Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Now We Are 1

Today is this blog's first birthday. Champagne corks have been popping and streamers flying all morning here at Lupin Towers. Even poor old Wolfgang, who silently watches over my musings, fell foul of a party popper.
On this special occasion, forgive me if I blog about blogging. I was going to say if I write a self-referential post but you would only shout 'Nothing new there, then.'

This blog was an unplanned baby. A year ago many of us had been blown away by a new television comedy called Green Wing. On the Channel 4 message boards someone said that one of the writers had a blog - James Henry. Wishing to put a comment on his blog I found I had to register with Blogger and somehow arrived at the page for creating a blog. For no other reason than curiosity about how the system worked, I created a blog. But if you'd told me that I would post something almost every day for the next year I'd have said that you didn't know me very well.
Perhaps I didn't know myself very well.

Blogging is supposed to be a quick and easy way of sharing your thoughts on the internet. You see something on the news, log into Blogger, type your thoughts into the Blogger window, click Publish and go and have your tea.
If only.
Anyone who has ever lost an entire post when Blogger has malfunctioned types their post into Wordpad or some other program first and then copies and pastes it into Blogger.
I'm also a very slow writer and sometimes get stuck on a single sentence for 15 minutes, either because I can't find the metaphor that is hiding in the recesses of my brain or because I can't get the structure of the sentence right.

Once a post is written, there's a long process of editing and tinkering. I may have used 'tinkering' in two consecutive sentences so have to find a synonym. The rhythm of a sentence may be wrong so words have to be re-arranged or words added. (And for the ten thousandth time I have to check the spelling of 'rhythm') Prose has to flow smoothly and be written as though it were going to be spoken aloud because when we read we are hearing it in our heads. There's nothing worse than having to read a sentence again because the way it was constructed didn't convey the stress, and possibly the meaning, that the writer intended.

Trying to write humorous prose, as opposed to writing 'gags', is even more challenging. When I wrote about the Kentucky Fried Chicken ads, the phrase "poultry-based courtship ritual" was funny in a way that "chicken-based courtship ritual" would not have been. There is no rational reason why this should be so. Similarly, in one of Coward's plays - Hay Fever, I think - there's a line "on a clear day you can see Cookham" which always gets a big laugh in the theatre. Nobody knows why. Writing, and particularly humorous writing, is a fascinating and mysterious business and it's a subject I could bore you with for another ten thousand words. Although I've identified various techniques, I never employ them consciously but can identify them afterwards. But I'll save that for another day.

Once the post has been pasted into Blogger it has to be correctly formatted and proof-read. One thing I've learned is to hit the return key as often as possible. Long unbroken chunks of text on the web are a big turn-off.
If you use photos on a blog, there's the fiddle of editing them and pasting in links and, if you take your own photos, the process is even longer.
For this post, I intended to steal a picture of a birthday cake but ended up doing my own. This was because I became traumatised by going through 25 pages of Google photos of one year old brats with their faces covered in chocolate, marzepan and icing. Many of them were trying to put their hand on the lighted candle, which might have punished them for smearing cake all over their faces, but I wasn't going to spend an hour trying to airbrush an infant hand out of a picture.
My own photo shoot took only half an hour. It was delayed when a party popper exploded in my hand and it wasted a pefectly good muffin which became covered in candle wax. If anyone has a predilection for waxed muffins, I'll send it to you.

Ideas for blog topics are not usually a problem. Yesterday I found a sheaf of about 20 sheets of A4 covered in possible blog topics. Each of these sheets is also covered in dozens of Post-It notes with more blog topics on them. Only a fraction of these subjects have been written about. That's because some trivial thing happens in your daily life that you think will make 'good copy' and the 500 words you'd intended to write an a serious topic gets pushed aside.

