Fifteen years, two months and twenty one days ago I wrote my first blog post. Today, I write the last. It’s been fun – mostly – but these days I seem to blog largely for the sake of blogging. And too much of it involves typing angrily into the internet with little real purpose. I wrote that first post as an optimistic 30 year old, about to embark on a backpacking trip of a lifetime through Mexico, full of wonder at the world surrounding me. I write today as a slightly jaded 45 year old, rather fed up with the amount of ignorance and prejudice that has come to the fore, and unconvinced that the planet is heading in the right direction. Fifteen years is quite a long time. The world has changed greatly. As have I. I am sure you have too.
Carrying on a little bit from yesterday, and the fifteen year milestone this blog reached. When I first started blogging, I did so on an entirely self-built site I created using Adobe Dreamweaver pointing to the first domain name I ever purchased – garydenness.com. Everthing was .com back then, so it didn’t occur to me to do anything different. Dreamweaver is still going, although how strong a product is I don’t know – I have long wondered why they didn’t evolve it into a more WordPressy type product.
Fifteen years ago today, I published my first post on my blog. How time flies. Oh, if I could only go back to being that 30 year old, just about to head off on a backpacking trip to Mexico, and do it all over again. But time is a funny thing, a one off deal. We are stuck in the moment, moving forever forward and never backward. Perhaps this is just as well. Had time moved backwards from my birth, the year would be 1927. I’d have lived through World War 2, the Great Depression and I’d currently be looking forward to (or backward to) the General Strike. I guess I would have lived to see the Moon Landing, but I’d have been too young to appreciate it. So it’s probably just as well that time does indeed move forward – I got the better part of the 20th century.
A change is as good as a rest. So they say. So I have decided to change my theme. The old one had begun to bore me. Do you like? Or not like? I’m not 100% sure, but I rarely am when it comes to change. I’ll run with it for a while and see if I get used to it. There’s no sidebar or footer for widgets. Any widgets have to fit in a pull down section at the top. I’m not keen on pull down sections filled with junk. So the dynamic blogroll has gone. Along with my Twitter feed. Meh. Continue reading
It’s the last day of the year. The day before the first day of next year. It’s time for some resolutions to be set. I’ll try and be realistic. I’ll pay off what’s left on my credit card. It’s 0% interest and there’s not a lot on it, and no urgency to settle it, but I’d like to end the year completely debt free. Apart from the mortgage, of course. That’ll take a little bit longer. I’d also like to save up my overtime payments and have a new boiler put in. Or at least have the cash ready when the current one packs up. It’s Continue reading
Again. Since moving over from WordPress.com to WordPress.org, my blog has been broken numerous times. Two or three occasions were down to a plugin being hacked. It was almost certainly hacked just the once, but it took more than one go at reinstating the blog to fix the problem. On another two or three occasions, the blog simply shut down and disappeared for no good reason. Which left me with more time consuming repair work to do.
My transfer from WordPress.com to WordPress.org is complete. Well, the transfer itself was completed within the space of a few minutes quite some time ago. However, installing a theme, the required plug-ins and tidying things up – that took a little while longer. But it’s almost done now. Apart from any bits or pieces that I may have missed. Feel free to let me know if you find anything broken. Continue reading
My new year wishes come late, I know. I blame my inner Mexican. But then again, everything tends to be delivered late, if at all, on this blog these days. I’ve tired of blogging. Or at least of the sort of blogging I used to do. Long, rambling posts. It requires thought, time and effort. None of which I have spare to dedicate to this little part of the web. You’ve all noticed, I know. It’s there in the stats. The visitors graph reads like the value of the peso. It’s been tumbling year on year since 2011, the year I returned home from my six year stay in Mexico.
It turns out that whilst people liked reading about adventures in Mexico City, they are less interested in hearing about life in Bournemouth. I understand. Entirely. I can demonstrate this with a couple of images from the annual report that WordPress automatically generates. Firstly, let’s look at how often I post these days, shall we? Bearing in mind that last year there were 122 posts. In 2013 there were 146. In 2012 I crafted 196 literary masterpieces….
