It’s actually well into Day 85 but my attempts at blogging kept turning out to be miserable and moaning. If they depress me, I thought, they really aren’t suitable for posting.
So, an hour after starting, I have a blank screen (to match my mind) and no idea what to write about.
I can’t write about spring, because I hardly saw any today, being stuck in the back of the shop. I see spring for an hour in the morning as I take Julia to work and then go to the shop. I don’t see much of the outside during my time in the shop, and then I go home and go inside. I suppose i could do more to get out, but by that time I want to get home, get the kettle on and compare days with Julia. We really should get out more now that the evenings are lighter, but we have got out of the habit over the last few years, as i may have said before . . .
That’s the trouble with blogging, you don’t just repeat yourself, you repeat yourself in writing, and to an audience.
Now, there’s a question. As “audience” probably comes from the same root as “audio” can you have an audience of people who aren’t listening? I just looked it up, and audiences seem to be groups of listeners in most of the definitions. Fortunately, as you read further, there are also definitions which include a group of readers, so I don’t need to worry about that.
It’s strange how you can use a word every day without really thinking about it and what it really means.
And with that thought seeming to form a natural conclusion, I will go to bed.
Yesterday, after posting, I had another note from WP, congratulating me on four successive days posting.. It’s only in the last few weeks that I’ve had a run of failing to post on time, prior to that I had some quite lengthy runs. I’m wondering what happens when we put the clocks back. It’s either then or when we put them forwards (I can never work it out) that my posting record becomes patchy. It’s nothing to do with me, but all the posts within an hour of midnight seem to stop registering on the right day. The first time I noticed it I’d strung months of continuous posting together and it suddenly disappeared.
Will WP send me a note telling me that they have recalculated? That would be a laugh. For people like Derrick and Tootlepedal, who both seem to possess metronome DNA, I’m sure they have hundreds of consecutive days. My efforts hardly count next to their long, photo-filled and extremely regular posts. They should be getting gold medals, not just notes with a blue drawing.
I’m now conflicted, do I now miss a day to show my disdain for the system or do I carry on regularly so that WP can pat me on the head for being a good boy?
I will ponder this question as I publish this post, get a new email and sit in the latest set of Saturday roadworks. They are working on the ring road and there seems to be a new delay every Saturday, It’s the only day of the week I go directly to work instead of dropping Julia off first, and it’s a little annoying to sit in a queue on what should be a quiet and easy journey.
Ah well, compared to the abyss of unemployment it’s better to be delayed than out of work.
The title comes from Napoleon Bonaparte – “You call these baubles, well, it is with baubles that men are led…”
WP obviously feels the same. When he said baubles he meant the Legion d’Honneur, rather than Christmas decorations. That’s the medal on the red ribbon at the far right of the header picture.
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.
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.
Teasel in the garden
Teasel in the garden
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.
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.
I had intended to make another short post yesterday evening, with a view to doing three short posts a day for the next few days. I just thought I’d introduce some pace and variety.variety.
So I put the vegetables in the oven and sat down to write. I have a behemoth of a post in preparation and wanted to cut it down from 900 words to 600. I think of 600 words as long enough for someone to plough through. After forty minutes I sat back and looked at the result. It is now 1,100 words and has five extra photographs. Editing is not as easy as it sounds.
As you may have noticed, I didn’t write the post I intended. I am easily distracted.
We ate after that and I had a nap in front of the TV. I woke, read and procrastinated. For the purposes of my diary that counts as three activities. Waking is not as simple as it used to be. For one thing, I don’t become instantly alert as I used to, and for another, it now takes a little more effort to rearrange my limbs.
I have a police procedural on my Kindle and even though it cost nothing I am seriously wondering if it was worth it. There are parts of it where I find myself seriously thinking they should be paying me to read it.
When I accept an award, or a big cheque (I’m not fussy which), for my as yet unwritten prize-winning historical crime novel, I will cite this one as my inspiration. Something along the lines of “I thought if this garbage can get published I really ought to write one myself.”
Tea was roasted vegetables (carrot, leek, parsnip, swede and broccoli) with the last of the gammon and a bit of gravy. Time to cut back on bread and potatoes I think.
Gammon, roast veg and gravy
Suddenly I had 300 words, which isn’t short by my standards, and it’s the early hours of the morning. I woke up six hours later and realised that although I’d finished the writing I hadn’t published it. So here it is.