Or vice versa. I never wrote about the day I was in the supermarket at 7.30 am and stumbled on a man and woman engaged in what used to be called 'heavy petting' next to the Dairy Products. The cold chill from the refrigerator was doing nothing to cool their passion and when I tried to quietly help myself to some extra thick double cream they glared at me as though I were a voyeur. I decided that two people who were making the beast with two backs, albeit fully clothed, in a supermarket aisle as dawn was breaking were almost certainly each married to somebody else. And I forgot to buy any bread because I was too busy creating a 'back story' for the Tesco Two. Anyway, that's another topic I can now cross off the list.

I also found a previously unpublished list of things I could be doing that would be less beneficial to myself and possibly more harmful to society than blogging. These included:
Barbershop singing
Church bell ringing
Hand bell ringing
Any other kind of fucking bell ringing
Renovating old traction engines
Strumming a guitar and singing 'Kumbaya'
Making my own muesli
Towing a caravan down the M5 every weekend
Practising Tai Chi in the local park
Having Mission Impossible as a ringtone.

Another one ticked off.
I see that I never wrote about National Erectile Dysfunction Week, probably because it's always better to write about things you've experienced. Or maybe I wrote something but the humour was limp and the argument didn't stand up. See what I mean?
I don't know what 'request for porn' means. I've never requested porn. Had someone asked me to write some? If so, please call back, as they say on Crimewatch.

You've also been spared:
the origins of the phrase 'Crimes of Paris!';
some apparent connection between Games Theory and chocolate bars;
the socio-dynamics of the pub lock-in;
speculation on why a secondhand book I bought was inscribed with 'best wishes' to someone's mother, rather than 'love';
and the most off-putting blog descriptions I've seen - the current winner being: "a collection of some of my photos, most of them taken from a Kodak KB10 camera, one of the most economical ones around". Don't you just long for a more intimate relationship with that person?

Since plagiarism is one of the things that oils the wheels of the blogosphere, I've decided, with some trepidation, to mark this birthday by doing something that Sarah at Anchored Nomad did a few months back and invite you to send in questions. They can be serious, trivial, personal (but not too personal!). I will answer them here in a few days' time. You can either put them in the Comments Box or email them to

Finally, a big thank you to all my readers. I don't have one of the biggest readerships in the blogosphere but there are far more of you than I ever expected. I don't think of you as friends because I think that term should be reserved for people you really know in the real world. With some of you I have a gut feeling that we'd get on well if we ever met. But it's equally possible that we'd find each other insufferable.
Here in cyberspace, you're a self-selecting group who I speak to every day. You're there because you either share many of my views or because you find my posts entertaining, or both. That alone makes you a very special and valued group of people. So, in an uncharacteristic outburst of sentimentality, love and big hugs to you all.
Normal cynicism will be resumed tomorrow.


At 12:05 PM, Anonymous Alan said...

It's the same way that the word "fart" is only funny to a ten year old, but "botty burp" will get a laugh out of everybody.

Happy blogiversary or whatever the term is. And in answer to the last question, it's because I may not always agree with you, but I always admire how much thought has gone into your arguments anyway.

I'll have to think about questions.

At 2:37 PM, Blogger cello said...

Happy birthday blog. Tell your owner that he can be a miserable git sometimes, but he's always miserable with class and charisma. And he even makes me laugh sometimes. But love and hugs? Good God - there must have been an alien invasion.

At 2:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy birthday, Mr Lupin!

I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for one of the best written, most intelligent blogs on the interweb thingy. You've confirmed what I'd suspected - you actually put a fair bit of work into your writing.

Have you read a small book by Keith Waterhousecalled "English our English (and how to sing it)"? Most excellent guide what makes good prose.

And my real question: what do you do (or did you do) for a living? Of course I realise that Lupin Towers and its rolling acres were inherited from illustrious forebears (or were there only three bears?), but there's the servants' wages and the wine merchant's bill to meet.

- Tony -

At 3:24 PM, Blogger Jane said...

Congratulations. Entertaining us unwashed masses with your usual wit and style.

At 7:40 PM, Blogger Lost said...

Happy Blogday!

At 5:56 AM, Blogger Betty said...

Belated greetings.

You are indeed the guvnor of blogging.

At 6:33 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Thank you for all your kind comments.

