Category: <span>Blogging</span>

Blocked.

Stuck.

Static.

Nothing.

OK, that’s four very similar words, that’s a start. Let’s build on that.

There must be something I can write about.

Somewhere.

Come on brain, let’s do this.

There is something in there somewhere. You know how this works.

Starting writing.

The words will come.

Won’t they?

I read an article about the impact the pandemic has had on casual friendships, those acquaintances you only saw now and then back in the heady days of 2019, it’s definitely something I could write about. How I’ve got a core group of close friends but everyone else is more an acquaintance, and how those latter relationships have been reduced to a few likes and comments here and there on social media.

But that’s not unique. Everyone is feeling that.

What else then.

I read about Joe Biden’s morning routine, I could write about mine, get up, stretch, have breakfast, go upstairs and start work.

Yeah that’s not really that interesting is it…

I’m running again, making my way through the Couch to 5K program, and in a week or so it’ll be complete.

Yeah, so there’s that.

What an odd time we live in.

OK, I give up.

To be honest between our recent engagement, the arrival of Daisy, and just getting on with life day by day, that feels like enough right now and whilst I have the usual morass of nonsense banging about in my head, and about six or seven blog posts in draft, this is about all I can muster up.

And my ohh my what a first world problem this, bemoaning the fact that I’m struggling to write down some words whilst I sit here in front of my shiny laptop in a warm home with food in the cupboards. What a privileged bubble to occupy.

But that’s a whole other thing. Right?

Or maybe that’s the point, that’s the blockage right there, the cold realisation that nothing I write here matters. Nothing I post is of consequence to anyone except me.

Yet that should be freeing, that should open the flood gates, if nothing I post here is of note, if it holds no real value then post and be damned! Except it’s never worked that way, has it. This is part of me, a filtered and focused view into my life, the parts of it I want to share with you at least. So dear reader, here we are again, another trip down the introspective rabbit hole? No, not today.

I’ll stop here and revisit those drafts I think, see if they can be cajoled and buffed into something. Anything.

Anyway, enough about me, how are you? Comments are open, what are you struggling with?

Blogging Life

On the 2nd of June, 1999, I wrote about Sunglasses.

Once I’d written it I opened an HTML page template I had created by hand, pasted the text in, formatted it using the few HTML tags I had available, updated all the site links to include the new post (I had a sidebar back then too), and then I manually uploaded the new page, and all the other pages I had to update, via FTP to my website.

The content hasn’t really improved since then, but the publishing mechanisms sure have.

As I’ve written before, it started as a fascination, a simple way to publish my own little thoughts for the world to see. Given that the world wasn’t all that big – in internet terms – at that time it wasn’t such a big deal and, weirdly, it still isn’t.

I don’t get that many people reading what I write, I never really has, not even during the pre-Twitter boom years when I was the first of a wave of UK bloggers who followed on from the trend-setters in the US. We were few but we were mighty.

And I’m still here, writing nonsense.

And deep down I think I always will be. If for no other reason than it allows me to reflect on my life and how it has changed over that time, and to wonder how it will change in the future.

Here’s to another 21 years? Here’s hoping.

Blogging Life

Safe to say that March will be memorable for one thing and one thing only. Coronavirus and lockdown. It’s meant adjusting routines, and whilst I’m working the hours are dropping. We remain in good spirits though and if nothing else it’s given me time to crack on with some other things, including a revisit of my long neglected novel.

It also means I’ve newly invested interest – I’ve got an alarm set and everything – in Ken Bruce on Radio 2 and his Popmaster quiz.

Watched

  • I Am Mother – dystopian sci-fi, cleverly layered, and well worth a watch. The story of the first child born in a post-infectious world (ohhh how timely!).
  • Apollo 11 – Using digital remastered footage, this documentary covers the time from blast off to re-entry, and is a stunning testament to the moon landings. Gripping and vivid, I cannot recommend this enough.
  • Various episodes of nonsense TV – Friends, Brooklyn 99, The New Girl – purely as a coping mechanism.

