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sunita coverMy thanks to Tom Lichtenberg and his brilliantly witty blog, Pigeon Weather Productions for encouraging me to have another look at Wattpad. I’ve had some stories on there for a while that have failed to gain any traction at all, so I’ve always been reluctant to endorse it as a vehicle for independent writing, at least as wholeheartedly as I’ve endorsed Feedbooks and Smashwords in the past. But I decided to have another try with a new story, or rather an old story from my back burner. It’s a hot darn smouldering psychic thriller, with one hot darn smouldering heroine, the titular Sunita. Am I selling it to you? This story doesn’t sound like me at all, which is perhaps why I like it so much.

Tom was suggesting in his piece that actually the thing to do with Wattpad is not to post a complete novel on there, not all at once anyway, but to do it piecemeal, a chapter at a time, like a work in progress and to tease the readers out into wanting more. So that’s what I’ve done and we’ll see how we go from here. I plan on posting roughly a chapter per week, and maybe abandon it if we don’t get any bites by the time I run out of material.

Actually, a part of me is hoping this one doesn’t gain any traction because it currently hangs on a conundrum, about 20,000 words in. and I’ve no idea how to finish it which, as I recall, is why it went on the back burner in the first place. Maybe a few Wattpad bites will give the characters the impetus to get their heads together and come up with a way forward.

At the moment, I’m still of the opinion that Wattpad is for kids, or at best young adults and that mature writers, dealing with middle aged characters will struggle to find anyone of their own kind on there. To whit, I’ve chosen my celebrity cast list, a quirk known only to Wattpad, and find all the leads for my story are in their forties. There’s not a lot of kissing, which is just as well because in my experience young adults find the concept of middle aged kissing disgusting. But it’s a stunningly attractive cast. I mean, who can argue with Shobna Gulati, Martin Freeman, and Jude Law? I hasten to add that the fact Shobna also played a character called Sunita in a well known TV soap is purely coincidental. As far as I know, not being a fan of said soap, that particular Sunita wasn’t endowed with psychic powers, and couldn’t dematerialise at will.

In short, as usual, my story misses all the bases, ticks none of the boxes, and barks up all the wrong trees, but that’s no reason not to like it! While the kids are busy trying to behave like what they think adults should behave like, some of us adults are these days trying to find a way back to being the way we think we should have been as kids!

Kick back, think “fun” and don’t take anything seriously.

What are you waiting for?

 Go get it!

Looping

shadowmanOn the last Friday of February in 2014, I drove in the early morning sunshine to Glasson Marina. It’s an interesting place and a very beautiful part of the Lancashire coastline. I wrote about that day here. Today was the last Friday of February 2015, and I went again. I don’t know why exactly, other than the urge to get out, to feel the wind on my face and the soft earth under my feet, and I couldn’t think of anywhere else – and I remembered that walk so well. I had time owed me, just like last year; the forecast was fair, just like last year, and the snowdrops and the daffodils were starting to push through, just like last year. In the absence of any other motivation, I think we are easily suggestible creatures.

Last year, I shared the carpark with a middle aged guy in an old ragtop. Today I was the middle aged guy in the old ragtop – not a classic MGB like his, but a near classic MX5. Maybe he was the inspiration for my later impulse to buy the car – I don’t know. I recall he also wore an Irvin flying jacket, like a Spitfire Pilot. I thought that was a bit over the top, unless the heaters on those MG’s are rubbish. The Mazda has a heater like a small furnace, so you can easily drive with the top down in mid-winter – not that I tried because it was about 5 degrees. My ragtop is showing signs of wear and the colder it is, the more brittle, so the top stays up until the temperature nudges above 15 degrees.

mazzy at glasson

She made the run easily, some thirty miles of motorway and narrow lane. It’s strange how when I first got her she felt like such a hard ride. Now any other ride feels too soft, and even if I’ve driven her a hundred miles, the first thing I want to do, still, is drive her some more.

