April Blogging from A-Z 2021

Last year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge for me was seriously curtailed by Covid restrictions – well, by the whole country being in full lock-down, actually. I’d originally planned to take you on an alphabetical journey around my new home town of Inverness in the North of Scotland, but of course by last April we were on a Stay at Home order and everything touristy and interesting was shut anyway. I did actually succeed in completing all 26 letters of the challenge, but only by staying a lot closer to home than I liked, and fudging a bit where necessary.

So my hope for this year had been to be able to repeat my truncated theme from last year but taking the all-inclusive, belt-and-braces approach, the way I’d originally intended. Except of course April is right around the corner and here we are on long-term lock-down yet again! It looks like I’m going to need a Plan B, and sooner rather than later. Or perhaps a non-plan plan… Hmm… Anyway, I think I’ll go with a fairly flexible theme based on collating my thoughts and feelings about the pandemic – hopefully that allows me to be as random as I like, but still with an over-arching focus on the most topical issue in my life at the moment.

I might post a few photographs, or write a few poems, or rip a few rants, or find a few relevant quotes, or just whatever gives me the feels on the day, letter by letter – but the main thing is I hope to have fun, alphabetically! 🙂

Housework, Hobbies and Hopes

Fandango’s Provocative Question asks this week:

How many hours, on average, do you spend per day (or per week) on blogging-related activities? And what do you think you might do with your time if you didn’t spend it on those blogging activities?

Without putting any sort of numerical value in it, right now I feel I spend way too much time on blogging-related activities. But on reflection maybe that’s a tough judgement call to make in the middle of winter in the middle of a Covid lock-down, one year into a world pandemic.

I mean, we legally can’t visit friends or family or basically socialise with anybody at all beyond our immediate household so a lot of ‘normal’ leisure activities are severely curtailed for the duration. Life has become far more restricted for everyone, so for now blogging has definitely become more important to me as a way of feeling I’m still reaching out, still keeping in touch with the rest of the world.

Usually, when I’m out at work or otherwise busy with everyday real life I inevitably blog a lot less. But right now I’m furloughed from work so I have a lot of free time and real life for me at present consists pretty much of housework and hobbies. And blogging is most definitely one of my hobbies, so in general however much hobby time I have gets divided up accordingly between all the fun stuff I like to do.

Other current hobbies include watching TV (and that encompasses watching DVDs and other recorded media too), gardening (hello, it’s winter in the North of Scotland, you’ll be lucky in this weather), crochet (although thinking about it I’ve not actually done any crochet since we moved into our house 16 months ago), photography (some of which gets shared on my blog), a lot of colouring in just for fun, and writing the occasional poem when the mood strikes me (also to be shared on my blog).

Hmmm… So what is it I DON’T do now that I blog?

My immediate response is to say ‘reading’ – I used to read A LOT of fiction, I generally had at least one book on the go at any given time, especially when the kids were small. But to be fair that was decades ago, my kids are all in their late thirties and life has changed a lot since then. Reading was my go-to fantasy escapism that didn’t rely on anyone else, that I could pick up and put down however many times was necessary and that was always 100% portable. I grew up reading, as did my mum and my maternal grandmother – we used to share books amongst ourselves. And I used to read a lot of women’s magazines, too.

So when DID I stop reading fiction so compulsively and completely?

If I’m honest that happened a long time before I started blogging, and probably dates from when I was studying for my full time degree as a mature student. For three years solid I read voraciously myriad academic books and journals and articles and essays and essays and even more essays. I absolutely loved studying and learning and all that entailed, and for those three years academic stuff was pretty much all I read. And I suppose when wholesale reading is so firmly associated with work not leisure it stops being a form of indulgent escapism.

After I graduated I seem to remember I didn’t read anything I didn’t have to for the longest time, so not surprisingly other hobbies soon filled the gap left by reading for pleasure and I simply never picked it up again to quite the same extent. I do still read my beloved paperbacks, but not like I did before. And anyway, blogging includes reading as much as writing, just not entire novels. It’s more like reading while being involved in an interactive multi-functional magazine of life you also contribute to, filled with stories and snippets and tips and shared interests and opinions and creative connections.

