Category Archives: blogging

2020

I said a while ago that I was going to cut back on blogging and with this being the 2,020th post I’ve made, which matches nicely with the year, this is as good a time as any.

I can’t keep up with the reading and commenting, for one thing, and it seems rude to ignore people when they are kind enough to pop along and have a look at the blog. If I cut down on blogging, I can spend more time of reading and commenting.

More selfishly, I want more time for other writing projects, and I want more time for reading books. In fact I just want more time. Some nights I can write the blog in twenty minutes, as you may have noticed from some of the titles. Other times I take several hours and a number of false starts. Some days the number of words you see is near enough the number that I wrote. On the bad days the 350 words you read may be the distillation of seven or eight hundred I actually wrote. On other days I have sometimes written as many as two or three part posts before getting into my stride. Some of those discarded posts may become full grown posts in time, but many don’t. I’ve just been through my drafts and removed 12 posts which would never have amounted to anything.

My intention at the moment is to write blog posts on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. I’ll see how that goes. My standards or organisation, as you may have noticed, are such that this may end up as any combination of days as I miss deadlines and sleep my evenings away. However, roughly three times a week I will post.

Friday night will be a report on my week, Sunday will be the usual ragbag and Wednesday will be the new day for posts on Collectibles. Probably.

I sent two lots of Haibun off to magazines last night. Having decided to start writing again I thought I might as well get stuck in. I finished fourteen haibun this week – six based on old ones that were hanging around, six based on notes in my notebooks and two just came to me as I was copying out the others.

I have copied them out, rewritten, trimmed, tightened and tinkered, and, finally, selected five to send off. They have gone. I’m now looking to see if I have another three fit to send. The trouble is that after all the work, some of them just seem dull and lifeless. I might have over-worked them, or I may initially have been blind to their faults.

This afternoon I started work on some school attendance medals for eBay, and when I got home I took some pictures of a bee on a teasel – holding the teasel still with one hand and using the camera with the other. I got one reasonable photo out of twenty attempts.  Teasel without bees is an easier subject. I now know why we have teasel in the front garden, Julia says they are growing where she put some seed heads down when bringing them back from the Mencap Garden for a flower arrangement. I might have known she’d be at the bottom of it.

London School Attendance Medals 1890s

London School Attendance Medals 1890s

 

What Can I Write About Today?

I have a  number of thoughts in the pipeline but they still need a bit of work.

However, Derrick and Tootlepedal have both fallen into my trap and asked for more details of what I turned up when I searched myself on Google. They both come up with their blogs when you Google them. I don’t, because I started the blog for the Quercus Community group and, eventually, I became Quercus.

I can now provide details without looking like a blatant self-publicist or an egomaniac.

My real name is Simon Wilson, but both names are so common that if you Google me I don’t get a look in. There are just so many notable people with my name that I’m frozen out, which is slightly annoying as I’ve had for longer than  most of them.

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Trees at day’s end

Anyway, here are the links to me.

Here, here, here, here and here. And here. There were more than I thought.

There’s also a link to one of my blog posts, but though I’ve talked of haibun on the blog several times, and even published a couple, Google doesn’t seem to pick them up. The blog post has a link to a haiku that wasn’t picked up by Google.

There is also a book review  for a book of haibun and other short poems by Xenia Tran, better known on WordPress as Whippet Wisdom. It’s not much of a review but if Goggle can be bothered to note it, it would be rude not to share the link.

According to the blog, I had nine acceptances, but could only find six by using Google. I can’t look them up by name because I’ve forgotten what they were. Somewhere I have a display book with them all in, but I haven’t seen that for a while now I come to think about it.

It’s not an ego thing – I don’t feel the need to print it all out and make a book of it. I just do it because when  you get a rejection it’s easy to take the book off the shelf and remind yourself that you have been a success and will be again. Well, it’s easy to take the book off the shelf if you can remember which shelf.

One rejection, or even several in a row, only means you’re in a temporary dip.

Form, as any coach will tell you, is temporary, but class will last for ever.

