Genesis Of A Blog

Observatory

In August 2008 I started this blog with a post about the neighbour in ‘Bewitched’.

The posts were short and funny. They were not often about books.

Sometimes we had songs or musical numbers. We had competitions, crosswords and treasure hunts, as if we were big children.

Most author websites discussed literature, but I didn’t want to take a busman’s holiday, so I cut loose with foolish things that amused me. If I’d wanted to discuss Aristophanes or Barthes here I would have done so, but this was ‘Picture Book’ for writers and their friends. In fact, whenever I posted about literature hardly anyone bothered to comment, so I phased most of those posts out. People only add comments on things they can get their heads around, so if I wrote a piece called ‘Camus and Marmite’ the posts would mostly be about Marmite. Which is understandable.

Often I posted five or six times a week. It was exhausting work that I fitted around my regular working hours, because I loved doing it. I hardly even remembered my publisher’s request; to promote my books. Witty voices emerged from regular followers. I still miss Dan Terrell’s urbane humour in the Comments section.

In December 2019, I collapsed with flu-like symptoms. Shortly after, I was diagnosed with cancer. Later the pandemic began, and between chemo and radiology my life became very challenging. I logged some of funnier/grimmer events here. Even when I discovered I was terminal I kept up the blog, although it’s hard to be the court jester when you’re on morphine.

Now that I have limited time which I should be spending on writing books, the blog is becoming harder for me to maintain. It’s not been helped by a new element coming in from a few disgruntled readers in the Comments, complaining that the posts are too serious. I suspect what they dislike are my liberal politics. Well, I’m a North London gay leftie non-driving, hipster-restaurant-dining, fringe-theatre-going liberal fucking nightmare. So if you can’t deal with that, be off with you.

They’re right, of course. As the blogs are written spontaneously when I rise, my current mood seeps into them. But it takes too much time and energy to continue this, so I’m considering my options. If I do end the blog we’ll have one last laugh and after that you’ll be able to find me on Twitter.

 

91 comments on “Genesis Of A Blog”

  1. Bernard says:

    This may be about Genesis but we prefer to wait indefinitely for Exodus.

  2. Jo W says:

    So sad that you feel like this,Chris. From a personal point of view, it was not about the content of your blog but instead, the content of some of the comments, some of which were longer and more numerous than the blog itself.
    I think that some of your regular commenters have been quite restrained in naming no names but there is a ‘feeling’ and they have probably thought it better to stay away. None of us, I’m sure, wanted to distress or aggravate you in any way at all, but if it will be better for you to finish with this blog now, then so be it. Please believe, your true followers wish only the best for you.
    See you on twitter……..
    Hugs to you and Pete.xx

  3. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    What Jo W said.
    You must do whatever is best for you.
    As much as I enjoy reading your posts, I don’t want, or expect, you to do anything that makes your life more difficult.

  4. Peter+T says:

    Whatever is best for you Mr Fowler. We have been privileged to enjoy all your works and visit you here in your blog and thank you for it. Every good fortune!

  5. Alan Morgan says:

    Always do you.

    Fuck the toenail rattlers.

  6. Adam says:

    I really enjoy the blogs, and love the way (on the whole) the comments veer off in totally unexpected directions and tangents.

    It’s your blog, and if people don’t like the content they can sod the sod off.

    More power to your elbow, sir, and for as long as you keep writing, I’ll keep on reading.

  7. Adam says:

    Ps: “I’m a North London gay leftie non-driving, hipster-restaurant-dining, fringe-theatre-going liberal fucking nightmare” deserves to be on a book blurb – brilliant!

  8. Colin says:

    The best thing about the blog is it’s so random, you never know what to expect. That’s what makes it so unique and brilliant.

  9. rh says:

    Totally understand. I have got so much pleasure from these over the years – a new one is always a high point when it appears. Thank you for all the words; may there be many more… and +1 for what Alan Morgan said.

  10. Peter+T says:

    … whatever is the easiest way to keep spreading the magic.

  11. Ian Luck says:

    Chris, it’s your blog. Do, or say, whatever the f**k you want. Bollocks to the naysayers – we’re here to read, enjoy, and reply, often veering off into realms of surreal, turnip-flavoured whimsy. You keep on as you are, for as long as you can. We’ll still be here for you. You’ve made my life so much more interesting. I’m not alone in that, I know. Thank you.

  12. Brooke says:

    What Ian said. You and I often disagree (Phil Pullman, Susanna Clarke, etc.) And I hope I haven’t been too obnoxious.
    Will continue to follow you (and Pete) on Twitter.
    Hugs.