I’ve been blogging on and off for seven years, and in all honesty I hope to keep on blogging for years to come. I’m sure my blog will inevitably change and grow as I do, ebbing and flowing with the tide of life. In the future sits retirement, potential ill health and infirmity, and all sorts of possible alterations to my everyday experiences that may affect how I interact with the world going forward. I may blog less at times, and more at others. I may move away from one thing and towards another. I may even change direction entirely.

But overall I feel blogging has become such a valued hobby, especially since Covid ran riot across the world, I don’t see me giving it up in favour of anything else any time soon, so however much time I spend on it is never going to be time wasted, is it? 🙂

Blogging Breaks and New Starts

Fandango asks for his Provocative Question this week:

Have you ever taken a hiatus (break) from blogging? If so, how long did your hiatus last and why did you take it? How difficult was it to return to blogging after your hiatus? Did your stats suffer and did you lose readers as a consequence of your absence?

Ooh, good question for me as this is actually my fourth blog on WordPress in the seven years I’ve been blogging.

My first ever blog only lasted about seven or eight months before I lost interest and decided to stop posting, or even reading any other blogs at all. I left it all lying dormant for a while and then after a few months I started to wonder how everybody was doing and thought I might go back to it, but I found I just wasn’t ‘feeling it’ any more so instead of picking up where I’d left off I created an entirely new blog and deleted the old one completely.

My second blog lasted a lot longer, maybe 18 months or so but I eventually got bored with it and again found I’d had enough of blogging for a while, so after another complete break of a few months I repeated the whole process as before and started all over again with blog number three. By this time I’d really started to work out what worked for me blog-wise and what didn’t, and that blog lasted a good couple of years before it too bit the dust. I guess you could say I have a kind of virtual restless wanderlust that happily uproots itself and moves on without a backward glance whenever the time is right…

So here I am now on blog number four, and this one has currently been going for three years next month – a bit of a record for me! Hmm, perhaps that’s why I’ve been getting itchy feet lately? So of course every time I’ve deleted my ‘old’ blog to start afresh I’ve lost all the followers associated with it, although I could still interact with all the blogs I’ve followed since the beginning. And often, as I picked up with them again as before, they would then start to follow my new blog and things would build up again from there.

So overall when it comes to the numbers game I’m not too fussed about having lots of followers data-wise, and I rarely (if ever) look at the figures or graphs these days. I mean, whatever the stats say there’s usually a set group of like-minded people who like and comment regularly on my posts and with whom I reciprocate, and that one-to-one personal interaction between us is what matters most to me. In fact some bloggers have been with me from the start, through every iteration of my online presence, which is great!

People tend to come and go for a variety of reasons. Some of the people I used to follow have now changed direction with their blogs and we’ve inevitably gone our separate ways as our interests have diverged, and I’m sure some of my followers have fallen away for the same reason. Inevitably when I post more regularly I get more interaction, and if I read other blogs more often, more people tend to come to look at mine in response, but I don’t need a stats page to tell me that. I like that fluidity of following or fading away as things change, it feels like that’s how it should be online as well as in real life.

In the grander scheme of things I blog just for me in the sense that I don’t have a business to build or a product to plug, I just want a dedicated space of my own to post stuff that allows me to share my everyday life with others, and those tend to be the kind of personal blogs I prefer to follow too. I like photography and poetry and family and home-based anecdotes and snippets and hearing about people’s health and hopes, and so for me it’s neither about wooing followers nor worrying about losing them, either.

I don’t ever think about what other people might want to read about and research in-depth journalistic articles accordingly, I just go with the flow of life, answering prompts or not as the inspiration captures my attention. Sometimes I do let myself get bogged down in stuff that I need to let go of, just let drop, because however much courting controversy can generate a frenzied flurry of firebrand feelings and a calamitous cacophony of comments, ultimately all that virtual vitriol is not what I’m here for.