But I was here to walk, not just to drive, and I followed much the same route as last year, about six and a half miles of salt marsh and coastal footway. Walking alone, and the conditions being so remarkably similar, both walks – this years and last – blurred into one avant guard production, and I had the impression of a replay layered over the real thing and my self not being able to tell the difference, if the thoughts I’d thought last year were the same as now, or was I walking last year, possessed of memories I did not have at the time, of the year still to come? And what if I come again, next year? So little had changed. I even encountered the same farm tractor spraying slurry in the same meadow, the same ruined tractor abandoned in the same ditch. Was I looping endlessly in time?

There were murmurations of dunlin out over the marsh, like last time, an eerie chorus of peewits calling for curtains on the winter in the meadows behind the long bank at Cockerham, like last time. My eyes scanned the same scenes, the same wayside curiosities, the odd blocks of stone, the tumbled farm buildings. Something must have been different!

All right, this time I called in the parish church, beautiful with the morning sunlight bursting cleanly through the stained glass. There, I bought another novel for my collection from the secondhand stalls at the back. It cost 50p and was serendipitoiusly titled “starting over”. There was such an overwhelming choice of titles in the church I guess reading is pretty big on the pastimes list for Glasson Parishioners. I read the opening paragraph and was hooked at once, carried the book in my pocket for six miles, determined to bin the ones I’m labouring through at the moment. No sense wasting one’s life on things that don’t connect. We must hold to the ones who love us, and let go the one’s who don’t, just as we cannot hold on to what we are not meant to keep, and cannot lose what is meant for us, even if we throw it away.

old trawler glasson basin

There was the same boat sunk in the dock, but different faces in the Lantern Oer Lune cafe. No all day breakfast this time either, but a more demure omelette with a side salad, even though I’d asked for chips. Still, I enjoyed it, and I’m not one to make a fuss. My sense of smell had even put in an unexpected return – not so much that I could smell anything, but that I could at least taste my lunch, and that coffee tasted very nice indeed after two hours of a stiff salted wind coming off the bay.

I drove home a different way to last year, picking up the A6 at Garstang, but not before crossing over the canal and having a flashback to 1972 or thereabouts, and a fishing trip with a friend and his father. How I hated fishing, but pretended I did not because it’s good to have friends. He was to die on a race-track, ten years later. He would have loved the MX5. I felt guilty I had not thought of him in a while. He was engaged to be married, and I wonder what kind of life he would have made for himself – if we’d still be friends or if by now we would have drifted apart as so many friends do.

I looked for us down on the canal bank, fishing. But we weren’t there. It must have been another day, another season.

Fancy a run to Glasson? Hop in.

 

 

man writing - gustave caillebot - 1885I’ve been reading back over my stuff and noticed I’ve used the word “senescence”. I know why that happened. I was reading a column by the novelist and sometimes TV pundit Will Self, famous for his use of the obscure word, and I think I adopted “senescence” from him. I was half sure I knew what it meant from the context, but looked it up to be sure, found I was right, and that I liked the word, so it finds a home now in my lexicon. I don’t know if it’s familiar to others, but I can’t be afraid of using it in case they’re not, otherwise where do we stop? We would end up self editing and dumbing ourselves down to the level of Janet and John.

He has a lot of critics, Will Self, people who call him unkind names for using those obscure words. And we all remember Orwell (George), don’t we? Orwell said you should never use a long word when a shorter one will do – something that’s often been misinterpreted as meaning: don’t use poncy language. But I don’t think that’s what Orwell meant. I think he meant: don’t use a long word when a shorter one will do.

Senescence doesn’t have a shorter equivalent – a string of words might get at it, but that would use more column inches than using the single definitive word, which , after all is only three syllables long. So, I’m sorry but “senescence” nails it. Senescence is not a poncey word. And I like it. I shall use it again.

Reading Will Self, I realise we have some very beautiful words in the English language, but they are becoming obscure, like rare creatures on the verge of extinction, our language deadened, perhaps by writers who are afraid to use the less trodden path, writers who are influenced by other writers who are afraid to sound poncey.

