The babysitter tells me that last night the Princess confided to her that she does not believe in the Easter bunny. I was distinctly lacklustre about the Easter bunny myself. My line to the children was “there was no Easter bunny when I was a child, I know nothing about its habits or habitat”. However, as the Princess spoke to the babysitter, she began to speculate that if there is no Easter bunny, there may well be no Santa Claus. The babysitter went for “well, I’ve never seen him, but some people believe in him.” I am distressed. Also, I foresee trouble as the Princess is incapable of keeping a secret. I think the tooth fairy has bitten the dust as well (no repining there) as her French childminder has said that in France children’s milk teeth are taken away by a mouse and there is no tooth fairy in France.
Archives for April 2010
I did a virtual spring clean. I went through my RSS reader and had some thoughts which follow. This is perhaps not a post for the faint-hearted but persistent readers will be rewarded with some excellent links later on.
I read all my blogs through bloglines, recommended to me many years ago (2004, I think) by the ever enchanting Fluid Pudding. I rarely go to see the blogs themselves although they are much more beautiful in the flesh than the standard text offering produced by bloglines. I go to blogs to comment and I go to one blog which will only put the first couple of lines in my RSS feeder (I’m looking at you Beth Fish). Until my recent ruthless clear up of my RSS feed there were a startling 250 blogs (I am now down to a much more manageable 178) to which I was subscribed and I would glance at most of them regularly. With some regret, I unsubscribed from old blogs that I have kept on the list in the hope that they might revive (chez miscarriage, last updated 2005, still one of the best blogs ever) but stuck with some very irregular updaters on the basis that their very rare posts (approximately annual) are worth the wait (Aphra Behn) or that I care about them and want to see how they are getting on (wet feet, little blemishes, gpmama) or perhaps can’t quite face following them in another medium (Letter B – lost to twitter)
In the past, I almost always took site recommendations from other bloggers. I still do this but over the past year or so, I find myself checking out links recommended in the paper. Yes, the paper version of the paper. I tear out the relevant article and stick it in my diary for later inspection. Almost invariably, these are corporate collective type blogs, almost never individual voices. Mostly, journalists appear to go for blogs written by other journalists or commentators on media sites or collective blogs from think tanks and NGOs. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of blog but it is quite a different animal from the blog written to satisfy a personal need to communicate rather than a corporate obligation to do so.
In my spring clean of my RSS feeds I removed people who were no longer posting and I divided up the blogs I read into the following categories:
And now I’m going to tell you about them. Because I can. Here is the public service part of this post. I will give you some of my favourites from each group and why (though, like the book, they are all my favourites). You deserve this for reading thus far. And they are, unless otherwise specified, regular updaters.
20six (14 feeds)
This should really be subsumed into personal (see below) but for sentimental reasons, I keep it separate. I started my blogging life on this platform and I still remember it with fondness. All of the people listed here started on 20six. None of the people listed here are still on 20six which tells its own story.
When I first met Town Mouse (met in the broadest sense of the word, you understand) she lived in London. Now she lives in rural Scotland. She gets a lot of excellent material from bad weather.
Heather used to live in Switzerland but now lives in Greece. Less snow, a completely different relationship with bureaucracy.
Mike believes in the beauty of travel.
Lesley’s blog is called peregrinations.
Mobile bunch, aren’t they?
Belgium (4 feeds)
I don’t follow Belgian blogs much anymore following my repatriation. The woman who stole my name writes very nicely. She is gloomy. I would love her, if she wasn’t me only better. As it is, I am left with a faint sense of bitterness. Even though you probably only ended up here looking for her. Damn her.
Cartoons (10 feeds)
xkcd.com is my favourite by a long way. Very funny little stick men. Catering for the minority market for tech cartoons.
Missed connections has appealing watercolours but they are not quite cartoons. Have a look you’ll see what I mean. Also, they are very infrequently updated.
EU (4 feeds)
What can I say, I still care but following my weeding out, much less so it would appear. Of the four remaining after the cull, Jon Worth’s is by far the best. He often complains about the poor quality of the EU blogosphere, he’s right.
Factual (16 feeds)
This is where I put most of the more corporate, um factual stuff.
Pride of place here most go to Kottke.org I love this site. Its tagline is “home of fine hypertext products” and it couldn’t be more true. I have found some of the best things on the internet via Kottke. 14,414 other blogline subscribers and I find it invaluable, informative and unmissable. And very regularly updated. An observation: anything whimsical which is reported in the papers (for example, portion sizes in the last supper are getting bigger) I will almost invariably have seen earlier on the internet, usually at least a week earlier. Quite often on Kottke.
