Tag Archives: blogging101

Thoughts on a regular update

I’m struggling to work out what I should be posting on as a regular thing, so thought I’d ask you what you thought.  Looking at my stats, there seems to be a relatively even spread across the Lifestyle and Travel items I do, but is that just because they’ve been the main topics of Blogging 101, or are they what people are generally interested in? Please take a moment or two to let me know what you think

So, without further ado and no more procrastination, here goes. This will be my first attempt at setting up a poll, so bear with me!


It was meant to be just like this

Over at https://myredpage.wordpress.com/2015/06/15/red-echo-date/ the weekly event set the challenge of writing a post relating to “When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” as quoted by Paulo Coelho.  There are two recent events which I think show this to be true.

First, earlier this month I travelled to north-west Scotland with my partner, my partner’s mother and her husband for a week long holiday overlooking the Isle of Skye.  I’m pretty sure that most people will know that Scotland has a very deserved reputation for two things in particular: bad weather, particularly rain and cloud, and midges, those annoying biting insects which gather in their legions around any breathing thing.  This was a pilgrimage to the family home, and my partner hadn’t been there for some 25 years or more.

Imagine our surprise when heading off on holiday on the Friday evening we had glorious sunshine for the drive to the Scottish border, and all day on the Saturday while driving around Annandale and Eskdale – and then being even sunnier for the long drive up to the Kyle area on the Sunday.  A smidgeon of rain as we drove over the hill known as Mam Ratagan brought the midges out in droves as we unpacked the cars – and that was it for the rest of the week!  The next rain we saw was on the Saturday, just as we came over Mam Ratagan to start the journey south, and we were treated to torrential rain and wind for the next 3-4 hours: that was more typically Scottish weather!

My partner’s mother had always wanted to see the sea eagles that nest nearby, but had never seen them in all the years she’d lived in and visited the region.  Guess what?  On her birthday, out of season, a sea eagle made an appearance, stayed in sight for a full five minutes, calling constantly to its mate – and then, on hearing an answering call, flew off into the distance.

I think this is a very fine example of wanting something to be just so, and the universe (or perhaps the spirits of the departed) conspiring to make it happen.

The second example I have is even more recent.  Last weekend saw the Battle of Britain 75th Anniversary airshow at Duxford, near Cambridge.  The main attraction was a mass flight of Spitfires and Seafires, as well as a number of Hurricane fighters and the Red Arrows. The whole weekend had been sold out for some time, but we’d managed to get tickets early enough.

Not really knowing what to expect (it had been years since I’d been to an airshow) my partner and I left relatively early in the morning.  With very little queueing, we were directed to our parking space, conveniently near one of the exhibition halls.  As luck would have it, there was a great spot to sit near one of the barriers and close enough to the tannoy to be able to hear what was going on all day.  And then the real treat – most of the air displays seemed to involve planes flying towards us and then banking away, all in glorious sunshine.  The sound was just incredible (I may need to write a sequel to this as the sounds of all those Merlin engines was spine tingling) and made the day just awesome. When the planes had finished their displays, almost all taxied past us at a distance of about 20 feet.  We couldn’t have chosen a better place to sit!

The cloud only started to make an appearance late on in the day, and served to provide an amazing backdrop as the Red Arrows closed out the event.  The final treat (if you can call it that) was that as we were parked only a couple of minutes walk from where we’d been sitting, we also got out pretty quickly.  There were 24000 people there that day and we were out of the car park within about 20 minutes.

I think that was another example of wanting something to be perfect, and the fates conspiring to make it so.

If you can’t explain it to…

…those with no knowledge of a subject, then you probably don’t understand the topic well enough yourself.  (That’s more or less what Einstein said, but he contradicted himself by also saying, on another occasion, that “If I could explain it to the average person, I wouldn’t have been worth the Nobel Prize”.)

The first statement is a truism I think, one that I’ve sought to address with my posts here.  The main aim of that section on my blog is to get away from confusing words and language, and to explain things so the layman can understand them.  I’ve even had positive feedback on one of the articles from my father, who said he understood it all – not bad for a silver surfer! (Him, not me!)

Too often too much jargon is used, in all walks of life.  You just need to hear the experts being interviewed on the news – how many times do they launch into language which just confuses the rest of us? Using jargon, acronyms and other terms which have special meaning in that subject doesn’t help understanding for the uninitiated.