  13. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin While I marvel at your ability to bump a noun and verb together elegantly on the fly, as it were, in the blog — if it comes to it — I’ll take a book any day. The relatively short time I’ve been reading your blog — and considering remarks you’ve made in passing elsewhere here — I’ve always presumed you viewed the comments as a kind of ‘return’ on your investment for the time and effort you put into it. When that return becomes less attractive — or you must put your fund of energy into other opportunities — you, of course, must stop investing. Which leads me to the not- so-veiled criticisms of comment length and frequency being somehow off-putting or worse, intimidating, as if the comments section were some mythical Shangri-La or other proprietary, inviolate domain. You generously permit just about all comments and related asides, tangents and diversions and allocate as much ‘space’ as needed to accommodate all. Thank you for that. To the best of my knowledge, no one is forced to read all of the comments; that’s what the scroll function is for, and should a ‘satisfying’ comment not be found, there’s always the next time. Or one may be contributed.

    And this business of the supposed ‘good old days’ of the blog when there was all ‘sweetness and light’ seems to be somewhat of a ‘false memory,’ based on some quick research. The lion’s share of your efforts almost always had an ‘edge’ of one kind or another, not always political, of course, but, as should be expected, usually a sharp, subjective point of view — to which many responded in kind and often at length.

    ‘Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards’ — Soren Kierkegaard

  14. Gary Hart says:

    It has been so much of a pleasure to be able to communicate directly with my favorite author without having any agenda pushed upon me. The fact that you are confident enough to not have to push the books I think, has only increased your appeal.

    We have loved the eclectic nature of the blog. Never knowing what to expect from the next one. Then marveling at the sudden tangents the comments made. But then that is the fun of it all.

    Like all of the genuine followers here, though, it is not about us, but whatever is best for you. We would miss the blog but would rather you looked after yourself and Pete. Plus I love your Twitter posts just as much. (I still think that Osman chap needs bringing down a peg or two).

    I’m adding another +1 to Alan, I love that ‘toenail rattlers.’

    Take care Chris and do whatever makes you both happiest.

  15. admin says:

    ‘The best thing about the blog is it’s so random, you never know what to expect.’ – a Picture Book vibe, see? Thank you, Colin.

    Stu-I-Am, you are the natural successor to Dan Terrell (see Comments passim).

    Brooke, I have viewed you as a cross between Toni Morrison and Margaret Hamilton but now you are just you.

    “Never give up. No one knows what’s going to happen next.” – The Patchwork Girl of Oz

  16. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Let me bring the subject to a full stop for me (I know — hard to believe…), If you decide to stop the blog, we’ll be the poorer for it, but the richer for having had it.

  17. Joan says:

    Love your Blog Chris, it’s the only one I follow!

  18. Pauline wallin says:

    Having just discovered your blog I do hope you continue to write it. I have listened to all your Bryant and May full length novels on Audible and am now onto the short stories. Bryant and May have brought much needed light into my life over the past couple of months, a time when I have been in a great deal of physical pain, dulled by morphine and the chance to disappear into your wonderful evocation of London. Mr Fowler, thank you for your irrepressible storyline, comedic wit and plain, straightforward humanity.

  19. Roger says:

    It’s one of the problems with blogs – they’re informal in many ways, deadly serious in others. I’ve always taken blogs to be people muttering their thoughts aloud. They don’t expect to be taken seriously and want an equally frivolous response.
    “How can I know what I think until I’ve heard what I say?” and a blog is a dress-rehearsal for striking attitudes and working out what you’re going to say. They may be about something serious, but the comments themselves aren’t and nor are the responses.
    You’ve given me too much pleasure, here and in your books, for me to feel entitled to say anything but do what you want and enjoy it. If you keep blogging, no matter what kind of blog, I’ll follow it.

  20. Chris+Lancaster says:

    I don’t comment very often, but have followed your blog almost since its inception. It can be funny, serious, informative, angry, mischievous … but whatever it is, it is always entertaining, and has enriched my life through the incredible smorgasbord of books, films, plays and parts of London that I have discovered through its posts. I always think of it as being “enjoyably esoteric”.

    It also brings me hope, as I’m perhaps the polar opposite of a North London gay leftie non-driving, hipster-restaurant-dining, fringe-theatre-going liberal fucking nightmare, but so much of what you write resonates with me. There is hope yet for disparate elements of society to find common ground.