I am fond of the Sartorialist also. A man who attempts to inspire everyone to dress beautifully.
Seth Godin is perhaps a little American in approach for us Europeans, too perky and all that, but still very insightful at times (I have to say that I don’t buy his obsession with the lizard brain but buying into everything isn’t the point). I tried to apply his wisdom on powerpoint once when giving a presentation to a group of English county councillors (really, please don’t ask) and it all went horribly wrong. I still think it’s good advice though.
Lessons for Old People. Distressingly informative from time to time although I would like to emphasise that I DO actually know how to friend people on facebook, should I wish to do so.
Free Range Kids – Let your children out occasionally. It’s health and safety gone mad etc.
Ireland (19 feeds)
Nearly two years back in the country and I am still trying to get a handle on the Irish blogosphere. Since, theoretically, with the internet it doesn’t matter where you live, you might think that I could have started that process in Belgium. But it ain’t so Joe. I am much more interested in finding out about what Irish people think about everything now that I live here again. And I have found it pretty darn difficult.
Jason O’Mahony, who I started reading when I was in Belgium, is funny and on the ball about the Irish political situation but he doesn’t do much personal stuff. So far, my biggest find in my traditional blog reading field is Ken and Dot, a New Zealander and a Briton living in Dublin with their two small sons, so not entirely Irish. I quite like Fatmammycat but she is not quite what I’m looking for – too young and enthusiastic. She is trying to change the world. Admirable but tiring. I have joined a ning group of mother bloggers but so far nothing has really appealed.
On the corporate side of things, there are a number of good, competent, interesting blogs – I like Irish election best but, with a range of writers, it can be hit and miss. These blogs are fine in their way but what I really miss and what I can’t seem to find are personal blogs that I love. Blogs that talk about ordinary things on my doorstep (rather than the doorstep in Utah – snowing again apparently). Suggestions very welcome.
Me (17 feeds)
Mostly blogs by people I know or know of in real life. I can recommend my sister-in-law. I know I would have to say that anyway, so you can’t tell whether it’s true or not unless you go and check. It’s true, really.
I would recommend my friend the cappuchin but he almost never updates. Worth the wait though. Brother Lawrence, are you listening?
Bloglines can be a little cranky and it has stopped picking up Nicholas’s feed no matter what I try to do to persuade it otherwise. And shamefully, I only rarely go to check – this is because he often posts on Dr. Who and that is, frankly, a disappointment after all that clicking. It’s the other posts that are worthwhile (unless you’re a Dr. Who fan, in which case, all bets are off) and the beauty of bloglines was that you could pick up one and ignore the other. When it worked.
Personal (55 feeds)
This is by far the largest category of the blogs that I read. I pulled them all together under this heading. I used to subdivide them into mothers (obviously, I read a lot about mothers), infertility (because being infertile makes you a better writer – this appears to be true), medical (all the things medical people do, strangely compelling) and other categories (OCD anyone?). As the corporate sector grew and blogging became mainstream, I found myself reading more and different kinds of writing, I realised that all of these blogs from the different categories had one very significant thing in common. That they were personal about the authors’ real lives. And, drumroll, here are some recommendations.
Dooce: Because, although her blog supports her family (making her corporate, I suppose) she is both very funny and completely genuine and she writes about her life, day in, day out. Can there be anyone at all in the western world who doesn’t know her?
Beth and Chris: Because, really, how often do you get a successful husband and wife blogging team?
Finslippy: Because she writes beautifully although, alas, the quantity of posts has fallen.
Fluid Pudding Because I love her and reading her blog is why I started blogging in the first place
Mamacita: Because she has standards.
UK (10 feeds)
I find that I have, over the years, accumulated a number of blogs complaining about the state of society from our friends across the water. I gather them here. PC blogs (guess what that’s about) and Random Acts of Reality (less easy to guess, a paramedic) are my favourites.
US (6 feeds)
The Huffington Post, the New York Times, the White House blog. That kind of thing. Can’t say that there is anything there that I would particularly recommend although, I did read a fantastic series on maths in the NYT. I have spent some time boring my husband about this so I fail to see why you should be immune. Of all the online media commentary I have trawled through, I have found this series the most enlightening and fascinating. It also made me deeply envious as I can’t imagine something similar being produced by the Irish Times’s immensely dull online offerings.