Tony: I've read Waterhouse's 'On Newspaper Style' several times but not the book you mention which I'll now look out for. I'll return to your question in due course.

cello: I can be quite 'touchy-feely' in the right circumstances which, in my younger days, was after half a bottle of vodka.

At 10:21 AM, Blogger JonnyB said...

I'm a bit late. But I've been away.



Are you James Henry?

At 12:16 PM, Blogger Norbert Trouser-Quandary said...

Well done for keeping it up for a year. It is now one of the (very few) blogs where I make a point of reading each and every post, rather than just skimming the headlines in my feed reader.

I first came across (sorry)MFME when you linked to a post of mine on my now defunct and deleted blog 'Stuff and Nonsense' (Louise in the Woods), and have been calling back every day since.

Funny thing is that one day soon I'm going to repost that very same post on my new(er) blog in the very near future. Perhaps you could link to it again and I could then link it back to your original post about my original post and then... I dunno what would happen... an endless loop... or would the entire blogosphere disappear up its own... er... whatever it is it has got.

At 1:43 PM, Blogger portuguesa nova said...

Yay! Ditto Tony's comments. And, really it is quite obvious that most of us do not take the time and effort or have the ability to put out something of consistent quality for one whole year.

My questions:

1. If you did want to make your own museli, would you know how?
2. I've always been similarly curious about the job thing.
3. Have you ever been to the US?
4. Who is James Henry?
5. If I were to ever make it out of Portugal while on your continent, and we were meet for a drink, what would I order you to celebrate your blogiversary?

At 2:47 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

jonny: since I have never received any cheques from Talkback Productions I think I can safely say I am not James Henry, nor, for that matter, the late Henry James.

David: good to hear from you again and to know you are one of the usually silent majority.
Re-posting blog posts - now there's a good wheeze. TV channels do it all the time. Not that Louise doesn't bear repetition although I think it was something that was most likely to appeal to writers.
"Would the entire blogosphere disappear up its own.....whatever it has got" - I'm sure the full, original phrase is appropriate in view of the amount of shit that comes out of the blogosphere.

pn: thank you. You're no slouch at the keyboard yourself.
As you may have gathered from the above, James Henry is a distinguished television scriptwriter (and blogger). I'll answer/evade your other questions in a day or two.

At 9:32 AM, Blogger james henry said...

To add to the confusion, Ori was convinced for some time that JonnyB and I were the same person, despite clearly being written about (and from) different sides of the country. There is also a comedy writer called James Hendrie, to add to the confusion. But I am not him,

Happy blog birthday WL, and may there be many more.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger mike said...

Happy blog birthday. I don't comment on here very often, but I read every word.

At 6:46 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Thanks, James.
I always blame you for starting me on this daily treadmill which is rather unfair because you didn't actually force me to start a blog.

It would be a clever trick to write two blogs in different personas and styles. Sounds like the kind of thing you might do on a creative writing course. You'd also need a lot of hours to fill every day.

Mike, thank you. You may not comment often but on several occasions you have given very good link.

At 8:34 AM, Blogger james henry said...

I said 'add to confusion' twice, which is annoying. And also adds to... never mind.

At 9:22 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

I didn't even notice, James.
But, in that old phrase, even Homer nodded.
I suppose one can't use that any more because people would think you were referring to the bloody Simpsons.

At 10:01 AM, Blogger Reluctant Nomad said...

Happy Birthday! Now get back to tackling that list of unblogged about topics!

At 8:23 AM, Blogger Alan Saunders said...

" I was in the supermarket at 7.30 am and stumbled on a man and woman engaged in what used to be called 'heavy petting' next to the Dairy Products. "

Ah. That would be me and Mrs Kobold then. WE were almost certainly married at that point, or at least heavily commited.

I don't remember glaring, though. Are you sure you didn't imagine it?

At 8:39 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Of all the supermarkets in all the world, why did you have to heavy pet in mine?
But I think it unlikely it was you, having checked your location which is a considerable distance from me. Unless you travel to distant supermarkets where you won't be recognised.


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