    When it becomes a chore, or, in your case, when there is no more time for it, the same applies to blogging as it does to anything else: stop doing it. Your real fans will appreciate the huge effort and time investment the blog has taken, and wish you well. If others moan, well that says something about them, not you.

    Just do what you want, when you want, and make sure you do it with the people you love, and who love you. Easier said than done, perhaps, but isn’t everything?

  21. Richard Stone says:

    Just do what is right for you. Your blog is a reflective view from your eye and mind. If people don’t agree or like tough. Your readers and followers will remain loyal and beside you.

    Fuck em is what i say.

  22. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Sorry, it just struck me that I would find it difficult, if not impossible, to put my next essay comment: ‘Why Aromatherapy is Not Working in Westminster’ into 280 characters. So, I’ll have to ask you to postpone any possible blog closure until it’s completed. I’ll let you know.

  23. Brooke says:

    At first I thought you meant NASA Apollo Hamilton. Then I realized you meant that other Hamilton…well, and your little dog, too.

  24. Please don’t go. I am 77, and your B & M books have brought me back to laugh out loud reading, mystery freak that I am. Don’t do blogs, just stumbled on this, and it is like good conversation. Thank you for all of it, especially the hair bits.

    Wishing you only happiness.
    Marie

  25. Stephen.Groves says:

    Still a fan ,blog or no blog just love your writing.
    STALKY

  26. Stephen.Groves says:

    Still a fan ,blog or no blog just love your

    Still a fan , blog or no blog
    STALKY

    STALKY

  27. Wolfgang says:

    Admin, I notice you have singled me out for a dishonourable mention. I would remind you that I have not, repeat not, at any time made any negative comment about any of your posts. Since I began reading them some years ago I have always found them to be entertaining, witty, enjoyable and, upon occasion, educational. I look forward to continue reading them in whatever time I have left to me.

    Please read again what Jo W at 7:05am above said in her comment. She appears to be the only one who understood what I and John Howard were talking about and she has articulated it well. It was never about you and your posts.

    My only negative (?) comment was in relation to the presentation of some comments and possible subsequent effects; would need to parse the analytics for a definitive answer to that. But the point remains that this was focused elsewhere rather than on your content or indeed, you personally.

    As to your assertion that I dislike your liberal politics – what nonsense as I fall that way myself; one doesn’t have to be gay to hold such a view of the world. As to your self-description as being “…North London Gay leftie…” you should not assume that generates any hostility in me and I’m disappointed you would leap to that conclusion without verification. It certainly isn’t true.

    Just in case you block me as you blocked the others I will belatedly express my pleasure that your health appears to be improving to the point that you may produce another B & M. Such good health news. My suspicion is that given my age (much in advance of yours) I will be crossing the Styx well ahead of you. BTW, I’m pretty sure your hair will change eventually from black to whatever is normal for you.

    Upon reflection, the upside to being blocked is that I can twist that slightly and tell my great-granddaughter that I’ve been cancelled – she would be so impressed!

  28. admin says:

    Dear Wolfgang –

    Don’t worry, I only block the offensive personal comments (which do pop up from time to time). You were singled out because, as I said in the blog, you’re both right. I do proselytise sometimes, although I try to draw the line at ranting, although the ‘North London…’ was a bit of a rant and was meant in the spirit of fun.

    I’m conflicted about continuing the blog. My world is more limited now, and I don’t get to report back on my more lunatic peregrinations. I am anxious to travel by train across Finland into Russia, but right now it is difficult to do. I can’t just write about my kitchen. And it’s displacement when I should be writing a book.

    I’m leaving it for now – we’ll see if I can find the energy to bounce back.

  29. Bob Low says:

    Due to an increase in the level of business of my one-man law firm, post lockdown, I have been more of a “lurker” than a participator in the comments to your blogs, which I have continued to read with interest and enjoyment. I am very sad to see that you are considering giving the blog up, but you need to do whatever is right for you, and your husband. Your posts during the first lockdown were a tonic and the bravery you have shown since your diagnosis, an inspiration. On a more personal note, I’d also like to add that, when you chose to post Marjorie Bowen’s story “The Scoured Silk” on the basis of a comment of mine, I felt extremely touched, and proud to be part of the company of civilised bibliophiles who comprise the bulk of your followers. Please look after yourself.

  30. SteveB says:

    Hi Chris / Admin

    I’d miss the blog a lot, not only for itself but for all the other people here whose names, and personalities, I’ve got to recognise over the years.
    But you have to take care for yourself and Pete first.