Work (14 feeds)
Well, this is a secret. But if you hold down a job why are you not using the power of the internet to stay on top of your field? Eh? Could be because you don’t fancy reading about work at 11 at night. The authorities are against access to bloglines. On balance, probably for good reasons. This means I end up reading my work updates at home. But never mind because work and life are all one seamless joined up space now are they not? Really, no, you think not..
Writing (4 feeds)
That’s the lot. What do you read online? How do you read? And, most importantly, what would you recommend?
The Princess turned 7 today. This is the first year of my own life which I remember with some clarity and I wonder whether it will be the same for her.
I took a half day from work and picked her up from school as a surprise. We bought high school musical stationery (ah girls and their love of stationery), sandals to celebrate the change in the weather, tea and a bun which we enjoyed in silence: I read my book, she read her Beano. Then we browsed in a bookshop amicably together and went home. When we got home, we found that the boys and the childminder, M, had put up balloons and bunting and made her a cake. M had also bought her a present. Relatives called to wish her happy birthday. Shortly after M’s departure, my brother and sister arrived weighed down with presents. And we finally got the walkie talkie we gave her in the morning to work. She had such a great day. And that is not always the case. For example, she spent much of her birthday last year sulking in her room.
I seem to remember that 7 used to be regarded as the age at which children can give uncorroborated evidence in court and I can see why. The Princess is much better at seeing things and describing them in ways other people can understand. Smaller children can describe what they’ve seen but it’s as though they have no points of reference in common with you. They’re speaking another language. She has lots of points of reference in common with adults.
Mind you, sometimes, I think that we attribute more knowledge to her than she has. She really startled me the other day by saying that she had thought that you got change from every commercial transaction. When she paid the exact amount some months ago (counted out by me, she was buying a stuffed turtle), she was surprised not to get change. I remember the incident and I would never have thought that, at that stage, she didn’t really understand how money worked. She has a very extensive vocabulary (today she described herself as “tempted by several different cakes to the amusement of the people at the table next to us) which she does not always deploy in a manner which indicates understanding but she does like words.
She reads a lot and she hates to be told anything. I suppose, as an eldest child, she suffers from the full weight of her parents’ didactic tendencies (poor Daniel is always begging to be asked sums but we seem to have used up all our energy on herself). And sometimes, she does know surprising things. One day, in the wake of one of their unhappier interludes, I described herself and her father as being like diamond on diamond. “Why do I say that?” I asked her. “Because diamond is the hardest thing.” “That’s right and you know what’s interesting about diamond? It’s made from carbon atoms and do you know something else that’s made from carbon atoms?” I asked, about to trot out everyone’s favourite science fact. But she answered “Yes, coal.” “How do you know that?” I asked. “I read it in my science book.” That science book gets a lot of reading. I’m unclear how much she understands but she loves it.
It seems almost incredible that this whole loving, clever, beloved little person with views (oh how she has views), likes, dislikes, friends, conversation and a personality (lots of personality) was once a tiny baby. Although seeing her closing her eyes and sucking her thumb when I put her to bed tonight reminded me that she’s not so big as all that. Of course, it’s easy for me to check what has changed as, unbeknownst to herself (insert appropriate quantity of guilt here) my daughter has lived a life online. I hope that, on balance, someday, she will be pleased that so much of her youth is set out here. I think it might be interesting to read about what happened to her when she was little from a grown-up’s point of view and match it to her memory. She is part of the very first generation of blogged about children – it’s different from being in a book or being in a newspaper column. It’s more anonymous yet more detailed. I think that it is also less intimate than a book where more seems to leak out and, of course, it’s much, much more common and that’s probably a good thing. If the worst comes to the worst, all this can serve as a basis for her PhD research.
Happy birthday my favourite girl in the whole world.
I am recycling a story from a friend here. I suppose it is a new low but I rather liked this one so you will have to suffer. My friend’s father, a retired neurosurgeon and all round no nonsense man, went walking with my friend’s sister and sister’s son by the river. The child, aged four, was on his bicycle with stabilisers. His grandfather described his outfit thus to my friend with mounting outrage: the child was wearing a helmet, a high visibility vest, knee pads, arm pads and…water wings.
Daniel having hurt his toe: Oh God, please take the pain away it’s so sore.
Me: Sweetheart, I’m not sure that’s how prayer works.
Daniel: Oh God, PLEASE take the pain away and give it to Michael.
I am growing my hair. Mostly through inertia, it grows slowly. I haven’t had it cut since April 2009 and it only really needs to be cut now. It hasn’t yet reached my shoulders. Someone complimented me on it recently and commented that 90% of men who have affairs have them with women whose hair is longer than their wives’ hair. Discuss.