Things That Should Be

Zoë Sharp

I’m a chronic maker of lists. I should have a list of lists, really. In fact, before I started writing my blog this morning, while I waited for a head of steam to build up in my desktop, I was making my Daily To Do List. It’s not displacement activity – honest. It’s time management … or something.



In fact, currently sitting on my desk are several lists. One is today’s, another is a list of jobs that really ought to get done before we go to the States next week, and another is a list of the last few remaining jobs to do on the house.

When I write it down like that, it’s rather sad, really, isn’t it? 

Mind you, the best list I’ve ever come across was in Simon Pegg’s classic rom-com-zom movie, ‘Shaun of the Dead’



Buy Milk.

Ring Mum.

Dodge Zombies



I even have a printed-out shopping list of all the stuff we regularly buy, grouped together according to section, so a trip to the supermarket has become a case of crossing off the stuff we don’t need rather than remembering the stuff we do.

It’s not that I have a really bad memory, it’s just very selective – in the same way that given nine good points in a review and one bad one, it will inevitably be the bad one I can recall word for word. I do have a tendency to remember something once, and then because I’ve remembered it rather than actually done whatever it is that I needed to remember to do, I promptly forget it again.

Most of my To Do lists contain stuff that, in reality, I know I need to do, but seeing it in black and white – or green fountain pen in my case – and then being able to put a line through it when it’s sorted, gives a sense of satisfaction out of all proportion to the task.

Mind you, a friend recently suggested that I keep a Done list instead – enabling me to look back at the end of the day and see what I’ve achieved rather than what I failed to do. This is a very nice idea, but doesn’t help when I suddenly remember at 10:30 pm that I really should have booked the car in for service, or posted a cheque.

Of course, what I could do is have a both a To Do and a Done list, but I think that would get out of hand very quickly, don’t you?

What about you, ‘Rati? Are you listers or non-listers? And if you’re a non-lister writer, do you also not like to outline? I wonder if there’s any connection.

Some lists, I wouldn’t like to be without, though. Over the last few years, we’ve put together a packing list, which includes everything from passports and currency down to the stick-on in-car bracket for my phone, which is also our sat-nav. At the end of each trip, I add stuff on that we needed but didn’t take, and cross stuff out that we took and didn’t need.

All this daft organisation will – with any luck – help us to pack for this month’s US mini-tour for FOURTH DAY using only two carryon-sized wheelie bags. The only complication is that I’m attending two conventions – both the Tucson Festival of Books (March 12th/13th) and Left Coast Crime (March 24th-27th) which necessitate a frock or two, and a pair of heels. Fortunately, I only ever buy dresses that scrumple up. 

A bigger packing problem at the moment, though, is the weather. We were lulled to expect pleasantly warm temperatures. Instead, I hear of rain in San Francisco (OK, so maybe that’s no great surprise) and SNOW in Tucson. That wasn’t in the game plan at all. I haven’t had so much packing confusion since one year when we went skiing in New England and then carried on down to Daytona Beach for Spring Break. It’s the only time I’ve been to Florida and taken a fur hat.

It doesn’t help that I’m a wuss when it comes to the cold. I admit it. Take the time we went to Death Valley. We drove in along mile after mile of arrow-straight road, past signs that said, ‘Do not leave your car!’ and ‘Take water with you!’ and ‘Much danger, Will Robinson!’



And when we got there? I was chilly and had to put on a sweater.

Everyone told us Arizona would be mild and balmy at this time of year, unlike last June when we were there last, when it was hot enough to dry the spit on your eyeballs. We also lived up to our Mad Dogs and Englishmen reputation by walking around in Houston at high noon. Even our own shadows were trying to hide from the heat.

But the hotter it is outside, the more every building cranks up the air-con, so as soon as I get inside, I freeze. Ho hum. 

So, I’ve really no idea what to expect in Scottsdale and Tucson AZ, or San Diego, LA, Lancaster, Sacramento or the Bay Area CA, or Albuquerque and Santa Fe NM.  Any pointers welcome. Remember those carryon bags. We can’t afford to take stuff we’re not going to use, but I really don’t want to shiver, either!



What about you, ‘Rati? What’s the best or the most useless item you’ve ever taken on holiday with you?

This week’s Word of the Week comes courtesy of a writer friend, Kate Kinchen, and is another of those words that doesn’t exist but should do. It’s sarchasm, which is the gulf between one who speaks in a sarcastic tone of voice, and one who doesn’t get it.

