Talk About Cheesecake

Musings, meanderings and meditation for my mind.


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Why do we blog?

There is an army of individuals out there in the world, sitting in cafes, kitchens, libraries and living rooms, carting their laptops to beaches, up mountains, to parks and remotes fields. All of them – us – are tapping away putting words to screens, trying to share some part of us with the world.

Why do we do it? Why do we blog?

I don’t mean the businesses, who are clearly marketing themselves.

I mean the people, like me, who just sat down one day and started to blog about things. Parenting, knitting, surfing, traveling, photography, politics, books, feelings – the subjects that are covered are endless. The expertise ranges. Some people are clearly professional writers who have an agenda, an aim, some opinion or knowledge they want to impart. Some people are amateurs who still want to share their experience in a particular area or skill.

Then there are those like me who just want to write. I have no particular aim, I have no specialist knowledge or exciting cause to promote. I just want to write. Whatever words come to mind, whatever subject matter I feel that day.

It is an outpouring of thoughts that run through my mind.

Despite starting my blog for no real reason, it has helped me in a number of ways, some of which were expected and some of which were not.

For example, I am practicing writing. I once thought that I would like to write but wouldn’t know where to start. Well, now I have. The more I write, the more I learn about what I like to share and what I struggle putting into words. Practice, practice, practice.

I am exposed to criticism. At first it was a scary prospect, now I look forward to comments from other people. I started blogging anonymously to the virtual world only, but bit by bit I am telling ‘real people’ that I know about my blog.

I am finding out more about myself. Each time I start to type my story wanders off, often in directions I was not expecting myself. The thoughts that come out can surprise even me.

Some readers have even said I am humorous. I would never have considered myself funny. I have discovered that I like that – but also that if I try to be funny on purpose, I am not.

But one of the main benefits of blogging, for me, is that it releases some inner tension. When I have a problem or am feeling fed up, writing about something relaxes me. Writing about that particular problem helps me clarify the cause. Whereas I get tongue tied when talking, writing helps me express myself clearly.

Why do you blog? How does it benefit you? More importantly, what have you learnt about yourself since you started blogging?

Tell me more – I am interested to hear what you have to say.


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Lesson 4 – Well, a question really!

I have a question. Perhaps you can help me.

While I am still learning how to blog and have posted previously on my own findings, there is still so much about blogging (and tweeting and internet life in general) that I have yet to understand. Which is fine, I am happy to learn through trial and error. Occasionally I have a light bulb moment. I do like to try things for myself.

But I cannot quite understand the re-blog feature.

That’s not quite true. I understand that when you find a fabulous, inspirational or quality post that just speaks to you, you might want to share that with your own readers. I have tried to the feature out myself here, when I felt that this post said everything that needed to be said.

And I do like that people out there are finding something I have written worthy of being re-blogged to their site. It doesn’t happen often, but I like it. It feels complimentary. 

So maybe I do understand it better than I thought.

Except – why do some readers start a blog of their own which consists entirely of re-blogged posts? Sometimes they don’t format or personalise the blog site. Just re-post other blogs. No comment of their own, no explanation.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind being re-blogged to these sites either (after all, I have the ability to refuse the re-blog). I just don’t understand why they do it?

So, satisfy my curiosity. Educate me please.


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Bucket List Update – November 2012

In September I made a bucket list of resolutions. This is just a brief look back to see what I have achieved so far.

 

The dreaded diet – well, it’s ongoing. I am back on the Cambridge Diet and I am past the nasty 3 day mark. Even though the weight is not yet dropping off I already feel healthier and fitter. I read an interesting blog earlier which implied that a ketosis based diet was good for the brain as the energy the body was producing passed from blood stream to brain easier that energy produced from carbohydrates and sugars. (I have probably confused the science of it) I don’t know if tis is true or accurate but certainly I am more aware, more awake, on this diet.

If anyone knows whether this is scientifically correct, I would be interested to know more?

 

In addition, it is now 61 days since my last cigarette. Not a huge number, but I am pleased.

 

I am writing more and more and contributing to my blog. Whether it goes well or not is probably down to you, the reader, to decide. But I am writing and that was the aim.

 

Just a few more things to work on then before it’s time to think about New Year resolutions. If I choose to make any, that is.


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The master reader

I remember being in a Design and Technology class at secondary school where I was asked to describe a garden fork to a fellow classmate, without actually telling them what it was. It seemed so simple – we all know what a garden fork looks like. But finding the words to make sense of it was very difficult.

‘A long cylindrical pole, with a short round piece of wood attached to the top horizontally. At the bottom is a piece of metal, out of which stick three more pieces of metal’. Or something similar to that.

My classmate had to draw exactly what he heard and the resulting picture was bizarre. Of course, the lesson was designed to demonstrate the importance of both accurate descriptions and using diagrams in design.

In writing we don’t use diagrams. The words therefore must be enough to portray a picture, to push an image into the mind of the reader. A good author must be able to describe the world they are creating. They must be articulate and have a gift for constructing imagery. They must be able to describe believable characters with personalities and emotions.

However, I believe the reader must have an equal, if not better, imagination. A reader has to take the words provided and re-create the same image the writer needs them to see, or one that works to bring the story to life in their own mind. They need to take description of a character and imagine them living and breathing complete with flaws, capable of the emotions that make them a real person.

In this way, a good read is a short diversion. An interesting time out or distraction.

But a great story is a collaboration between author and reader that combines the skill and mastery of one and the imagination of the other to create an entire world that they can see, live and exist in. A world that is so real that when the book is put down it takes a moment to re-orientate the mind to normal life.

