This blog is.
That’s quite a long time.
Even though posting is more sporadic than ever, it’s still going.
Happy Birthday little blog.
That is all.
This blog is.
That’s quite a long time.
Even though posting is more sporadic than ever, it’s still going.
Happy Birthday little blog.
That is all.
OK, that’s four very similar words, that’s a start. Let’s build on that.
There must be something I can write about.
Come on brain, let’s do this.
There is something in there somewhere. You know how this works.
The words will come.
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?
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.
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.
My Favourite Photo
Posted for Mothering Sunday.
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.
My Favourite Post
My Favourite Photo
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.
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?
A couple of years ago I sat down at my desk. It was the first day of a dark November and my intention was to write 50,000 words of a new novel, my first. Having written posts for this blog for several years, and increasingly looked to improve the quality of the writing it was an interesting project. Write a book, they said.
I’ve been reading books for as long as I can remember. My father is an avid reader, and weekly trips to the local library are a formative part of my youth. The children’s section was downstairs and it was there I’d head whilst my father went off to roam the aisles. It was liberating to be fully in charge of those choices and whilst I was first drawn to Asterisk and Lucky Hand Luke comic books, I soon started to find longer stories more palatable.
Trillions by Nicholas Fisk was a formative book in my young years, a sci-fi novel for young adults is probably the classification and whilst I can remember little about the story and how it unfolded, it was the first time I read a book and felt that spark of imagination. It stuck with me to this day, the feeling of wonder that something as simple as a few words on a page can transport you to an entirely other place.
My love for sci-fi continued, no doubt feed by my father, with Arthur C. Clarke and as I got a little older I discovered friends at school who also read books. I was such an avid reader (the acorn doesn’t fall far and all that) that I’d rush through school work and ask to go and read, and what school teacher of any repute would say no to that. The Isle of Sula beckoned next, a trilogy I think, set in the north of Scotland, as did the Three Investigators (aka Alfred Hitchcock and the Three Detectives, my first exposure to the great director), Robert Louis Stevenson, and others.
Moving to high school brought new friends and new reading habits and a certain man called Stephen King started to feature more and more heavily. To this day I’ve probably read more books by him than anyone else, although thinking on it it may be a tie between him and Ian Rankin. King has a habit of writing books that a very easy to immerse yourself in and it wasn’t unheard of for me to sit down on a rainy Sunday afternoon and read one of his novels from start to finish before bedtime, even if bedtime in question was beyond midnight.
It’s a trait I’ve retained, when I’m reading a really good book I tend to focus on that over other things like sleeping and eating…
I have no idea how many books I’ve read, I only started tracking some of them a few years ago when I joined a, now sadly defunct, book club. I’d gotten away from the habit of reading, and the book club brought that back alongwith several wonderful books that dragged me away from my everyday life and into their vivid poetry, slapping my imagination back into gear and consuming me as every good book should. It also taught me an important lesson on the art of reading books; you do not need to finish a bad book.
Book reading should never be a chore, yet the act of writing a book certainly seems like one. Those 50,000 words I wrote a few years ago remain in draft, reworked a few times since admittedly, but are no closer to forming a book than they were back then. I even read a couple of books on how to write a novel, the best of which remains On Writing by the aforementioned Stephen King.
One piece of advice he offers is this: “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story. Your stuff starts out being just for you, but then it goes out.”
This latter part, ‘then it goes out’ seems to be where I’m stumbling, knowing that the words I’ve cobbled together onto the pages would be out in the wider world and read by at least 4 or 5 people (who are all family and friends of course). It’s not so much a cause of writers block as writers fear, but that is a topic for another day.
Instead I’ll end and offer some book recommendations. The type of book and writing style may vary but each of these brought me no small measure of joy over the years.
And for more, check my Good Reads account.
It took ten minutes of chopping – carrot, celery, onion – plus a bag of yellow split peas and some vegetarian stock, add salt and pepper, some more water and, after slow cooking for several hours the kitchen was filled with the wonderful aroma of split pea soup. Thick, creamy, utterly deliciously.
I’ve written about food here before, although I’ve stopped reviewing every restaurant I visit, and used to write even more when I was an active member of the local Yelp community (that got closed down, a fact that still annoys!). It’s such fun to write about food, trying to find more and more ways to describe a flavour, or a texture, or that wonderful combination of both in a dish that simply dances on the taste-buds.
I like food, a fact not lost on my regular reader (hey you!) given how often I talk about my weight for yes, alas the two are inextricably linked given that I tend to eat more calories than I burn.
I’m very privileged of course, living where I live and in a comfortable lifestyle where my main problem is deciding what food to eat, rather than if I will eat at all. If anything we have an abundance of choice, far more than I even remember as a child, especially given the availability of goods that used to only be available in the correct season; that said the seasons still apply, a strawberry in December is not the same as a strawberry in June.
But let’s not get too heavy (pun intended) for food is something that should be enjoyed if at all possible although I am guilty of falling into the “food is fuel” thinking, eating because I should rather than I want to. Thankfully that’s exception rather than the rule, and so most days I eat tasty food that is good for me.
Oh yes, I may be overweight but that’s not because I constantly eat bad food, my breakfasts are typically porridge and fruit (with a skimmed milk, sugar-free vanilla latte), my lunches either freshly made salads or sandwiches (not bought from a supermarket) and my dinners are typically cooked in the oven, be they chicken and veg, or just a bit plate of roasted veg (admittedly with some butter but hey, we gotta live!).
No, where I fall off the good eating wagon is the snacks and the chocolate and the desserts. Too often I reach for something sugary, a sweet tooth inherited from my father, and too often rather than one or two little things, it’s four, or seven, or an entire pack.
This I know, and this is the daily battle of emotional willpower versus intellectual knowledge, and even though most days my intellect wins (a rarity in itself!) the days were my willpower collapses completely tend to undo an entire week or two in one fell swoop. I do not fall lightly (because I’m overweight! Ha ha, look at me, laughing at myself).
And then there is eating out, which can be done healthily but more often than not is an indulgence. I do love a well prepared, well presented meal, and some live long in my memory. There is something about having your senses overwhelmed with juicy sauces and piquant fragrances that really seems to make reminiscing on such meals all the more vivid.
Food is a staple, we all need it, and it always fascinates me to see how different people view it. You see articles about people who’ve eaten the same meal every day for years and year, and then read about people who are moving to an insect-only diet. It is a constant in all our lives, yet every single one of us will have a different favourite food, or favourite cuisine, just as we all have differing dislikes (not to mention allergies).
I guess this all boils down to one thing, are you a sane person, or do you actually think Marmite tastes nice?