The trees are just beginning to colour for autumn; the rowan berries are ready. pictured today from our sitting room window

The trees are just beginning to colour for autumn; the rowan berries are ready for the birds. Pictured today from our sitting room window

She’s done it again: Ruxandra, the wonderful leader of our writers’ club, Writing on the Wharfe, has persuaded the organisers of the prestigious Ilkley Literature Festival ‘fringe’ to let us loose on stage again following our debut last year. Each of us will have a spot of around 5 minutes to read our contribution in a one hour programme. The overall theme will be autumn. I’ve still to write something so any ideas from you wonderful writers/bloggers out there will be gratefully received.

Most of my followers are far away from Ilkley but, just in case, we’re on at Church House, Ilkley, 7-8pm on 14 October. Entry is free.

Haiku and short story

Last year I mixed some haiku with a short story for my contribution (if you have the stomach for it you can see a video clip on a post I did following it). I’ll probably do the same again. In fact I already have a haiku which might fit the theme, though it was written as part of answering the given theme of ‘Reflection‘ for a club meeting last year. For that I experimented with several different kind of poetry – including a first attempt at writing a Shakespearean sonnet – as well as a short short story. I inflicted it on those of you following me at the time in a post.

Here’s the haiku I might use:

leaves in still puddles
reflections of lost summer
rusted     yet to fall

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One of the most irritating things about the emails I get saying my blogs’ SEOs could be improved, so I could get much more traffic, is that the sender clearly hasn’t read my blog, though they sometimes claim to have “analysed” my site(s). In the first place I don’t want “more traffic”; in the second if I did need advice on improving the SEO (I do know quite a bit about the subject) I have two delightful lady followers in Bucharest, who do read my posts regularly, to whom I would go. Anyway, I write whatever comes into my head and analysing it for SEO etc would spoil the whole blogging process for me. Of course, if my blog(s) were about promoting a business I’d have a different attitude

Why not more traffic?

Why don’t I want more traffic? Because I try to go to the blog of every blogger who follows me or leaves a ‘like’ and, even more so, who leaves a comment and, if I decide to follow them, to each of their posts; I just could not handle a very large number as some bloggers seem to do. Moreover, this gives what is, for me, an ideal way of adding to the list of blogs which I follow. As I’ve said before, I don’t put likes or comments on the summary in reader; I go to the actual blog, so it could become too time-consuming if I followed very many people. In fact I could prune the present list a bit as some seem no longer to be blogging.

Reblogs

I rarely read reblogs and even more rarely reblog. If I want to promote a post I will usually have something to say about it and urge my readers to have a look at it, giving a link to the blog. Reblogging seems to me a bit lazy.

Blog ‘chats’ rather than ‘comments’

An additional factor is that I enjoy having a ‘chat’ with the other blogger, when I have something to say. If not I might just put a ‘like’ on the post. Occasionally I may add a one word comment. However the ‘chats’ can sometimes develop into a series of ‘comments’ and ‘replies’. From time to time the exchanges can become too personal, in my view, to be public so may transfer to email. All this means that following a large number of bloggers is not possible, for me.

SEO? Mine may not be as good as they could be but are good enough for me.

As many of you know, I enjoy writing short pieces with a precisely defined structure or number of words – haiku, tanka, stories of 75 and 100 words exactly. Shortly before this summer’s trip to Romania I came across 50 word stories and resolved to attempt one, or more. Now, having largely renounced anything other than my Facebook journal Dusty2Romania, and a very few blog posts, while travelling I thought it might be a way to ease myself back into so-called ‘creative writing’. I haven’t dared pick up my ‘long short story’ which, at approaching 25,000 words, was turning into a trilogy but I will, eventually.

So, here’s a bit of ‘fun’ in 50 words – precisely. 

She sat in the sun, he close to her. Their three little ones scampered below watched by the vigilant parents. A warning cry ended the carefree melee; a few seconds attentive inaction then the youngsters hurried to join the adults.

Frustration polluted the air with every twitch of Tabby’s tail.

It’s always exciting to get a new follower, not because it adds one to the total (I’m not really interested in increasing the number as such) but because I always go to look at their blog and from time to time find new, interesting blogger friends, sometimes from a ‘new’ country. In the past few months I’ve added Slovenia and Latvia to the list.

View from our bedroom window this morning; it looks over the Wharfe valley

View from our bedroom window this morning

The most recent new follower is Lisa Lennon, who says she’s a professional blogger. As regular readers of grumptyke know, for me blogging is just a hobby and that would change only if I created a business in the future. It could happen but if so it would have a different website/blog.

When I went to Lisa’s blog to see what it was about I saw a recent post on happiness. I won’t quote from it here; if you’re interested her blog is at

https://lisalennonofficialblog.wordpress.com/

Happiness is …?

However, it set me thinking about happiness for me. I’m lucky, in general I have it. Look at the view from my bedroom window above, over the Wharfe valley in Yorkshire (it’s the same view from the kitchen window) so there’s a good chance of feeling happy each morning, whether getting out of bed or making the morning tea/coffee. We’re lucky enough to wake to birdsong too early in the morning, mostly bluetits, blackbirds and goldfinches. How can that not make you happy?