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A Figure in the Fog

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ten Things I Learnt This Week

One, ten point lists are handy things to prompt a blog post. Last week I wrote about ten point lists, but they were already in my mind when I sat down at the keyboard. This week I sat down with a completely empty head and thought ‘What shall I write?’ I then thought ‘What did I learn this week?’ and then ‘Did I learn ten things?’ I’m hoping I did, or I’ll have to change the title.

Two, five hundred words are easy if you start with enough in your head. If you don’t have much to say, they can be a real struggle. I knocked out five 500 word posts on my Wednesday marathon and actually had to cut some to keep it to an average of 500 per post.

Three,sometimes less is better. I couldn’t get a good run at the blog last night and petered out after 250 words. I came close to 500 words twice, but the post was better when it was shortened, so I cut the extras out.

Four, freedom is not always good. The USA, with a tradition of freedom, individualism and pioneering spirit is not finding the Covid situation easy. The Germans and Swiss, who are more regimented and organised, seem to have come through the virus in much better shape. The Brits, as usual, fall between the two extremes and are totally disorganised.

Five, the Americans prefer ‘learned’ to ‘learnt’ and, according to the internet article I read, are irritated by what they see as the mis-spelling ‘learnt’. Users of British English, on the other hand, favour ‘learnt’ and see learned as an acceptable alternative. This is probably not accurate as (a) it’s on the internet and (b) I’m sure there are relaxed Americans an picky Brits about.

Six, it’s fun just relaxing and reading WordPress. There is so much to learn.

Seven, the average person eats 20-30 plant foods in a year. I got that from Helen at Growing out of Chaos. For years now I’ve been trying to keep our diet varied, and if that is the benchmark I seem to be succeeding. Like Helen, we are hovering around 60. That’s without foraging, as I’ve let that slip badly.

Eight, I now know a lot more about Edward VIII, anti-semitism, fascism and royalty medallions of the 1930s than I did at the beginning of the week. You might have guessed this from the photographs. Now isn’t the time to go into all that, as I haven’t yet written it all.

 

Nine, on-line grocery shopping is more difficult than you think. I thought I’d got it all organised but this week I still managed to order frozen spinach instead of fresh and the packs of six cobs instead of four. The big ones that come in the packs of four are good for lunch, but the small one, which come in the packs of six) are only a few bites before they are all gone. That means you have to take four for lunch, and that looks like  you are being greedy.

Ten, saag is not, as I had thought, an Indian word for spinach, but for greens of many sorts. The word for spinach is palak. I got this from Helen too. At this point, I would like to apologise to readers from the Indian sub-continent. I know there is no such language as ‘Indian’ but I am not well up on the differences and nuances of the various languages and decided to keep things simple.

So, that’s it, ten things I learnt this week. I have an uneasy feeling that I learnt more than that but haven’t retained it. That, I’m afraid, is what happens as you get older.

 

Wednesday 8th July Part V

 

And so we come to the end of the day. I have just put 63 items in my on-line shopping trolley. It tool me 53 minutes. I probably haven’t remembered everything, and I could probably have done without a few things if I really cut back, but where’s the fun in sitting at a computer trying to trim a couple of quid off the grocery bill. The easiest saving was chocolate, but I feel that’s money worth investing to keep Julia happy.

I will, by the time this is finished, have proved that I can write 2,500 words in a day without too much trouble. This is important as I’ve been struggling recently. The trick is to have a subject in mind. I’ve been trying to write articles without having an outline in  mind. It doesn’t work so I’m going back to the old way of planning twice and writing once. Plan – write – plan – write doesn’t work for me.

I’m planning on writing at least a dozen magazine articles over the next year. One a month is a reasonable figure and it will help to pace me. How many actually get published remains to be seen. I have a list of magazines and a list of subjects. All I need to do now is allocate subjects to magazines and set times for writing.

In SMART terms I have specific subjects and magazines in mind, and can count up to 12, so they are measurable. They are assignable because it’s me who has to do it. They are generally realistic, though I may need some help with photographs, and the timing will take care of itself. I may write one a month, but editors will put them in when they want. My last one took six months to appear. The shop owner wrote an in-depth banknote article during lockdown, which will be published in two parts. Projected publication is “next year”. It seems a lot of people have been writing articles while they have been stuck at home.

