Photo of cup with a few coins in the hands of a beggar

Photo by York Press

A lot of bloggers make a little money selling their ‘products’ through their WordPress blogs – self-published books, courses in anything from writing or photography to cookery, using Photoshop or other applications, and a wide variety of other products. Of course I cannot have any objection to that; it seems to me that it’s a valid use of a blog. I have some sympathy also with students who offer something in return for a small ‘donation’.

But when it comes to what amounts to ‘begging’, the on-line equivalent of sitting in the street with a begging bowl, I find it difficult to accept. It works at various levels.

Sponsorship

First there are the requests to ‘sponsor’ a blog, the argument being ‘if you like reading my blog please give me some money to allow me to continue’. What about the millions of bloggers who just give us a good read, often giving excellent advice too (foodie and photography blogs spring to mind), fitting their blogging activity around the ‘day job’?

Donate

Then there’s the ‘donate’ button. This is often accompanied by a text with an explanation similar to that given with requests for ‘sponsorship’.

On-line begging bowl

Finally, there’s the simple on-line equivalent of the begging bowl, a blog post which just asks for money because the blogger needs money for anything from day to day living to help with medical bills.

Many of us will respond to the street beggar with a little money or, better, a hot drink or some food when they seem to be a genuine case of hardship. Money needs more thought as it will often go on drugs. And of course there are the street beggars who have a daily take only dreamed of by many hardworking people with a ‘day job’. Spotting them can be difficult as they are often put on the street by a ‘minder’ who takes most of the money. This is particularly prevalent in Romania.

What brought on this post?

There’s a Romanian blogger who I’ve followed for a few years. As the number of posts asking for money increased my reading of his posts, usually several a day, has decreased. I have in the past bought some of his ‘products’, more as a way of giving a bit of help than that I wanted the ‘product’. But now, for me, he’s overstepped the mark.

His latest story is that he will be made homeless unless he pays overdue rent of several hundred dollars. It began with requests to help with dental bills. I had some sympathy with that as it would be difficult to work well if in continual pain. Bloggers sent him really substantial sums of money. Then he asked for money to buy a video camera to make his video clips. My sympathy evaporated but it seems he received the money. Then the story was that his laptop had crashed and he needed money to buy a new one. Again he seemed to receive it readily. Now he says he hasn’t been able to pay his rent and will shortly be evicted, made homeless!

Romanians to whom I’ve related this story have been furious; it’s the kind of story which has brought Romania into disrepute. Having worked with Romanians for over a decade and spending a lot of time in the country since, I can assure you that most Romanians are hardworking given the opportunity (for many this, sadly, meant emigrating).

As I said above, I no longer read many of this blogger’s posts but was drawn to comment on one recently, one of several which seemed to assume that we all want a large number of followers. I felt obliged to point out that not all bloggers want this and gave the reasons; in my case because I try to respond to all comments and ‘likes’ (with some exceptions) and I just could not deal with large numbers.

How many comments ‘not approved’?

What is really sad is that my comment on his blog, which did include a mild admonishment about ‘begging’, was not approved so no one other than the blogger in question has seen it. So I must assume that any other comments expressing unease about ‘begging’ have been similarly withheld.

So, I have to ask here: do you think this type of ‘begging via blog’ is acceptable or not, and which type oversteps the mark? Do you think I’m being unreasonable?

 

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First Christmas (part) with Petronela, 20 years ago. Just work colleagues then, as was Ana Maria on my other side – still a good friend

We are just two – my wife Petronela and me – for Christmas since my mum died. This year we are having our 18th Christmas together but it’s the 20th year we had a part of Christmas together. Twenty years ago I was living in the students’ hostel of the high school at which Petronela and I taught, she as history teacher and head of humanities, I as a volunteer English teacher (so living for free in the hostel). I invited some teacher colleagues for a ‘party’ in my little room and Petronela was one who came (my plan? 😜).

Stockings awaiting Santa

Even with just the two of us we like to make Christmas Day ‘special’, but a time of peace with no stress. So each year it becomes more and more simple. On the other hand, it always begins, after seeing what Santa put in our stockings (yes, we hang stockings like a couple of children) over coffee and (for me) tea, with the same ‘luxury breakfast’: smoked salmon (three different cures this year) with the ‘best scrambled eggs in the world’, as I learned from my mother, and ‘bubbly’ – Freixenet cava; it began by being the only ‘special’ bubbly we could find in Romania 18 years ago or at least one we could afford but, not a follower of fashion, I have not been diverted by the more recent craze for Prosecco (not as good anyway) nor champagne which we could now afford. Same with gin: the latest craze is expensive weirdly flavoured gins and expensive (in it’s true meaning, costing more than it’s worth) tonic; we both like gin and tonic but either Gordons or the excellent one at a good price from Aldi are good enough for us.

