World Blog Hop

I am not much of a joiner. Or at least I never have been. I have always clung to the vague hope that this would make me seem windswept and interesting, like Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, but the sad truth of the matter is that I am bulky and blond and blue-eyed, and started developing smile-lines around my eyes when I was about seventeen. The bulky, blue-eyed, smile-lined people of the world might carry many things around with them, but an air of mystery isn’t one of them.

Which is how this half of the band "Modern Talking" was able to get away with murdering 37 prostitutes and a dental hygienist in the 80's.

Which is how this half of the band “Modern Talking” was able to get away with murdering 37 prostitutes and a dental hygienist in the 80’s.

I’ve been a bad blogger. Since I started doing this, a couple of people have done me the honour of nominating me for the various awards that seem to float around on WordPress. I have spurned them. Not because I have not felt grateful or flattered, but because despite my bulky, blue-eyed smiliness, I have always been fairly socially awkward, and I quail at the idea, fundamental to all of these awards, of passing the award on to others.

This is wrong. I have always tended to be a little inward looking, and a tad cynical, but I was lucky enough to marry someone who wasn’t, and have spent the last couple of decades learning, slowly, that being actively kind is not actually a bad thing. Popping into someone else’s life to tell them that you think they’re doing something cool isn’t a vile imposition. It’s just nice.

So what am I on about? Well, since I started doing this, a few people out there have been kind enough to pop into my blog fairly regularly over the last couple of years, not just to have a look, but to make the whole thing seem worthwhile by having something to say about it all. I have, as the isolated, cynical sort, given very little back. Which makes the part of me that has spent the last few decades learning from someone better than me feel awful.

Fear not! Today I start. There’s a bunch of weirdo’s following my blog. Not the wrong sort of weirdo’s; the sort that spend their afternoons sweating heavily in panel vans outside schools. The right sort. The sort that are actively living the lives that all of us imagine that we would be happier living. People who are moving out to the country and growing their own food. People who make stuff. From nothing. Hippies. I envy these people. I admire them. I’d love to join them for a cup of coffee. But not a meal. Half of them seem to be vegans. No bacon.

 

You can make a panel van seem far less ominous by simply painting a friendly slogan on the side. I just takes a little effort.

You can make a panel van seem far less ominous by simply painting a friendly slogan on the side. It just takes a little effort.

They’re all doing something fun. It’s called a World Blog Hop. I have no idea how it works. But they’ve been kind enough to invite me along. And I’m going to do it! Which is a problem!

The buggers all make stuff. They knit things and sew things and draw things and bake things. I don’t. I sell books. Although, in my defence, I did once make a table out of old pallets. And some children (I made some children. I didn’t make a table out of some children. That’s still illegal ‘round here). I did once take this;

315797_10150386747204658_77599709_n

And turn it into this;

296000_10150386745364658_65523998_n

553874_10151245431469658_1783734654_n

557795_10151245430859658_2145133260_n

23963_10151245430409658_456559663_n

61819_10151291415709658_1128302201_n

Which has to count for something, although it does feel a little like cheating. I did not lovingly nurture nature’s bounty into a leafy green oasis. I just moved some rocks around and then put some plants in the ground and ignored them. It’s gone surprisingly well. Our soil is ridiculously fertile. I suspect there might be some bodies buried out there. The previous owners did look a little dodgy…

I cover up for my horticultural laziness by telling everyone I’m growing a wildlife garden. And I am. We managed to lure in one of these!

We think it was after one of the children. Luckily, we have two.

We think it was after one of the children. Luckily, we have two.

 

And then our bloodhound drove it away again. But I am inspired. I’m busy building a mound of turf, broken tiles, and rotting logs in the hopes of attracting some snakes. Mrs 23thorns is most pleased. I keep catching her staring at me intently with what I’m pretty sure is frank admiration. She’s taken to carrying a large kitchen knife around, so I suspect she’s busy cooking me a tasty cake as a reward…

I was nominated for this by Linda from A Random Harvest, who immediately set about shaming me by putting up a post full of things she had knitted. And sewn. And drawn. And sloshed around in brightly coloured buckets of dye. This is going to be interesting…

img_26831img_35591

Hah. I bet she never made anything out of used pallets using only a crowbar and a sledgehammer...