Personally, I like the word “mellifluous”. It doesn’t come up every day, but I have used it, I think, in my last novel somewhere. Does that make me a poncey writer too? Or worse, does it make me a wannabe intellectual? Dodgy word that: Intellectual. God spare us from those wannabe intellectuals, from a population with any aspiration towards independent thinking. We’d better give him a good drubbing, that poncey git. Who does he think he is? Does he think we should all carry a dictionary around every time we sit down to read a newspaper?

Tocsin! Curious word that. Semantically unintuitive. It means an alarm bell, a warning, or if used metaphorically, then an omen. Is “omen” not the better word then because it’s a few letters shorter? Or is that only because it’s more familiar? Is it then only the words the majority of us have forgotten that acquire the moniker: poncey?

I do enjoy reading Will Self – his columns at least – I’ve yet to brave any of his novels, as they have a fearsomely literary reputation, but I shall give him a go one day. He says a lot of challenging things, things not everyone agrees with, including at times me, but to his considerable credit, he is not afraid to send ripples through the status quo. And art is not about merely prettifying the world, it is about provoking a reaction, whatever that reaction might be.

By contrast, I am the consummate fence-sitter. If you want a good argument, don’t come sparring with me. You’ll find me too slippery and we’ll part company with you thinking I agree with everything you’ve said, when I might not – but then my language skills are such that I can make you believe anything I want. I am deceitful in that sense.

Desideratum! Oh, come on, that’s not so difficult a word. I think most of us can make a guess at that one. Again, you don’t see it very often which is a pity because it’s such a pretty word, five syllables and it makes the tongue stroke the palate in a curiously apposite way. Everyone all right with apposite? Perhaps I should have used “appropriate” there except appropriate scores higher on the syllable count and is by that score at least therefore the more poncey word, but it’s in wider use, and more familiar,… so,…

I know, some big words are ugly – especially the more technical ones: Antidisestablishmentarianism – you don’t see that one very often do you, and thank goodness! But I think what I’m getting at here is we should not be afraid of using the unfamiliar word if it gets at what we mean. I don’t mind looking it up, and if I like it, I’ll use it, recycle it, reintroduce it into the wilds of our colourful and dynamic language.

It’s an uncomfortable truth that by far the majority of writers writing today are writing for free on the internet, which means we have a choice: we can either take our influence from the homogenisation of language into the very lean fayre it appears to be becoming, monochromic and listless, or we can interest ourselves in those rarer words, hiding now in the shadows of a more commonly accepted language. In short then, if a short word won’t do, don’t be afraid of using a longer one.

booksI’m reading a lot at the moment, enjoying working through a pile of novels I’ve been acquiring, and promising myself I’d get around to one day. Well now I have. I should add I rarely buy novels from the bookstore now, or Amazon. Sorry about that Mr Publisher, but the economy’s still broken. I know, it’s my fault things are refusing to pick up because I’m not spending enough of my relatively piddling salary on consumer goods, but I really don’t feel like it. Since we’re all in it together, as our politicians are fond of reminding us, austerity remains my watchword! Alas, while indeed we are all in it together, to shamefully misquote from a particularly famous novel, some of us are clearly more in it than others. Thus the high streets of our little market towns continue their decline, and the busiest shops of all are the charity shops.

And since austerity, in my book, means doing for a couple of quid what any fool can do for a tenner, I’m a great fan of charity shops now. On Saturdays I’m often to be found in either the British Heart Foundation, or Age Concern mooching about in their entertainment section. My spending on pleasure has plummeted as a result, but paradoxically, the pleasure I’m getting has increased ten-fold. They provide an eclectic and at times a delightfully serendipitous experience. I’m told by the more stuck up of my acquaintances that charity shops smell, and I seem to remember they do – kind of mushroomy – but since I’ve no sense of smell, I really don’t care about that.

