Category Archives: blogging

I Learn About Dogberryisms

I was just reading a comment on something I said recently when I thought of a subject for a post. I didn’t manage to write anything yesterday because I left it late and then had so much to say I couldn’t do it coherently.

Helen mentioned proofreading, and it set something off in my head.

Once, I was asked to proofread some documents. They were dull, repetitive, badly organised and owed more than a little to Mrs Malaprop. I resisted the temptation to rewrite everything, because that would be rude. I resisted the temptation for humour at the expense of the writer, because they were obviously doing their best.

In short, I was polite. I corrected the spelling mistakes and typos and I substituted the correct word. I can’t remember the exact word but it was a common mistake, something in the order of purposely purposefully. No big deal.  Then I sent the correction off and got on with my proper work.

A week or so later the agenda for the Management Committee meeting came out and included an item on “proofreading”. If they’d called it “vitriolic personal attack on Simon” it would have been more accurate.

Anyway, we got to Item 3 “Proofreading”, and the committee member concerned took a deep breath before launching her attack.

Random Robin

Several weeks previously the farm had tested bushcraft/mindfulness workshop put on by someone who was doing a psychology course. It was not, for a number of reasons, my sort of thing and as it was on my day off, I didn’t go.

However, I was told, I should have gone because that would have taught me the proper way to bring up the issue of corrections and I would have avoided hurting the feelings of the writer. I should, she told me, have mentioned something good about the work she did, given her the corrections and then gone on to say something nice about her work again.

This, of course, assumed that she had ever done two pieces of decent work. I am not convinced, from what I saw, that this was the case.

You may recognise the technique. In polite circles it’s known as the “praise sandwich“, the “feedback sandwich”, the “sandwich technique” or the “constructive criticism sandwich”. It’s an insincere and predictable technique, which often fails to get the message across and has never, as far as I can remember, been considered a good technique, except by people who write books on how to manage. And yes, there is another term for it.

I smiled, apologised for my lack of  manners and management sophistication and prepared for Item 4.

That was when the floodgates opened. I was, it seems, rude, arrogant and totally lacking in empathy. Unlike me, she didn’t have a degree or a good education and she was doing her best. Blah, blah, blah…

The Ecocentre – scene of the vitriolic personal attack

It seemed like a long time, though it was probably only a few minutes. I switched off and let it run its course. The irony, of course, is that I don’t have a degree. However, you don’t need a degree when you have a dictionary and know what order the letters are in.

I believe that best practice in management is to praise people when you can, and when they need correcting giv e it to them straight. If you give praise where it is due there should be no need to dress the criticism up.

So, how does this relate to anything? or is it just an Ancient Blogger rattling on to fill space?

Well, it relates to criticising blogs. I was very tempted to comment negatively on a blog post this week because somebody was commenting on the Harry and Meghan interview. Unfortunately they seemed to believe everything said about it by (a) Meghan and (b) a number of American journalists. The post and the journalists relied mainly on opinion, and when facts were available in two cases they didn’t use them.

However, do I have the right to go onto another blog and criticise it? Is it really important? Harry and Meghan are, in truth, not important. They think they are, but that is a different matter.  When I find a blog I don’t like or a blogger who irritates me I try to avoid them rather than argue.

This brings up my three questions. One is just a repeat of the one above – do we have a right to go on someone’s blog and disagree or criticise?

Two, if that blog is deliberately provocative, does this alter the answer?

Photo by Kirsten Bu00fchne on

Three, if we don’t argue, are we validating their points? By not engaging in a debate about the veracity of everything said by Harry and Meghan, am I actually helping them to establish their version of the facts as truth?

And for those of you who don’t follow the links – a Dogberryism is the same as a malapropism. This is something I learned today, which illustrates the difference between having a degree and having an education.

A Limerick for Lavinia

In a moment of optimism I said, a few days ago, that I would write a poem about Lavinia’s plague of voles. So I had a look at the rhyming dictionary and the list of poetic forms and, to be honest, recoiled in horror. I was thinking of including daffodils but several of the rhymes I was offered (Battle of Bunker Hill and oral contraceptive pill) betrayed a basic lack of understanding about the sort of poems that might include daffodils. Wordsworth never had these problems.

You may recall my discussion about krumholz as a rhyme for vole a couple of days ago.

Well, there is one poetic form I can think of that can accommodate all sorts of poetic horrors (no, not the clerihew, things aren’t that bad) – it’s the limerick – the world’s favourite poem.