I’ve spent much of my working life in IT and Security, with a bit of engineering thrown in.  I’ve never been able to maintain the technobabble that so many of my peers manage, and have made a point of trying to explain things simply and in plain English.  It even helped me in one role where I actually worked as a sort of translator between the really bright, techie guy who couldn’t explain things simply, and his boss who was a technophobe.  I can effectively translate from very technical into English, but I’m not too good at going the other way.  That’s no bad thing though, in my opinion, as I never like to assume that people understand everything first time round anyway – if I’ve put my thoughts into plain terms in common usage, then there’s less chance of misunderstanding.

I got my inspiration from this piece from http://patriciasplace.me/in-other-words/ – it’s the item for #40.  Pop over to the site and have a look around!

Where does a work ethic come from?

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “I’ve Become My Parents.”, I thought I’d try to explain how their example and my upbringing has imbued me with a strong work ethic.  They definitely worked hard all their lives, and now they are both retired they seem to be working harder than ever.  OK, so they’re not doing as much physical work as before, but they’re involved in so many activities, volunteer groups, committees etc they tire me out!

I’ve always believed that a good day’s work deserves a good day’s pay, and that if you want something you need to earn it.  So when I was 12 or 13 or so, and I wanted a particular jacket, I decided to find a job before or after school so I could buy it.  (My parents didn’t have the money for it, and in those days, it wasn’t unusual for youngsters of my age to be delivering papers, or milk, or working on a farm, or something like that – one of the benefits of growing up in a rural farming community I guess.)  I got myself a job delivering milk for 2 hours every morning, before school, and at the weekends I’d do an additional couple of hours to boost my pay packet.  When I’d finally earned enough to buy the much coveted jacket – another revelation.  I decided that as it had taken me x number of days or weeks to earn the money,  I didn’t want to spend it on the jacket – in my eyes, it just wasn’t worth it.  I can’t remember what I bought instead, but it was a very good lesson to learn at a relatively young age, one that I’ve remembered over the years.

Around the time I was 13 or 14, my parents bought a “new” house.  It was an old farmhouse with an acre of land, and it was all dreadfully neglected.  The first two months before we moved in Dad would pick me up from school and we’d go to the house.  We’d spend the weekend scraping wallpaper and paint, burning some of it to keep warm (it was mid-winter in Scotland) and making food on a camping gas stove.  We’d go home again on a Sunday evening to get ready for the next school week. Once we’d actually moved in, there was always work to do and as a teenager I did my share – wallpaper stripping, painting, decorating, working in the garden etc.  My regular chores were to keep the fires stocked with wood and coal, and to keep the anthracite boiler for our central heating topped up – otherwise we all got cold.

When I was 14 or 15 I decided I wanted to see a bit more of Norway, so prevailed on Mum to contact her family and friends to see if any had jobs for the following summer: a response came back offering me a couple of months working on a farm in the same part of the country my grandfather came from, so I jumped at it.  Early mornings, late finishes, lots of fresh air and lots of hard work ensued – and I loved it!  The following year, I worked in a petrol station back in Scotland.

I had a number of weekend / holiday jobs for the rest of my teens and into my college years.  I worked in petrol stations in the UK and Norway, more farms, a fish factory and the world’s northernmost nightclub in northern Norway (weekdays in the factory, weekends in the nightclub), and had a combined barman / handyman job for my college years, sometimes doing 80 hour weeks during the holidays.

All of these can be tied back to the example set by my parents, and the fact that if I wanted something I had to earn it.  Those formative years definitely imprinted a real work ethic on me, one I continue to have today.  I don’t really have the energy or  inclination to buy a house in the same condition as my parents bought, but I’m very glad that I had the opportunity to learn so many DIY skills etc while helping them out.

You ARE worthy

From yesterday’s entry about other blogs, I thought it worthwhile expanding on one of them a little.  I’ve chosen this one because I’ve been undergoing a lot of changes and spent a lot of time in reflection and introspection recently. The post I read talks about things that don’t define your self worth, and I suggested that the number of friends or contacts you have on sites like Facebook and LinkedIn shouldn’t be used as a measure of self worth either.

If you care what other people think you will always be their prisoner

– Lao Tzu

It can be quite exhilarating to get friend requests on various social media sites.  Who doesn’t want to be wanted, to be liked, to be needed?  But if you stop and think about it, how many of these people do you actually know?  How many have you spent time with, talking to, establishing any kind of friendship?

I’ve been in the same boat – probably still am – but every so often I take some time to go through the sites and look at who is there and think about what I really know about them.  LinkedIn is a classic – the number of times I look at it and go “who is that?”, because I added them way back in time when I worked on a specific project for two weeks, and have never seen or heard from them since.  I then go through the process of removing them as friends / contacts.