I will also be writing fifty two blog posts on coins and collectables during the coming year. I’m not quite sure when that will start as it will need a lot of work to keep it going once I do start. The idea is to use that to warm me up for the articles and to form a body of work I can point to when pitching for work. Two thousand posts on bread, dung and why the old days were better are not going to do that so it’s time to get to work and organise myself.

That’s 2,500 words, and it’s now time to sign off, just after midnight, add photos and links and get to bed, because guess what?

Tomorrow is blood test day. I believe they are now charging for car parking again, so brace yourself for as tirade about the evils of the NHS tomorrow. After that I will calm down and try to establish a niche as a write on coins and collectables.

Photo of Farmer Ted is reproduced from Who is the Best Bear?  and the Care Bears from Something you don’t see every day.

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Links to the rest of the day-

Wednesday 8th July Part I

Wednesday 8th July Part II

Wednesday 8th July Part III

Wednesday 8th July Part IV

Wednesday 8th July Part IV

Poppy and chamomile

The day is passing faster and faster.

Julia is on the phone to one of her needier clients. Again, I cannot describe the conversation due to issues of confidentiality, but it is circular. And long. And, as it is on something modern like an app or a zoom, it is loud and intrusive too. She might be working from home but technically this is a day off for me, even if I am treating it as a work day. Obviously in this context “work” is an expression of hope rather than fact.

I have researched a number of magazines as recipients for the articles I wish to write. I have read several of the magazines more deeply than necessary and I have made a list of possible articles. My plan is at the stage known as “getting there”. In other words it is a rag-bag of elements which don’t amount to much.

It is more of an intention or an outline. Time for some more work, but this time I will do it in front of the TV whilst watching Pointless. All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Ironically that’s a very dull saying. Equally ironically, I haven’t done much work.

Back again…

Having watched Pointless and failed in a few rounds – notably the modern music and the football questions – I meant to get back to work. Instead, I watched Eggheads. It is one of the dullest quizzes around, but we had tea and biscuits and I can never resist temptation to sit and drink tea, with or without biscuits. As a late lunch we had corn on the cob (Julia went out for a walk and, as usual, nipped into a shop to buy something. She can’t break the habit. Today she bought corn on the cob.)

I am quite hungry now and have just put the vegetables into the oven to roast. Carrots, parsnips, leeks and potatoes. I will put sprouts in when I put the pasties in. It’s a meal we have nearly every week but I never get fed up of it. Apart from being year round comfort food, it’s healthy and easy to make.

It’s been eleven hours since I started “work” and I have not managed to complete anything yet, apart from some TV viewing and three blog posts.

As I started this one I noticed my total was 2,000 which means I missed the chance to write a post about reaching my 2,000th post. I may have to plough on to 2,020 before marking the occasion.

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I’m now going to put the pasties in and about 25 minutes after that will make the gravy. It’s only made with gravy granules, so is nothing exciting. Then I had better get the shopping ordered. I only have until midnight and it can be a slow process. I also get distracted easily.

I have already done the shopping list relating to the spice kits – we will be having linguine with prawns and rocket. I’m not sure why, because we make that anyway.

We are also having Iranian Vegetable Stew, which apparently takes its inspiration from Persia and North Africa. This tends to suggest it isn’t really Iranian or a proper recipe, just some vegetables to soak up some spices they wanted to get rid of. Pardon my cynicism. I keep meaning to give ras-el-hanout a try, so this is my chance.

Finally we will be having nasi goreng. I’ve wanted to try it since I read about it as a teenager reading my dad’s Somerset Maugham books. It’s typical that I’ve always steered clear of cooking it in case it didn’t live up to my expectations. Next week will be an interesting time.

I will try to take photographs before I eat everything.

Photos are recycled from here.