    @Wolfgang I often over the years posted thing Chris wouldn’t have agreed with, but he never once censored me.

    I learnt a lot from this blog, both large and small.

    All the best
    Steve

  31. BarbaraBoucke says:

    Thanks for all the words and thoughts, as well as the boiled sweets recommendations from last December.

  32. Liz+Thompson says:

    I’d miss your blog if it went, whether you want to write serious or funny or informative. I’d miss other folk’s observations too. But if time is limited, you do what you want to do, and ignore us for a while. (Or even permanently, if you prefer). Trips, books, time for yourself. Whatever – you deserve to spend the rest of your time how YOU (and husband, I guess) want to.

  33. Crprod says:

    Your blog is enjoyed here in Durham, North Carolina.

  34. Rob C says:

    Hey Chris,
    Just to say that your Blog has helped me through some seriously troubled times and was often my only glimpse of (in)sanity in the turmoil that was Brexit. I’m now happily relocated to NL (my job is EU Civil Servant) with my wife & cat. I find that, here in Haarlem, we often meet characters that could have stepped out of one of your tomes.

    If you decide to wind down your Blog please note that your Blog (and you) is loved, and whilst we will miss it, we will also be able to say with pride ‘Do you remember……..’

    Rob C

  35. Stu-I-Am says:

    @admin Certainly we would delight in any ‘Boy’s Own’ adventure in recreating Lenin’s return to Russia (by train, not sledge, of course), should you decide to continue blogging. But I suspect the delight would be more a matter of seeing you do something you’ve wanted to do for some time. The point is, we would likely also be captivated by your supermarket list (kale, you say). Lest you forget, it is the writing (for me, and I presume most of the others) not the ‘written about.’ Now granted, that is a bit selfish since you need motivation, but you’ve been able to use your alchemical abilities to great effect here (and certainly with B&M) almost from the start. So — let’s, in fact, take your kitchen.

    From your comments. I gather you spend more time looking at a menu than a recipe book (if at all), but musings on cooking (and any thankless attempts by you or Pete, perhaps) and kitchen accessories/utensils (you must have one or two; I seem to recall a legal requirement to have at least a whisk) might be more easily worked up. Second thoughts, further reflections (or updates) on previous blogs might be another relatively undemanding (at least in terms of subject matter) way to go. In the end, of course, it’s completely and utterly down to you. Better stop now before Jo W decides to ‘name names.’

  36. Stu-I-Am says:

    A little something to perhaps take your mind off the incessant clanging of the headlines. A beautifully ethereal (new age classical ?) piece by the wonderful Canadian composer/musician Bill Douglas featuring the extraordinary voices of the Ars Nova Singers. The choice of Vermeer paintings as the visual backdrop is also nice touch. Enjoy.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MA89qZza63c

  37. Silly+Sully says:

    We’ll be grateful for what ever we get & treasure every bit.

  38. Frances says:

    I never thought I would consider joining Twitter. Only for you.

  39. Martin says:

    Chris,
    I am so pleased to see that the comments above consistently reflect the genuine appreciation, respect, and love for you and what you do that I have felt for years. I will miss your blogging, and I agree with Alan Morgan, “always do you.” (I’m just not sure what a toenail rattler is.)

  40. Helen+Martin says:

    The only complaint I have is the reintroducing of liquorice allsorts and lemon sherbets into our house. I was introduced to this blog by my son who admires Chris. Through all of the years I have enjoyed so many different viewpoints, opinions I might well not have met had I not come here and this is a “here”, a wild room of our own where conversations go on all over the place and some people have actually physically met. I enjoyed a pub evening with Jo W and visited Dan Terrell in Washington just before he died – I reread his mystery every once in a while and read his children’s picture book to my young neighbours. I enjoyed our visit to you when we were in London, too, so I have a live face and voice in my memory.
    I was contacted and asked to organise a thank you to Chris – and Pete – but I could not get a consensus or work out a way of doing it. My next step was going to be trying to reach Snowy and asking for advice (as usual).
    Chris, the comments to today’s post are just a hint of the vast amount of pleasure you have given us all. You have shown us a London we don’t see on television or in the news and we have met each other, about the motliest crew any author could imagine. Yes, some of us went on too long or too often or offended in other ways (too Edwardian a writing style perhaps?) but it was always about you and your books, which we pushed elsewhere as well as here. I know I’ve introduced at least two regular readers.
    We wish you more than well – we wish we could come and provide tea and baked goods, music and a touch of joy. Those of us who are that way inclined will pray for you both, as long as there is time.