A while back, I took a chance on a novel by John Banville – The Untouchable. It’s one of his older works, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely. It cost me £2.00. That same trip I came away with a DVD copy of V for Vendetta (£2.00) and a Stevie Nicks’ 1981 album, Bella Donna, (£2.00). That’s a lot of bang for my bucks. Of course when you go into a charity shop it’s not a question of expecting them to have what you want – more a question of wanting what they have. And often I find that I do.

By contrast this weekend, I paid full whack for a novel which I won’t name because there’s nothing nice I can say about it. I got it from the supermarket, on impulse, because I liked the cover and it had glowing reviews from big newspapers, and the blurb sold it to me really well. But when I began to read the book, I realised what the blurb hadn’t told me was it was quite an old story, written about the same time as that John Banville novel, actually, except it had been flogged to me in a shiny new cover as brand new and the next big thing.

I didn’t enjoy the story. It was an interesting premise, but the telling of it didn’t sit well with me at all, and I abandoned it half way through. I have read more engaging tales I got for free from Feedbooks, and I am not being cynical when I say I could not imagine presenting such a manuscript to an agent nowadays in the expectation it would ever be published. Yet clearly it was. Twice. At intervals ten years apart.

The John Banville story was returned to the charity shop this weekend with a lot of other books I’ve enjoyed in recent months so others might enjoy them, and so the pounds in their pockets will go to worthy causes, causes other than attempting feeble CPR on a financial system that is in any case irredeemably broken, and would perhaps be better replaced by something else. The other one, the one I felt was a cleverly packaged deceit and which therefore so aptly represents the system that has led to these dire financial straits, went in the bin.

It was a weak and futile gesture I know, but I felt cheated by it, and it was the only way I could give it the Agincourt salute it so sorely deserved, except also to say I am even less likely now to be tempted back to the glossy rows of newly published titles in the bookshops and supermarkets. I would also like to urge you all to visit your charity shop, as they are often the only bookshops still open in our little market towns these days, fortunately also among the more eclectic and interesting, provided you have no idea what you’re looking for in the first place.

Temporal Anomalies

waltham 3Mechanical time-pieces are a passion – wristwatches, pocket watches, clocks. The physics that drives them is as old as Newton, but it still works well enough for everyday purposes. I have a Waltham pocket watch that’s been ticking since 1873, and can still be relied upon. When it began its life, we navigated the world under sail. Now we have people orbiting the earth in the weightless habitats of outer space, and it’s still ticking. Continuity. That’s a key concept in my fascination for time-pieces. It is not the passing of time that interests me, nor less do I fear it in personal terms; it is more the slow circling of time through the seasons of life, and its relationship with seasons passed, and of other lives that seems the more important thing, the thing that enlivens my imagination. Mechanical time-pieces are Romantic.

We must be careful however, as with all Romantic ideals, not to be too simplistic or literal in their interpretation. I have a family piece among my pocket watches, an English Lever, a lumbering great lump of silver Victoriana, of which I’m fond and spent a good deal of money rousing from its senescence. I had in mind the idea of this watch timing the beats of my life, as it had timed the beats of my grandfather’s. But for all of my enthusiasm it resists my wishes. Sometimes it’s passably accurate, but if it should settle awkwardly in the pocket it will stop and leave you floundering, unanchored in time. It is telling me that the past, while often-times alluring, and peppered with the sparkle-dust of pseudo-insight, is not always to be relied upon, that indeed nostalgia, as they say, isn’t what it used to be. Time is not nostalgia; it is a living thing, passed down from one generation to the next, not that we might simply go on measuring it, but that we might continue actively creating it.

Longevity is important, not so much the personal – indeed there is something unhealthy in the quest for personal immortality, something materialistic and a little embarrassing – but in the devices that survive us, or which come to us from our forebears, we see the little wayside stones indicative of progress along the collective path of mankind’s journey. I have a collection of torsion clocks, mechanical devices that will run for a year from a single wind. They are not precise instruments, indeed I note this evening they all tell a different time. Curiously however, if you take the average of them the result always zeros in pretty well to the truth. They make fourteen winds since I was forty, fifty four since before I was born. I think the message here is that we need to think beyond the limit of our own small lives, also to come at things from several angles if we want to be sure of what we’re aiming at.