Hah. I bet she never made anything out of used pallets using only a crowbar and a sledgehammer…

Here’s how it works. Linne sent me a few questions. I’m going to try to answer them without lying too much. Here goes…

  1. Include a quote that you like.

Oops. Bad start. I’m not really a quotey sort of person. Mrs 23thorns has suitcases from her childhood full of books recording the things she read that moved her, or changed her, or spoke to her, or about her. My mother did the same thing. Me? I just never got into the habit. Although I can quote Jethro Tull lyrics, word for word, because my father played them every single day on the way to school. For years.

So I’ll give you something obscure. Various members of my family have been rather taken by Rudyard Kipling’s If, but I always preferred this one;

The Dog was wild, and the Horse was wild, and the Cow was wild, and the Sheep was wild, and the Pig was wild–as wild as wild could be–and they walked in the Wet Wild Woods by their wild lones. But the wildest of all the wild animals was the Cat. He walked by himself, and all places were alike to him.

cat36

Make of it what you will…

And now for the tricky part.

  1. Why do I create what I do?

I’ve checked out a couple of the other people taking part in this. As I mentioned, they make things. They knit and sew and grow things and then do complicated things with them in stoves and then eat them. I have a sister who studied fine art and a wife who can sit down with a pencil and a piece of paper and produce something worth sticking up on a wall. Me? I warble. I tap things into a keyboard and throw them out into the world. It doesn’t really feel like the same thing.

But the question has been asked so I will try to answer it. I create what I do because Mrs 23thorns started a blog and I got jealous. So I started my own. And I found that I liked it.

I hadn’t really written anything at all since I had been in school, and I’d only done that because they bullied me into it, but writing things purely for my own enjoyment turned out to be kinda cool.

And there’s more. The internet can be a pretty ugly place. The cloak of anonymity seems to turn ordinary people into monsters. But not here. Not on WordPress. I seem to have stumbled onto the only corner of cyberspace that isn’t populated with ugly-minded little trolls who live to question your sexuality, parentage and race whenever you say something they are mildly challenged by. The ugliest things I’ve come across here have been snippets of awkwardly delivered constructive criticism.

 

I said your posts are a little on the long side. You got a problem with that?  Nice pictures though.  And I really like the layout of your homepage.  What theme is that?

I said your posts are a little on the long side. You got a problem with that?
Nice pictures though.

Everybody is just nice. It’s all a little peculiar, in the best possible sense of the word. I can think of worse ways to fill up my free time.

  1. How does my creative process work?

Um. That sounds far too grown up for what I’ve been doing here. I see things or hear things or do things and then try to pass them on in a way that I hope will make people smile a little.

But that doesn’t really describe a process, does it? So here goes; I have never been described as having laser-like focus. My mind tends to hop from one thing to another, usually long before I’ve had time to deal with the first thing. But every now and then, something will grab my attention for a little longer, and it will tug at the edge of my consciousness like one of those songs you can’t stop singing.

So I let it in. It will fill up my head with words while I’m in my car, or at work, or while digging in the garden. When there are too many of them, I sit down and pour them out into a keyboard so my head can be empty again.

 

A dramatic reconstruction, using a highly paid professional actor, of me writing a blog post.

A dramatic reconstruction, using a highly paid professional actor, of me writing a blog post.

I did, for a while, try to write every day. That was a bit harder. I had to go out and find the words. But they did always seem to be out there somewhere. It was just a matter of catching them and tying them down. It helped that I come from a large, loud, and ludicrously opinionated family. In order to avoid disappearing completely, you had to learn to form opinions on everything, instantly, and then defend them to the death no matter how ludicrous they were. Until the next day, when you could cheerfully discard them.

  1. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I have done my best to avoid having a genre. I reckon that the vast majority of people out there in the blogging world are doing this for their own enjoyment, rather than for monetary gain, so why not keep your options open?

If anything, I have tried to keep a vein of humour running through things. It’s hard to be objective about something like that, and there is nothing worse than the sort of person who laughs too loudly at their own jokes, but I try, at the very least, to keep it light.