Eleven Photos and the Benefits of Blogging

Mint Moth

Wednesday 8th July Part I

Wednesday 8th July Part II

Wednesday 8th July Part III

Wednesday 8th July Part IV

Wednesday 8th July Part V

Monday, a Day of Promise

I rose at a moderate time, washed up and made breakfast. I tried to make Julia a heart-shaped fried egg but the egg didn’t quite spread inside the frame and then it started to stick to the pan and in the end it looked like three-quarters of an egg, as long as you knew it was supposed to be an heart. If you didn’t know what it was meant to be you wouldn’t have known what it was. My own egg was much more successful as I set out to produce an odd-shaped free-form fried egg with crispy bits, and that was exactly what I ended up with.

Once they were shoved into a cob with bacon and mushrooms it didn’t matter what shape they were. All that matters to me is that my yolk is hard. I don’t really like runny yolks at the best of times but they are a hazard to shirt fronts when used in a sandwich. Julia likes her yolk soft, but as my wife of thirty years, she is accustomed to disappointment.

 

I have read the comments on my posts, added the word ‘cyanosis’ to one and added a couple of lines to another.

My first post of the day is now done, my new medication has been delivered by a hospital volunteer and Julia is clinking with menace as she sorts jam jars and emanates expectations. She wants me to start filling the skip with bits of shed. She has dragged it to the driveway and it is now time for me to do my bit. I will potter out to offer support and supervision in a moment, then come back to this.

By the magic of WordPress I am now back.

She had been struggling to dismantle a bookcase which had suffered from years of standing in a leaky shed and is therefore un-salvageable. This is the sad state of quite a lot of stuff, including things that had been safely stored in the dry garage last time I saw them. Married men will recognise the note of pain in my writing.

Anyway. the bookcase fell apart from a few taps with a rubber mallet. If I had been able to access a proper hammer it would have taken considerably fewer taps. With a proper Enoch I reckon one blow would have done it. That’s right, when I am in full swing, we are never far from a Luddite link.

Last night, whilst relaxing, I started to read WordPress. I haven’t really done that for years now. It was a very pleasant experience. I’m going to write another few posts to top my total up to two thousand then I’m going to cut back on posting and increase my reading.

Don’t get me wrong – I like all the blogs I read, but I’ve been limited in the last few years and have struggled even to keep up with sporadic reading of my regulars. Given a little more time I’m going to enjoy more reading, particularly as I was able to catch up with a few people I haven’t read for years.

Despite the weather, which features a cold breeze and a threatening low grey sky, I’m feeling quite sunny today, and am hoping that this frame of mind persists.

I’m going to throw in a few cheerful flower photographs from Harlow Carr Gardens and make beans on toast for lunch.

All photographs are irises in spring from our visits to Harlow Carr Garden, apart from the header which is Julia in the Mencap garden at Wilford.

10 Good Things About Breathing

After the success of my recent post 10 Points about Writing Ten Point Lists and The Ten Best Things About Lockdown I decided to try another ten point list. You may have guessed this from the title. You may also have guessed that I define “success” in a slightly more flexible way than the rest of the world. Twenty views and ten comments are a success to me, even if five of the comments are me replying to the other five.

I did briefly think of writing Five Ways in which Breathing is Over-rated but I find people like the positive stuff. I suppose that’s why my light-hearted articles on modern life are so popular. I say “popular”, see above for “success”.

So, here goes, Ten Good Things about Breathing.

One, blue is an unbecoming colour. It doesn’t suit our modern ideas about healthy complexions and modern make-up ranges don’t cater for it. According to arlingwoman, the correct term for the blue colour is cyanosis, which is far too good a word not to use, so I have come back to add it.

Two, dum spero, spiro, as I remarked recently,. Hope is good, and you need to breathe to have hope.

Three, It is better than the alternative. I have no particular religious beliefs. I may end up as part of the choir eternal, singing hymns whilst dressed in vestments of blinding white. Or I may spend an eternity of regret in a lake of fire. In one scenario I wonder who does the laundry and in the other I can’t help thinking that there won’t be any cold to aggravate my arthritis. Swings and roundabouts…

I may even come back as a dung beetle. You can never tell, though I feel my afterlife is likely to end with a short trip up a crematorium chimney. Whatever happens, I prefer breathing to the alternative.