Picture of busker singing in Briggate, Leeds, todayToday I went to my local city, Leeds. Again as regular readers will know I do not in general like cities, I’m definitely a country person, but Leeds makes me happy. Perhaps it’s the young people – it’s an important university city so it’s full of them. Perhaps it’s the buskers on the street, there’s always at least one, ranging from potential rock celebrities to young classical violinists, from young aspiring operatic sopranos to today’s offering, a not so young singer, far, far superior to Classic FM’s Alexandra Armstrong. Not quite Pavarotti but a good voice who treated us to a variety from Nessun Dorma to Sweet Caroline, which again was not quite Neil Diamond but excellent nevertheless. He made me happy, as did a group of three young women sitting on the street eating some wrap or other they had just bought interspersed with hilarious laughter. I couldn’t help but laugh with them.

Music

Then there’s music. I couldn’t possibly list all the music which instantly makes me feel happy so I’ll mention just two pieces. The first is Schubert’s ‘Trout’ quintet; depending on my mood I’ll sit quietly basking in it, or dance around the room singing the melody lines. The second can be guaranteed to make me feel happy no matter what catastrophe has befallen me: Beethoven’s ninth symphony, as I hang on every note waiting finally to drown in the ‘Ode to joy’.

Possessions

I’ve been trying to think of possessions which make me happy. That’s difficult. Certainly there are many things which I’m glad to have but I cannot say they make me happy, though what they allow me to do does, like reading and writing blog posts. In that sense my 10 year old Macbook and my rather younger iPad make me happy. And of course the radio bought for 50p on which I usually listen to music; I have more sophisticated equipment to play my LPs, which include the complete works of Beethoven, many operas and all sorts of other music. That equipment is probably 30 or 40 years old.

I’m rambling, which is anyway how this blog was conceived. So, sitting writing it, I’m happy.

Pavarotti with David Mellor

Daily Mail picture

Having slated Classic FM for its 25th birthday concert from Liverpool in my previous post (in which I too late saw I had wrongly, in my exhausted grumpy state, typed Bartok rather than Bruch – sorry) I thought I should redress the balance having enjoyed a couple of hours of superb music, with the most musically knowledgeable of the station’s presenters and, for me, the greatest tenor, certainly of ‘our times’. I’m talking about David Mellor paying homage to Pavarroti on Sunday evening, on the 10th anniversary of the death of the ‘King of the high Cs’.

I have to admit that when I first heard of David Mellor’s programme on Classic FM several years ago I groaned and was ready to turn the radio off (I had the same reaction when I heard that damned gardener was joining the team). When Mellor was a Minister in Margaret Thatcher’s then John Major’s Governments I had mixed feelings about him. I admired his outspokeness on Israeli treatment of Palestinians though it got him into quite a bit of trouble; I was saddened by his outburst to a taxi driver but only because it made him sound a twit (Mellor that is) – I’ve had my run-ins with cabbies; as for extra-marital affairs, I regarded them as none of my business. Unfortunately the report that he liked sex dressed in the Chelsea FC strip turned out to be a fabrication. I reckoned the detractors were just jealous that such an unlikely guy had ‘pulled’ a slim, attractive 6ft tall Antonia de Sancha.

Anecdotes

One of the things I like about his Classic FM programmes is the anecdotes about the many great musicians he has met, often revealing aspects of the great men and women of music of which I would otherwise be unaware. One such was a highlight of Sunday’s programme: when Mellor was at his lowest point thanks to the mass media, shortly before he had to resign his Government post, coming off stage Pavarotti went out of his way to give him a hug and tell him not to be put down by it. This confirmed for me a feeling I’ve always had about the big man, communicated to me previously only by his singing.

There were many wonderful moments in Sunday’s broadcast, many of the recordings I had not heard before, but three stood out for me. One was Pavarotti singing to his home crowd at an open air concert in Modena. His enjoyment, sheer joy, was evident in every song. The second was him singing with Joan Sutherland, a partnership made in heaven. Third was him hitting the nine high Cs as Tonio in, La Fille du Regiment; I’ve heard it many times but it is ever a wonder.

As for Mellor, I don’t know how he gets away with it but he doesn’t add “On Classic FM”, as seems obligatory for all the other presenters, to the end of every announcement of a piece. It’s extremely irritating and generally untrue.

And he doesn’t try to sing! Lord preserve us from Alexander Armstrong – neither tuneful nor witty and now he’s tried to emulate David Bowie with Peter and the Wolf. It took me all of five seconds to reach the ‘off’ switch. But it’ll be on again before next Sunday’s Mellor spot.


An aside: after six weeks writing almost only my Facebook diary (I don’t regard that as writing) I’ve suddenly got the urge really to write again. At the moment it’s an urge to write blog posts (never, I promise you, several a day!) but I’ll maybe get to fiction again soon.

