I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Monday, 23 January 2017

I've been lucky

Lucy on the left, VR on the right, pilot in the centre, me
behind the camera. Just prior to a flight over Brittany, aeons ago  
Lucy's closing down Box Elder. Perhaps for good (bad's more apt), perhaps not. Given I've recently tended to overdo my comments there I've just left one that's uncharacteristically short. It was either that or Swann's Way, majoring on the hawthorn blossoms.

To sum up. Several years ago our mutual friend, Joe Hyam, died and Lucy chose to attend the funeral. She lives in Brittany, the pointy bit of France that sticks out west; the obsequies were in Tunbridge Wells, about thirty miles south of London. Er, that's London, UK.

France's high-speed trains helped and VR and I were able to pick her up for the last leg. What followed was a long day for all of us and as we reached the hotel near midnight Lucy burst into tears of tiredness and emotion. In my gruff, unaccustomed-as-I-am, Northern way I gave her a hug and I must confess it felt like a privilege to be able to do so.

Lucy's admirable. Too understated, no doubt? Then I'm an unfeeling cold fish, a typical Brit.  Lucy encouraged me to blog, commented on my stuff, pointed out the few good things in my fledgling verses, sympathised when I needed it in well-constructed prose that reached into my tripes, could be wicked but was usually understanding, helped reinforce my Francophilia, shared the pleasures of the English language with me. And other big things. A friend.

Funnily enough I don't begrudge her closing down Box Elder. She's earned it. And others' comments, already rolling in, show I'm not alone. I don't think I'm even sad, how could I be with such a credit balance? I do think I've been lucky.


  1. So, we lose our blogging companions one by one. It was a new way of communicating and sharing when the 21st century blossomed. Other, easy and less creative ways, have come along which seem to suit those who simply want to post images of themselves and what they do. I suppose that way used to be called a diary. But diaries are written to be read privately (usually). Sam Pepys wrote a diary like no other, there is no modern comparison in my opinion.

  2. Look, I've told you already to stop making me cry! The luck has been entirely mutual.

    I've answered yours over at mine, but I'll repeat, as far as you're concerned, I'm not going away!

  3. Avus: Blogging is, on the whole, for those who take satisfaction in the act of writing. But writing is frequently unenjoyable, a drag, an ability that comes and goes, an equally ephemeral inclination. It's difficult, though not impossible, to sustain a blog that depends on events and tangibles for subjects - certainly that's my experience, visually my life just isn't that interesting. Unless we resort to phenomena which just about pass muster as ideas, to fantasies, to polemics, and occasionally to downright lying we will one day face a blank screen and convince ourselves we're looking directly into our cerebellum. On the other hand we may switch off the screen and go out and do something. Doing something is a good cure for people who believe they should be writing; a doer may leave behind him/her the modern-day equivalent of The Pyramids, especially rewarding if there's a chance of charging an extrance fee. Me, I do bugger-all and I'm enjoying writing this, knowing nevertheless that it's going nowhere. I can if stretched rejoice in creating persiflage. Of course I'd like to think I was entertaining others but first up I need to entertain myself.

    At the risk of making her cry again Lucy has the knack of animating small matters, of turning knitting into gold thread, of expanding her thoughts to prove that nothing in life is truly banal, of handling things like affection without being mawkish. As with all good writing hers appears easily won, but it isn't. It is, in the best sense, the product of what she is and what she's been; she knows stuff and some of it is stuff that can only be hard-won. Stuff I, for one, envy but acknowledge that I lack the application to acquire. Beyond that I've had the good luck to meet her twice and she's good company.

    Faults? She's not all that hot on providing directions.

    Her posts read easily but that doesn't mean they aren't hard work. As I say, she's earned her blog retirement. In any case Lucy also walks the tightrope and does things. Just be grateful and not moanful.

    Lucy: Not going away, perhaps. But might it seem like that? No doubt you disagree with the above thumbnail. In which case may I refer you to the carafe of sauvignon blanc at Erquy and how this tiny thing became a sort of toy, pushed this way and that between us - a connivance, just for fun.

  4. Makes me sad, too. I very much enjoyed Lucy's blogging.

    I can respect it when bloggers say that they have run out steam or stuff to write, or that the world has become too dark a place to blog about pets and gardens, even for poetry. I equally respect a need to change, to turn lives around after meaningful events. May we always have our reasons to write or to stop writing.