I wrote this post about twenty hours ago, apart from this paragraph. The penultimate sentence was true. I did serve tea. The final sentence did not come true. It should have read “Then I am going to watch comedy programmes and fall asleep in front of the fire, finally waking after midnight and going to bed without posting.” Now that you know that I can pass you over to last night’s second post, secure in the knowledge that it should now make sense.
The header picture is one of my favourite photos, despite its imperfections – you don’t often see a butterfly soon enough to picture it on a crocus. I took it four or five years ago but still like to see it. The other two were things I was working on today.
I walked through to the kitchen half an hour ago with the intention of cooking tea, writing a quick blog post and starting to firm up my presentation. It’s only three weeks away and it’s looking rather under-prepared. I say “under-prepared” but I might actually mean “not started”.
In the old days I used to give talks on the Sealed Knot and the English Civil War. I’d stick a uniform on, grab a box of equipment and set off, often with an assistant, stand in front of an audience and start. No preparation, no heart-searching and, most importantly, no Power Point. I’ve never even used an overhead projector for presentations.
I am absolutely dreading the forthcoming presentation – everybody uses Power Point these days and the audience will be expecting it. Even if I prepare the slides properly I still have the problem of standing, talking and pressing a button at the same time. That’s three things! I’m not sure I’m up to it.
I don’t have an assistant for this talk, so I can’t even tell the audience, “And now I’ll pass you over to Julia.” She used to hate that.
Meanwhile, back at the blog…
I sat down, started looking at comments and found myself whisked away to a world of poetry, parties, hummingbirds, health, ponies, gardens and various amusing characters. I’m afraid I’ve been neglecting my WP reading dreadfully. Sorry about that.
The result of that I left the potato wedges in too long before adding the veggie burgers and not only did I write no blog, but I am now going to have overly crispy potato wedges.
It will be a busy day tomorrow, in place of our usual day off. Julia has a hair appointment in the morning and a meeting in the late afternoon/early evening. We have several collections booked in tomorrow – everyone seems to be selling at the moment – and I’ve been asked to go in as we are going to need to be at full strength.
Banknotes of Sudan
After a slow start to the year its good to see that things are finally moving, and I’m glad that the request for the extra day came. when it did – I was going to be lonely tomorrow without Julia. I now have a full day planned, extra pay and somewhere warm to sit without increasing my domestic fuel bill.
I’ve even, eventually, managed to complete the post.
Now I’m going to serve tea.
Then I will add tags and photos.
Medallion – Her Majesty at 90. Complete with gold-plating, spot colour and a Swarovski Crystal, because nothing says “quality tribute” like a garish, blinged up medallion with a crystal in it.
I’m writing another post, though it’s hours later than I planned.
I washed up, cooked my tea and cooked the ratatouille for tomorrow. And possibly the day after.
I watched tea and relaxed after Julia returned from her busy social life eating pizza, read the end of a Hamish MacBeth novel and moved a few things round (that’s a Stage I declutter).
The wrestling with my conscience went well, and by the time Julia returned I was ready to serve up my healthy tea.
The veggie burgers, with spicy mushrooms and ratatouille, were very acceptable, They kept their shape and the rice seemed to work. Whether the rice is worth the bother is a different matter. It’s one of the few things I ever worry about in relation to food poisoning.
That leaves a number of things not done, including most of the blog reading, the new lists, the washing up…
I did procrastinate rather well though, even if I say so myself, and am torn between pride at procrastinating so well, and shame at my idleness.
The photographs? Ah, well…
By the time I had served the food it wasn’t looking particularly photogenic and I was quite hungry.
Tomorrow’s list includes just three items.
Take Julia to the doctor (for a review, nothing serious)
Blog (as it’s after midnight I’m already in “tomorrow”, so that’s in progress).
Eat cake with father. It’s his 91st birthday party. We are men of simple pleasures.
Oh, and do the washing up which I avoided tonight.
That makes four items. I’ll maker it five by adding the requirement to rough out the talk for the Numismatic Society. That’s enough for a day off.
Photos tonight come from an old camera card I found stored with some flash drives I’m using for the presentation. I’ve used some but it’s easier to reload them than try to pull them from the depths of my WP photo library.
The sunset is from the farm and the others are from Whitby.
Just over five years ago I wandered into WordPress with the intention of practising my writing, gaining some publicity for the Quercus Community group and learning a bit more about Social Media.