Yes, it’s a sorry story, isn’t it? And it has to be said, if I’m not writing anything new, then visitor numbers are going to fall. But let’s move on to the next graph, which rather shows that the dire state of affairs that the Mexile currently finds itself in is not entirely down to a lack of new content. Let’s have a looky see what visitors do read once they’ve gotten here…
Well, three of those top five were all written when I still lived and played in Mexico City. The other two? Well, they do appear to be about Mexico. I think my medicinal advice on how to clear up a bit of psoriasis of the scalp must be my most read post ever. By some margin. That’s two or three years running that it has topped the charts. I wonder if anyone ever gave it a go? And if so, did it work for them?
Anyway, despite all this doom and gloom, some of you still take the time to look in and see whats going on now and again. So the final graph. It’s the biggie, too. Who wins the prize for leaving the most comments this year?
Why it’s Kim G. For the fourth year running. Well done Kim. William made a good go of it though, pushing up to second place from last year’s fourth spot. He swaps places with Norm, who tumbles to fourth. Steve is consistent. Third again. Colm is a new entry displacing….me. Apparently, I was the fifth most frequent commenter last year. That, I think was an error.
But this is all a bit by the by. You see, as I mentioned, I’m a bit bored of blogging. Especially now that I have a new job with plenty of overtime available. And money to spend on going out when I have a day off. This all makes blogging feel like work instead of a hobby. I’ve no intention of retiring from blogging, mind you. If this were a job, then I’ve moved from being a part-timer to a zero hours contract. Shorter posts. Published less frequently. Mostly photos. Such is life.
Every year, the magic pixies that power WordPress, crunch up the numbers and produce some facts and figures for their bloggers. Just to let them know how they are doing. Alas, my blog is clearly in decline. But I’ve know this for a long time. It all went a little downhill the moment I left Mexico. But I still enjoy it, so I’ll plod on for another year. Let’s look at the numbers anyway. It’s just a bit of fun rather than the whole story.
My previous posts from 2012 and 2013 show that I can’t quite fill the Sydney Opera House as many time over as I used to be able to. With 37,000 visits in 2013, I would have filled the place for 14 consecutive nights. The year before, I had enough visits to warrant being measured against the Cannes Film Festival. Fifty thousand visits were enough for a dozen festivals, apparently. I post less these days too. Last years tally of 146 was down from 196 the year before. Now we are down to just 122 posts. I’ve become lazy. Or busy elsewhere. Take your pick. I’m clearly not controversial enough either. I obviously need to jump on an extremist bandwagon of some sort and stir a few people up!
Normally, there’s a couple of posts from the current year that make it into the top five. Not so this year. My most popular content is all old stuff. I do wonder where all those people interested in the Mexican Psoriasis Cure come from though. I have noticed over the last twelve months that it’s one of the most read posts on most days. Weird. I know where most people come from though. Google and Steve Cotton. To be struck off Steve’s blog roll would be akin to being struck off the internet.
Who is it that visits anyway? For the most part, a big bunch of lost souls who were looking for something else and quickly went elsewhere in search of it. Then there are the lurkers. Those people who like to have a little read now and then but prefer not to be noticed. Sometimes the lurkers say hello at an appropriate moment, sometimes not. I’m not criticising. I am a lurker myself on other blogs.
Then there’s the regulars. The ones who prop themselves up on my virtual bar and put the world to rights. Kim, once again, leads the list. For the third year running….a hattrick. There’s two new names there too. Norm has been around for what seems like forever. William (or should it be Bill, really?) is a relative newbie. Steve has less to say these days, but then there have been fewer posts. He still moves up one place into three.
This is all becoming a bit too ‘Top of the Pops’. Let’s finish this off. Many thanks to all of those who visited, whether you fled soon after or not. Hello to all you lurkers. You are noticed. Maybe only once a year with this review, but still. You count. And of course, the biggest thanks to all you who leave a comment. Whether it’s just one or a few dozen. It’s nice not having to talk to myself.
It’s a question I often ask myself. What is the purpose? I did once have a defined purpose. Once upon a time in Mexico. I sometimes redefined that purpose, changing the ‘theme’ or style of my content. But it always had a purpose. Once upon a time, I used to earn money from my blog, from revenue brought in through running sponsored posts. Alas, that market is currently dead and the Mexile is revenue-less. I have sometimes used my blog to praise companies or products. And if I’m displeased? It’s a great place to vent my displeasure, publicly. Although I’d be well advised not to do so in France. Nowadays, I seem to blog out of habit. Is my blog dying? Just a little bit. A bit of bird flu at the least. But some do say the concept of blogging is dead anyway. Perhaps I should lay the Mexile down to rest in peace in the bloggers graveyard.