An Oregon farmer named Ross
suffered fires, tempests and frost
plus a great plague of voles
all digging their holes
till the cats came to show them who’s boss

For other works in this series see here, here, here and here. And here. Oh, and here. I didn’t realise I’d done so many. I certainly didn’t realise that some of them were so excruciating. I may have to do a collected limericks post, and add some about Boris. I just need a rhyme for farce…

Just in case you get confused, there are two about the well known Mainer, to accommodate both ways of saying scone – the one that rhymes with gone, and the wrong one.

Writing and Inspiration (Part 2)

I write because I’m addicted. Deep down, I just can’t stop. In my teens I wanted to write as a career, to earn money and to attend literary lunches. I’m still not clear what a literary lunch is, but I knew that writers went to them.

That was as far as I got this morning, before being diverted from my course with some thoughts on junior match reports.

After trying novels I moved on to poetry, then back to novels. I did think about an autobiography but I didn’t really have enough material at the age of seventeen. After that I carried on writing endless first pages and throwing them away whilst reading books on how to write best sellers. Occasionally I had a go at magazine articles, and had a few accepted. I did wonder if I could become a freelance writer, but lack of a decent work ethic suggested it would be a disaster.

Eventually I had a proper go and tried for more fame and fortune with a detective novel. I say novel, what I really mean is “load of words”. It went to about 120,000 words but lacked a couple of things, including a decent plot, an ending and a lot of editing. So I tried again. Another 80,000 words, but still a lack of plot, ending and editing. At least I’d learned to keep the word count down.

After that I moved on to poetry for light relief. My father-in-law had started writing poetry in retirement and had several pieces published. He also performed some of his poems on stage, which is something I will never be brave enough to do. I decided to follow his example and had about fifteen published, was Highly Commended in a national competition, and even managed to get one poem in a decent quality magazine.

At that point I ended up in hospital a couple of times and, when I emerged,  started writing match reports (as previously mentioned) and programme notes. This was not the time in hospital I blogged about a few years ago, but the forerunner. It did, however, involve much the same procedure – spinal anaesthetic, small orifice, large camera and much whining. It also included two biopsies. The dissolving stitches on one of them dissolved far too soon and it took two hours to stop the bleeding. Ah, good times…

There were a couple of years where I did nothing, then I started the blog, went into hospital again and decided to have a crack at haibun. So far it seems to have worked out.

It’s not much for fifty years in writing. A handful of poems of various types published, a dozen magazine articles and a blog. I’m clearly not in it for the money, or even for the fame. To be honest, when the rejections start piling up I don’t even do it because I enjoy it.

One day I may write enough to think about a slim volume of poetry but I’m not, when I think about it, too worried. Once they are published I’m not too concerned. I like the idea of testing myself against the standards of editors, and showing off by blogging about it, but I’m not sure if a few poems justify cutting down acres of trees.

No, as I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I do it because I’m addicted. Or, if that isn’t possible, I am at least in the grip of a very strong habit.

How about you?



8th October 2014 (Part 2)

This is the post I meant to write before I published the last post prematurely.

On 8th October 2014, I started this blog.

The subject was Green Care, the group known as Quercus Community and guinea fowl. I seem to have written about this last year too, my memory really is going. The first post contained the words “it might be asking too much of a blog if I expect it to correct my character flaws”. So far, this has proved correct. Despite 2,114 posts I am still the same deeply flawed human being I have always been, with a Cavalier Attitude to grammar and an addiction to random capitalisation. I have not, as I have noted elsewhere, found fame and fortune and no Fleet Street editor has chased me with promises of cash, cocaine and female company in return for my services. Not that I would actually recognise cocaine if it shoved itself up my nose.

This is the first picture I published on WP. In those days I was able to see them after I posted them. I can see this one, but expect it will disappear in a few minutes.

Anyway. I found limited fame and fortune amongst the dozen or so readers who visit regularly, and that will do for me. The friendship on WP has a price above rubies.

I have sort of drifted off Green Care along the way, Quercus Community closed down after we were forced form the farm and despite my recent mentions of Parker Pens I have yet to be offered either free pens or a sponsorship deal. The only thing that lasted was the name of the blog, which is now inaccurate. On the subject of Parker pens, don’t come crawling to me when I’m a famous writer Parker, my price will have gone up by then.

Thye blog really needs a makeover and a new name, like “A Fat Luddite Moaning” or “The Epitome of Gittitude”. This will, of course, be lost on you if you come from a culture lacking Luddites and miserable old gits.

So there we are, a journey from there to here, with a few diversions. Now I’m going to cook tea.

