Monday, November 30, 2009

Adventures in Blogland

Just over a year ago I started bloggaging, taking my first tentative, shaky steps into the murky, surreal woodland that is the blogoshpere, like Bambi exploring Kenya. This is a woodland that would make Tolkien shudder with the ethereal strangeness that abounds. Where creatures of the night live side by side with rainbow-hued optimists, where hardcore nookie fanatics cross paths with knitting enthusiasts, where rampant daily contributors brush shoulders with occasional nibblers.

The world of the blog is varied. Hot and humid one moment, just a short few steps away and you're in a temperate zone utterly suited to your tastes, and then a quick reconnaissance in another direction and the temperature drops, leaving you unable to decide whether you should stay and explore or scurry back to more comfortable environs.

It was a strange experience in those early, embryonic days.

You make a little camp in that woodland with no maps, no native guide, no bushcraft skills other than your inherent foraging abilities which may or may not be up to the task. You choose a name for your blog. You take about five seconds because you have to put something on the sign, and it's not as though it's going to be a permanent fixture in your life for the foreseeable future is it? You'll probably be deleting it in a day or two anyway.

So, you've named your blog. Job done. You're now ready to get posting! Let the creative juices pour forth!

Er . . .

What to put on it? You try and recall what they taught you about blogging when you were at school in the eighties, but the lessons on blogs must have been boring because you can't remember anything. It's like home economics where you vaguely recall coming home with a chocolate refrigerator cake that one time, but have no actual memory of the lesson. Or the teacher. Or the classroom.

You need ideas.

You sneak through the woodland and peer at other peoples set-ups through the (sometimes quite literal) bushes. What are they like? Are they interesting? Have they got any advice? Would they share it with you? Some sites are actually designed to help you with blogging, which is lucky. You creep up to them and, when no-one is around, snatch a few nuggets of information and then scurry back into the undergrowth to unpeel the nutty loot you've nicked.

You discover that the subjects covered by blogs can be encompassed in just one simple word, which should make things easy.

Unfortunately that word is 'everything'.

You search some professional sites for more info and they obligingly give it up for your perusal.

You need a topic, apparently. You need to sell stuff. You must categorise your blog, so people know what to expect, so like-minded explorers can find you amongst the chaotic ecosystem that is the blogland. It's all about planning what you do, then doing what you plan. It's dynamic. It's proactive. It's about taking incentivisation out of the box so you can action it to the next level. Their blogs are all stainless steel and black marble and healthy looking plastic plants.

You have no idea what they are talking about, and slink back to your little blog camp, which is made from metaphorical driftwood, some randomly placed moss and a shell.

You come to the conclusion that, to be a successful blogger, you must be incredibly organised with an innate sense of direction and a iron-clad self image.


You search a bit more and, happily, discover that there is a sub-division of blogs which appeals to you.

You shall class yourself as "miscellaneous"!

Now you've got an idea, you set out your stall and hang up some of your wares for other people wandering the trails to have a look at. You try and keep them as fresh as you can, and see what comes blundering past. You smile coquettishly and bat your eyelids in a 'come hither' fashion.

The blogging begins.

Flash forward one year with wavy cinematographic time-travel lines and sound effects that go "scuddly doo scuddly doo scuddly doo!".

Name of blog: Still the same.
Category of blog: Still miscellaneous.
Stuff in blog: Still just your witterings.
Plans for the future: Er . . . carry on regardless.

The other critters in the woodland have turned out to be, not only approachable, but outright friendly and supportive, and there exists, depsite huge variations in form and function, more uniting similarities than differences. I'm not saying there aren't bloggers out there who are beyond liking or even understanding, but if you come in and look around, maybe make a bit of an effort, you will without doubt find someone who shares your interests, or your sense of humour, or your hatred of ginger and fingerless gloves. Or bobble hats. Or the French.

So, here I am, still at it. I was thinking of getting an ID card with "BLOGGER" written on it so that, when I inevitably get caught taking a photo in a public convenience I've got a vague excuse legitimate reason.

Bloggers tell it like it is. Or at least like they think it is, and because history is written by humans and doesn't depend at all on nebulous concepts like "facts" and "truth", this amounts to the same thing.

As Socrates said when he wrote Spiderman, with this great power comes great responsibility. Blogging has an effect on society, very much like walking through a crowded shopping mall whilst wind-milling full nappies at arms length and shouting "LISTEN TO ME!" at the top of your shrill, shrill voice.