  41. Renzo says:

    Hi Chris
    Over the years, I have read, loved and enjoyed your blog immensely. Yours is the only blog I follow. From a totally selfish perspective, I hope that you decide to continue your blog. However, I also appreciate that you must do what is right for you. If you decide to stop, I shall have to do the unthinkable and open a Twitter account! Either way Chris, thank you and best wishes for the future.

  42. Rob says:

    Chris, I love your blogs, and the comments. That means you’re not allowed to stop. Sorry, just the way it is.

  43. Martin+Tolley says:

    As so many others have said, we don’t want you to stop, but we understand. Again, like others, I’m grateful for what you’ve given us, and for the chance to meet and chat with so many other folk here, to hear so many varied and interesting opinions and to learn so many things. And the Friday songs – just love those. And where else on the planet would I have discovered that the term Charwoman has nothing to do with tea, but derives from Chore woman? My sincere and heartfelt thanks for the efforts you’ve made for us all Mr F, it is appreciated. As Helen says – we wish you more than well.

  44. Stu-I-Am says:

    ‘I’m so glad we had this time together
    Just to have a laugh, or sing a song.
    Seems we just got started
    and before you know it
    Comes the time we have
    to say, ‘So long.’

    — From the theme song for the American ‘Carol Burnett Show’ TV series

  45. Wayne+Mook says:

    As the old saying goes, ‘Don’t let the bastards get you down.’

    I enjoy you’re comments, don’t always agree, but I do look forward to them, but if this is the end I say, ‘thank you and to the motley crew that come here.’

    I hope it wasn’t me that turned the hordes of bankers after you.

    By the way there is a limited Chilli Marmite out, not tried it yet but I have finished my Coca-cola Tic Tacs. M&S are doing the rolled tortilla, chocolate and cinnamon again for Xmas, so wrong but lovely.

    As to Camus I once told a teacher I found him boring, it wasn’t true but I was tired (hadn’t finished the book when asked as well) and knew I’d be heading for another argument I knew I was right about but would be shouted down and I didn’t want to attack friends. I went to a boys grammar school as a working class lad you stick as an outsider, I saw friends alter their accent to fit in and I guess become socially mobile, I refused as I could see what was happening from the off (it didn’t help I was dyslexic and would not shut up, I was sent out of class for talking on many occasions.). I could understand The Outsider and how those who do not to fit in to a set path are singled out and punished, being punished for the same things others do but get away with, just because you don’t do the expected. I guess telling the teacher and many of my school friends they are the society Camus railed against wouldn’t have gone down well.

    And One last time if it is to be a turnip recipe.

    Parmesan Crusted Crushed Turnips. Use small turnips (or swede depending which part of the country you are in.) boil them so they are tender but not falling apart, flatten them (watch out they soak up plenty of water) and let them drain, then coat them with oil (you can add flavour to the oil like garlic) and sprinkle with Parmesan (other cheeses are available) and bake until golden. (Basically an alternative to potato bakes with cheese on top.)

    All the best,

    Wayne.

  46. Ed+DesCamp says:

    Arrrrgh! I have finally been forced to join Tweeter in order to get my CF fix. I’ve scrolled down to the first available entry (February 20th, 2020), and am enjoying the wonderfulness of MORE FOWLER!!
    Thanks for all the joy.

  47. Peter+T says:

    Wayne, I wish you had a TV cooking show. It would be, like Chris’s blog, a breath of fresh air in a world of neuro-typical ignorance. Camus, “Suicide or a cup of coffee?” Better still some of Stu’s tea. You set a fine example by not letting them wear you down. KBO.

  48. Lorraine says:

    Dear Chris
    I totally understand that you should do what’s best for you. Your blog is always a delight to read. Interesting, entertaining, quirky and funny – just like your novels and it’ll be hugely missed if you decide to bring it to an end. Therefore I’m selfishly hoping that you still manage to keep it going! Sending massive best wishes whatever to decide to do.

  49. chazza says:

    Would obviously prefer if you continued your current labours since your blogs are so stimulating but the decision is obviously yours.
    I don’t, however, read the comments very much anymore since some regulars have become so insufferably pompous and intellectually flatulent…
    What is Twitter?

  50. Stu-I-Am says:

    This one’s from me…

    For CF

    I Knew Him Then

    There’s no ending while the memory’s there,
    Though haze may others dull, it’s always fair.
    And as the years and pages go flitting by,
    I reach for the books with a happy sigh.
    And read once more, and then again,
    Smile and say, I knew him then.

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