Happy 5000th Anniversary!
What did I want to create? A place of ideas.
This shot is from my very first blog post, taken on the South Bank.
Actually it’s 5002 now – articles, that is. I passed the milestone this week, having written and illustrated an article for this blog nearly every day for eleven years.
When I started a writer’s blog in August 2008 the concept of blogging was a relatively new thing. This site was built by an old art director mate, Simon Moore, using Flash, and was far more glamorous-looking than its current utilitarian state, as it had a photographic sleeve depicting 12 different night views of London.
Flash was gorgeous but designed for viewing on powerful computers, not phones or tablets. One simple system replaced it but doesn’t look anywhere near as cool. Eleven years is a long time in tech terms, but the principal of the blog has remained the same. I wanted to do something a bit different, so rather than endlessly plugging my own books (which I suspect readers get sick of) and wanted to be able to range over any subject that took my fancy, although if you’re into cars, recipes or sports you’ll find a site just for you somewhere else.
When I was a toddler there was a show called ‘Picture Book’ which consisted of random bits and pieces that might just about interest a four year-old – speeded-up footage of a flower opening or rabbits (see here for Jane Horrocks’s deathless parody). So that’s what this blog became, especially when joined by readers like Dan Terrell and Terenzio and Helen and Brooke and Martin and Jan and Jo and the rest, who submitted comments that nearly always made the wheels fall off whatever we were discussing.
When I first thought about starting the blog, there was much that didn’t appeal about the idea. I didn’t want to create great swathes of type about the Brontë sisters or HP Lovecraft. There are too many academics and historical non-fiction writers who are doing a far, far better job than I ever could, and my personal reading tastes tend to be wilful and complicated.
I didn’t want to detail everything about my books or describe in grisly detail the poorly-attended signings, leaky church halls, overheated book basements and empty libraries where the average author ends up appearing through the bleakest months of the year. And I didn’t want the blog to be just about London, as there are so many dedicated London sites.
So what did I want to create? I suppose a place of ideas. What I ended up with was a bran tub of fact and fancy that may not be to everyone’s taste but seems to appeal to a few deeply disturbed individuals (you know who you are) and powers me enough to keep at it over a decade later.
As I write it first thing each morning, it sharpens my mind for the rest of the day’s work. I read all the comments submitted and try never to censor. I post links to some articles on Twitter, but came off Facebook because I don’t approve of what they do with data (if you want to experience their pernicious grip, try leaving completely).
I don’t post as much moving footage as I’d like because the links don’t age well (please report any which are broken and I’ll fix them). I’ve stopped reviewing and only occasionally post on other sites because online eats time and I’ve pressure on my hours. Research swallows whole days; at the moment I’m reading books on Anglo Saxon Britain and watching all of Shakespeare’s history plays in order in different versions, don’t ask.
But I still get a kick from this, and think of it as mental exercise. There’s nothing more exciting than sitting down on a sunny morning and plucking an idea from the clear, cool air. And I’m glad you’re there with me.