    But I don't buy the argument that blogging as such is coming to an end. Show me why and how - and I don't mean statistics or trends. I have never gone for any of that.
    I read the silliest blogs and blogs that are skillful works of art, I read about cooking and pets, grandchildren, walking, illness and recovery, despair and fears and hopes, about politics, refugees, living on far continents, cycling along rivers, gardening and activism. I read blogs that make me think and blogs that make me mad, some make me laugh out loud and others move me to tears.

    My own reasons for blogging have nothing to do with public writing. I know, sounds silly, my blog is public. What I write about is open to whoever finds it.
    But that's coincidental. I started to blog to figure out a way of coping with life changes that seemed overwhelming, to verbalise my fears and panics and hopes with a very sudden, dramatic and at the time life shattering diagnosis. I wanted to leave a trace of my ways of coping so that I can look back on how things were and how I managed. Also, I started because my family was getting sick and tired of me talking about it all the time (they don't read my blog). And while I also blog about memories and family and stuff that upsets or enlightens me in general, it is always in the context of living with this diagnosis. I would never consider myself a writer and on top of it, English isn't even my first language.

    Maybe one day, I will also feel that I have said it all. Right now, I can see only two scenarios for that to happen: being healthy again or too sick to continue. Whatever comes first and since my chances for the former are nil, it will be the latter. But who knows.

    Sorry, if I have overused your comment sections, I have never been good with etiquette.

  5. Doesn't matter if I agree, I'm flattered and delighted anyway. Toasting you in a glass of sauvignon blanc - made into kir - and deciding it's time to sail away again with Aubrey and Maturin - Treason's Harbour is where I'm bound.

  6. Sabine: Never apologise for length. If that were a solecism I'd have been drummed out of the cybersphere years ago. If you have something to say (And you obviously have!) be my guest.

    Various points.

    "blogging coming to an end" In comparative terms there may be a point here. Five years ago the average reponse to my posts (ie, after having subtracted my re-comments) was probably five or six. This may not sound very much but my circle of contacts never exceeded a dozen and a half. Also, the comments used to come quickly which suggested interest was high. Deaths and illness have shrunk my list of contacts; equally sadly some commenters, whose style suggested that blogging pleased them, have faded away. These days the average is more like three and the response may be over a week.

    What to do? Explore other blogs until you find a shared interest and start commenting. In my experience these "invasions" may create reactions in the targeted blog, but this rarely extends to reciprocal visits.

    Sure, you persist with blogs you like, but there is an underlying tendency why many blogs dry up. Specialised subjects, however fascinating, can be squeezed dry and the writer starts labouring and repeating. There's a better chance of longevity with those whose interests are wide-ranging, better still with those who are interested in everything, best of all with those whose real interest is writing. A few weeks ago I boasted I could blog about anything. I think I can (I actually chose tooth-paste as a demo) but of course the trick is to be interesting. That's a whole subject on its own.

    As to your reasons for blogging, they're self-explanatory. The subject dominates you. But in the end we're all slightly selfish, there's no guarantee that subject will continue to interest others. UNLESS - and this is the point I made in your comments - the subject acknowledges your readers. That it's not just a threnody (though you'd be forgiven for that) but a topic that is constantly re-examined for new aspects, giving readers opportunities to respond with something other than sympathy.

    Which brings me to the point I want to repeat. You say you don't consider yourself a writer. But writing is many things, many of them misunderstood. It may reside in style, evidence of an active mind, a talent for selectivity (eg, cutting out the obvious), a willingness to engage, stamina, curiosity - many other things. Writers are often turned in on themselves since writing is a private activity aimed at public display; even so a real writer should be able to turn that obsession into something worth reading. Journalists may be writers, I was a journalist for 44 years (newspapers, technical, industrial and consumer magazines) during which time I've often had to decide whether those who've submitted material are writers or not. Just stringing the words together isn't necessarily writing. On the basis of my experience you are a writer, major on that and make it grow.

    Now I should apologise for length.

  7. Lucy: Ah, Treason's Harbour. And the wonderfully villainous Admiral Hart, Jack's nemesis. I wish you tranquil waters.

  8. I may have closed my blog, but I shall still visit this one of yours from time to time. As I have mentioned in my answer to you, you have been the reason why I continued for so long.

  9. Good tribute to Lucy and Box Elder, and the comments are also lovely. I especially like this: "But writing is many things, many of them misunderstood. It may reside in style, evidence of an active mind, a talent for selectivity (eg, cutting out the obvious), a willingness to engage, stamina, curiosity - many other things."