It gets noticed.

With this in mind, I manfully shoulder the burden of the blog, and bring important issues to the fore. Things the ordinary man in the basement might not notice.

For instance, I was in Sainsbury's recently and saw that the cafe had one of those wooden shields given out as prizes displayed proudly for all to see. I approached, expecting some sort of Jamie Oliver prize for best carrot and coriander soup, or an award for mopping up aisle three in record time. I snapped a pic:

Turns out it was for the Most Improved Department.

Is it just me or does that simply make you wonder what they were like before they improved? Especially when they seem simply average now?

All the little shields on it were blank as well, and even the fake silver scroll in the middle is bereft of congratulatory wordage, which begs the question of whether or not the shield is simply passed around the various departments in the supermarket in an attempt to boost morale, like giving everyone an "Employee of the Month" certificate at some point regardless of their abilities, even if their productivity is on a par with navel lint and they spell 'customer' with three Zs.

Or maybe it was simply stolen by the cafe supervisor to throw the Environmental Health Officers off the scent.

"Cockroaches? Well, that's impossible because we're the Most Improved Department I'll have you know. Got a shield and everything look. Now, do you want legs in your mulligatawny?"

This post is a
celebration of my one percent of a century of blogging, and reflects on the sorts of things I like to incorporate into this digital tome. Such blue-sky thinking is useful because it allows me to non-sequitur another picture I took into it.

One of my favourite topics is the out-of-context drawing from childrens books, which I am subjected to on a regular basis and so must amuse myself in other ways, as they tend to lack plot twists and surprises.

I've done it before, and I'll do it again. From a recent sojourn to our local library with my sprog:

Splat indeed.

You see? Bringing the important issues to life is the essence of the kernel at the heart of blogging.

No need to thank me. It's what I do.

I'm a blogger.


  1. Hello Jules,

    I can say that from that first moment when I came foraging, you have provided me with humor, yes, but you've also shown me how to see things differently. We all tend to see things from a vantage point that provides us with some level of comfort and security; The Gravel Farm gives dimension to my perspective.

    Thanks and congratulations my friend!


  2. Bloody hell Jules, we went from a delightful introspective on the nature of blogging to a hilarious anecdote about a recent Sainsbury's experience to sheep torture porn for children.

    How do you do it?

    By which I mean, I thoroughly enjoyed this post and congratulations on your 1st anniversary!

  3. Socrates wrote Spiderman?

    Well smack me down with a plank of driftwood and beat me with lizard's tail.


  4. I want to cut and paste that Socrates/Spiderman paragraph and link it to you on my sidebar. Would you let me do that? So funny and so perfect.

    Also, I too have been blogging for about a year, and in that time I have grown and matured and found my voice and PERIOD! THE SHEEP HAS ITS PERIOD!! and really sharpened my own personal voice. It has been quite rewarding.

    Congrats on the year. You always, always make me laugh and you continue to be among my top 3 favorite all time things to read on the webs.

  5. U - From a chap who regularly makes me consider my viewpoint on the world, I take that as a huge compliment. Thank you!

    Soda and Candy - I can be unpredictable. Predictably so. Glad you liked it.

    Mo - It's an education isn't it? It's also not well known that Plato was a ghost writer on Dynasty.

  6. Steamy - lol. Feel free. Me blogga et su blogga. The feeling, btw, is totally reciprocated!

  7. I'm at a complete loss of words to describe how disturbing the sheep / duck / truck image is.

  8. I find it humorous and off-setting at the same moment as I read your wonderful essay of blogging and it seems to parallel my stalking of the eventual Mrs. SkyDad.

  9. Who invented the word "splat", I wonder? Batman and Robin?

  10. The duck is waiting to catch the baby sheep that's about to pop out, right?

    Congratulations on the anniversary!

  11. congratulations, sugar!

    y'all are aces in my book and i am honored to know y'all! xoxoxox

  12. You are, indeed, a blogger; and I am a faithful follower. Carry on, my friend!


  13. Eric - You are very welcome!

    SkylersDad - Are we treading similar trails in the bloggy woodland there?

    GB - Is it an onomatopoeic word, like woof, cuckoo or wank?

