Fragmented Thoughts

A notebook for half-formed ideas and other things on the mind of Emma Cragg.

Some weeks these lists are hard to write. Not for the lack of things to put on them but that other things happening in the world make each item feel insignificant. And then I remember, that's exactly why I write them.

So here's a selection of things that keep me smiling:

  • my parents got their first vaccine dose
  • planning a summer refresh for the yard, including making a scale drawing to try out options
  • an impromptu walk along the river with Izz
  • buds bursting and the first sign of blossom
  • a successful first foray into making chicken kiev

Tags: #gratitude

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Most newsletters come out on a schedule that suits the creator. Daily. Weekly. Fortnightly. Monthly. Occasionally.

What if you as the recipient could choose?

I currently send my newsletter weekly, with one issue per month as a round-up of links to things I've found interesting, appealing or useful. If I added a list of my writing from the month to the link round-up I would be able to give readers the option to receive the newsletter either weekly or monthly. Either way they would receive the same content but on a frequency they preferred.

Do you offer this option already? I'd love to see some examples.

This is day 32 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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My typical approach to journaling is writing a one-line summary at the end of the day. However, at the start of the pandemic I decided to write a little more occasionally. Below is my first entry in what I labeled my 'Coronavirus diary' from exactly a year ago...

It's difficult to know what to think about, and do in response to, the threat of Coronavirus. At the moment cases in the UK are limited, but we have to expect or at least be prepared for the level of outbreak countries like China and Italy have experienced.

At the moment, I'm still going about things as normal. But I do get the feeling that generally there are fewer people about (that may be just a coincidence, of course). At the weekend I played hockey and we still shook hands and shared food. I'm going in to the office every day on the bus. In the next couple of weeks I've got plans to go away for the weekend with my hockey team, attend networking events and talks, and meet clients. And at the start of April we're away for a week with the whole family. I'm beginning to wonder whether any or all of that will still go ahead.

Ahead of a co-working day I was due to attend today we were sent advice from Public Health England about the scenarios in which you would need to self-quarantine. People in my networks are starting to talk about the plans their organisations are making to move to remote working and distance learning. Some of these involve having trial days before it becomes a necessity to make sure any issues are ironed out in advance. Should the need arise, I'm fully able to continue my work from home.

Working for myself however I feel one step removed from it all. I'm not aware of a heightened sense of fear, or anyone significantly changing their day-to-day behaviour. At the weekend though teacher friends did mention that their schools are receiving phone calls from parents demanding when they're going to close and expressing concern that their children are being put at risk. I'll wait to take my lead from Good Space (where my office is located).

I think my mantra will be to proceed with caution, not panic. It's hard to stay calm though when all around you are losing their heads. The stockpiling of toilet roll, soap and pain killers has begun. I will admit to getting Izzy to buy a few extra tins in the last shop, just in case... although I think that's more a response to reading The Siege than it is to fears the supermarkets will be empty.

One useful thing I have seen is guidance from the World Health Organisation around what the actual symptoms of the virus are and how they're similar/different from the common cold and flu.

This is day 31 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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Over the weekend I read Wintering: The power of rest and retreat in difficult times by Katherine May. It's a mix of memoir, nature writing and (the good kind of) self-help.

Reading this now got me reflecting on both the experiences of the past year and my own period of wintering which marked the transition between an old life and the new.

I bookmarked a few pages to return to both for the ideas and rhythm of the writing.

The starkness of winter can reveal colours that we would otherwise miss. I once watched a fox cross a frosty field, her coat shining against the gloom. Walking in the bare winter woodland, I am also surrounded by astonishing foxy reds: the burnish of bracken, its dry fronds twisted to lacework; the crimson leaves left on brambles; the last remaining berries on honeysuckle; and orangey clusters of rosehips. The iconic holly, its boughs so thoroughly raided each Christmas. There is also the bright yellow of gorse on heathland, glowing on until spring comes, the stately evergreens, and the tangle of green leaves that remain unnoticed on the ground. Life goes on, abundantly, in winter, and this is where changes are made that usher us into future glories. (from p. 81)

Some people thrive on a little sleep deprivation, but I do not. I now know that I can achieve far more after nine hours than I can in the spare time afforded by a short night. Sleeping is my sanity, my luxury, my addiction. (from p. 86-7)

I clear the surface of my desk and make a pool of light with my lamp. I go off to fetch matches and light a candle. One light is steady and sure, the other uncertain and flickering. I open my notebook and work between these two poles. On balance, it's where I prefer to be: somewhere in the middle. Certainty is a dead space, in which there's no more room to grow. Wavering is painful. I'm glad to be travelling between the two. (from p. 94)

In our winter, a transformation happened. We read, and we worked, and we problem-solved, and we found new solutions. We changed our focus away from pushing through with normal life and towards making a new one. When everything is broken, everything is up for grabs. That's the gift of winter: it's irresistible. Change will happen in its wake, whether we like it or not. We can come out of it wearing a different coat. (from p. 140)

This is day 30 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Tags: #books #quotes #reading

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This week's list of little things:

  • my longest run of the year so far
  • finally finishing The Count of Monte Cristo
  • the moon
  • a restock of beer from the pub
  • first day warm enough to wear shorts

This is day 29 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

Tags: #gratitude

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Over the past few weeks I've made a few changes to how I do things on my website and for my newsletter.