Read

  • Things I Learned From Falling by Claire Nelson – A true story, which makes it all the more remarkable, this book set deeper in my brain than I expected, tackling so much of our modern habits and attitudes alongside the brutal life and death experience of the author who, whilst hiking alone, falls and breaks her pelvis. Already considering re-reading it.
  • How to be a Footballer by Peter Crouch – an amiable saunter through some tales from behind the scenes. Self-effacing and funny, Crouch comes across as genuinely likeable amidst the sea of posing pretentiousness that is the modern day footballer.
  • The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides – a twisting tale of a murder, the accused remaining mute, until it all starts to unravel. File under ‘beach read’ (or maybe ‘lockdown read’?) as it’s a page turner for sure, with a wonderful twist or to keeping you on your toes.
  • Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid – Written magazine interview style, this is the story of a flamed-haired singer and her integration to an already established band. Set in the 70s, it’s a brilliant, lurid run through sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll and may, or may not, have been inspired by Fleetwood Mac.

Listened

  • Gigaton by Pearl Jam – A new album by a favourite artist is always exciting, alas Pearl Jam continue to veer too wildly from their grunge roots to a middle-ground of bland AOR stylings. Some good songs on there but lacklustre for the most part.
  • City of Love by Deacon Blue – A new album by a favourite Scottish artist is always exciting, and this is a wonderful ode to the Deacon Blue of the past. I think this one will get a fair amount of airtime in the coming weeks.

Wrote

  • Chocolate Raisins – written because we laughed so much when I realised what I’d done, because it’s true, and because right now these silly moments are much needed.

My Favourite Photo

Posted for Mothering Sunday.

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Happy Mumsy Day 😍

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Blogging Life Monthly

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I think I will remember February for mostly being wet and windy. Was there a time when there wasn’t a new storm landing on our shores to decimate a weekend? Elsewhere, Sasha has recovered well from her operation and is now happily ensconced back on the sofa (or on my lap) where she should be, and welcoming us on our return home with her usual mixture of fervent joy and toys. We’ve missed that.

My knee rehab has stalled a little as I had a tendinitis flare up in my right foot but I’m on still on track to do a Parkrun before the end of the year. Ohh and I got a new tattoo.

Watched

  • The Morning Show – Challenging many things that are wrong in society, particularly focused on the #metoo movement. Smart writing, Aniston is brilliantly on the edge, Carell plays with good/bad a little too easily(?), Witherspoon is consistently good, with Crudup intriguingly watchable whenever he’s on screen.
  • The West Wing – STILL (re)watching.

Read

  • The Nest – Is money the root of all evil? A story about a family of siblings who are promised funds later in their life and the impact that has on them and their lives.
  • The One – a simple idea that quickly takes a dark turn, this went from emotional intrigue to deadly thriller really quickly, a proper page turner by the end.
  • The Other Half of August Hope – best of the month, wonderfully written, and it’s not often that I cry reading a book but cry I did.

My GoodReads profile

Listened

  • Supergrass – In preparation for their joyful return tour at the Barrowlands.

My Favourite Post

  • Februarius – because when I take time to consider what I’m writing, and edit it properly, I can read it back a month later and find myself surprised that *I* wrote that

My Favourite Photo

Blogging Life Monthly

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January is over; I’ve been getting physio on my knee (it’s improving, at last!), we celebrated Lucy being four years old, and my Uncle getting married. Our wee dog Sasha had a knee operation and is recovering well. I’m still a vegetarian and feeling good within myself for it. Ohh and we met up with friends over a wonderful meal at Five March.

And, so far, I’ve been managing to stick to my resolutions (more on that soon).

Watched

  • The Expanse (Season 4) – still a fun watch, I think the condensing effect of TV makes the storyline work better than the overly complex and somewhat over whelming novel.
  • The Mandalorian* – If you are even a little bit of a geek for Star Wars you will LOVE this. It’s wry, funny, and perfectly pitched, with enough action to be fun, and enough character development to pull you in. I’ll say no more, just watch it!
  • Watchmen – A slow burn that is worth the wait. Genuinely weird at times (as it should be) and a wonderful sense of foreboding throughout. Clever setting and smart continuation from the movie of the same name (with nods to the original comic) has allowed them to extend this universe without feeling disconnected from it.
  • The West Wing – my favourite TV show and I tend to start rewatching it at this time of year for some reason. Something to do with the long dark nights?