Lockdown news – Nottingham still heads the table for new cases and “Mayors of Northern Towns” get a lot of airtime whining about why they need more help. Nottingham gets no decision about locking down, no help and no airtime. 


Last week I realised I was following over 1,800 people. I had culled a lot of the people I followed a couple of years ago when I realised that I didn’t actively follow most of them, and that many of them hadn’t posted for months. I started following a lot of them because we had shared interests, or because they followed me, and it soon got out of control.

After the cull I still fell into the trap of following people who followed me and it started building up again.

A couple of days ago I started thinking about WP and my numbers. I don’t need to follow 1,800 people when I actually struggle to keep up with reading more that a couple of dozen blogs, and even then my reading is somewhat erratic.

After three days of boring effort I am now following 285 people and that’s only because I haven’t finished yet. I’m hoping to get down to around 100. Some of them make it easy for me by having words like “marketing” in their titles, Others haven’t posted for months, or even a year. A few haven’t posted for two years. It’s very sad to see them pass, and I haven’t the heart to delete the ones I used to enjoy.

As an aside here, if someone dies, what do you do with their emails and email address. I keep them, because it’s not like you’ve lost them if you keep the emails alive, and it seems discourteous just to press a button and consign them to cyberspace. Is that morbid, ghoulish or unbalanced? Or just plain stupid? I’m not sure. What do you do?

In a similar vein who do you follow? And how many people follow you? I have 2,080 followers, but on a good day I have fifty to sixty people visiting the site. If a post gets 20 likes it’s a red letter day. I’m pretty sure that 2,000 of those followers aren’t pulling their weight. Let’s face it, most of them have probably left WP or grown bored of my ranting over the years, or never really liked me in the first place – they just wanted me to follow them. I shouldn’t be surprised about this, after all, it’s what I do to other people.

The Red Admiral in the featured image was basking in sun on some ivy as Julia walked to the laundrette today. I saw a Small Copper in our front garden yesterday but it flew off before I could get my camera out. Wife 1 Me 0.

Small Copper on castor oil plant

This is one from a couple of years ago, when I was younger and quicker. It appeared in the recent post Sunlit Uplands and I took it a year or two before that.

Saturday Morning

If anyone reading this is using the Classic Editor plug-in do you have the same problem as me? I start typing the title and when I look up only half of it is there. I even waited until it had settled down this morning, ensured that the word Saturday was in place, put my head down and carried on typing. When I finished all I had left was  “rning”. The rest had, yet again, disappeared.

It’s one of several matters of minor concern that slip through the cracks of the blog each week, being irritating but not life-threatening.

Another is lockdown. It’s not really lockdown these days as we are moving out of it, and it has receded into the background. There are still lockdown stories on TV, some being quite serious, but it’s just background noise.

Julia used the bus for the first time since March last night. I’m now working until 4.00 on Fridays so it isn’t practical for me to give her a lift now.. She said there were four people on the lower deck of the bus (out of about a dozen passengers) who weren’t wearing masks. As none of them had obvious wounds on their heads, they all had two ears and nobody was gasping for breath, it’s hard to see why they weren’t wearing masks. They were probably special advisors to the Tory party, and we all know that they don’t need to stick to the rules. Not that it’s just Tories, the Labour Party has its fair share of idiots too.

That’s taken me over the 250 words I set as my minimum word count, and it’s covered a few things that weren’t on my mind when I switched on this morning.

I was going to write about things falling through the cracks and cover the question of the inefficient pharmacy (again) and my stiff fingers, which are pain free but made hard work of some medal mounting I had to do yesterday.

It’s amazing where a twenty minute blogging journey will take you.

Mine is going to end up by taking me to work, but I thought I’d write a post before leaving (a) because I had time and (b) because I may well spend most of the evening asleep. I’ve been staying up too late and it’s beginning to catch up with me.

I’m studying hard to become a polymath (there must be as joke about a parrot with a superior grasp of arithmetic in there somewhere) and all that knowledge won’t just deliver itself. However, I’m not sure sitting up late and then sleeping most of the next evening is the way to go.

I’m using an old stock photo because when I tried to download an appropriate photo the system froze. It seems to do this now I’m using the plug-in. It took me nine minutes to regain use of the frozen computer and I’m still using an old photo. At this time of day I don’t have nine minutes to waste. In fact I don’t have nine minutes to sit in front of a grinding and useless computer at any time. This only started happening when I had to transfer to the plug-in.

This was meant to be a quick blog post, but it’s actually taken eighteen minutes to write and fifteen to insert one old photo. I hope the rest of the day improves.