This has proved to be a bit of a problem of late. Winter has ground on for too long, and it gets dark too early, and my garden is bleak and dry and dying from the cold, and someone is killing all our rhinos, and the government is corrupt and the workers are rising up and Ebola is coming to get us and the words that fill up my head in my car or at work or while I’m digging in the garden don’t really belong here, so I find myself writing less. But fear not. Spring is springing and soon all will be right with the world again. Or at least all will be right within our four walls…

Grow, you bastards! Grow!

Grow, you bastards! Grow!

 

  1. What am I presently working on?

I am trying to get a blog going for the bookshop where I work. It’s proving to be a little tricky. We are supposed to be doing “community marketing”, which is easier said than done. Our store is on the outskirts of Johannesburg, in an area where there are lots of new housing developments and young families. Everybody comes from somewhere else and works somewhere else. There isn’t really a community.

So I thought I would try to start an online community. It’s going swimmingly. There’s just one tiny problem. Blogs know no boundaries, and I’m not sure than convincing people from Wales or Tasmania or Atlanta that they need to read about seductive and shirtless Highlanders will win me much favour with the powers that be…

The writing is proving to be a little tricky, too. I’m having to go out and find those words again, and then beat them and bend them and pull them into shape ‘til they fit, rather than just writing whatever is on my mind. I’m having fun, though, and that has to count for something.

*****

So that’s that then. I joined! I took part in something! With other people! And I had fun doing it!

And now for the tricky part. I have had to go and find some other people to join. And I did it! Here they are;

Marcia Meara:

Marcia was one of the first people to comment on my own blog. She was, back then a sweet older lady who was kind about my first faltering steps into the blogosphere. She had a couple of blogs; one about the books she loved and another, more personal one.

But then she went and upped the ante. I first learned that she was getting poems published in collections all over the place. Then she went off and wrote a book. And then another one.

She did it! I suspect that most of us on WordPress are frustrated authors in one shape or another. I also know, from years of working in the book industry, that that whole story of everyone having a book in them is a half-truth at best. We might all have a book in us, but most of us will never get them out of us. And that might not be a bad thing.

She also created this gif of herself. And that's all I have to say about that...

She also created this gif of herself. And that’s all I have to say about that…

 

So there’s my first nomination. The one who just up and did what we all dream of doing.

KokkieH

I’ve nominated KokkieH because looking at his blog is like looking at a mirror. He’s doing what I’m doing, so if I crack the nod for answering questions about my creative process, so does he. He started off blogging as an aid to writing a book. And then he just started blogging about everything. And anything.

But that’s where the similarities stop. He has actually started work on his first draft. Me? I got nothing. So I’m giving him a push so that at least one of us can go off and join Marcia. Then I can claim his success as my own instead of being jealous.

 

He also likes hammers...

He also likes hammers…

Mrs 23thorns.

I just had to do it, because it was so easy. Or not. Mrs 23thorns has several books in her. But she’s a little busy right now. She has, for various reasons, always been fascinated with history, and with tracking down her own roots.

A few years ago, she learned how to do this properly. And she loved it. So now she’s doing it for other people. She loves that, too. But. Mrs23thorns is an obsessive. In the true sense of the word. She quite liked the first Lord of the Rings movie. So she read all three books. Over a long weekend. Then she read everything else Tolkien had ever written (and taught herself elvish) over the next week. Then she ate something.

Why is this a “but”? Well, right now, Mrs 23thorns is busy doing family trees. She is not a genealogist. She’s a family historian. She doesn’t find out that your great-great-grandfather’s name was Charles. She finds out that your great-great-grandfather’s name was Charles, and that he once passed through the Congo on his way to New Zealand, and then writes you three pages on the rubber industry in the Congo in 1897.

As an obsessive, this keeps her a little busy. I have to feed her with a drip and carry her out into the sunlight while she’s napping so she doesn’t develop a vitamin D deficiency.