Maybe in fact, in the same way that only a master writer can put the seeds in place to start with, only a master reader can truly bring a book to life.

 


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Modern Camping

This is a piece I wrote for some coursework, so takes a slightly different tone than usual. See what you think . . .

With many families budgeting more and more the uptake on a package holiday has decreased somewhat in recent years. In contrast, more parents are looking for a cost effective alternative and, perhaps over romanticising their own childhood memories, are taking up camping in a bid to spend ‘quality time’ with their offspring.  But is camping the same as in the days of yore?

When I was a child I remember camping trips with my parents and brothers being the most exciting part of the summer holidays. Of course, back then there was no such thing as a package holiday and the costs and stress of taking three children on an airplane would just about have finished my father off.

The night before we went my parents would be packing the car with exciting essential equipment – wellies, pac-o-macs, buckets (to bail out the tent) –  and in the morning we would climb onto the heap of sleeping bags laid out across the back seats, legs up on bags squashed down the foot well (no seatbelts in those days) and off we would go. My parents would choose a place to visit, usually Thetford forest or Aldeburgh, and once we got within range they would just hunt down a campsite and pay per night to pitch up in a field at a rough fee of £2 a night.

In recent years enthusiasm for camping has grown again, with an increase in camping and caravanning trips of 20% in 2009 according to the Great Britain Tourism Survey. Camping itself seems to have changed somewhat, with campsites having to provide more in the way of facilities and entertainment to attract families. With the ease of so much information available online, the discerning family camper can pick and choose their campsite based on amenities such as the shower block, washing facilities, children entertainment room and of course, the essential free wifi. Gone are the days where children would be expected to roam the forest or paddle along the rocky beaches with no other entertainment. Now, no matter how ‘rustic’ the camping experience, we would not dream of going anywhere without ready access to facebook. Electricity is available to power fridges and heaters. Last time I went camping, the neighbours turned up with their 24 inch TV. Pitching up in a field can still be done, of course, and that is sold as a unique selling point, with rural campsites advertising ‘camping as it used to be’.

The equipment has also improved. Gone are the days when touching the side of the tent in the night meant waking up in a soaking sleeping bag. Now tents are drier, warmer and much more roomier. Inner sleeping rooms can be bought in a dark fabric to prevent the light waking up the little darlings at dawn. Collapsible and inflatable furniture means a tent can be furnished with sofa and wardrobes without taking up too much room in the car. Indeed a new phenomenon of ‘glamping’ sees some campers taking rugs, beds, duvets and microwaves – a real home away from home.

Thankfully though, not everything has changed. Small children still enjoy the experience of snuggling up in their sleeping bags and listening to the exciting and scary sounds of the outdoors. One of the great things about camping that does remain is the sense of community, possibly born from the relief of knowing that every other adult there is as soggy, tired and insane as you are. However it is true that, as with no other holiday, campers are a friendly lot who can be chatting to the neighbours, assisting complete strangers in putting up their tents, sharing a hammer and rescuing stray children within minutes of finding their patch of grass. There seems to be an unwritten rule on a campsite of keeping an eye on each others belongings. Where else would you deposit your personal items and hundreds of pounds of cooking gear, sleeping bags and foldable tables and, having secured them carefully within a formidable shield of fabric and a zip, wander away for the whole day while fairly certain no one would breach the barrier.

As one mother said, ‘the community atmosphere is brilliant and there is a real sense of spending time together as a family that you just don’t get on a holiday abroad’.

Is modern camping an improvement? Parents certainly do appreciate having adequate showers and toilets nearby and, televisions aside, it does get families out and about and spending time together still. At the end of the week though, one thing has not changed. By the time the tent is packed up, the dirty washing stuffed back into the footwell and the sleeping bags on their way home to be aired,  any mother can tell you camping is hard work and there is no relaxing. It’s not what I would call a holiday.


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The start of blogging – Lesson 1

What is a blog anyway?

I could have done this sensibly, researched blogs, writer’s tips, tags, categories and all the other terminology and abundance of useful information available online, spent a few months planning and preparing the first few posts and then, and only then, launched (or blogged, or whatever the term should be).

Instead I vaguely contemplated it on and off over a week or so, located two blogs written by friends, read a few of their posts and got stuck in. First post launched on day 2. Day 1 was spent contemplating the name – after all, what’s in a name (that’s a post to come!). It says so much and yet so little. Does it give an idea of what the blog is about? Is it catchy, vague, relevant . . ? So, how did I choose mine? Oh yes – I like cheesecake.

It seems that blogging is a very personal thing. Even if you are not using it as a public diary of your daily activities, you are sharing your thoughts and opinions with other people, thereby opening yourself up to criticism and ridicule. In fact, I am less bothered by complete strangers seeing this than I would be friends and family.

I know there will be mistakes – spelling, grammar, punctuation. I am sure a few diehards will pop up to point these out, particularly when I begin my proofreading course. It’s like waving a big juicy hunk of fresh baked bread dripping in runny sweet strawberry jam in front of a wasp nest. One or two will come for a poke and before you know it you are running for a handy pool of water.

It’s possible some few will find me offensive. After all, it’s so easy to bang on the nose of someone’s sensibilities these days. I walk around my real life with my foot in my mouth, why not do it in cyberspace too. What can I say – I don’t mean to, well not all the time anyway.

And in the first 24 hours I have learnt 3 things already.

1. Trial and error with the dashboard has shown me categories, pages and posts.

2. Always leave it a while, then have a final read before posting, rather than the inevitable 13 edits later.

3. At some point you have to find a way to finish the post. Rambling is not good reading!

I have begun. Now to find out more about it through trial, error, rambling and editing.