Why Bother Blogging? (Part 2)

Joking aside, (and I wasn’t entirely joking about my desire for fame and fortune), I needed the writing practice. My writing had come to a halt and my brief career as a poet had fizzled out. It wasn’t a concious decision, I had about a dozen poems published, I was just getting into a better class of magazine when I let it all go. It was a combination of children and poverty, as I recall. There just wasn’t enough time for everything and I spent the next eight years writing match reports for various junior rugby teams and hiring myself out as a jobbing gardener.

Then, while I was working on the farm with Julia and the Quercus group I decided it was time to start writing again. The blog was my first step back into regular writing. After two thousand posts and establishing a habit which I am seemingly unable to break, I think it’s safe to say I write regularly.

I also like the company. I know it’s only virtual company but that’s good enough for me. WordPress friends are better than flesh and blood friends as they don’t disturb you in the middle of doing things and they don’t come round and eat your biscuits.  They also let you blether on without telling you to shut up. This is a model of behaviour that Julia could do with adopting. In WP there is also a touch of the feeling you get when you look into people’s back gardens from the train. (Or is that just me?) I’m curious to the point of being nosey.

The other thing with WP friends is that I was till able to visit during lockdown.

Apart from a disturbance in my shopping habits, and a morbid fear of sniffling strangers, I hardly noticed any difference between lockdown and my normal life,  This, I feel, says nothing good about my normal life.

Blogging is also a reason to get up in the morning, go out, observe things and set targets. You can say this about many forms of writing, but if I hadn’t started blogging there’s a chance I wouldn’t be doing any other writing. It’s a chilling thought.

I wouldn’t be doing any photography either, because I started that to add photographs to the blog.

You frequently see people making the same point about writing haiku, and it’s true. If you are going to write a lot of Japanese style poetry of any type you need to keep looking out for details.

If you get into the habit of observing it becomes easier to see things and, this gives you more to write about so it’s a sort of virtuous circle. (Julia saw a weasel today in the Mencap Garden. A real one, that is, not a jumped up school caretaker or a cowardly manager. It must be hard being an animal when your name is used as a term of abuse.

It’s particularly hard on weasels, who are quite affable, and don’t really deserve the opprobrium they get. When you think of the personal habits of the stoat, it’s the stoat that should be the term of abuse. The word itself sounds more like a snarled insult too. Weasel is a bit of a woolly word.

You also learn a lot from blogging – particularly as you browse Wikipedia looking for links for the blog.

I’m sure it does other things too, like keeping my fingers flexible but I’m starting to tire now and it’s time to go and read my new book. It’s a Kindle book about how to be an autodidact, and before anyone asks, yes, it’s a Teach Yourself book…

I’m going to use the penny picture again to tie this to the Part 1 post. I’m not sure if I’ll use any others as it’s too much of a faff on the old editor.


Why Bother Blogging? (Part 1)

I’ve just had a message from WordPress thanking me for renewing and saying “so your site has all its great tools and features for another year”. This is ironic, to say the least, when you consider I’m having to use a version which seems to have been developed by James Watt and has, as a result of WordPress “improvements” noticeably fewer great tools and features than it did this time last week.  Having said that, James Watt would probably have made a better job of it.

They then add “Until then, have fun with your site!”. Fun? I had so much fun last week that I nearly cancelled my subscription and gave up blogging. It would have been more fun to insert broken glass into my nostrils.

One thing I’ve noticed on the plug-in Classic Editor is that when I have comments waiting I rarely get a red spot on the bell icon. If it was always absent, I could understand it, but to have it appear once in every ten times I look seems peculiar.

Same goes for my replies. It no longer tells me I have replied. Before I realised this I actually replied twice to something Derrick had said. It was bad enough looking like I am losing my marbles, but he now has the moral high ground in the question of which of us is blogging with fewer marbles. Having said that, his post today, with photographs from his Assistant Photographer, Head Gardener, Driver and Wife (that’s one hard-working multi-tasking person rather than an entourage) indicate that she’s planning an early claim on his life insurance as he plummets to his death whilst photographing storms from cliff tops. That sort of peril just to get a few photographs for a blog is beyond the call of duty.

Summer View Nottinghamshire

Anyway, enough of my adventures with WordPress, it’s time to write a thoughtful examination of my blogging career so far. That’s what I call it anyway. Others may consider it a series of disjointed rants about things I can’t change and things that don’t matter. That is probably fair, but it wasn’t meant to be like that.