I’m amazed how few members of our writers’ club blog; as many (most?) of them aspire to be published writers (not self-published) I find it inexplicable. It’s even more surprising when you consider that pretty well all of them say they love writing for itself, as I do, and fiddle about on Facebook – which has it’s place but not for someone driven to write, at least not until they’ve ‘made’ it, to promote their published book.

Turned off ‘publicize’ to Facebook – not helpful

The ‘auto-promote’ – ‘publicize’ – to Facebook is not helpful in this respect and for a recent post I turned this off. When notification of a post gets out on Facebook many people just put a ‘like’ on that, based on the summary, without ever reading the actual post. Worse, they frequently ‘like’ the picture chosen by Facebook, which often is not the best pic or even that associated with the lead story if there are more than one. Same applies to comments left on the Facebook summary, which are nowhere near as useful to the blogger as comments left on the blog post itself, if only that those on the blog help to raise awareness of the writer through Google and, of course, the blog followers.

I’ve tried to say it several times with little result; is this failure to understand blogging or laziness? Easier just to push the ‘like’ button or choose an emoji rather than write something thoughtful? They are writers for heaven’s sake!

Twitter is better as it will choose the headline and the lead story picture if there are more than one in the post.

The post for which I turned off the auto promote to Facebook was the latest on the ‘alternative’ village website I do – https://menstonvillagewharfedale.com. Excited that I persuaded a talented, entertaining writer from our writers’ club (and great blogger though unfortunately not on WordPress) – Becky Bond to contribute a post now and then, about one a month, I specifically asked for some comments from club members to support her. I was concerned that what comments were made would be on my Facebook page, for which I choose to have very few followers, not on her post itself.

I dislike Facebook

If you haven’t gathered it from past posts you should have no doubt now that, as a writer, I dislike Facebook except in small closed groups, where it can be useful for communication within the group, as in ours, though one member does not use Facebook so misses out on some comms. Blogging does not seem to attract the asinine comments so often seen on Facebook, comments which the perpetrators seem to think are witty. On the other hand, I do like messenger for brief exchanges with real friends (ie not necessarily Facebook ‘friends’, who may or may not be)

True friends and surprises through blogging

I’ve never found a true friend through Facebook though several friendships have begun with a ‘like’ or comment on a post on this blog. I’ve also had tremendous support from bloggers during difficult times, like when I was quite seriously ill.

Then there are the surprises. I had one just last week from a delightful young lady, an opera singer, a soprano who I’ve been following through her blog since she began studying singing a while ago. She’s now at the Royal College of Music. No surprise there, but the only contact has been through this blog or hers and the latest I heard was that she was singing in Manchester, in opera for babies (BambinO, a project of Scottish Opera). I don’t have a baby so decided this was not the occasion to try to hear this singing blogger, Charlotte Hoather, sing live.

Then she popped up on the village blog, leaving a ‘like’ on a post I did on a gig in the village, with a very different kind of music. It was almost as big a surprise as finding myself dancing at the village event, and equally pleasing.

 

My ‘alternative’ website/blog for the village in which I live, Menston, has got me into trouble far more than this one ever has (for one example of why see some ‘wanted’ posters I created and published) but it has also brought me more plaudits than grumpytyke has. There is an ‘official’ village website run by the Parish Council; it doesn’t have a blog. When I was diagnosed with prostate cancer three years ago posting on both ‘my’ sites became rather erratic – sometimes because I just did not feel well enough. In a way the village site suffered more than this one because it had lists of village events, village businesses, etc, which became out of date as I could not chase around garnering the information. In fact I had a third blog, specifically about classic cameras and film photography; I stopped posting on that completely but didn’t take it down and it can still be accessed through a link on this site.

Thanks to what I describe as my “wonder pills” (I posted about these cytotoxic miracles here recently) I’ve been able to do far more recently; a short while ago I managed to climb a small mountain in the English Lake District, which I also blogged about, and the weekend before last I was persuaded onto the dance floor at a village gig by two delightful energetic ladies and survived (I thought I was going just to take photographs, which I did – if you’d like to see them and proof that I was dancing you can see pictures here.)

Dusty and me

I’m trying now to rejuvenate this blog and the village one. As far as this one is concerned  I hope to document a forthcoming trip to Romania far better than I did that of two years ago. Just coaxing the then 43 year old VW camper over seven and a half thousand kilometers (4,500 miles) didn’t leave much energy for anything else. This year the trip will be in our recently acquired Dacia Duster – we’ve named him Dusty – which I hope will be less wearing.

menston village wharfedale

As for the village site, I’ve persuaded someone who I’ve described as “one of the three best writers I’ve ever worked with” to join me in writing posts on the blog. She’s Becky Bond, a member of our writers’ club who more often than not has us all in fits of laughter with her contributions. If you’d like to know a little about her I wrote a post introducing her recently on the village blog. She has her own blog, unfortunately not a WordPress one so much more difficult to show appreciation with ‘likes’ or comments. It’s called Becky Bond Writes. Becky was one of those who didn’t succeed in killing me two weeks ago!