Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Sprucing up my blogging

When blogs were first invented and still weblogs, as I understand, they were very simple shared collections of links to other sites one had visited.  The man who invented them, I believe, rather deplored what they subsequently became: people's personal on-line journals, reflections, opinionising etc, and the introduction of comments that led to posts becoming springboards and forums for discussions. He more or less said, as I remember, that there was no reason to introduce any personal element or affect at all, that one had no reason to think one had anything important to say of any originality, since whatever one thought needed saying had surely already been said and better elsewhere, and need only be found and linked to, and going on about it served no function.  Such stringent reductionism and humility has a certain appeal, but there is surely a logical flaw to it: if no one ever seeks to post any original content on-line, beyond the starkest and most impersonal information, in the end, there will be no more content to link to? 

Now, as many of my blogging mentors who are still around are reaching the ten year mark, the lament is that blogging has reached something of a dead end; that the discussions have moved elsewhere, blog posts are more set pieces than exchanges, etc.  Among the contributions to the well-deserved paean of praise and congratulation for Beth's decade at Cassandra Pages, a piece from Blork, another Montreal blogger, who remarks:

'Where once the platform was largely about personal writing and exploration, blogging is now is a vehicle for competitive foodieism, personal branding, and all forms of marketing'

which was news to me, hanging out mostly as I do on people's personal blogs, though I had noticed a proliferation in somewhat scarily high-faluting foodie blogs, come to think.  

Happily, most of these soul-searchings seem to end in a fairly cheerful if slightly sadder-and-wiser optimism: even if a certain amount of momentum, of starry-eyed energy and earnestness and sense of importance about this astonishing new thing and what might be achieved by it, has been lost, there's a consensus that the whole enterprise has been satisfying, life-changing if not world-changing, and will continue to be so for a while yet.

Coming in a few years later, this being my seventh year in this place, I don't think I had many illusions that I was doing anything very important, except, I suppose, for myself.  From that point of view it became very important indeed and that people came and looked and read was a very nice surprise.  The activity and its place in my life has changed, and indeed grown less intense; I carry and use the camera far less, I have fewer ideas that I think are worth noting, and when I do either lack the motivation to sit down and write about them, or they don't seem so remarkable and worth sharing after all, or, and perhaps this is a function of ageing too, they elude me and I forget them before I get to the computer, or even to pen and paper.  Nevertheless, tiresome moments of blog angst and questioning of why I do it and whether and how I might carry on notwithstanding, blogging has become a habit, and I think a good one, and as the persistence of good habits is rarer than that of bad ones, that's something to be celebrated.  Fellow bloggers come and go, but new friends still appear and many of the old ones are still around, which is a source of great pleasure and wonder. 

However, I do feel I need need to find ways to keep the activity fresh and interesting, for myself as well as for my gentle readers. And as original words and photos of any substance or newness sometimes desert me, why not take a leaf from the book of the original weblog concept and collect things which interest and appeal from elsewhere?  Not in the form of links but as snippets, a kind of scrapbook blogging?  Now I know this is also being busily done elsewhere, in the shape of Tumblr blogs and Pinterest, but those things rather bewilder me, as with Facebook and Twitter, I can't quite be bothered to get my head round making them work for me, and why scatter one's eggs in too many baskets anyway?  I've established my corner of the web here, why set up more flimsy new outposts? And the beauty of blogging, it seems to me, is that, contrary to the puritanical aims of its weblogging founders, one is free to enrich, inform and weave in one's own personal. subjective comment and experience, with observations and gatherings from the outer world, in any way one chooses.

And it doesn't only need to be things from the web. Blork, quoted above in the post from Beth's, also keeps, very quietly, a blog of snippets from books he's been reading.  This rather appeals to me.  In the first heady days of keeping a blog (sound a bit like keeping a pig, doesn't it?!) book reading suffered.  With the undeniable waning of the former, I have been returning to the latter, but of late I've felt the need to make it rather more constructive.  I've taken to listing what I read, but have no wish to try to write reviews or even brief reader responses; it's not something I enjoy doing very much, always perceiving an onus to be a clever bugger, and use lots of smart-alec critical theory terms, or at the very least justify myself as to why I do or don't like something! And anyway, I often don't really know whether I've found a book good or not until months after I've read it.  Goodreads does not appeal, thank you, another on-line outpost I have no wish to maintain.  However, there are times when I come across a passage that really pleases me or which I want to hold on to, so I may take to transcribing them here sometimes.

So those are some thoughts.  This blogging thing is still an amazing, largely free, resource with great creative potential, and I intend to keep doing it for the foreseeable, howsoever.  So here are some pickings.


The last post about early music prompted a question about old instruments; browsing in images on the subject yielded these, which I liked:

stringed instruments from different times and places;

some more strings, from a mediaeval enthusiast's Tumblr collection (I'm not going to put links in everywhere, it will be too time consuming)

Attributes of Music - still life by Anne Valleyer Coster.  More of her in another post perhaps.