 

This year there was something new; usually we do not have any special meal on Christmas Eve but having received something very special from my dear Latvian blogger friend Ilze, and told they – grey peas – were a Christmas dish, I made to Ilze’s recipe, with onion and bacon, and had as the introduction to Christmas. Delicious! Ilze says they should be accompanied by kefir; having been to Marinela’s Romanian shop in Leeds a couple of days before that was easy to follow. Usually we buy the similarly tasting Romanian  ‘sana’ or ‘lapte batut’ there. 

Latvian ‘grey peas’ with onions and bacon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After breakfast we open little presents to each other, found below the Christmas tree. Petronela will always find a bottle of Bailey’s Irish cream and a bottle of Drambuie, I will unwrap a bottle of Scotch, among them and these will keep us going till it’s time to prepare Christmas dinner, not lunch but at about 7pm.

 

I titled this post ‘Christmas simplified’: gone are the days when I’d slave in the kitchen preparing classic French cordon bleu cuisine (neither of us much like turkey or traditional ‘Christmas pudding’). Now we rely on Marks and Spencer which has never let us down. So this year the starter was ‘king prawn and poached salmon terrine’, delicious enough to tempt us to eat two portions each! Main course was rack of venison, easy enough to roast leaving me only to prepare roast potatoes and parsnip, with lightly steamed brocolli, kaylettes, brussel sprouts and runner beans – easy enough. This washed down with the excellent Romanian red wine, from the fetească neagră grape grown in the Murfatlar region, ‘3 hectare‘, brought from Romania. Thanks to the double portion of starter neither of us could eat everything on the plate and needed a rest before the ‘Belgian chocolate and toffee sponge pudding’, an amazing creation with a chocolate flecked with gold dome being inverted over the steamed sponge and left to melt – very tasty if a bit too sweet, as I shall report to M&S, but a good finisher nevertheless.

Happy day

So, a lovely happy day, for the most part immersed in the astoundingly beautiful Romanian carols (I like to sing the English ones but most of these cannot match the Romanian ones for beauty), responding to some WordPress Christmas blog posts, sending and receiving Christmas greetings to dear friends in far off places (some made through WordPress blogs) by email or Messenger and chatting more, and exchanging photos, with one throughout the day – I won’t mention who so as not to embarrass her; let’s just say I’ve come to love her close immediate family though we’ve met only on the wonder of internet.

So, that was our Christmas ‘simplified’. Nothing special for today – Boxing Day – except to laze about, doing nothing special after clearing up the chaos in the kitchen (we don’t believe in ruining a good meal by clearing up after, not even loading the dishwasher!).

I hope you all had an equally happy Christmas Day as we did; I know some of you were not very well but I trust that despite this you had a day of peace and contentment.

Now, in our little household, we move on to New Year, a really big ‘celebration’ for most Romanians, made even more so for us as Petronela’s birthday is on New Year’s Eve so, following Romanian tradition, we have ‘open house’ with the table full of Romanian delights, of which more at the time.

Photo of the largest pot of Marmite available - 500gOne of those tiresome days today. After answering a few emails in Wetherspoon and commiserating with my blogger friend in Latvia, Ilze, who was also having a ‘bad’ day, I began to look for the missing parts of my ‘long short story’ on the iPad.

The iPad wasn’t very well charged so with it about to give up, unable to search for the missing parts of the story any more, I moved to the library, where I can charge it. Then I found that I had not put the charger in my bag this morning. I couldn’t believe it. No more searching of the iPad possible.

Password protected – password forgotten

I then remembered that I had put some of the story on password protected pages on this blog. Maybe the missing parts were there. There followed a lot of problems logging into one of the library computers (haven’t done it for years) but when I finally succeeded the network was very slow. Then I found that the password to access the pages wasn’t what I thought.  Eventually I worked out I could change them from password protected to privately published so finally I was able to access them, only to find they didn’t contain the latest version when I left the story way back in June, I think.

Very frustrating. I needed to do a little shopping but having done that there was no more time to go somewhere more interesting and having fired myself up to continue the story I’m not motivated to do something else.

Then I realised that I had forgotten the main thing I went to the shop for – avocado for this evening. Fortunately I got a big pot of Marmite (I’m a lover, Petronela is a hater) so I consoled myself by putting an extraordinary amount of it on my slice of bread for lunch.

Now I’m back home so on the old MacBook while the iPad charges. A pot of tea (Yorkshire tea of course) drunk I feel fine 🙂 .

Most people who know me know that I dislike Facebook intensely; I’ve said so on here several times. Nevertheless I have a Facebook account as it is useful for small ‘closed’ groups, like our writers’ club, a project I did with a group of teenagers in our village and even my ‘daily journals’ following our summer trips to Romania during which I had limited access to internet.