*Link caveat: I watched The Mandalorian via ‘another source’ so YMMV!

Read

  • Cibola Burn by James A.Corey – AKA Book 4 of The Expanse series which I’d started last year and finished just ahead of the TV show. Not sure I’ll read book 5, starting to feel a bit too convoluted and ‘samey’.
  • The Rumour by Lesley Kara – Quite enjoyed this, the story of the impact a rumour can have in a small town, featured some nice twists and turns once it really gets going. Leave time for the last few chapters as you won’t want to stop reading!
  • The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock by Jane Riley – what a lovely and wonderfully observed book. A simple enough premise, with some glorious characters that leap from the page. You’ll laugh and cry.
  • The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe – Wow. What starts out as an easy read soon turns into a brutal examination of life during and after a tragic event. A couple of chapters of this moved me to tears. Be in a good place when you read it.
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – As an older sibling this made me question a lot of my protective thoughts I have for my younger sister. Crisply written, wonderfully observed, the kind of book that keeps you awake until past midnight just so you can finish it.

FYI – Did you know if you are an Amazon Prime users with a Kindle, you can get two novels a month FREE? From a selected list, you can see your choices as part of Amazon First Reads. Caveat: The links to the books above are via my Amazon affiliate link (which earns me almost pennies every year).

Listened

  • Adam Buxton Podcast – various episodes from last year as I was catching up – needless to say Derren Brown and Billy Connolly were well worth it. Just a lovely series of chats with a jolly, silly, friendly man.
  • Marigold by Pinegrove – a more country influenced album than previous efforts, but nice to have them back.
  • Hotspot by Pet Shop Boys – sneaking in under the wire, one listen through so far and it’s the usual catchy fare.

My Favourite post
No contest this month, as ever, writing a birthday letter to my niece is a tradition I’m glad I’ve started.

My Favourite Photo

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Waiting for first orders (taken at 8am)

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Life Monthly

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November is over and I no longer need to write a new post every day. It’s finished, done, finito. Looking back at what I’ve published and there are some posts in there that I’m pretty proud of, and others that I’m well aware I cobbled together even though I didn’t really have the motivation. But it was a month long challenge and I did it. Kudos and self fives to me!

It’s been a long time since I did something like this; it’s one thing blogging to a schedule as I did in 2018 (3 posts a week), quite another to do it every single day. To that end, having a list of titles provided was more liberating than I thought it would be, even on the topics I was dreading having to write about (hello religion and politics!) I found myself able to construct and firm up some thoughts that I’d normally have left pinging around my little brain as I scrabbled around to write for the topic of the day.

A few years ago I participated in NaNoWriMo – the goal of writing 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November – and managed to complete it even though that felt like a much bigger struggle as it became all encompassing, every evening I sat at the computer with the same base topic churning over and over in my head as I frantically typed and watched the word count rise. It felt like pressure and towards the middle it was a challenge to keep going, the motivation purely to hit a number count, not writing for the enjoyment of writing.

Each of the posts I wrote last month were a breathe of fresh air, given I was free of figuring out what to write about. It allowed my brain to wander and I think the posts are better for it. On the whole I wrote most of them a few days in advance, taking time over the weekends to draft the next four or five, then refining them day by day before scheduling them to appear on the correct day of the month.

And it all started somewhere else entirely.

I’ve been quietly using micro.blog for a few weeks now, mostly just to try it out, prompted by randomly browsing the archives of my own site and remembering a time where I didn’t care about the volume of each post as sometimes a thought can be captured in a few lines of text and nothing else is needed. I started following a few people there and towards the end of October, one of the people Jean MacDonald (a founder of micro.blog) said she was going to try something akin to NaNoWriMo just on a smaller scale and with a randomly generated word being used to prompt one post a day in November.

What a great way to force myself to use micro.blog everyday and so I followed suit and you can view them all here. They’ve been cross posted to Twitter as well, garnering a few likes on that platform which was interesting too.

Quickly after that, in response to Jean setting the challenge, another person on micro.blog – Andrew Canion – said he was doing a blog challenge in November along similar lines and before I realised we were into the middle of the first week of Thursday and I was committed to completing both challenges.