Anyway, I think that’s probably answered that one, in however much of a roundabout way… Yes, I’ve taken blogging breaks, no, it wasn’t hard coming back because I started all over again, yes, my stats reset to zero and yes, I lost readers but then I gained back those that mattered again in time, and I’m still here after seven years, so that’s saying something 🙂

Something or Nothing

Blogging is feeling a bit stale for me at the moment, like rancid crumbs in the bottom of an empty biscuit tin. I look inside with the anticipation of satisfying my appetite for something more but instead find nothing but disappointment and emptiness, nothing there to tempt me.

It seems I have nothing much to say – or at least nothing I want to share online – and as I’m not going out anywhere right now either it all feels a bit ‘blah’, as if I’m going through the motions of posting anodyne stuff just for the sake of it. I know I could probably use my imagination to find a few interesting topics to post about, photographically if not musing in words, but to be honest I just don’t really seem to have the motivation.

One part of me understands that blogging is a great way of keeping in contact with the outside world while I’m stuck at home in the midst of this global pandemic so I tell myself it’s worth carrying on with posting whatever I come up with, however lame it might be if I were blogging in another time, another place. But then another part of me feels that if all I’m doing is just randomly clutching at straws and achieving little more than the blogging equivalent of opening my mouth and letting my belly rumble, then why bother?

So I do ponder a bit about trying harder to produce a decent balance between quality and quantity in whatever I do choose to post about because deep down it all feels a bit samey, a bit boring and insular, injecting a daily dose of uninteresting into the ether, and for what? But then I remind myself, if this everyday nonentity blandness is an accurate reflection of my lockdown limbo life at the moment then why not mirror that lack of sparkle and spectacle here in my blog?

Anyway right now I can’t help but ask myself, is it better to post something or nothing in times like these… And for now I’m still undecided…

The End of the Road?

Hmmm… It may be nearing the time for me and WordPress to part company…

I do understand this is a free site so the need for putting up with small ads appearing at the bottom of posts is a necessary evil to be endured – after all there’s no such thing as a free lunch. But this new addition of entire sponsored WordPress posts appearing large as life between my own posts feels like a step too far for me to be able to continue comfortably.

The addition of these full-scale WordPress posts means it no longer even looks to me like ‘my’ blog any more. It’s WordPress basically giving the platform and its native ads equal importance and visual weight to my personal blog posts, blatently muscling in and taking over my chosen content rather than just adding a small post-script to my posts as before, potentially signalling the end of the road for this little blog.

I know ‘all’ I have to do is upgrade to a paid site to get rid to these native sponsored ads but to be honest I’m not prepared to pay for what is no more than a hobby, a pastime – I only blog for fun so it really doesn’t matter that much to me. Advertise if you must, but don’t crowd me out of my own blog space and effectively bully me into submission. I’m not a business, and the bulk of my followers aren’t businesses either.

I had a Facebook page I used regularly for eight years, but when the ads became too aggressive and intrusive and Facebook started to decide for me which ‘preferred posts’ were to be given prominence in my own newsfeed and which should be disregarded I simply removed myself from the platform altogether with nary a backward glance.

So here I am almost seven years into my relationship with WordPress wondering if the time has come to do the same thing here… Hmmm…

Frayed Around the Edges

When it comes to my regular blogging interactions I think I’m possibly going to lie low for the next few weeks…

One way or another 2020 has not proved to be a great year for most people, and as we see the end in sight I for one am feeling more than a little frazzled and frayed around the edges. Coronavirus fatigue is frustratingly real – I’m still following all local and national restrictions as required but to be honest I’m starting to feel resentful when I see so many others around me bending the rules, or in some cases blatantly breaking them.

And added to the usual stresses of working in retail over the Christmas period during a pandemic (including working longer hours all through December), the large UK company I work for is no longer doing so well financially in these Covid times and we found out last week that I and all of my work colleagues are now facing the painful prospect of potentially being made wholesale redundant early in the new year.

So overall it’s proving to be a really difficult time for all of us at work just now, but in the meantime we still maintain the polite professionalism of helpful sales advisors and continue to give good customer service to everyone. Still smiling while social distancing, while breathing through a stuffy face-mask all day, while sanitising our hands after every transaction and keeping our cash points constantly decontaminated.

Right now I feel like I’m running on fumes, and it’s all taking its toll on me far too much. I’m tired of all of it, so its probably best if I just take some time out…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Fumes