley as I write. To my right is a pile of orangey gravel - the natural colour of the local rock in which were carved, inscribed and painted the bisons, horses, mamoths and other animals ten to twenty thousand years ago...

...I'm writing just after emerging from the Cap Blanc 'outdoor cave' - an overhanging rock beneath which people carved and perhaps lived for several thousand years (it has recently been enclosed by a pleasant museum building - a modern version of the local cliff houses).


I return to the rock to type this...

...though I don't know what I will write...

(the slow process of writing at 5 words per minute inhibits hasty thoughts and I hope provokes more considered ones)

Feeling hot in this summery day I put my hat on the ground - avoiding ants if I can - and now I remove my Breton sweater - shedding first clout of the year., It's so warm here so early in the year (and it's so mild and pleasant a culture) that I wonder if I'd like to live here?