36 thoughts on “Things That Should Be

  1. PK the Bookeemonster

    Have a safe and wonderful trip, Zoe
    I think it's perfectly ok to make lists. There is a correlation between hand and mind when things are written down. I'll remember things more or better if I've written it. I make lists for groceries, yes, but also what potential meals to make for the next week while thinking of what food stuffs I have already in stock. I do make "to do" lists but I'm not obsessive about sticking to it or getting it all done. Lists for me are just to help clear the clutter and cobwebs in my brain. šŸ™‚

  2. J.D. Rhoades

    Safe travels to you and Andy, Zoe. And if you drift down North Carolina way, let me know, although it doesn't look like you'll even be in my time zone.

    And as for list making…nope. Tried it. Couldn't sustain it. Like the man says, I'm just making this up as I go.

  3. Dana King

    I'm a lister. I work at home now and keep a dry erase board with the day's events on it. It's a great feeling when I get to the end of the day and that slot is clean. I actually get there some days, too.

    My wife and I also take some flak for planning out our dinner menus a week in advance, so I exactly what to buy at the store. We like it because it makes shopping more efficient, and we're less likely to beg off and go out if we know there's a meal planned and everything we need is there. I think I'm going incorporate at least part of your plan, though, to have staples always on the list so I don;t forget. I can cross them off if we still have enough.

    Most useless item I've ever taken on holiday? Probably my second wife, but we'll not get into that right now.

  4. Alafair Burke

    Happy travels to you. I am not generally a list maker nor do I outline. I used to be a list maker and used to outline. Hmmmm…..

  5. Karen in Ohio

    Longtime list maker here. It's the only way I can get my monkey mind organized enough to get anything done.

    But I can't hold a candle to the listmaking capabilities of my middle daughter: she actually has lists of her lists! More than a little OCD to that girl, I fear.

    Take a pashmina, Zoe, they're always useful and fold up small enough to keep with you at all times. I'm sure you already have one laid out to go! The least useful item I ever took was a French phrasebook on our last trip to France. Every person we met wanted to try out their English on us Americans! It was amusing, but a bit disappointing that I couldn't seem to get into a single incomprehensible conversation.

  6. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi PK

    I've been hoping that there's a corelation – ie, that I remember do actually do the things on the list.

    Or, alternatively, that I remember what I've done with the list in the first place …;-]

    The most depressing lists are the ones you find in the back of old diaries, listing all the things you'd really like to get done that year … and you still haven't done them.

  7. Sylvia

    I'm a lister. In fact, I'm a multi-lister. 3M should be paying me as their poster-girl for lists, rewriting lists, dividing lists and rolling in lists. Listmania live on. Now if I could only get things done.

    Most useless item taken on a trip – hmmm, pants that were a little snug thinking I would walk a lot and drop a few pounds while on vacation. Sure. Right.

    Have a great trip!

  8. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Dana

    What's wrong with planning meals in advance? Yeah, we do that, too. When you're a fair way from the nearest grocery store, you can't just nip out for that forgotten vital ingredient. Of course, we're a fair way from the nearest restaurant or takeaway, too. Home delivery? Hah!

    LOL on the second wife. One day, we'll have to hear that story …

  9. Rae

    I make oodles of lists at work (not that they help much), but in my personal life I avoid them like the plague, with two exceptions: packing lists, and grocery lists. The packing lists grew out of my answer to your question about useless items taken on a trip – I have, so many times, overpacked by about 100%, it's just sad. So, I make lists, and if I stick to them I don't have to pay the extra-baggage fine. Usually šŸ˜‰

  10. Debbie

    Love that word for the day. Two I learned on FB that caught my attention are: 'gastronomic masochism' and, 'intellectual hyper-vigilence'. The first phrase applies to food that doesn't agree with your values, palet, digestive system thus ruining your appetite, and the second, to a person who is particular about words and phrasing to convey ideas accurately.
    Love the lists you mentioned. I used to have a packing list too; kept it in my suit case. I had to give up on lists when I lost my sight and am a panster. I do make notes in a separate document after forgetting too many points. Sometimes, I forget to check the notes. Wrote a whole scene out of cronological order once and forgot about it and rewrote the scene when I got there. I managed to blend the two, but it was a waste of writing time.

  11. Zoƫ Sharp

    Thanks, Alafair

    "I am not generally a list maker nor do I outline. I used to be a list maker and used to outline."

    What brought about the change in your way of working? And does it work better for you?

  12. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Karen

    A list of lists? Hmm, can't compete with that, I'm afraid!

    Love the idea of taking a pashmina! I have one, so I will add it to the list (argh!) It will go with my evening-y frocks and could also serve as a scarf, flag of surrender, sunshade or rainwater catchment device. I love multi-tasking …;-]

    Have to laugh about the French phrase books. All my foreign phrase books have scribbled-in local swear words in the front of them – most useful!