Cleaning up cookies

I've never used many services in the running of my website that require cookies to be set. I don't use sharing buttons or embed media from third party services, and I choose to use a privacy-friendly analytics tool with cookies turned off.

I gave the site an overhaul recently and part of that process was checking what cookies were set. The only ones listed in the report were those set by the cookie notification plugin I was using, which seems redundent when there's no other cookies to accept or reject...

So I've turned off that plugin and am pleased to report my site is cookie free.

No to spy pixels

I've also been following Dave Smyth's work on a new project, No To Spy Pixels, which aims to raise awareness, and encourage regulation, of what gets tracked when you open emails from mailing lists.

I use ConvertKit to send my newsletter which doesn't currently have the option to allow you to turn off tracking. However, following the launch of No To Spy Pixels, I went to find out if this was a planned feature and if not, to request it is added to the list.

I'm pleased that it is currently in development and I've joined the beta testing. From now on, my newsletter and other emails sent through ConvertKit won't track opens, location or device information. It's not yet possible to turn of link tracking, but I've requested this be added to the development. And I'm fully prepared to find an alternative email provider if I can't get this functionality.

This is day 28 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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A running list of all the books I read in 2021.

The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas. Finished 25 February. I like Dumas' writing style and I did enjoy reading this; it's a ripping yarn. However, it's far too long! Given that it was originally published in serial format (like Dickens) there's speculation that he was paid by the word... and it shows.

Wintering: The Power of Retreat and Rest in Difficult Times by Katherine May. Finished 28 February. I devoured this in just a few days (which is practically unheard of for me). It's beautifully written, poetic in places. A winning combination of memoir, nature writing and thoughtful advice on how to prepare for winters of our own.

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead. Finsihed 4 March. A quick read but nevertheless this packs a punch. The ease and subtlety of the writing makes the more brutal aspects of the story feel even more shocking.

The Green Road by Anne Enright. Finished 13 March.

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe. Finished 21 March.

Titus Groan by Mervyn Peake. Finshed 11 April. This has been on my reading list probably since I watched the BBC adaptation in the early 2000s. I'd always been slightly apprehensive of it, but I don't know why. I really enjoyed it!

Lowborn by Kerry Hudson. Finished 19 April.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. Finished 23 April.

Tags: #reading #books

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I live near one of the main routes into the centre of Newcastle. Lately I've noticed that traffic during what you might describe as the morning rush hour has increased. It doesn't feel that different from what a typical rush hour might have been like before the pandemic.

When I see this, questions start popping in my head:

  • Where are they all going?
  • What is it going to be like when more people start returning to the office?
  • How much worse can this get?

My most niggling question concerns public transport. During rush hour before the pandemic there would be full buses going by every 5 minutes. Post pandemic, however, people will be more cautious about getting on a bus. That's perfectly understandable, but it worries me that instead of the bus they will opt to drive instead. Then we'll be in a situation where there are more cars than ever on the road during rush hour.

Here are some more questions that spring to mind when I think about possible ways to avoid this:

  • What needs to be in place to make public transport safe during busy times?
  • What will help increase people's confidence in using public transport?
  • What can we do to show people all the available options for their commute?
  • What can we do to help encourage and support transport decisions that benefit the environment?

This is day 27 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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I got to the end of the work day yesterday feeling pretty flat. As we sat down to eat our tea I put the radio on. It was right as Just a Minute was starting on Radio 4. If you're not familiar with it, and don't want to click that link, here's how it works:

contestants are challenged to speak for one minute without hesitation, deviation or repetition on any subject that comes up on the cards

Just a Minute has been running for 54 years and is a British broadcasting institution. And it never fails to make me laugh. So at the end of yesterday's episode my mood had significantly improved.

Laughter has been an essential feature of lockdown life. Whether it's been howling at the antics of Johnny Vegas, Daisy May Cooper, Katherine Parkinson, Mawaan Rizwan and Richard Herring on the latest series of Taskmaster or roaring at some of the ridiculous statements that fall from my family's mouths (which I won't repeat because you most definitely had to be there), having a good laugh at something trivial has been good for the soul.

This is day 26 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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So, if all goes to plan it looks like life will expand beyond the four walls of the home gradually over the next four months. It's nice to be able to think about making tentative plans for seeing family and friends in the not too distant future.

As with most news these days, however, I'll wait for the dust to settle and then only proceed with cautious optimism. The caution is largely around the details. I'm already hearing people pin their hopes on the dates that are mentioned in each step, speculating on when they may return to work, the gym, the pub or book the next holiday. But we need to be clear these are the earliest possible dates and it's highly likely they will change.

My preference is simply to think about the order that things will happen – this, then that, then that... And instead of thinking months ahead, to look forward a week or two at the most. It's easier then to come to terms with the inevitable shifts that happen. I think my stock phrase for the next few months will be 'let's wait and see.'

This is day 25 of my #100DaysToOffload challenge. Want to get involved? Find out more at

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