I remember the advent of the digital Liquid Crystal Display watch in the 80’s: incredible accuracy, and no need to wind the thing. You could fall asleep for a week and it would still be running, still reliably telling the story of your time. But for me, it was not a love affair that lasted very long. Something was lost, I felt, in the literal telling of the numbers, something that was more easily retained in the abstract tilt of fingers against a circular dial. Numbers are more of a mathematical truth, axiomatic in their bluntness, and the mind must decipher them through its fuzzy apperatus first, convert them to a more abstract form before we can properly interpret them. You see few LCD watches now, though they were once thought to be the height of modernity, in the long ago.

DSCF5004So it was the quartz analogue watch, the watch with the electronic heart and the traditional fingers, that seemed, for a time, to contain the promise of all times-future. I bought several in succession, preferring always robustness and utility over the fanciness of multifunction. The durability of time in the harshness of the elements, that was my forte. That they might tell their split-second time reliably amid the rain and rock and running water of my life, seemed the finest thing. But they would stop suddenly, unpredictably when the battery ran down. Yes, it might take a few years, but the thought of being cast out of time at some indeterminately inconvenient point in my life preyed upon me like a neurosis, so when the solar watch was invented, I bought one, feeling for a while the world was once more secure in the turning of those fingers on my wrist. So long as the sun rose each day, the watch would sip of its light and run, navigating me seamlessly and effortlessly through all the temporal twists of my journey, rain and rock and running water included.

And yet,… there was something unnervingly impersonal about this perfection because it seemed also to exclude me. It mattered not if I wore the watch; it would still speak for anyone who picked it up, in perpetuity, maybe long after I was gone. I was no longer a part of the equation of my times. I added nothing. I had lost my personal involvement with it. So I came full circling back to the mechanics of Newton, and the older watches among my collection.

roamer
I have always had the Roamer. It was my father’s, but I rarely wear it, so treasured a thing it is for other reasons. I think it’s his prematurely arrested journey I feel enmeshed within it, and I prefer not to taint the purity of that imagining with imagining the times of my own. I’ll leave it to my children to figure that one out. I also have the Rolex, which I bought in a fit of first-salary madness as a singleton, forty years ago, and which I also rarely wear, because I fear to scratch its exquisitely pristine shininess, and because it costs more to service than my car, and is indeed worth more than my car. Neither it seems are good candidates for telling the story of my day to day – only as fingers pointing back to an earlier ideology that still finds resonance.

seiko orient

So we come to the more recent mechanical Seiko 5, a cute little automatic aviator, self winding, and likewise the more dressy Orient Symphony. Both of them of good quality, Japanese manufacture, but not expensively so. This pair of automatics are my day to day, though the story of my time moves on, and I’m sure this will not be the case in another ten years. There will always be another twist, another lesson along the way. But for now, I rest more easily in the fact that the automatic moves so long as I move, that its little variations on the theme of time vary with the temperature on my wrist, and the way I set it down at night to sleep. It is more personal, and there is something Romantic in the notion that a universe spinning that does not contain each and every one of us at its centre, is not a thing worth measuring.

rolex
Absolute quartz-served accuracy is unimportant. I have a clock that takes its timings from the atomically adjusted pulses from the transmitter at Anthorn in Cumbria (UK). It’s a useful reference, once in a while, but rather an overkill for the day to dayness of my life. On the hour. Quarter past. Half past. Quarter to. A variation of plus or minus a few minutes on these quadrilateral datums is surely permissible? Indeed I think the universe is seen best through blurred vision. Obsession with accuracy divides us only more into the camps of late and early, when the more insightful approach accepts both labels at once. Ambiguity is the truer reality. Am I late or early? What time is it? Chill out, man, it’s near enough. The time in fact is now, the watch more a gatherer of moments like beads upon a string, sweeping them up the one after the other, than a mere teller of the time.

