Interview: Maddy Harland

I wrote an article for Permaculture Magazine last year about nature-based rites of passage and young people. Maddy helped guide that article for the PM reader and I really enjoyed the process of working with her. The interview below gives insight into what drives her and how her deep connection to the earth and humans grows and creates beautiful things. You can read more about Maddy at the end of the interview. Thanks Maddy!

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Blog. July ’19


I gave up using a smartphone about 9 months ago. It was hard to do but I suppose it is a kind of experiment to see how a change of routine would suit me, since having moved country twice in two years and didn’t seem like enough.

Last weekend I went to a Big City and, realising that I hadn’t planned my trip properly I reached into the crap box and pulled out the old smartphone*. I could use maps, apps and generally be able to navigate my way around with this handy little computer machine in my pocket.

But could I really rely on this hand computer to get me places, to not break or run out of battery? I felt it was a risk to rely on it, that it might let me down. I felt wobbly leaving the flat with just this tiny thing to make sure I got where I wanted to go, perhaps like an early human burning his hand on the First Fire, not seeing beyond the danger. But it was great! I loved being able to find my way round using the map and looking up this and that was exceptionally fun. I wanted to buy shoes … easy. Look up my favourite shoe stops. Maps were there for me, guiding me all the way. Convenience, like I had forgotten existed.

I was nervous, though.

I remembered back to when I decided to ditch the smartphone in the first place, standing at the bus stop in the rain, wondering if the bus was going to come. I felt awful. Like part of me had died. I was bereft and unhappy, wondering why it was I was doing this. It took a couple of months for me to adjust to having to prepare for things before leaving the house, to feel relief at not having that responsibility to be connected….

When smartphones first came out I couldn’t wait to get my hands on one. I think it was 2011. No, before that I had a blackberry and I remember feeling important, checking emails for my veg box business whilst on holiday in the wilds of Scotland, sitting in my van in leaky waterproofs on a rainy, wild summer day, bringing this wave of technology forth through salty spray, thrusting my way into that Hebredian backwater’s future, personally bankrolling world-changing access to electronic evolution. That was it. Email, social media, maps, timtables, bookings!! Holy shit, now I could have everything, EVERYTHING was there for me. And I created all this, I helped build this beautiful world of ‘free’ access.


I took the bus on the second day in the Big City. I knew which bus stop it went from, how long the journey would take, where to get off for my destination. There was a live journey feed during my trip which I thought I didn’t need so I turned it off. But I did need it, as it turned out, so I put it back on but it wouldn’t connect back up with my journey. I messed it up, stupid tech. I really wanted to know what it would be like to be synced with the trip via the map. This was a disaster and so frustrating. Whoa there!

Me on the train, on the way back home <I’ll just download the ebay app then I can buy this book> —-ebay scrolling for an hour—<shall i read a bit? no, wait I need to see what the weather’s going to do tomorrow, actually I haven’t done a thorough enough search for sleeping bags for my mega camping trip>—scrolling for another half an hour—<i wish I’d downloaded the netflix app so I could watch something amazing and life changing on this journey. train journeys are soooo booooring. maybe I could watch something on youtube. i wonder which bus I can get home. god it’s so slow. oh wow it tells me how much a taxi is from the station to home. that’s so cool, maybe I can book one now. book an uber to pick me up from the station, be there waiting for me. that is living>

I totally lost it

And then I remembered why. I didn’t want it. Didn’t want the wanting. Wanted to not want all that busyness, that feeling connected, that empty desperation of the next thing and then the next thing. Connection, wanting, connection, the joy of checking, and the next thing and then following the causal connections, the random flipping of mind to the next thing and the next. pure indulgence. bingeing. lovely bingeing, I just want to binge and binge. bingeing is good for me. the major phone networks say it is. finally it’s ok to binge…


I’ve got a brick phone and sometimes people laugh when they see it <what, that’s your phone?> but I know why I chose it. Because my busy mind likes nothing more than to be distracted. I chose it because I like the idea of being as much in the here and now as I can and a smartphone is a distract-athon for me. I won’t go into the brick metaphor here but try and imagine a cheesy 2 liner where bricks are a good thing.

Now I am used to looking things up beforehand, actually remembering things, carrying a little notebook and pen in my pocket (I love it), enjoying that I check emails and social media once a day at least (and when I do I still sometimes feel that empty feeling of expectation and disappointment, a hangover from my smartphone days, maybe) and I enjoy making eye contact with other non-smartphone users. I can do all this and feel incredibly smug at the same time as I confront people with my enlightened ways and help them compare themselves to me.

The experiment continues..

*raspberry for people reading this on their smartphone



Interview: Sam McLoughlin

I’ve loved Sam’s work for years and wanted to capture some of his thoughts on questions I made up

Untitled designUntitled design(1)Untitled design(2)

more of sam here

and here

and there