Not so many people read my blogs these days. The stats page of WordPress confirms that the world was far more interested in my adventures in Mexico City than it is in my daily grind in Bournemouth. My readership nosedived in March 2011, the month after my return to the UK. It is but a third what it once was. But you know what they say about quantity. It is secondary to quality. And so it is with the little band of readers I have here. Many of whom have blogs of their own, which I in turn read. I may have departed Mexico in the flesh, but my blog list shows I am still very much in Mexico in spirit.
The thing about blogging is that you own who you are. You can present your favourite version of yourself to the world. It doesn’t have to be the real you. But then, the blog concerned would be less engaging and less believable. In my opinion. This isn’t to say that everything must be revealed unto the world. But it is good to get to know the real person behind the virtual pages of the web. The chaps and chapettes on my blog list certainly let themselves be themselves. Or else do a fabulous job of pretending. Either way, it’s why I follow them.
I think most of us also blog simply because we enjoy it. Writing can be therapeutic. Fun, even. I’m sure there’s a number of us, myself included, who’d like to write something of importance one day and gain a few minutes worth of fame. I’ve had a few ‘minor moments’ of international renown with the Mexile. This won’t be one of those posts though. I’ve already been scooped. Which brings me to the point of the post.
I’ve met a few bloggers before now. Some have been a bit of a mystery. There was, for example (and I hope he doesn’t mind being an example) the legendary commenter on Mexico’s many blogs. His first name gave away nothing. Male or female? Could be either. Korean or Danish? I couldn’t tell. There was no second name to help out. He had, at the time, no blog of his own. The great Sherlock Holmes would have had a job deducting the story behind the internet moniker of Mexico’s most famous blogging participant. He was, as I found out, a great guy.
On Friday I met another blogger. A meeting that has long been in the making. Our paths have crossed before, but alas it wasn’t to be. This is a guy who runs a very open blog. I expected my every expectation to be met. He’s very much a Ronseal type of blogger. Maybe you need to be English to ‘get’ the analogy. For the record, I’m not suggesting that anyone put Steve through a human sized blender and smear him against a door. But he is every bit the person you’d expect the Mexpatriate to be. He is what it says on his virtual web based tin. Which is a good thing. The Mexpatriate is great. It makes my life easy as well. I don’t have to convince you of his general decency and joviality. I can just point you in his direction and let him do the job. But if you read this blog, then you probably read his already.
So I’ll keep on blogging. Less often, I suspect. Although things can change. But alongside the therapeutic nature of blogging, the enjoyment of recording my adventures, there’s also the benefit of keeping in touch with the Kim G’s and Steve’s of the world. There are other bloggers I wish to meet to one day, though I’ll need to return to Mexico. To places like Puerto Escondido and the Pacific Coast. Until then, I present you with the sole photograph I took on Friday. Just one? In more than four hours of being in a fancy part of London. That’s unlike me, I know. It tells you how good the conversation was.
Is anyone else getting this when trying to visit my site? I hope not. I’m getting it sporadically, and in more than one browser. It’s annoying. I get the message – the blog is hosted at a WordPress domain, but I do of course link it to my own domain name. But I pay WordPress cash every year to map the domain. So I don’t expect problems. Although I know browsers, their add ons and other bits and bytes can do weird stuff. Maybe it’s just me. Still, I like the idea that it’s Obi Wan Kenobi warning users away from my blog. If you’ve made it here, welcome to the Dark Side…
Many, many moons ago, on this very blog – albeit on different hosts – I earned a small fortune churning out posts with paid links in them. I’ve told this story before. Paid links can bring in a pretty penny, although not the fortune it used to make me. Last year I must have earned a couple thousand shiny British pounds from posting ads and including specific links in my posts. I even started another blog, Gary Denness Photography, with the intention of monetising it.
