As I drove a miserably interminable drive back from deepest, dampest Devon the other evening in the pitch black, with wipers wipe, wipe, wipe, wiping incessantly - it occurred to me that I haven't done so much driving lately.
And the reason I haven't done so much driving lately is because I've made my suitcase all but redundant. I used to drive into chambers so I could lug stuff in and out of the boot of my car, or drive to court because the suitcases were too heavy to get on the train - but now I slip my laptop and my ipad in my backpack and hop on the choo choo, where I can snooze my way to and from work. Of course, train travel has its moments - it is not always either comfortable or glamorous, but I love a train snooze.
It's not been an entirely smooth ride, going paperless - its been a journey involving some travails - much like my strain to see the lane markings on the A38 this week, hands clenched to the steering wheel, teeth gritted, blower on - going paperless can feel a bit like driving in the dark and in bad weather conditions when you are not yet sure where all the dashboard controls are. But, much like driving, it just takes practice - and before you know it you are doing Mirror-Signal-Manouevre without having to silently lip sync it every time you perform the action.
One recent paperless nightmare : Last week at about 8.30am I went to open my pdf app to display all my carefully organised papers for the two hearings I was due to juggle that day - much like that sensation when you turn the key in the ignition and the thing turns over once, coughs and dies my app repeatedly crashed (yes, I did turn it off and on again). Twitter responded with helpful suggestions, and in fact the problem took only a few minutes to fix - but although I'll know what to do next time I had to manage all day without my ipad before I had breathing space to a do a delete and reinstall. Thus proving the first rule of paperless working : two devices are essential.
But, although my momentary panic prompted a few of you to say 'oh no, that's why I can't go paperless - I couldn't cope with the worry' - really, these travails are no different to the time you leave your blue book or xx notes at home and only realise when you are 30 minutes into your train journey, or the time you open your suitcase to find the wrong bundle (another nightmare for old timers was forgetting 10ps for the payphone in the robing room so you could ring your solicitor for urgent instructions). And in fact, if push came to shove, even if my laptop and my ipad were run over by a bus tomorrow, I could log into the cloud from any device, download those cross examination notes and crack on.
Next month I realise, I will conduct the final hearing in a case where I conducted the fact finding almost exactly a year earlier (I know, that's a whole different story). When I started that case I had to drive daily to Cardiff, park illegally outside the court, haul two suitcases a box and a wire rack up the stairs, park and return - and do the whole thing in reverse at the end of each day. Let me tell you, the rush hour traffic in Cardiff is not the Welsh capital's best feature. By the end of my two weeks I was mighty fed up. And exhausted. Since that trial I've worked every interim hearing in the case on my ipad or laptop. Today for the first time, I was finally delivered of a proper e-bundle, indexed and ready to go for the IRH. The local authority itself has radically changed its practice in the year since this case began, as have I. Such change in such a short space of time.
Another penny that has recently dropped is that I am doing something good for the environment here. I've begun to wonder quite how much paper I must have saved since going paperless. Tens of thousands of sheets I'm sure, given that I'd often be whizzing through 8 or more lever arch files of papers in a week. More than that - my carbon footprint is reduced because I'm taking public transport rather than driving in and out of rush hour Bristol. I'm saving money in doing so - the cost of parking at my local station plus a ticket is less than the cost of parking in Bristol, and that's before you even factor in petrol.
So all in all, I'm feeling pretty virtuous right now. Saving money, saving the planet, saving my poor old shoulders from all that pulling, twisting and lifting of boxes and suitcases.
The only down side is that I have been less of a dutiful daughter than of old. I had a habit of ringing my parents on the way back from chambers for a chat, particularly on a Friday evening. This evening I realised that as a result of my changed travel patterns I've fallen out of taking that time to ring my mum so often, and to have that time for a natter when in the privacy of my car. I'm not going to become one of those people who discusses all their personal matters on a packed train, so I'll just have to make more of an effort - fortunately even my dad has been converted to whatsapp, and I now regularly receive entertainingly random notifications on my device whilst in court from my Pop - 'Mum says do you want a sports bra? They're on sale in Lidl'
I still keep my to do list on paper though, in my little black notebook. One of life's great pleasures is to drag the inky nib across the page to cross through a completed task. Checking a box is not quite the same.
I close with this thought : if we are all going paperless will there come a time when pink tape will become extinct? And if that happens, what on earth shall I then call this blog?
The flap of a butterfly's wings...