My sock-knitting is progressing, slowly.  It will be a while before I can proudly present a complete pair, and then I fear they may be so riddled with mistakes and bizarrely shaped they may only be good for bedsocks.  I'm enjoying the making anyway. Then I had to stop for a while as I was completely in thrall to Rose Tremain's novel Music and Silence, which contained this delightful passage:

Queen Sophie, when she was young ... loved to be rowed in a little boat to this island and there sit in the sunshine and indulge in her secret passion for knitting.  This activity had been proscribed throughout the land as tending to induce in women an idle trance of mind, in which their proper thoughts would fly away and be replaced by fancy.  Men called this state 'wool gathering'.  That the wool itself could be fashioned into useful articles of haberdashery such as stockings or night bonnets made them no less superstitiously afraid of the knitting craze.  They believed that any knitted night bonnet might contain among its millions of stitches the longings of their wives that they could never satisfy and which in consequence would give them nightmares of the darkest kind.  The knitted stockings they feared yet more completely as the probable instruments of their own enfeeblement.  They imagined their feet becoming swollen and all the muscles of their legs beginning to grow weak.

Wonderful book, and I think I will still think so in a few months.


Keeping one's anti-scurvy rations up in winter.  A new foraging find: hairy bittercress.  That naughty weed that throws out those little white flowers that rapidly and very early become tiny pods which, when touched, explode seeds in every direction.  We love egg and cress sandwiches, but watercress is not always easy to find in the shops here; I grow cress in punnets on the kitchen window sill, and American land cress in the garden over winter, but though the latter makes a good purée for soups and sauces, neither seems to quite provide the taste of cress as one remembers it.  Then Crafty Green Poet mentioned foraging for bittercress.  Many of the foraging ideas that are trendily put about at the moment are a dead loss - sow thistles, no thank you ('your friend appears to have bitten a bee...'), wall pennywort tastes like what it is, a spongey plant that came out of a grubby wall, but bittercress is a hit.  Yes, of course it's bitter, that's why it's called that, but chopped up it really does give that peppery, cressy bite in the egg sarnies we are looking for.

Here with some newly emerging chives and Welsh onion.

What I now grow on the windowsill, pea shoots.  A cheap pack of mangetout seeds from Lidl, and these crunchy little things contain, it seems, something like five time the vitamin C by weight of blueberries.  Tasty too, scattered on a stir-fry, for instance.  Here they are performing for the webcam.


The weather is perishing cold still, with a raw north-easterly, though we are spared the extremes many parts of the UK are getting.  But the pussy willow is out.



the polish chick said...

i miss both blogging and reading. cannot wait for school to be over so i can resume both with enthusiasm.

zephyr said...

i enjoy your blog posts...and the snippets here.

i, too have been thinking of changing things...since so many of my blog posts are more like my Flickr postings: photos with a simple line attached.

i do have a Pinterest page--but all of those who have linked to mine and i try to visit make me dizzy!

Avus said...

A thoughtful posting, Lucy. I have felt very much like you - that the digital world has moved on (and how - I can hardly keep up with it) and so have people's means of cummunicating (Facebook, Twitter, etc).
Bloggers are gradually disappearing and going elsewhere, but, like you, I intend to continue for the time being, as the mood takes me.

Roderick Robinson said...

Re-reading two- or three-year-old posts can be a salutary aid when pondering a change of blog direction. Any trace of self-satisfaction (a rarer bird than I ever imagined) can be immediately suppressed by re-reading responses I have made to readers' comments.

That latter defect is a recent discovery. I make a point of responding to virtually every comment I receive: generously (ie, to excess), enthusiastically (ie, carelessly), quickly (ie, lacking planning) and intelligently (ie, ostentatiously). I may change my ways.

Not everyone relishes discipline; I do, probably because journalism imposed it. My posts may not be all that great but they'd be worse if they weren't limited to 300 words. I am toying with a further discipline: listing the subject matter in advance and then writing posts based on these subjects. Too restrictive? But is total freedom necessarily the benefit we all imagine it to be?

Nimble said...

I think blogging is like letter writing. We're emailing and texting these days. But writing about one's activities, interests and inner state still has its place.

Pussy willows...

Anonymous said...

Nodding my head to all you write about blogging! Going at it for just over nine years, I've had my ups and downs but still feel it is a good thing for me, a place to write a little and post photos and my art - a bit of a mix of diary, photo album and sketchbook, with the wonderful bonus of comments from many friends found through this medium. The other social media doesn't appeal for its light chatter, to me.

Your wonderful images of old musical instruments now inspire me to try to someday put together photos of my late father's guitars, and the parts that went into their making which we still have. Yes, he was a luthier amongst other skills.

marja-leena said...

Oops, sorry! Anonymous is me, Marja-Leena!

Rouchswalwe said...

Sweet Lucy! Your ruminations are good to read. I'm going on five years and can't imagine stopping. I'm learning so much and feel quite grateful for the friendship I have found through writing and reading in the blogosphere. Pussy willows are out! I have a pussy willow basket that is one of my treasures.