It’s also useful for ‘Messenger’ for brief communications with someone you know opens it regularly but otherwise, for anything important, it’s better to go to email as Messenger messages are often ignored.

As far as the Romania trip is concerned, I’ve begun to receive ‘requests’ to join the group from people whose names mean nothing to me. What is really strange is that, typical of Facebook, they say nothing about themselves. Consequently, such requests are ignored.

Facebook laziness

It could be they read about the group on this blog as I’ve referred to it a time or two but, if so, why on earth don’t they say so? Facebook inspired laziness I think; now, for so many things you just ‘push a button’ not needing to write a word. Yes, it’s good to have a reminder of a friend’s birthday but for heaven’s sake write a personal message to them! (But take care, they may be telling a ‘porky’ in their profile 😳).

’Publicize’

For quite a while the ‘Publicize’ facility of WordPress was turned on on this blog, putting a short summary of posts on Facebook and Twitter (I never selected the other options). A few posts ago I turned this off. One of the problems with this facility is that Facebook may choose the least relevant picture if there are more than one, people putting a ‘like’ on that having never read the post. As pictures I put on a post are always an integral part of the post the ‘like’ doesn’t mean a lot. I reckon if anyone is really interested in what I have to say they’ll follow the blog.

Very occasionally I may turn ‘publicize’ on to tell the tightly restricted group of ‘friends’ on Facebook (who may or may not be friends) of a particular post which may be of special interest to them, excluding those who, for whatever reason, I don’t want to point to it.

Of course a ‘like’ from someone I don’t know on this blog is always welcome because, as I said in yesterday’s post, it often sets me off on a journey to other realms as I almost always follow up with a visit to the blogger’s site.

WordPress reader

Nevertheless, I have noticed a similar problem to that with ‘publicize’ with the WordPress reader. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that some of the ‘likers’ have not read the complete post, just putting a ‘like’ on the introductory few words and the one picture which accompanies it. If I put a ‘like’ on a post you can be sure I’ve pushed the ‘visit site’ button, read the whole thing and seen all the pictures.

As I’ve said before, the above comments may not apply to anyone using their blog to promote a business, whether it is declared as such or not (eg, those asking for a donation in some way, or promoting a book they have on Amazon).

We’re not likely to do much today as it will be so hot but this evening we will meet up with the former ‘county inspector of history’ who had and has a high regard for Petronela as a teacher and has now become a friend. She wanted to meet in an excellent restaurant “to eat fish”; we agreed to the location but will settle for an icecream or sweet of some kind. As I said on my Facebook ‘diary’ yesterday, I did nothing of note so it seemed a good idea to write another post on grumpytyke after about a week here in Iași.

A picture of some small carp in a bowl, prepared for cooking

Small carp

Today many Romanians will eat fish. A high proportion of the Romanian population are practising Orthodox Christians so follow rules of ‘post’ (ie , fast) laid down by the church and today is a day on which they can eat fish but not meat.

Post (fast) in Orthodox Romania

When I first came to Romania I lived for six months with a Romanian family and although something different would have been cooked for me I preferred to go along with whatever they were eating so became used to not eating meat on Wednesdays and Fridays and for longer periods at certain times of the year (eg pre Easter, and now). As it seemed a good idea, for health reasons, not to eat meat for a couple of days a week, and for longer periods a couple of times a year or so, I’ve followed this ever since and having a ‘schedule’ makes it easier though I don’t do it for religious reasons. In fact, according to the rules of  ‘post’ it’s not a matter of not eating meat but of not eating animal products, so ‘vegan’. We don’t do this; we often eat eggs, cheese etc on ‘post’ days but sometimes ‘vegan’ meals, eg a kind of ‘baked beans’, ‘borș cu fasole’ – bean borsch, or ‘tocănița cu cartofi’ – potato stew, which are three favourites of mine.

Pește, fish

There’s not a day each week when it’s ‘allowed’ to eat fish but in periods of post there are days where eating fish is allowed and today is such a day. So, as Petronela’s mother follows post pretty strictly today we have fish on the menu. However, because most Romanians (at least in this part of the country) will eat fish today it was difficult to acquire it unless you’re an angler. So Petronela’s father stood in a queue for 1.1/2 hours in the market yesterday to buy the preferred fish – carp.

The carp bought yesterday are extraordinarily small (see picture). I’m more used to them weighing several kg but none larger were available.

(As an aside, I was amused when UK anglers were horrified when east europeans expected to eat the carp they caught. Equally, the east Europeans  were perplexed by UK anglers putting back the carp and other fish they caught; it seemed a pointless activity).

In the UK we usually eat fish on Tuesdays. There’s no link with the church in that, it comes from my ‘honorary grandmother’ in the Bucovina, but that’s another story. Again, having a schedule ensures we eat fish at least once a week.