  10. Avus: I hope Tone Deaf continues to be worth the effort. Certainly I'll bear this comment/email of yours in mind as I grind on. These aren't days for the Royal Enfield, are they? Come to think of it that's the one you sold, I think. Auf Wiedersehen.

    Marly: I can't fib about whether people can write or not. Often I can recognise the ability within three or four lines. Amazingly with Sabine, English isn't her first language.

  11. Was your title here cribbed from Alan Bennet? I watched his diaries programme (recorded) last night and that was his closing phrase.

  12. Sir Hugh: It’s hardy copyrightable and I don't usually find it necessary to crib. VR gave me the diaries for Christmas and I used the headline before I finished the book or saw the programme. You’d probably enjoy it (Leeds, the Yorkshire Dales) but it’s only just out and costs £20 (it’s pretty thick). Good idea to use his appearance on Private Passions (the thinking man’s Desert Island Discs) as the background. I share some of his musical preferences (Brahms two, Gerontius)and had to fight back tears when Alto Rhapsody started up. Do you have AR? It's only 11 or 13 minutes long and is, as a result, rarely performed in the concert hall because of its profligacy. But oh, the emotion...

  13. Yes, I will definitely miss Lucy's absence from blogland. There are blogs and bloggers one becomes attached to, like a family, including the usual family differences (and even the occasional slammed door) but also affection, acceptance of indvidual quirks and sudden flashes of insight and inspiration. I don't have the same enthusiasm for blogging that I had 14 years ago but I don't want to give up yet. I live a fairly isolated life and it's a window for looking out of, and also for looking in. If only a few people are looking in that's fine, and if occasionally they say something to me, that's a bonus.

  14. Natalie: As blog participants fall away I've been testing the following premise: if no one responds there has to be sufficient genuine satisfaction in writing the post, otherwise one might as well devote oneself to the tedium of gardening.

  15. Yes, no responses at all is sad. On the other hand, if you look at who get the most hits, the most 'likes', the most comments in the various social media platforms, you can feel almost proud of being ignored. Anyway, I don't have a garden but I've always got artwork I want to get on with so blogging is an optional extra. But I duplicate blog posts on Facebook now and people do respond more often there.

  16. Nathalie: Joe was an extremely keen gardener and I used to tease him about it. We have a garden and for the sake of social acceptability must, at the very least, keep it tidy. Eventually we took the exit labelled Middle Class and employed a gardener but then found we hadn't fully escaped - there were discussions about what to plant, etc. It was difficult to explain to our gardener (a neighbour) that all we wanted to do was "use" the garden - ie, to sit down on the patio and, on the few late afternoons that the weather allowed us, to drink a chilled bottle of white wine, to contemplate the things that grew, and to discuss something new and preferably abstract.

    I don't have artwork although VR does. Writing is all-absorbing, even if more recently it's had to give part way to singing. Whether it's fiction, non-fiction, emails that take the place of phone calls, verse, blogging, and thinking constructively about writing that's yet to happen (from 3 am onwards is a good time) I used to make no distinction: there is the settled frame of mind, the gradual focusing, the imperative of the blank screen (how cumbersome paper seems in retrospect), the first sentence (often deleted), the first para (often deleted), where necessary the trimming down to the 300-word limit, the aesthetic revision and finally Save - a function that has metaphorical and well as computeresque associations. I've been doing it seriously since a week before my sixteenth birthday in 1951; it should by now seem a natural activity but it isn't; I fail at it over and over although some time must pass before I recognise failure; I am not discouraged simply because there is no alternative, nor would I wish it.

    However, one thing has changed. Blogging is writing, true, but it is also friendship and that must be factored in. Friendship acts like an unconscious commissioner of what I write and that makes a difference; a gentle obligation but not (usually) a burden. From time to time friendship dissolves into animosity and that writing ends, but this is to be accepted in an activity that is organic and ever-evolving.

    Another long re-comment, this one slightly unusual in that it isn't finished.

  17. Indeed the friendship factor is probably the magnet that keeps one attracted to blogging and the "unconscious commission" certainly plays a role for me too. In the days when letter-writing was a major means of communication (remember real letters, sent in stamped envelopes,often in airmail envelopes?) it was possible to write what were in effect blog-posts, address them to specific individuals, then wait in excited anticipation for their responses. These back & forth extended "comments" went on for years and were fascinating. I think I may have expected something like this from blogging but of course it's a different process. I'm not being nostalgic...well, maybe a bit.