Look at your watch now, or the clock on the mantel, but look beyond the time, and ask yourself what other tales it tells.

OWith Fifty Shades the Movie opening at cinemas in time for Valentine’s Day, one might be tempted to think it’s now okay for a man to physically restrain a woman and have his way with her any way he chooses, and that there’s something wrong with the woman if she doesn’t enjoy it. So let me begin on a cautionary note and say to all the men out there who might be thinking along these lines, I suggest you discuss the matter first very carefully with your lady, because she may not share your views. Bondage and sadomasochism are among the darker paths in human relations; the psychology is complex, arguably pathological but, in simpler terms, the emotions it arouses, while reportedly powerful, are not to be confused with love.

Let me pause for breath here and say I have not read Fifty Shades, nor will I be taking the good Lady Graeme to watch the movie. I have, however, read the Story of O, the 1955 novel by Pauline Reage, and from which all semi-pornographic bondage bonk-busters are derived.

It tells the tale of a young woman, known to us simply as “O”, a lovely ingénue who is drawn by her posh boyfriend into a secret circle of wealthy men whose sadomasochistic mores see O reduced to the status of a mere possession. O is at first horrified to find herself abducted, then inducted into all manner of degrading sexual practice, punctuated by frequent whippings, as anything resembling an independence of spirit is beaten out of her. The story persuades us she eventually sees the light, becomes a submissive chattel, and begins to take pleasure, indeed to see the very meaning of her life in sexually compliant slavery and regular whippings. The power of the story, and I did find it a powerfully compelling read, is that Reage achieves all of this without the use of a single naughty word. (would-be erotic authors take note)

sexygirlThe story of O is not pornography, in the same way Lawrence’s Lady Chatterly is not pornography, though both these works were ground-breaking in their time to the extent of finding themselves in the courts on charges of obscenity. Of the two, in my opinion, Lady Chatterly is easily the more literary, though O, winner of the French Prix de Deux Magots, cannot be dismissed as mere smut.

The paradox of O is the depiction of a woman sexually liberated by masculine domination, a liberation that can only come through her willingness to submit to anything her master(s) desire, and to revel in their punishments. The men are depicted as unrelentingly repulsive, and the women, including O, I’m afraid, as impenetrably dim. The men take the women however and whenever they choose, they remodel the shape of them to better suit their idea of a sexually desirable object, then brand their bottoms with a mark of ownership when the women “graduate” as fully fledged chattels.

When O meets an ordinary Joe who falls embarrassingly in love with her, she is incapable of responding in the normal way, and her dismissive treatment of him highlights the dramatic change that has been wrought in this former ingénue by her new lifestyle. The suggestion is that she now operates at a higher level of her being, emotionally and sexually, and that an ordinary man, one who would treat her kindly, is too tame and incapable of handling or even arousing the passions she is now familiar with. All this thanks to the wealthy male predators who own her.

But all of this is fantasy, and Reage doesn’t shy away from hitting you over the head with the darker implications of the endgame of any relationship built on such murky foundations. In short, the story of O does not end well. It’s a tale that can be read in many ways, but if you’re only in it for the titillation you’re seriously missing out. I found it rather a cautionary tale, for when the men tire of O, as all possessions are eventually tired of, she is unable to contemplate a return to the banality of her former life as a free woman and a human being, and the suggestion is that in one version of the ending, her then master, in a last act of gross masochism, grants her the wish that she be relieved of the necessity.

Any sufficiently sensitive man reading the Story of O cannot help but examine his own self for traces of the abominable chauvinism Reage depicts, and question any culture, closed or open, that would reduce its women to the status of objects, sexual or otherwise.

sexygirl2I have at times been in the company of men whose vulgar talk regarding the opposite sex has left me in no doubt as to their primitive attitudes. Whether they also share these views with their wives is anyone’s guess, but – and I speak as a man here – there is definitely a tendency in men that would sooner simplify women to the status of compliant sexual vessels, without the inconvenience of having to treat them as fellow human beings, with thoughts and fears and feelings. But again we must remind ourselves it is a fantasy, one we should take care not to let out of the box for too long, nor take too seriously, because, to paraphrase Alice, Nicole Kidman’s character, at the end of Stanley Kubrics “Eyes wide shut” the best we can hope, where sexual fantasies are concerned, is that we survive them.