Both challenges have been fun and challenging in different ways; Keeping the micro.blog posts short and succinct has led to some creative thinking and forced me to boil down what I’m writing to only the essential words, the longer blog posts I’ve published here have allowed me to roam and think about the given topic and I’ve learnt a lot about myself on the way too, isn’t it always the way?

Part of me is glad the blog challenge is over, writing a new topic every day is taxing at times, but part of me wonders if I could keep it going, if given a decent list of topics to tackle. Having that focus removes all of the writers block for me, no more staring at an empty screen and hoping inspiration strikes, as each topic was enough to prompt at least a few lines of thought that I could pull together and expand on.

Equally the micro.blog challenge offered a different approach but the same freedom to explore.

Perhaps my occasional malaise about my blog is simply lack of inspiration.

Perhaps I will look to this approach more often in the future.

Perhaps.

For now, I’m glad to be able to not have to think about what I’m going to write tomorrow…
P.S. Did you spot the one that used the first letter of the prompt word to start each new paragraph?

Blogging Monthly

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The UK is facing a general election, driven by a vote two years ago that saw the UK vote for something they didn’t understand, that wasn’t defined, and still isn’t. In the US, the President is facing impeachment, having lied, blustered, and stoked hatred at every turn.

And today I’ve to write about politics?

Back in the UK the current ruling party have been directly to blame for austerity and the death of those at the margins of our society, homelessness has risen, the NHS has been decimated, amongst other measures, whilst the self-serving, insufferable, uncaring, leaders of the party continue to perpetuate a vicious dereliction of compassion.

It’s hard to consider politics as it should be when these days it’s all built on a system that favours the rich and loud, invariably white, men who benefit from keeping the general public in their place. The political landscape of the UK is not based on passionate debate but point scoring and name calling, with nary a thought for those of us who have to live day to day with the policies foisted upon us.

Invariably when discussing politics it’s hard to focus on the things that matter, the manifesto promises by each party, as opposed to wherever they are trying to get you to focus. Are you a Labour voter, here’s a Rabbi saying Corbyn is an anti-semite (that he may or may not be isn’t the point here, they are making you focus on this).

As a point it is one worth consider, do we want someone like that in power? Or should we just stick with Johnson and his blatant lies (and don’t get me started on the lack of impartiality being shown by the BBC at the moment), or maybe Swinson is the choice to make even though she is basically a Tory in disguise and as supported all of their most hated policies to date. And in Scotland, even the erudite Sturgeon splits opinion amongst many, even though the SNP have more MPs in Parliament than the Lib Dems.

All I know is that there is no intelligent discussion when discussing politics with any of these people, to wed to their views, to unwilling to even hint that they would compromise a little here and there to make things better for us, the voters. We are left with a choice that offers not real alternatives and the longer this continues the more it feels like a vote we made as a country a couple of years ago.

Back then, despite not knowing exactly how Brexit was going to benefit us, the UK voted for it. It is still on the table today along with many other vague promises and, once again, we will vote not based on knowledge but on dislike.

A vote for Labour is more about a vote against the Tories than for Labour, a vote for the SNP is more about a vote against the UK Parliament than it is about what’s best for the people of Scotland (if there is no second referendum), a vote for the Tories is more about keeping the socialist lefties out of power.

Underlying all of those decisions is hatred in one form of another, at the edges of all these parties are the extremists, but those edges are widening and even the most centrist of party members start to fall into one camp or another. You are either with us or against us.

It’s almost like we’ve all forgotten that we are supposed to be one humanity, living on one planet.

I will vote in the General Election, and I will watch the aftermath unfurl in what I already fear will be a predictable mess that will further erode civil rights and lower the standard of living for those on the breadline, whilst leaving the rich richer and more protected than ever.

And this is why I don’t talk about politics. It’s a bleak place, with little hope or beauty, and sunshine does not even dare venture here. It is broken, and hurtful, yet it is all we have.

Blogvember

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Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.

I can still recite this prayer, word for word, despite not having actively set foot inside a church for the best part of 30 years. I’m not sure if that is awe-inspiring (the power of the human mind!) or terrifying (mind washed chanting), but there you have it.

My childhood was dominated by time spent in the church and in the church halls. Sunday School before the main service on a Sunday morning, Saturday clubs, and the Boys Brigade, all meant that for a while I spent most of my ‘organised’ leisure time there. It was great fun, aside from the boring God stuff of course.