So she’s not doing much blogging right now. But she has two blogs. One on which she brings history to life, and another on which she dresses up in peculiar outfits and makes me take photos of her dragging the dustbins out into the street. I am so very much the normal one in my family…

A completely

A completely…

...normal person...

…normal person…

...playing with...

…playing with…

...her dustbin.

…her dustbin.

As one does.

As one does.

 

Advertisements

News

I have a new blog! Isn’t that exciting?

No. No it is not. There is, I fear, nothing new there.

When I started 23thorns.com, all the advice I could find said that I should pick a topic or theme and stick to it, so I decided to write about as many different things as I could.

Despite my attempts to do so, the bulk of my posts seem to have been about wildlife. I’ve decided to start a new blog full of old stuff. I am reposting all of my old wildlife and Lowveld posts, just to see how this whole focussed approach thing works out. Continue reading

91. 13 weeks.

gr

Well, here we are. The second to last weekly update. If you are new here, I am doing 100 posts in 100 days. Or roughly 100 days. I was also trying to get 60 000 views in those hundred days, but that’s not going to happen, so I’m going to take a page from the book of the politicians. I’m going to radically shift the goalposts, and then claim overwhelming success. I’m now going for 30000 views in 100 posts. Continue reading

85. 12 weeks.

fr

Here we go again. For the regulars, there are only two of these left, so hang in there. If you happen to be new here, I’m writing 100 posts in 100 days, and giving a weekly update on them. This is the twelfth. I’m also trying to get 60 000 views in 100 days, and failing miserably. Yesterday, I passed the 30 000 mark. It’s still possible, I suppose, but I’d have to give the pope a wedgie or something; there’s nothing wrong with a bit of publicity. Continue reading

78. Eleven weeks.

Untitled

The more astute among you may have noticed that this post was supposed to go out yesterday. It didn’t. Yesterday was a momentous day in the 23thorns household. Mrs 23thorns has returned from her two-week trip to New Zealand, or The Land of the Long White Sheep, to those who live there.

Few people know that sheep in New Zealand are mechanically stretched in order to increase wool production.

Few people know that sheep in New Zealand are mechanically stretched in order to increase wool production.

Continue reading

62. Nine weeks.

bh

I am, if you are new here, doing 100 posts in 100 days. And trying to get 60 000 views. That’s not going to happen. I should have said 30 000. That is going to happen. I’m just about two thirds of the way there.

It’s been a busy week. The kids are home for the holidays, and I have grown temporarily obsessed with filling my driveway with sawdust and broken bits of wood. This hasn’t left much time for posting. I’ve still been getting them out, albeit later than usual, but it has given me pause for thought.

Our driveway, yesterday.

Our driveway, yesterday.

The main reason I set out to do this was to practice writing. I wanted to see if I could write every day rather than just when I felt like it. I also just wanted my writing to become more fluid.

But here’s the thing; I’ve never been much of a self-editor. I would even hand in exam papers unchecked, even if I had the time. I do, however, think that one should at least read over what one has written before sending it out. If someone is kind enough to read what you have written, it’s disrespectful to send out something half-baked.

Care for a slice of cake?

Care for a slice of cake?

The less time I have, the less carefully I edit myself. I don’t think I’m sending out any glaring errors, but I’m starting to question my style. First of all, there’s “and” and “but”, my two new bugbears. I know you’re not supposed to start sentences with them. But I do. And it’s starting to annoy me.

Then there’s that whole thing with sentences. There are rules about how sentences are supposed to be put together. I break those. All the time. My spellcheck doesn’t like it.

And you won't like my spellcheck when it gets angry.

And you won’t like my spellcheck when it gets angry.

I have always felt that if you are aware of the rules, breaking them occasionally is not a problem, so long as you know why you’re doing it. Unless you are writing formally, your words should flow like those of a well-spoken person telling a story out loud. People telling stories out loud don’t follow the rules of grammar, but good story tellers do instinctively follow a less defined set of rules.

Rules about rhythm and pace. Rules no-one teaches you, but that everyone can feel. Good storytellers know where the pauses are. They know when to speed up and when to slow down. They know when their sentences should be short and clipped and when they should meander about like lazy rivers. They know when to start sentences with “and”, or “but”, and when to speak in fragments.