Six years ago I dreamed of writing things that mattered and would change the world to be a better place. I wanted to crusade, to be revered as a master of witty and elegant prose and, some months after starting, to be offered jobs writing columns for top London papers. I thought “months” was realistic, whereas “weeks” would have been an impractical daydream. It has proved to be so – seventy months, to be accurate and the London Editors are playing hard to get.

When the call came, I told Julia, despite my probable membership of the Groucho Club, I would try to remain the ordinary, grounded sort of person I had always been. The cocaine fuelled binges, the women, the wads of cash and the free holidays on the yachts of Russian oligarchs, would not change me. So far, I can say that this has been the case. I am unchanged from the idealistic youth of fifty-something that set off to be a famous blogger, with my dignity and integrity in tact. Actually that may not be true. My integrity is still in tact but having written more than once on the subject of the National Health Service inserting a camera into my bladder in a very undignified manner, I feel my dignity may have suffered.

One of several ex-windmills in the area

So that, at least has gone, mainly, to plan.

As for the rest, I rattle on about trivia in a style that relies heavily on a spellchecker, and has only a nodding acquaintance with good writing practice (too many commas and Too Many capitals, for a start) and no longer expect an email from the Editor of The Times.

Looking on the bright side, at least I have not had to employ an accountant to sort out my tax affairs.

Having just checked the membership details for the Groucho Club so I could add a link, it seems unlikely I’d be able to join anyway, and, as several of you are probably thinking, would I want to join a club that would have me as a member?

I think I should end Part 1 here, as it has gone on long enough and I have to cook tea.

Having disposed of the show-biz element of blogging, with the orgies and the oligarchs, I will continue tomorrow with further discussion of the rewards of sitting down at the dining room table and bashing away on a computer that can, like me, no longer cope with the demands of modern life.

Photo by Burst on

Some News, and an Old Grudge

Although I try to avoid change, I thought it was time to give it a go today. This is the result. I hope it is anyway, as I can’t currently view it myself. I’m working WordPress in Chrome, because that knows my password (I, unfortunately don’t) and Blogger in Firefox because Blogger won’t open up when you use, as I do, XP and Chrome.

I’ve been limping on for well over a year now with this ancient set-up after my laptop packed up and I’m resisting replacing it. I keep meaning to see if I can get it fixed but I don’t really want to put myself in the hands of PC World (who always seem keen to take lots of money off me but give little in return).

I refer you to an incident several years ago. We bought Number One son a laptop when he went to University in Leeds, and purchased, at vast cost, an insurance policy, working on the basis that all kids are idiots and ours add carelessness and clumsiness to the mix.

He dropped it and broke the hinge so that it didn’t close properly and it interfered with the automatic close down when you closed the lid.

We told him to take it in to PC World in Leeds and get it fixed or replaced under guarantee. The shop had told us it covered any damage or malfunction for the next three years. How lucky it was that we had taken out the guarantee.

They told him he had to take it back to Nottingham. So we went up and collected it. . In Nottingham they said they would send it away, and two weeks later we were able to pick it up.

So, you are thinking, the Fat Man is out by two trips to Leeds and annoyed with a shop manager. Why is he still nursing a grudge against PC World?

Because it was still broken when it came back. The computer was still functioning and they had cobbled it together so the broken hinge didn’t affect the running of the machine. It was however, still broken, you couldn’t close the top properly and he was without it for a total of four weeks.

For that I had paid the best part of £200. They might just as well have stuck a gun in my ribs and emptied my wallet. But even if they had done that, I’d have probably forgiven them. But to lie to me, deprive my son of his laptop then virtually laugh in my face as they refused to honour the guarantee, that is an insult that will not be forgotten.

I will have to get the laptop fixed soon I think, as this desktop is getting to the end of its useful life.

Now I’ve said that I’d better start backing up some files.

Just a Quick Note

This isn’t the main post of the day but I just wanted to let people know while I thought about it.

I’ve just been looking at comments and managed to put one into trash by ill-disciplined use of my bunch of banana-like fingers. When I went to retrieve it, I thought I’d have a quick look at Spam and found eight comments, made over the last two days, had ended up in Spam. I took them out of there but now can’t find them.

So, if you have commented in the last few days and have not had an answer please accept my apologies. If I find them I will reply, if I don’t please don’t think you are being ignored – you have merely been WordPressed.

The featured image is plums again. That’s because after Plum Tart for two nights we are moving on to plum pie tonight. This is on top of several other plum confections and  a large number of loose plums,. We have also given a lot away. Yes, it’s been a good plum year this year. Next year will probably be a bad one. However, at the moment I even see plums when I close my eyes to sleep.