Zhoen said...

Epistolary. That's how I see blogging. We write letters to each other, and I love it.

New paint on the blog, a few flowers planted, we're all set.

marly youmans said...

Lucy, for a while I had a commonplace book online--then one day I abruptly tossed it into the aether-bin during in a fit of housecleaning. But I've regretted losing track of a few of those pieces.

I like what you do on your blog, but I also enjoy when you show something a step removed from you, as here. It's all filtered through Lucy-mind!

And Marja-Leena, a luthier's post would be lovely.

Pam said...

Indeed, like Zhoen I see blogs as being like letters between friends. When we were allocated penfriends at school, I was always the one who kept writing hopefully for a while after the girl at the other end had given up. So I'll keep blogging my personal waffle. If no one's at the other end, well, there we are! And I'll keep reading my bloggy friends' blogs.

lise said...

Venir en quelques années plus tard, ce qui est ma septième année à cet endroit, je ne pense pas que j'ai eu beaucoup d'illusions que je faisais quelque chose de très important, sauf, je suppose, pour moi-même

Hello! J'ai trouvé comment lire vos articles en entier.
Pourquoi douter du bienfait d'un blog? J'aime parcourir les blogs qui traitent de plein de choses: Travaux manuels, peintures,dessins jardinage. si j'avais plus de culture. J'aimerai sans doute aussi la littérature, Je trouve bien que vous parliez de vos coups de coeur. Bien aussi de faire découvrir à vos compatriotes nos région: les visites ne manquent pas
J'ai vu votre "sock", c'est curieux, je les ai faites à 5 aiguilles. J'ai hâte de voir le résultat final.
Le cresson pousse habituellement dans des terrains très humides voire même au bord d'un ruisseau. Je suis de votre avis, c'est très goûteux et bon pour le sang.
Très amicalement Lise

Lucy said...

Thanks all. Not a jumping ship threat, I assure you! Happy to be here still, and always looking around for things that might be of interest.

PC - it's true, actually, that being too busy elsewhere does help one to appreciate it. Hope you have a lovely break and luxuriate in all the things you enjoy!

Zephyr - yes but it doesn't really matter, does it, if you only look in to leave a quick word and a picture, since it keeps the door open, plus you're a very loyal, nice and thoughtful visitor here! Since writing this, I've actually got really hooked on Pinterest, it is potentially confusing as you say, but is also very useful, I've already tidied up loads of old bookmarks by pinning there, and for visual people especially it's very appealing.

Avus - you've been around even longer than me I think, and I always like it when you pop up in the feeds; good that you feel free to post as and how you want.

RR - some blogs, like yours are much more places for conversation. I'm very erratic about responding to comments and I never really know if anyone actually comes back to see if I've done so or not. I always go back for yours though, as I know how conscientious you are about it, and that your responses are alwas good value. Your 300 word discipline is admirable, but I wouldn't get too stringent with yourself...

Nimble - I like the way you write about your life and family very much; it's kind of no-shit but very loving. I get the feeling you're kind of writing for your own record but for other people to read too, but you're not clamouring for anyone else's approval. It is like a good letter, in fact.

ML - you're another who just gets on and keeps producing good stuff without a fuss. Get that luthier post writ!

R - and you show us that pussy willow basket!

Z - yes, letters, that's what it needs to be. written with love but without pretence or expectation...

Marly - so glad you find the time to keep coming here, thanks. I don't know about the snippets, but I might try to read with that it mind, it's about a more constructive way of reading again.

Isabelle - yes, good letters. Glad you keep at it, and it doesn't look like you're short of readers.

Lise - je suis vraiment enchantée que vous faites l'effort de venir ici pour lire, merci. Et ce n'est pas vrai que vous n'avez pas de culture, du tout. Les traductions électroniques peuvent être parfois bizarre mais ça peut servir pour mieux comprendre le sens. Le tricot et très fin, c'est mon excuse, en fait je suis lente comme tricoteuse, pas experte comme vous! Mais je m'amuse. J'aime bien le cresson, soit celui aux grandes feuilles des ruisseau, soit le petit 'Alénois'. Mais je ne savais pas avant qu'on peut manger le très petit mauvais herbe du jardin...

Laura Frankstone said...

I'm so glad you're still here, dear Lucy. Don't go. Your work, words, images, personality, snippets of life give me SO much pleasure, so I'm being selfish, but that's just the way it is. I love what I love. Me, I've been blogging for eight years and I think about quitting from time to time. I don't know how it will end, my blog, but it's here for the foreseeable future.

Dick said...

Every time I read through the posts on your blog I realise how much I miss their rich detail, their acuity, their humour, the wonderful photographs and I resolve to visit regularly as of old. But with the dwindling of my own blog into just a noticeboard for poems and my utilisation of Facebook as the place where I touch bases, resolution falters. My loss. Some reversing of my social media drift needs to be don