Dear Readers, as most of us have a little more time to peruse the world of the blogosphere at the moment, I thought that I’d include a quick rummage through some of my favourite blogs. No doubt I’ll have missed some, so do let me know if your blog, or one that you like, is not included, and I’ll do a follow-up post at some point.
I have to start with a shout-out to The Gentle Author’s blog, Spitalfields Life. If it hadn’t been for this extraordinary writer, I’m sure that Bugwoman’s Adventures in London would never have come to fruition. Spitalfields Life has appeared every day since 2009, in spite of the writer breaking his arm and having a bout of Covid-19. The pieces vary from rallying cries to protect London businesses and landmarks such as the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, loving portraits of local Spitalfields characters, paeons to the cats that the Gentle Author has shared their life with (and in particular I recommend this eulogy to Mr Pussy, the Gentle Author’s beloved friend) and a whole range of posts on the strange, the wonderful and the heroic that make Spitalfields such an extraordinary place. If you have the slightest interest in London, or people, or indeed cats you should shimmy on over to Spitalfields life and sign up for your daily dose of wonder.
One of the people that I met on the Gentle Author’s blog course back in 2014 has a wonderful blog of his own –A London Inheritance. The author’s father lived in London and, from 1946 to 1954 he took many photographs of the city. The author used these photographs as a starting point for his blog, looking at what had changed, and what remained the same. His explorations of various London locations are full of interest, and it’s fascinating to see what he uncovers. Here, for example, are his father’s photographs of the Royal Festival Hall, taken after the closure of the Festival of Britain in the 1950s, and the same locations today. Not all the locations are so famous, though: I loved his post about the Westferry Road Newsagent, all boarded up and awaiting demolition. The author also a great passion for London’s transport network, and one can often find him underground, exploring Tube stations with the London Transport Museum’s Hidden London team. Here, for example, he is at Moorgate and having a very interesting time. Again, head on over and sign up if you love London.
Blogs from Other Places
Something Over Tea is written by Anne, who lives in South Africa and writes about the animals and plants that she sees around her. She also writes about tea, though, like many of us, she also includes posts on whatever takes her fancy – recent pieces have included musings on South African English, the meaning of the word ‘diurnal’, and a particularly poignant piece about the last drive through town before lockdown. I always get a real sense of what it’s like to actually live in South Africa from Something Over Tea, and I find it endlessly interesting.
And if you fancy going somewhere mountainous, A Little Bit Out of Focus is written by Mike, who lives in Switzerland. This is where I go to get my Alpine ‘fix’, especially as this year I won’t be able to make my annual pilgrimage to Obergurgl. Mike’s photographs of the meadows with their flowers and butterflies almost makes up for it, and if you fancy some snow to cool down with, there’s plenty of it here. Much as the Norwegian Blue Parrot in Monty Python’s ‘dead parrot’ sketch was ‘pining for the fjords’ so I am pining for the Alps, but A Little Bit Out of Focus reminds me that they are still there, coronavirus or not.
The Hospice Gardener is a wonderful blog written by Jim Nicholson, who has been gardener at the Wigan and Leigh Hospice since 2016. At the moment, Jim is mostly working on his own because of the need for social isolation, but how splendid the gardens look even so! And this has been a difficult year for Jim in other ways too. But I love to see how the gardens are getting on, and I hope that everything is going well.
The Cow Parsley Diaries is a new-ish blog by Claire, who is creating a garden on heavy clay in Sheffield. Her garden, like mine, is north-east facing, and so I am looking to her for inspiration! Her photos are lovely, and the blog is currently encouraging me to think about paeonies, and about increasing my small number of brunnera, which seem to be happy in the shade. I look forward to her posts with relish.
I have long been a follower of Andrea Stephenson’s blog Harvesting Hecate – like me, she aims to combine word and image, and her writing is intensely personal. I loved her piece about the coming of the lockdown, but all of her work manages to conjure a deep spirit of place. She is deeply attuned to the movement of the seasons, and to the signs that nature is constantly transforming. I especially loved her evocation of the long, hot summer that we had last year. This is a blog to savour, rather than to rush through.
I have been following Jacqueline Durban on her blog Radical Honey for several years, and I love the way that she blends the natural world, spirituality and political and ethical action effortlessly, almost as if they were the same thing (and who is to say that they aren’t?). She has written many, many beautiful pieces, but I would like to commend this piece, on dying alone in the time of coronavirus. It helped me so much in the days following the death of my father, even though I was lucky enough to be able to be with him. Sometimes a piece of writing takes wing, and this is one such piece. When you’ve read it, you might want to look at one of Jacqueline’s many pieces on the Crossbones Graveyard. There is some remarkable writing to explore on Radical Honey. I hope you enjoy it and find it as stimulating and thought-provoking as I do.
And finally in this Nature section, Miles King’s A New Nature Blog is, as he describes it, about ‘the intersection between nature, politics and the way we value nature (or don’t.)’ I find his posts interesting and informative. Here, for example, is a discussion on the way that footpaths are being closed during the pandemic, and where this way of behaving comes from. Here is a post on the pandemic and our food supply. And here is a post on how the libertarians in the Tory Party primed us for the disaster that is the current handling of the pandemic. I don’t always agree with everything that Miles says, but oh what a change it makes to read someone who is informed and thoughtful. Highly recommended.
I think that the mark of a book review is whether it’s a good read even if you’ve never read the book, and Gert Loveday’s Fun with Books scores highly in this regard. Whatever ‘Gert and Gert’ (actually sisters Joan Kerr and Gabrielle Daly) are writing about, it’s entertaining, and often laugh-out-loud funny. They are responsible for about 30% of my weekly Kindle bill, and that’s a lot, believe me. Recently, I loved their review of ‘The Chiffon Trenches’, Andre Leon-Talley’s memoir of his time as Creative Director at Vogue, which included the delightful snippet that:
‘Karl Lagerfeld travelled with a suitcase full of his favourite bread. When he was on one of his diets, he would chew it then spit it out. It did wonders for his weight loss.’
Sometimes the Gerts save me money, though. I wouldn’t bother to buy Lionel Shriver’s latest book ‘The Motion of the Body Through Space‘ after their review, though it was worth reading for their philosophy on exercise:
‘In spite of the title of this book, what is completely ignored by this writer (who herself is due for knee surgery and known to do the odd 500 sit ups) is the joy of moving the body through space. Walking, running, bike riding, swimming, dancing, skiing, ice-skating; many are the activities people do just because they love the feeling of it. Not to be thin, not to beat others or boost their flagging self-esteem, but just for the sheer joy of it.
The Gerts belong to this club, no other.’
With such good sense, who could resist hanging out with the Gerts?
So, I hope that there is something here for everybody to enjoy. And maybe it will inspire some folk who are still paddling in the shallow end to think about creating a blog of their own? You never know where this blog business will take you, but I can guarantee an interesting ride, excellent company, and the joy of sharing what you care about with others. You can’t put a price on that.