Maybe I shouldn't have meandered quite so much.

Maybe I shouldn’t have meandered quite so much.

I would like to be able to do that with my writing. But there’s a huge caveat to that. I need to work harder on moderating myself. I used to love watching a TV show called “Top Gear”. It’s about cars. I don’t like cars, but I loved the show. It was the style that made it appealing. It was funny and rich and irreverent.

I don’t watch it any more. I can’t. It’s the style that puts me off. It’s just too instantly recognisable and repetitive. It’s become, for me, a bit of a parody of itself. I can see the same thing happening to me. I need to rein myself in before the things that were originally appealing about my writing become teeth-clenchingly annoying, and my blog starts to look like it was written by Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. I don’t want strangers to club together to have me banned from the internet.

Definitely starting a sentence with "but" again.

Definitely starting a sentence with “but” again.

So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to buy Mrs 23thorns an electric cattle-prod. I’m going to ask her to proof-read my posts. If I start a sentence with “and” or “but” more than twice a post, I’m going to ask her to jab me with it. If I use the same phrases over and over again, she’s going to shock me while I’m sleeping. If spellcheck decides that over half my sentences are not actually real sentences, she gets to turn it on and throw it at me while I’m in the bath.

And once a day, when I least suspect it, she will get to sneak up and zap me for no reason at all. This has nothing to do with my writing. I just think it will make her happy.

A marital aid, 23thorns style.

A marital aid, 23thorns style.

Anyhow, enough waffling. Mrs 23thorns’ trigger finger is starting to look a little itchy. This week, I wrote about our chief of police, and his supernatural investigator. I wrote about owls. Twice. I promise never to do so again. I wrote about the Japanese and their space robot, and snorkelling in glasses. And I wrote about my children.

I hope everything was up to scratch last week. I felt like I was dashing things off at the last minute. This will, I fear, continue. The kids are still at home, and next week we’re going away. We’ll see how that goes.

Good luck with the blogging, Dad!

Good luck with the blogging, Dad!

If you do feel like things are slipping, you can get hold of Mrs 23thorns on her blog. I’m sure she’ll be happy to zap me on your behalf. Apart from that, thank you all for reading and I hope you stick with me for the final third. Here’s today’s vote;

55. Eight weeks.

gr

Well here we are. I’ve officially passed the halfway mark. It’s all downhill from here. For those that are new here, I’m doing 100 posts in 100 days. And trying to get 60 000 views. And failing. I am still getting pretty much half the views I had aimed for. The graph I have been making has no magical uptick in it. It’s rising at a slow and steady 45 degrees. Which appeals to me aesthetically. Or that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. Continue reading

46. The Other Awards.

The first time I was nominated for an award on WordPress, I had only just started blogging, and had never heard of such a thing. I thought I’d won a Pulitzer Prize! So I checked it out. It was a chain letter. I give an award to seven people, who give it to seven people, and so on until everyone has got one. It’s just silly. I turned it down, as tactfully as I could, and went on about my business.

I'm afraid I can't accept this. I'm allergic to gold, and besides, it would clash with the curtains in my bathroom.

I’m afraid I can’t accept this. I’m allergic to gold, and besides, it would clash with the curtains in my bathroom.

Continue reading

42. Six weeks.

Untitled

I’m trying to do a hundred posts in a hundred days, and get 60 000 views while doing so. And I’m just about half way there. In terms of posts. Views, not so much. With those, I’m half way to half way there. Oh well.

I’m starting to get into the swing of things. For the last few weeks, I’ve struggled to come up with ideas for things I really wanted to write about. This week I turned the corner. I have the answer. Structure. Planning. Organisation. Continue reading

41. A mystery.

I wasn’t going to post today. I wasn’t being lazy or anything; it was the youngest 23thorn’s birthday party. Two months after her birthday. She’d had a family party (at full strength, we can muster about 20 people), and then we went away, so we thought we’d get away without a school party, but never underestimate the complexity of the average four-year-old’s social life.Promises had been made on the playground. People had been blacklisted. A party there would be.

375716_10151639116659658_2138263520_n

Continue reading