    Hunter - Yes. Obstetric ducks are cheaper to employ than proper midwives and were very popular till the bird flu outbreak.

    Savvy - Feelings mutual hun!

    Pearly - I'm gonna try my damnedest, durn it!

  14. I started in December last year myself. This post essentially sums it all up, which is why I'm just going to cut and paste it directly into my blog. I couldn't possibly say it better.

    My favorite part -"Their blogs are all stainless steel and black marble and healthy looking plastic plants."

    OH YES. I vastly prefer your blog to most everything (as Steamy said. Ditto, ditto. :)

    Wait, wait. Do-over. My favorite part is really "nutty loot."

    (Shall I call you later from the theater while wearing my Fezziwig wig? )

  15. One percent of a century eh? I'll keep an eye on you to see you finish the whole century slacking off now.
    You covered blogging quite well except you didnt mention that the best/most entertaining blogs are about nothing..I read one once about a leaf caught in a spiders web..thats all! ..but funny and insightful too.

  16. Blogging: it's a dirty job, Jules, but somebody has to do it. (Why are that sheeps' hindquarters covered in blood - has it just given birth? That would be a different sort of childrens book.)

  17. Vic - As an avid WWYT blog reader, I reckon you could easily say it better, but thank you anyway. Also, you have no idea what an American girl saying Fezziwig wig does to an Englishman!

    Tempo - I'm a specialist blogger. And specialisation is knowing more and more about less and less until eventually you know everything about nothing.

    Gadjo - That would be a useful book and based in reality (other than the duck midwife thing, possibly).

  18. Congratulations!!! Keep it up,the world needs to hear your story!

  19. Has it been a year? Just one? It seems I have been lost in Blogginville for so much more time and wandered into your corner often as I meander in circles, hopelessly lost (and outclassed). What great observations you make. I just get the blog equivalent of poison ivy as I skulk through the brush. And guilty pangs for even thinking of pilfering an idea (they don't stop me, those pangs, though).

    That sheep splat was disturbing...

  20. Splat! That about sums up what goes into my blog... throw a bleeding sheep out there and see what sticks!

    Congrats on 1% of a century!

  21. Congrats Jules. No jokes, your blog is awesome.

    Thanks :-)

  22. Ditto on Alex.

    Mr. Duck and his truck! I've seen that picture a thousand times but not in that exact frame. Thank you for giving me something horrifying to think about as I read it about another thousand times. I'm serious.

  23. Happy blogiversary Jules. I havnt been following you for long, but Ill be here splitting my sides for a long time yet.

  24. Love your style. Brilliant!

    Superior in fact:

    Congrats on the Award!

  25. thinkinfyou - Cheers chuck. I will.

    Douglas - Ha, I know the feeling. And disturbing is my middle name. It's a family tradition.

    CatLadyLarew - Thank you kindly ma'am.

    Al - Cheers bro. Not sure about this 'no jokes' thing though.

    Ana - lol. Enjoy your next bedtime story!

    Passion - Hope so too Pash.

    Charlene - Ta very much! I'm honoured.

  26. Oooh, when you get your "Blogger" ID card, can you let me know where you got it from please?

    I want one too. With a lanyard.

    If it stops me having the bejeebus kicked out of me when I take sneaky photos of amusing fellow commuters on the train, it'll be money well spent.

  27. livesbythewoods - do you want a lanyard or a flip open wallet so you can flash it and say "Let me through, I'm a blogger." ?

    Maybe with some sort of golden shield with a B on it?

  28. I'm so glad that I can join in these celebrations, albeit somewhat late. Even if I am less adventurous than you. You are obviously the Ray Mears of the blogging world. Fearless and intrepid. And a tendency to wear shorts in cold weather.

  29. Was it not a better man who I could find to instill about me the humour of only the driest of tongues?

    If ever a Clan of bloggers existed, you sir would be the head slayer of misery.

  30. Mdme DeF - You're just fashionable and stylish in your timing, Madame. And when it comes to dressing for the blogland it is, as Mr Mears says, all about layers.

    Jimmy - Thank you mate. Glad you liked it.

  31. Cool, congratulations. Quite a milestone, indeed.

    I agree completely with what you said about thinking I would delete my Blogger account in a day or two. It just blows you off the ground and whisks you away to far and distant places.

    Do you hate it too?
    "If you're going through Hell, keep going."
    Holy Holism!


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