As things turned out, I did learn to write faster, even if the accuracy and quality is a bit uneven. The group closed. I’ll say no more about that or I will find myself dwelling on how we were stabbed in the back by a hypocrite. I realised, after a while, that I wasn’t meant for Social Media. If they had Anti-Social Media I am your man.
I first learned there was more to WP than just writing about myself when I read a few posts. One that stuck in my mind was by some doddery old geezer in Hampshire. He pottered about, took photos and ended all his blogs with a description of what he had for tea and what he drank with it.
Five years later I’m addicted to his blog. Whether this is because it’s deceptively beguiling, or whether it’s because I’ve turned into a doddery old git is difficult to say.
His legions of followers argue for the former, but a quick look in the mirror also suggests the latter is not far from the truth.
And that sums up my WordPress experience – gentle addiction. I have really missed the reading and writing and companionship over the last week while I have been condemned to cyber-limbo. This applies to all of you who haven’t been mentioned too.
This post is a bit gushing and upbeat for my taste, which I blame on reading all these Pollyanna-style American blog posts. Don’t think it’s going to be repeated. I missed you all. I’ve admitted it. And I don’t think we need to mention it again.
I am now going to visit the blog of a man whom I regard as my spiritual mentor. Thanks to him I now take my porridge with salt and water and have learned more about choral singing than I am ever likely to need, bearing in mind that I have a voice that grates like the creaking of hinges on a crypt door.
I’m off to find some photos now, probably the ones of sunrise which I unwillingly took a couple of days ago when, due to the stupidity of an auctioneer, I had to go to the Sorting Office to pick up a parcel.
After several abortive attempts at writing today’s post I decided it wasn’t depression or politics, or even the crush of ideas and bitterness that was preventing me writing – it was trying to use the netbook on my knee while I sat by the fire.
Just after 10.30 I stepped through to the dining room with the intention of sitting down and sorting myself out.
It didn’t happen -there were comments to read and reply to and sandwiches to make for tomorrow. Finally there was washing up. Yes, washing up seemed preferable to sitting down and blogging.
I now have around 20 minutes to post and keep to my target of daily posting. I’m now limited by the time, and by the fact that I am slowly getting colder. Eventually, based on past experience, I will get so cold that I stop thinking. This is’t a bad thing because since the election I’ve mainly been thinking that everything is a complete mess. I have had to discard several posts because they were a bit too serious, and probably a bit too libellous. It’s one thing saying something to Julia, or shouting it at the TV, but once you write it down you have to prove it.
We had Hasselback potatoes again today. I was a little more relaxed with the cutting, and it did not go as well as the first lot. This is often the way with the second in a series. I tried the stir fried sprouts again too, this time with added chestnuts. I’m intending to have it at Christmas. We have settled on turkey for Christmas this year (as we have done for about the last fifteen years). We will also have roast potatoes, pigs in blankets, stuffing, bread sauce, redcurrant jelly and Yorkshire puddings.
I just noticed it’s gone midnight…
I know Yorkshire puddings aren’t traditional but Julia likes them so they are traditional for us. Personally, I’d rather have beef, pork or gammon. If anyone had suggested a nut roast I’d probably have gone for that. Even a goose. They are greasy but traditional.
It was the kids who got us back onto turkey – we’d been having beef or pork for years but they started to ask for turkey because all their friends had turkey. Now it’s become a habit. It’s not so bad now that you can buy a small crown roast – enough for a meal and a few sandwiches. Much better than the days of turkey curry, turkey stir fry and, finally, turkey soup.
I’ve started the Christmas shopping list and tomorrow I start the shopping. I’ll probably also start moaning about Christmas tomorrow.
Strictly speaking, our Christmas starts when I buy the cheese footballs. This is normally when they first appear in the Shops in Autumn, as it can be touch and go nearer to the day. I’m surprised, on looking for links, that I only seem to have mentioned them twice over the years as they are an important part of Christmas.
First the cheese footballs, then the ancient Santa card I bought Julia for our first Christmas. (I’ve also bought her one every year since, in case you are wondering), then the shopping.
The two pictures from the archives sum up the full horror of the forced jollity of Christmas, and the silent fury of a man who, having realised that he has wasted his life on trivia, will never break the bank at Monte Carlo, win a Nobel prize or, in all probability, look down and see his feet again.
Time, I think, in my tour of British poets, to turn to Dylan Thomas. I’m sure you know the one I’m thinking of. I am, after all, a man of habit and small learning.