  13. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Sylvia

    I'm sure the shareholders of 3M worship your image ;-]

    I have clothes that shrink in the wardrobe, but I will be trying them on before I pack them, just in case. I think the last tour we did, I DID actually manage to lose weight with all the rushing about and living on mild stress sandwiches, but then we landed in Illinois and Indiana, where our diet seemed to consist of a lot of stuff that was breaded and deep fried, and the healthy living went out the window.

  14. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Rae

    One of the most useful things we take with us is a little electronic luggage scale, so we can shift items between the bags and avoid them going overweight and incurring extra charges.

  15. Zoƫ Sharp

    Sorry for the long delay, folks – I've been trying to post replies to comment and it just kept telling me that Internet Explorer couldn't find the page. Argh!

  16. JD Rhoades

    "The least useful item I ever took was a French phrasebook on our last trip to France. Every person we met wanted to try out their English on us Americans! "

    In college, i had a French teacher who was from Lyons. He told me that the French are very proud of their language, so much so that a Frenchman would rather speak bad English than hear you speak bad French.

  17. Allison Brennan

    Sacramento in March can be beautiful spring-like weather (it's 63 today, sunny, and no wind) or stormy. It's supposed to rain Sunday and Monday. No idea what it'll be like when you're here!

  18. KDJames

    Wishing you safe travels, Zoƫ, with fun times and new friends and many new loyal readers as a result!

    I tend to make lists when I have much to accomplish in a short amount of time. So at work, that's every day. At home? Ahem. It's been awhile… I should make one tonight. Love that feeling of crossing things off.

    Most useless item? My first RWA National conference, I brought along a couple books. Just in case I had some down time (HAHAHA!), I wanted to make sure I had something to read (HAHAHAHA!). I still have a box around here someplace with free books from the conference that I haven't yet read. Maybe I should add finding and purging that box to my To Do list.

    Thanks for passing along "sarchasm" — since I seem to create one every damn day, it's good to have a word for it.

  19. Cathy

    I make lists – sometimes I remember where I put them

    Best things on a trip? A tiny corkscrew that comes apart. TSA hasn't taken it away on numerous trips. Converter for all your electronic stuff.
    And earplugs. Hotels have thin walls. Sometimes I really don't want to know.
    Just sayin'.

  20. Jane Hockaday

    I'm a list-er and a list-loser and a list-accumulator.

    LOVE the word of the day… sarchasm. If we all start to use it maybe it'll be added to the dictionary.

  21. Zoƫ Sharp

    Thanks, Cornelia – I'm sure the trip will be awesome ;-]

    I try to keep my lists in prominent places, but sometimes they get covered up by other stuff … lists, most probably.

  22. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Debbie

    Weird – I used to write out of sequence a lot more than I do now, but I do have a file of 'nice lines' for overheard snippets and other little gems, jokes, etc.

  23. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Dusty – I think you're right about the French preferring to speak bad English than allow us to mangle their language. I seem to remember a French phrase, though, for anything done badly, "… like a Spanish cow."

    What poor Spanish bovines have ever done to the French, I'll never know – maybe it's like British lamb…?

  24. Zoƫ Sharp

    Thanks, KD

    I've taken books to conventions, but only to read on the plane on the way there. There's something comforting about a book you've chosen rather than ones that have been supplied, although it's a great way to discover new authors!

    Thanks for the forecast, Reine – that's very precise! I'll definitely bring a jumper, though.

  25. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Cathy – I used to take my Swiss Army knife everywhere, but with carryon bags only for this trip, I can't. I'm amazed TSA haven't taken your corkscrew off you. I remember travelling not so long ago and they wouldn't let me have a pencil sharpener!

    Hi Jane – I've just piled today's To Do list on top of yesterday's, so I'm accumulating them, too. Sarchasm is a great one, isn't it. I've added it to my file of words I really must find a place to use – it works so much better in print.

  26. Zoƫ Sharp

    Hi Cathy – I used to take my Swiss Army knife everywhere, but with carryon bags only for this trip, I can't. I'm amazed TSA haven't taken your corkscrew off you. I remember travelling not so long ago and they wouldn't let me have a pencil sharpener!

    Hi Jane – I've just piled today's To Do list on top of yesterday's, so I'm accumulating them, too. Sarchasm is a great one, isn't it. I've added it to my file of words I really must find a place to use – it works so much better in print.

  27. Reine

    5. We do have monsoons, though. Then again the Tucson monsoon season doesn't start until June15. Unless it starts early.

    6. Better bring the sou'wester.

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