25 February 2008

Hacking kit

I tidied my desk yesterday and unearthed my brand-new, all-plastic, credit-card-style NUJ membership card, which had got buried under papers. The letter it came with suggests I "keep it with me". Well, er, yes. I'll probably sling it in my filing system - the one marked NUJ. But seriously, I can't see the point of shoving it in my wallet and schlepping it wherever I go when I venture outside. For one thing, my purse is already crammed full of plastic - bank cards, loyalty cards, discount cards, my EHIC card - the stuff I do actually need on me. Secondly, I have a press card, which frankly would be far more useful should I find myself suddenly caught up in a newsworthy incident and need to ID myself.

But it got me thinking about the kit I use, whether on a regular or occasional basis. As I'm home-based at the legendary Wordsmith Towers, most of my kit is straightforward. On the general front, I have a Skype phone that doubles as a landline phone and is pretty useful. I don't often use it for Skype calls, but I love the professionalism of the chat facility (MSN/Yahoo I view as for kids). My mobile phone often lurks forlornly in my handbag or on my desk, unused and unloved. I rarely give out my number - I'm home all day so if people need to reach me, they can ring my landline (or Skype me). Mobile phones are purely for calling cabs when out. I'd be stuffed without my Rolodex and my Excel file of contacts.

On the editing front, I have a pretty large collection of dictionaries and reference works (plus bookmarked sites in my browser), which pretty much covers what I need for that line of income. I don't work on hard copy so don't need huge stocks of pens in various colours.

On the writing front, my favourite toy is my wonderful Olympus WS-200s digital recorder. I bought it last summer and it gets used a lot. I'm almost exclusively interviewing over the phone and I tape every one. I even used it last week to tape a lengthy briefing discussion with a corporate client so I wouldn't miss anything vital. I have 2 adapters for it - one being a jack-plugged extension that sits between the phone and the recorder, the other being a sucker thing on a lead that you can stick to a handset. The recorder sits in my desk drawer when not in use, for safety, but is small enough to cram into even the tiniest pocket when I'm on the hoof.

In my handbag, I keep a small notebook which is handy for jotting down ideas or other important work-related stuff (I got sick of scrawling phone numbers on the backs of bus tickets). At the last count, I had at least 7 pens in there. At least 3 are red as I have a habit of defacing correcting menus full of spelling errors and grocers' apostrophes (I have no shame). I also keep spare batteries for the recorder because it's sod's law that on the day I need to tape someone the battery will go flat and I'll have forgotten to bring spares. Otherwise, it's just my business cards, my press card and my diary.

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