Alas, there’s a major slump in the Page Rank Spam industry. There have been slumps before. But this seems altogether more terminal. All of my revenue sources have dried up. Totally. Which is a pity – the money came in very useful. What has happened to paid posts? It’s hard to say. But at a guess, Google has had some input. A lot of input. I’ve had ‘representatives’ of companies who have run paid posts on my blog in the past emailing me en masse, pleading with me to take the ‘Google unfriendly’ links down. Matt Cutts should also be listened to. And other platforms have clearly come a cropper.
Whatever. It was nice while it lasted. Perhaps the platforms who used to organise paid posts will find a loop hole and reinvent themselves and bring blogging revenue back into my life. But I have not enough faith in that happening soon enough, or in a meaningful enough way, to justify running two blogs. Pft. I barely have enough time to post to one blog. So, my obituary of the paid post industry is accompanied with an obit for my photography blog. It is still there for the time being, till I figure out what, if anything, I want to do with the garydenness.com domain.
I’ve already imported all the posts from that blog into this one. I’ll fix the Camera Lust section into the menu soon. And I’m sure I’ll continue photography themed posts here. Just as I used to. I did like the ability to play around with the photography blog, which was a WP.org site, not WP.com. But I feel more secure on WordPress.com. Less likely to be hacked. Does blog hacking happen? Oh yes, for all sorts of reasons. My blog isn’t too tempting a prize for hackers. But whilst in the Import page, I backed up the blog as well. It seems a sensible thing to do from time to time. You should too, if you have a blog.
Blogger has a great feature which is the envy of many a WordPress user. Are you reading Mr Calypso? This one is, perhaps, particularly for you. Bloggers like to keep a list of their favourite fellow bloggers in the sidebar, but only Blogger provides a built in widget which is automatically updated to show the most recent post at the top. I have been promising to try and find a way to replicate this in WordPress for an awfully long time, without ever getting around to it.
I was pretty sure the solution would be a pretty simple RSS based widget. In the end the solution was exactly what I thought it would be. Not quite a simple as Google’s built in Blogger widget. But just as effective and truth be told, it’s not much work. Requirement number one is to choose a feed reader and load in all the websites/blogs that you wish to be included in your widget. I’ve gone for Inoreader but any reader will do providing it enables you to make a folder public with it’s own RSS feed. Quick tip – when adding feeds manually, make sure you hit the + button not the magnifying glass, which is what I kept doing. Much to my frustration. It won’t work. Enter the URL of the blog and hit enter. Voila.
Step two is to create a folder by right clicking on the Subscriptions text in the left hand bar. Then drag and drop all your feeds into it. I just called mine ‘feeds’. Once you have done this, right click on your new folder and click on Manage Folders. You’ll get a pop up window, and your feed folder should be listed in there. To the right of the folder it will say RSS Feed, in between a couple of other bits of text. You’ll need to right click on that and Copy Link. Done that? Cool, then we’re done with Inoreader.
In WordPress, you now simply need to add an RSS Widget to your sidebar, and in the options paste the RSS link that you just copied from Inoreader. You’re done. You now have a dynamic blogroll and need to envy Blogger bloggers no more. You can of course customise your widget, choosing whether the widget displays content or just links and how many posts you want displayed. The maximum is 20. And of course you will want to bookmark your feed reader in case you want to go back and add some new blogs or delete some old ones. It is a slightly more cumbersome approach that with Blogger, but once done maintenance is pretty close to nil. Unless Inoreader goes belly up and disappears, of course. There are some screenshots at the bottom to provide a little extra help. By the by, your blogroll will initially be dominated by a single blogger. Fear not, as new posts are published, this will right itself. Give it a day or two.
I have put my own dynamic blogroll into action. The usual suspects are there as far as Mexican based (or wannabe based) bloggers go. They need no introduction. I’ve also included Ian Visits, one of the most informative and interesting London blogs going. Ben’s Prison Blog is there too, although his posting has been significantly less prolific since release. The title of his blog also appears to be less than accurate these days too, althought the additional tagline of ‘Lifer on the Loose’ does go someway to making amends. I’ve even included a brand new blog, which is struggling to get off the ground. The author sits two desks down from me at work. The blog is titled EG Cramer. That sets a tone, with a double initial, doesn’t it? We’ll just have to wait to see if there is a potential Wodehouse, Rowling or Salinger in the making. I wish him well!