Four, it gives me something to write about on a slow day.

Five, there are right ways to breathe and wrong ways to breathe, which gives rise to the possibility of controversy and more lists.

Six, breathing through the nose adds moisture, warms the air and allows better use of the oxygen you breathe. The presence of a nose also gives you somewhere convenient to perch your glasses and avoids an unsightly hole in the middle of the face. Breathing through the mouth gives rise to a huge list of problems and makes you look like an unlikely candidate for a top academic job.

Seven, deep breathing is another of those health subjects you can discuss at length. It will cure many of my health problems and improve my posture.

Eight, deep breathing is also bad for you . giving hope to editors who rely on sensational negative headlines for a living.

Nine, it’s something that is, on balance, good for you, and takes no effort. I shouldn’t have searched for more information, because I turned this up. Quite clearly, the person in question hasn’t lost the knack of breathing automatically, as one of the answers points out, or she would have died in her sleep on the first night, but it does show that it’s possible to worry too much.

Ten, it serves to fill a list, to swell a progress, to start a scene or two. See point 4, or for the more highbrow amongst you try this.

However, as you read the highbrow section, remember that T S Eliot is an anagram of Toilets – life has a habit of bringing things down to my level. Perhaps life would be better if all great men had names that were anagrams.

Bonus eleventh point – it’s free. The government can’t tax it, Sky TV can’t charge for it and breathable air is still widely available. Now I’ve said that just watch it all go wrong.

I couldn’t fit that into the ten point list without altering the structure, and there’s something unfinished about lists that have strange numbers of points. Five, ten and twelve seem fine, three seven and nine aren’t bad, but I’m vaguely unsettled by others.

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Fresh air – still free! Get yours while it lasts.

Pepys, Posterity and Parmesan

Here’s another of those posts I sometimes write so that history will be able to compare my blog with the Diary of Samuel Pepys. It would probably help if I was a senior civil servant but at least I have now lived through some interesting times. He had the Great Fire of London, where he distinguished himself with the efforts he made on behalf of his Parmesan. I have lived through lockdown and I ordered processed cheese slices by accident when shopping online. The horror of processed cheese slices will stay with me for years to come. Whenever I think of the global pandemic I will think of rubbery orange cheese.

In years to come, I wonder if scholars will discuss me alongside Pepys when talk turns to amusing cheese anecdotes in times of National Emergency.

This is assuming that blog posts will still be available in a hundred years from now. The survival of a paper diary for several hundred years is remarkable, but will a random series of pixels, or whatever they are, survive any better? It all seems so fragile when you stop and think about it. While I dream of immortality for my anecdotes of 21st century life, should I actually be printing my blog posts for preservation. Probably, bearing in mind the poor quality of paper, I should be sharpening a quill and writing the whole thing on vellum.

If I did write it on vellum will vegan academics of the 22nd century refuse to acknowledge me, and pull down any statues of me that may have been erected in the meantime? Aiming for posthumous fame has many pitfalls and although you can try to imagine the future, who can really tell.

open pages on brown wooden table

Photo by Roman Koval on Pexels.com

I really don’t know whether the UK of 2120 will even have vegans. As we move the limits of our diet, will we all have become vegans by default? Or even, as we live on a diet of bugs and Soylent Green will vegans have become irrelevant and be in the waste bin of history alongside farm animals.

Another parallel between our stories is our bladders. Pepys, at the age of 25 had a bladder stone the size of a tennis ball removed without the aid of anaesthetic or antiseptic (which is the reason that if I ever do perfect my Time Machine, I won’t be travelling further back than the late 19th Century. I’d rather not travel back to a time before antibiotics, but that’s within living memory and seems a bit unambitious as time travel goes.

My own bladder stones were discovered during one of the several camera insertions performed a few years ago. As a twentieth century man I actually had anaesthetic just for that, without any cutting. They were going to remove the bladder stones as part of the second part of the procedure but in the months between the two procedures (supposedly seven weeks but after two cancellations it took eleven weeks) I self-medicated with lots of drinking and a large amount of lemon juice. There were no stones by the time they went back to look for them.