Mujedei (garlic ‘sauce’)

Obligatory with fried carp is a raw garlic sauce, ‘mujedei’ (pron mooj-day’). This can be simple crushed garlic with water, with sunflower oil, with milk, with a combination of the latter two, or other variations. I prefer it simple with oil, particularly as carp, like tuna, is more like a beef steak with little fat.

To accompany the carp we’ll have ‘mămăliga’ – a kind of cornmeal hash similar to ‘polenta’ but far better if made with the cornmeal from the countryside here; I think this is because a proportion of ‘tăriță’ (chaff) is left in it and probably also because it it is grown on the smallholders’ lots so truly ‘organic’ – a ridiculous term but you know what I mean. (Big Romanian food producers or Western invaders have invented a new one, applied to many packaged, branded foods which, of course, have preservatives, etc: ‘Bio’ is now plastered over packets of such products – more crap!)

Crap

Crap in Romanian is, of course, carp in English, a source of great amusement to Petronela’s students in the UK and to my fishmonger in Leeds Kirkgate market where I buy it, particularly for New Year when it is a traditional Romanian dish. His come from France so not as good as those from Romania, but OK.

WordPress app “beautiful new editor”

I’ve always ignored the WordPress suggestions to use the “improved” editor or the WordPress app. They have always been crap (in the English sense) compared to the traditional desktop version so I use that on both the Macbook and the iPad (as now). Most recently there was a notification that the app had a “beautiful new editor” (or was it “lovely”?) so I had a quick look.

Again complete crap!

In my experience, apps are almost always rubbish compared with the desktop versions, including Facebook, with the exception of Messenger which works very well. The Twitter app is also good. Of course many of the small specialised apps, for which there is no desktop equivalent, are very good. An example is a thermometer app which I’m using to report temperatures on my daily Facebook ‘diary’ – Dusty2Romania.

If the day ever comes when WordPress withdraw the traditional editor interface, as they once threatened to do but relented after a scream of protest from long-term bloggers, I will look for another platform or cease blogging altogether.

Why so many developers insist on fixing things which ‘ain’t broke’ I don’t know; maybe they have scores of programmers sitting around with nothing to do.

A recent post on a forum of UK freelancers to which I subscribe asked “Why do we write?”. Not surprisingly, given the context, most answered “To make money” but many answered with something like “To shout about something”.

The author at a computer with some of his writing on the screenI can associate with the latter response but not with the first, even though for much of my life my income has derived to a great extent from my ability to write, either as a journalist or on the other side of the fence in marketing communications. And now, having recently retired from my part time job, I am about to start up a business offering a writing service, for money (to be launched on ‘Small Business Saturday’, 6 December, with yet another WordPress website).

Nevertheless, although I may find myself writing blogs for pay (and did so, indirectly, in my previous employment) it is not why I post on the three WordPress personal blogs I run. Moreover, having been unable to post for a period  and, even now, less frequently, for a variety of reasons including ill health, I feel guilty for the omission. Why is that? 

This set me thinking again about the question “Why do we blog?”. Some do it for money but not, I think, the majority. What is more, it seems that for the majority it is the subject of the post which is of interest, rather than the writing itself. So it does not seem to be driven by the same urge as that for the so-called ‘creative writer’.

Some obvious examples can be seen in two categories of blog which I follow. First, photography blogs, which often (the most popular?) have very little text, if any, but when there is it is more often about the subject of the photo(s) or the technique of photography, rather than writing for its own sake. The second example is blogging about food and cooking.

Of course, as these are addressing two of my hobbies I enjoy following them but some, and many more texts in print, I read only because I enjoy the satisfaction I get from reading excellent writing.  An obvious example here is a poetry blog but there are a few bloggers I follow who write about their everyday lives and the pleasure reading them derives not from what they write but from how they write it. The subject is irrelevant.

I can give an example of reading for the writing from my local daily paper, the Yorkshire Post. With the exception of my ‘classic’ vehicles and a few super cars, motor vehicles do not interest me at all, yet I look forward to reading the paper’s motoring feature writer, Fred Manby, because he  writes well. He occasionally digresses into a restaurant review and I read it with pleasure for the same reason as I’ve little interest now in eating in restaurants.

Returning to my opening question, I have concluded that the majority of bloggers do not post because they enjoy writing for its own sake, but with some other motive.

So, why do you blog?

 

Yet another of my favourite blogs has announced a transfer from WordPress.com to WordPress.org; this time he not only announced it but did it within hours, and so has disappeared completely off the blogging scene (‘server error’ message only). I’m posting this ‘comment’ to both my blogs in the hope he and the others may see it.

But I don’t think bloggers contemplating this move realise that even when the new site works it is so much more complicated for people to ‘like’, follow and comment. (more…)