I also joined Scripture Union sessions when I was in secondary school, even going to a week long SU camp on Arran a couple of times. Again, a lot of fun, and some wonderful memories, but again, there was that boring God stuff…

Except the God stuff isn’t all that boring, certainly not as I got older and started to actually READ the bible properly, to understand the stories better both in terms of their underlying messages but in some of the visceral imagery used. There are some wonderful stories in the bible, perfect for a young mind to latch on to and absorb.

But at some point, probably when I got to an age where I was allowed to make my own decisions as a young adult, I stopped going to church, the Boys Brigade ended for me too as I was no longer a ‘boy’, and God took a back seat in my life, easily written off as a bunch of stories written by men to influence and control other people.

I look back on my childhood, and those religious specific memories with nothing but fondness now, and can see it was good for me to be there, to be socialising, and learning how to be a kind person, even if that kindness was only viewed through a specific lens.

Unfortunately, and particularly as we attend Church of Scotland services, the older I got, the more bored and disinterested I became. It’s an area the church has definitely struggled with, staying relevant in modern times, and looking at the average age of those Sunday morning service attendees – which was already pretty high when I was still going – and you see why.

For a long time I just steered clear of the topic of religion, happily ensconced in my agnostic atheism (yes it’s a thing), but as my awareness of the world grew, so did my view into other religions.

What is it about religion that can bring such fervour?

To be clear, I’m not anti-religion, there are elements of what they aspire to that are good, it’s just unfortunate that many people who claim to be religious are really only interested in the aspects of a given religion that works for them. To my basic understanding, of the most populist religions at least, none of them suggest anything other than compassion for your fellow human, regardless of their circumstance. Yet wars have been started because of religion, individuals have been targeted, vilified, and killed because of religion, so remind me again why religion is a good thing?

I believe in science. I do not believe there is some omnipotent deity overlooking us. And yes, I’m aware that I hold a position of atheism and am talking in terms of the here and now, and that those of a religious persuasion will hold the view that there is more to life than what we see in front of so… well that’s a discussion that will never end.

There’s a reason that I’ve never really discussed religion on this blog, and this is it. I’m not anti-religion per se, just anti-religious factions that instil hate. I’m not anti-God per se, just against the use of a view of the world that inflicts pain and suffering on others.

I know many people who are religious, and by and large they are good people, who care for others, have kindness in their hearts, and understand that the world isn’t two-tone, that there are levels of acceptance that their religion may not have right, but which in their day to day lives they find a way to balance.

I’ve sat with Muslims who go to prayers every day, and have the occasional bottle of beer now and then. I’ve gone drinking with Jews who scoff down bacon rolls the next morning, I’ve lunched with devout Christians who swear and commit blasphemy more than many other people I know.

Life is a spectrum, and my problem with religion is when it forgets that fact. We are not all the same, one person is not the same as the next person, they are different by genetics, by social standing, by upbringing, by education, by nutrition, by the colour of their skin, by their abilities. Yet many of the religious writings and scriptures and studies don’t even knowledge these things, let alone give them any attention. And, given that all of the historic writing on religion was done by men, it’s easy to start to see how it has been easily used as a way to keep the ‘people’ in their place.

With all of that in mind, I look at the power that religion still wields today and the fanaticism that it can generate, and it’s just not something I can agree with or follow.

Finally we should tackle the entire notion of faith. It’s already a fallacy, given that I don’t have any faith in any God of any sort, but when I see this behaviour exhibited in other people who I consider to be smart it always baffles me (which, those who have it, will argue is why I don’t have it in the first place, circular logic is also something that baffles me when exhibited by those I consider smart, but I digress).

Faith: The assent of the mind to the truth of a proposition or statement for which there is not complete evidence.

And there you have it. Whilst I cannot completely prove there is not any God, you cannot completely prove to me there is and, as Stephen Fry once said, if there is one at all then looking at the world they built, it is clear they are a maniac; “Why should I respect a capricious, mean-minded, stupid God who creates a world which is so full of injustice and pain?”.

I’ve yet to see an answer to that question that would give me faith.

I’ll let you know if I do.

Blogvember

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