My current challenge is pollen. Levels are high and my eyes have been watery and itching for two weeks now, accompanied by random attacks of runny nose. Fortunately I haven’t been sneezing much as this is currently frowned on, being a well-publicised way of spreading disease. It does mean that I am rubbing my eyes more than I should be, as that is also a way of spreading the virus. However, it’s only  away of spreading it to me, rather than other people so that isn’t so bad.

We went for a drive in the country yesterday as our personal way of marking the start of a less rigorous phase of lockdown. It looks like everyone else had decided the same thing as it seemed to be as busy as it was before lockdown. How soon we forget…

That will be the subject of the next post.

close up of open book

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

10 Points about Writing Ten Point Lists

I was looking at an article on generating ideas. When you search for “generating ideas” on Google, two trends emerge.

One is a big business theme about generating major strategic ideas to make millions and/or change the world. That’s probably a bit more than I need, though it has its charms.

How about lacing the new corona virus vaccines with fish DNA so that future generations can live in the sea? You could even breed groups of piscatorialy enhanced people specifically to pick plastic litter from the oceans.

Just a thought. But if it works I expect a Nobel Prize.

The other theme is about generating ideas for writing articles. That wasn’t quite what I was after either, though I did spend a few hours reading various sites and seeing how people reused the same information time after time to generate blog content.

Ten point lists seem to be  a favourite.

So here’s my list –

10 Points about Ways to Writing Ten Point Lists

Make sure you have ten points. People will notice if you only have nine.

Start with number one. Why re-invent the wheel?

Several of the points can be the same thing written in a different way.

Point four. Don’t be afraid to state the obvious.

Steal it off another blog. That’s how they got theirs.

Don’t spend too much time over it, they don’t give Pulitzers for 10 Point Lists.

Make a general comment on the social,aspects of the list as in ‘I think we can all agree that this is particularly relevant in lockdown’. Hide it a little way down the list so people don’t notice you are being lazy.

Point nine. Add emphasis. Or, in other words, say the same thing again (see point 3). (Or point 4).

For a change, why not try a 13 point list for Halloween?

Simple.

For the autumn I will compile a 13 point list about writing 13 point lists for Halloween. I will use the ten point list, and add three more, change the order and if anyone queries it I will say that this is an example about getting the most out of your research. Or recycling my rubbish.

I think I’m getting the hang of this blogging stuff.

person writing on brown printer paper

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

A Man who is tired of Blogging…

Yesterday I spent hours researching a post. Despite the time I spent on it I couldn’t get the tone right and, even worse, couldn’t maintain my enthusiasm. If I can’t be enthusiastic about the post I don’t see how I can expect anyone to read it.

That is now stored until I can get it right.

Today I started another post, meaning to finish in half an hour (in line with my new target) and found I couldn’t manage that either.

I thought of Writer’s Block then I thought Writer’s Block is for amateurs.

First I loaded up a serene picture for the post. Imagine that scene. Now hear the gentle quack of the resident mallard family and look for the convoy of ducklings following mother. I let my mind wander back to other days at that pond, with a goldcrest flitting through the trees calling with an high-pitched squeak. The Victorians called them golden-crested wrens. In turn, that reminds me that it is time to read some of my old bird books again. I remember the water voles I have seen on other days and the jays that used to call from the trees on the slope above the pond. Up the slope there is fragrant wild garlic, also known as ramsons. That reminds me of one of the posts I have stored as a draft. We haven’t been able to go to the slope where the ramsons grow this year, but it doesn’t matter – I have memories and good times will come again.

Of course, in the background there is also the noise of distant traffic, shouting from the owners of undisciplined dogs and the cawing of a crow as it flies over. Every time I hear or see a crow these days I think of the family name corvid, and my mind jumps to covid 19. They are different things but they both signify death in different ways.

That is 320 words and including a little tidying, it has taken me twenty six minutes.

As I say, Writer’s Block is for amateurs.

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” — Jack London

I’ve just been reading the Jack London link and found this part (where the western nations bombard China with infectious diseases) particularly ironic when you think of current events.