Sex of course is one of life’s great pleasures, but by far the more valuable is the companionship of another human being whom you love and respect, and whose mere presence makes you feel bigger than you do when you are alone. I don’t want to pour scorn upon Fifty Shades the movie – there’ll be plenty of people doing that no doubt, as they did with the books – but I cannot help feeling a sneaking admiration for its author, a fellow indie, and a rare example of our breed who made good, made the crossover to the big time. So do read the books and go to the cinema and revel in the fantasy, if you think it might be your bag, but don’t lose sight of what’s real in human relations; remember it’s rather the exception to make love using ropes and whips and sticky tape, than the rule. So guys, don’t make your girl do what she’s not naturally inclined to do. That she wants to be with you at all is a prize in itself, so don’t push your luck.

Fifty Shades does not pretend to be literature, but if  you want to take a more literary view of the erotic you could try the story of O. But be warned, like O, you may get more than you bargained for.

Levelling up!

because you writeI’m a little disappointed. I was expecting one of those virtual stickers from WordPress this week, telling me my blog has achieved 100,00 clicks. They’ve awarded me stickers in the past – so many followers, so many likes, a spike in your click-rate and so on. Perhaps I was insufficiently excited by them at the time, and I’m now worried the teacher has turned scowly on me. But I never did see the point of those stickers, either now or in the old days when I was at primary school, so I don’t know why I’m piqued at this lack of recognition by the meister of all blog-meisters. After all, anyone can rack up a hundred thousand clicks – it’s just a question of sticking around for long enough.

Of course, persistence is not a thing to be frowned upon, unless within it one also detects the strains of a pathological compulsion. But since I still gain a self sustaining pleasure from the blogging, without lapsing into fits of Clareian despair, or old-boy cynicism, I think I’m on the sunny side of safe, at least on that score.

It’s when the stats become the bee all, and we are for ever anticipating our inevitable celebrity we should consider more carefully our situation, and remember the lone blog is a platform from which fame and fortune shall be for ever elusive, no matter how many times we level up. So this cannot be the primary reason for blogging, or for writing in general. The writer must find the fuel within himself for the onward journey, not from the plaudits showered upon us, because more often than not we shall be labouring under a drought. The clouds rise, says the I Ching, they grow heavy, but still no rain falls, and for the want of this small thing our way is delayed. It’s true the journey may not appear to be leading anywhere, but if a writer is sufficiently self concious they will realise that progress is indeed being made – only more deeply within, than out.

That said, the stats page can provide the occasional twinkling nugget of intrigue, like how a few days ago I gained double the number of hits in one day, and all of them from Germany, but with no indication if the interest was general or specific, nor if I had pleased or offended my reader(s) there. And I am not often read in Germany. The stats also suggest my unexpected exposure in Uganda throughout last year, on account of a single piece of doggerel, is now on the wane. Hits are, however, on up in other areas, due to my blog being listed as an “external source” on Feedbooks’ Wikipedia page.

It’s these little things that intrigue and tease, but for the vast majority of writers writing today, the writing has never and will never pay the bills. It can therefore only ever be a voice in the crowd. And if we work online, our carefully crafted paragraphs will be occasionally festooned, leech like, by random adverts, and carelessly farmed by clankingly obtuse robots to appear elsewhere, torn brutally out of their natural context. So it is all the comments and the likes that remain the true yield-crop worth this hundred thousand click harvest – indications I am occasionally read by my fellow human beings. Long may I value all such contact over those artificial milestones, be they recognised by WordPress or not. But speaking personally, if the next hundred thousand clicks are as enjoyable as the last, it’ll be worth sticking around and levelling up some more.

Goodnight all.

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