Facebook can be similar, and here I’m going to be a bit hypocritical: I have people on my friends list that I’ve rarely, if ever, met but I keep them there for one main reason.  I play bass, I want people to come to gigs, so I have some friends on Facebook who organise gigs, some who play in other bands (and therefore might want my band to play with them) and some friends who go to a lot of gigs and I want them to come to mine!

No-one can make you feel inferior without your permission

– Eleanor Roosevelt

When I started this course, I stated that I wanted to find out how to build a following, to encourage people to read what I wrote.  That sounds a bit contradictory to what I’ve just said though, doesn’t it?  I’ve found that as I look at reducing my contacts in some sites, I’m now actively trying to expand my contacts elsewhere, through blogging. At first I was writing purely for me, in order to get the thoughts in my head into some semblance of order: now I find that I eagerly seek out new followers and comments from people like you, dear reader, who I may never meet.  What’s that all about?  Is it a case of still wanting to be loved and needed, or is it an inner extrovert pushing their way through?  I guess those are questions only I can answer.

Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are

– Marilyn Monroe

So, just because you’ve whittled down your friends list to only those you actually know to speak to, who are indeed friends, does that make you a bad person?  Not at all!  You are who you are, be all you can be. You are unique, you are awesome, make the most of all that you are.

A word about other bloggers…

Today I’ve spent some time reaching out to other bloggers and commenting on a number of their posts. That means spending a lot more time reading and less writing, but I think that’s part of the fun of blogging.

The first article I read was this one, https://nihongojapango.wordpress.com/2015/09/16/and-i-still-have-over-half-my-life-to-live/. I was drawn to the description of ageing with friends over decades, and of taking up new challenges, living life to the full. What struck me was that the writer had climbed Kilimanjaro in their 40s, as did I. Hopefully you’ll like the article too.

I then headed over to http://melissaintransition.com/2015/09/11/15-things-that-do-not-define-your-self-worth/. I’ve been going through a number of changes myself over recent months, and the items on the list resonated with me. Saying that, I noticed some gaps in the list – can you think of any others?

Next up was https://sophiasramblings.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/the-scottish-borderlands/. It’s more or less from my neck of the woods from when I was growing up, so it was lovely to hear someone else’s take on countryside I recognise and love. The photos were great too.

Finally I checked out https://dreamingofbigger.wordpress.com/2015/09/15/books/. I’m an avid reader and it was interesting to see that I’m not the only one who struggles to finish some books! Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky took me months, mostly because I initially struggled with the long Russian names, with variants and nicknames, and I found the sentences were very long – sometimes covering more than a page.

It’s interesting to see the various topics people choose to write about, and that’s one of the things I like about the blogosphere – it’s so diverse and you can get lost in it for hours if you wish. There are so many creative writers, thinkers and photographers out there, it’s quite humbling.

It’s all about the bass…

I’ve always been “into” music and, despite a brief time in my teens when I wanted to be drummer, bass lines are what really hook me. It’s no coincidence that my favourite playlists include great bass, and even the songs that I want to play in a covers band also feature bass heavily. For years I’d loved the playing of the likes of Ali McMordie from SLF, Tim Commerford from Rage Against the Machine / Audioslave and Donald “Duck” Dunn from Stax records / Blues Brothers, and I wanted to be able to play what they did.

Saying all that, I didn’t actually start learning till I was in my late 30s, so I had a lot of catching up to do. Somehow I managed to find time to practice for 60-90 minutes four or five nights a week, and an hour long lesson every weekend. My practice and lessons always followed the same sort of structure: scales, homework (generally new pieces from various tutorial books) and finally jam / playalong. 

  • Scales etc are boring to do, but so important, as they are the basis for any new lines you want to be able to play
  • Tutorial books – especially those with playalong CDs – are also good, particularly if you want to learn multiple styles eg funk, reggae, rock, jazz etc. I worked through the three books written by David Overthrow – they’re brilliant
  • Jamming to a drumbeat with my teacher – he played guitar – using lines I’d learned in the lesson or improvising new ones, and playing along with music CDs helped build confidence and complemented the styles I’d been learning

One of the brilliant things about this approach was learning about new players too. Jack Bruce from Cream and John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin came to my attention, as did TM Stevens. One of my playalong sessions was in the style of TM and, to be honest, I’ve never managed it. Check out this video and you may see why. 

I love the bit around 1:45 in when he’s introducing himself and has to stop talking, just plays then says “I’m back!”. That’s the result of a lot of practice! I’m going to keep trying, though I don’t practice as much as I used to, and one day I hope to be able to play at even 1/10th of the speed he does!