Just a few short months ago I introduced y’all to the ‘hood I call home, Ringwood. I’d set off around the town hunting for ancient relics to try and find something older than the 400 or so years than Kim G produced in Boston. I succeeded, but then Ringwood is a particularly ancient corner of an ancient forest in an ancient land. But I have moved. So Ringwood is no longer my hometown. My new residence of Westbourne is nowhere near so ancient. Indeed, the local area celebrated its bicentenary in 2010. Who’d a thunk it? There I was half way round the world celebrating the bicentenary of Mexico’s independence, when all along the big party was going on right here.
Westbourne is described as ‘affluent’ by Wikipedia. It’s certainly the affluent part of the Bournemouth conurbation, although not quite as wealthy as Sandbanks, which is just down the road and home to a selection of the famous, not so famous but always filthy rich. Walking around Westbourne town centre, you’ll notice a certain London like feel to the place architecturally. The shops suggest a diverse range of residents – a hearing aid retailer sits opposite a baby fashion boutique. There’s a Marks and Sparks supermarket. And a Bang and Olufsen electrical store. If I ever win the lottery, I’ll be straight in that store to buy one of their fanciest televisions for my new pad in Sandbanks.
There’s even an old fashioned type of store that has pretty much gone the way of the blacksmith, ironmonger and hardware store. It’s locally referred to as a ‘bookshop’, and it has ornate lettering from a bygone age on the shop front which tells its age. I’m lead to believe that if one steps inside the shop, you’ll find bound leaves of paper with printed words on them. There are no Kindle shops to speak of in Westbourne. There is a top quality butcher though.
Naturally, in between each retailer sits a coffee shop. Costa Coffee and Starbucks are both represented. But true to it’s economic reputation there’s a plethora of fancy independent coffee shops and Mediterranean style eateries. There is also a Tesco convenience store. True to the town’s form and the capitalist push into the 21st century, our little Tesco supermarket occupies a church. The gallery above, and the other galleries on this page, contains a mix of both my own photos and historical snaps that abound on the interweb.
Westbourne might not have the historical background of Ringwood, but it trumps my old town comfortably from a cultural standpoint. There’s a piece of Westbourne that we all have shared in. I assume so. You all have read Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde or Kidnapped haven’t you? They were written during Robert Louis Stevenson’s time in Westbourne, at his home in Skerryvore. The house was destroyed by German bombs in WW2, but you can still visit the site and see the foundations. Also in the grounds is a stone model of a lighthouse. It’s a replica of what was (maybe still is?) the tallest lighthouse in Scotland, built by a member of his family. The lighthouse, like his home in Westbourne, was called Skerryvore. Stevenson wasn’t the only famous author linked to the area. Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, is buried in a church graveyard just a few minutes walk away. Along with her husband’s heart.
There are good walks to be had in any direction from our home. On one side we have Bournemouth Gardens, a thin strip of park that extends from Bournemouth Pier all the way to Coy Pond, with a fancy war memorial in between. A garden isn’t a garden in England unless you have at least one memorial and a minimum of a half dozen benches with memorial plaques to someone who once loved sitting there.
If one should choose to walk the opposite direction, you’re at the beach in about five to ten minutes. Depending upon your pace. In summer the golden sands of Bournemouth are covered in a mass of burning human flesh that is popularly known as ‘sunbathers’, who leave used disposable barbecues and other associated litter to the huge annoyance of the locals. In winter the beaches remain a popular destination for walkers. Many of whom bring their dogs to splash in the waves, chase sticks and leave their own little presents for the summer invaders to find.
And that’s my new home town. Hope you enjoyed this short stroll around it. Next stop….Mexico City? One day, one day….
Things have been quiet in this part of the interweb these last couple of weeks. Maybe you noticed, maybe you didn’t. Nothing is wrong. But one is moving. A man’s home is his castle, and one has decided a new castle is in order for 2014. One would have liked a palace instead, but in the current economic climate, a cosy little one bedroom flat, all very modern by the by, is more in order. I guess I’ll have to take you on a tour of my new hood soonish.
Moving is a surprisingly strenuous ordeal. Who knew how much junk one can accumulate in less than three years? Anyway, we’re very happy with our new flat and it’s in a great location. I’ve decided to move my blog into a new home too. Again. Maybe this one will stick. We’ll see. Otherwise, dear Pilcrow, I will return….