A month or so ago, I was awarded a Versatile Blogger gong by my blogger friend, Jackie Buxton over at http://jackiebuxton.blogspot.co.uk.
Now, I’m the first to admit I’m not actually that versatile when it comes to blogging; or regular, for that matter, which you’ll know if you follow this bog. A regular poster, that is. I’m pretty regular in that other matter which the word regular generally refers to. That was too much information, wasn’t it? Sorry!
Anyway, I was chuffed to bits with Jackie’s kind nomination. It still baffles me that anyone actually bothers to read my blog at all, never mind consider it worthy of an award. Jackie herself epitomises versatility. Her brilliant, funny, honest, heartfelt and unassuming posts can make the reader laugh, cry and contemplate in equal measure. You can check out her own Versatile Blogger post out here: http://jackiebuxton.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/you-just-gotta-love-it-when.html
One day, a week or so after I received Jackie’s nomination, I decided to write my “acceptance speech” – which basically requires the recipient to list seven hitherto unknown facts about themselves and then pass on the Versatile mantle to a few other bloggers. I’d struggled for a day or so to come up with one interesting thing about myself, never mind seven. (Actually, that could be one: I detest the word thing. Just a personal fixation, but every time I write it I feel slightly sick.) After all, I reckoned you already know all the “interesting” stuff, much of which isn’t even about me: my daughter, the Game of Thrones actress; my husband, the successful author whose book Dream On is being made into a movie; my disappearing book deal. I’ve told you before about my head-butt list and my dog-stealing days and wetting myself once on a Big Dipper ride. Really, what more was there?
I came up with one or two little ditties, which genuinely are worth the telling, but that was it. I was well and truly stuck. Then, bingo, my light-bulb moment: I’d make some up! After all, that’s what I’m supposed to be – a writer who makes stuff up. It’d be a good wee craft-honing exercise for me, I reasoned, and nobody would be any the wiser. I’d get around the folk reading my blog who actually do know me by telling them in a very shocked voice that I was genuinely hurt/astonished/concerned that they couldn’t remember the time I … or the day we … or the fact that I really … Come to think of it, I have a friend who does this all the time – I’d just be taking a leaf out of her rather chunky and somewhat baffling fantasy book!
So, feeling ridiculously excited and giggling stupidly to myself, I opened up my blog to start penning my side-splittingly hilarious and stunningly fascinating lies. Except I couldn’t. Not that I was overcome by guilt or remorse, or felt a sense of self doubt about my intended deceit; I literally couldn’t write my post, because my blog, it appeared, had vanished. There was literally nothing there but a blank page welcoming me to WordPress and inviting me to make my first post!
I felt sick. I nearly cried. I swore at Herbie, my cat, because there was no one else in the house to swear at. I shut down my laptop, walked around the room for a minute, breathed deeply, apologised to Herbie, sat back down at my desk and calmly switched the computer back on.
Still nothing but a blank page and that stupid, smug invitation to get going on my blog. No matter what I did (and I have to admit that, being completely witless when it comes to anything technical, I didn’t really do much, apart from panic) I couldn’t find anything. No posts, no comments, no header, no links: absolutely sweet F all. I had a Dorothy moment when I fleetingly wondered if the past nine months had all been a dream, and I’d never actually created a blog at all.
Then I had another, somewhat longer, moment when I thought that somehow, somewhere, someone must have taken exception to my blog; thought it was a pile of poo, didn’t like the name, was repulsed by the actual thought of me physically standing naked at a bus stop – and had hacked in and wiped my entire body of work. Yes, I am acutely aware of how ludicrous and lofty that last comment now sounds: body of work! Tsk!
WordPress itself was no flaming use whatsoever. Once I managed to find out how to actually ask a question on one of the Help Boards, the only answer I got was: “This sounds really odd”. Too frigging right, you moron! I got more help and support from friends on Twitter, which was hugely appreciated and kept me from putting my fist through my computer screen, but sadly no one came up with a magic solution.
After a mini nervous breakdown followed by a pretty full on nervous breakdown; tears; many, many swear words; many, many sentences made up solely of swear words; more tears; I finally resigned myself to the fact that my blog had apparently buggered off for good. And really, it was only a blog; not a completed manuscript, or an off-shore bank account. And I still had all of my posts saved in Word. So, no big deal. I could just start again. Still… *$~#&^<!
The following day, inexplicably and as quickly as it had vanished, part of my blog came back. Just like that. And by way of an apology, it brought back over 9,000 spam comments as a souvenir of its little trip. *$~#&^<! But, hey, at least it was back. Well, the main page, anyway. My relief and excitement diluted somewhat when I discovered that I couldn’t access comments, see beyond my last two posts, click into anything on my banner, or make a new post.
I was busy, and simply couldn’t afford another nervous breakdown, so I gave it two fingers from both hands and walked away.
I did check in every now and again, just out of curiosity, but resolved to remain calm and rational. If it never came back, then obviously we weren’t meant to be together. I’d build another blog. A better one. And screw you, mister.
Then out of the blue, a week or so ago, it came back. All of it. Everything in place. All as it should be. See: treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen.
I don’t suppose I’ll ever know what happened, where it went, or why it finally decided to return; but I did resolve never to even contemplate fabricating my blog posts again.
So, with that in mind, here are my seven fascinating facts, and not a fib amongst them.
1: I’ve been nominated for a Fringe First at the Edinburgh festival – along with the rest of my College Drama Group. It was August 1982. The play in question was the first ever dramatisation of Spike Milligan’s genius book, Puckoon; and I performed for the whole week with a broken jaw – sustained three days before the Festival began in a random, unprovoked, street attack, whilst rehearsing in Liverpool. (Does that count as two facts?) The broken jaw did present problems, and restricted my ability to play some of the six or so characters I’d been assigned; but it unequivocally enhanced my performance as Stan, the bar room singer. I’ve always secretly suspected that’s what nabbed the nomination!
2: After completing my degree, I became addicted to Mills & Boon books. Now, if my degree had been in say, PE, or Maths, or Bio Chemistry; or anything which had nothing to do with literature, then this might not seem so shocking. But no: it was English and Drama. So, after years spent reading the works of literary geniuses such as Plath and Conrad and Kafka and Waugh and Shakespeare and Ibsen and Brecht, I marched off into the sunset with my degree tucked into my feminist bosom, filled with a lust for life which had been fuelled by these masters of their craft, determined to make something of myself, excited by the prospect of all the books I had still to read – and turned to sickly, romantic, sludge. The literary equivalent of Slush Puppies. I have to admit, it all went downhill for a while after that.
3: Between the ages of 5 and 18, I participated every year in my home town’s annual Speech and Drama Festival. Over the years I won many classes – usually the Inventive Storytelling ones (three words, five minutes to prepare, stand on stage and tell your story) – but I always hankered after a Cup. Or a trophy. Or a shield. Any old piece of silverware would have sufficed; hell I’d have been happy with a fork by the end. But the shiny silver things always eluded me: until my last year at the festival before departing for University, when I won five! Yep, 5! This year my daughter entered the Festival, and she won two cups – one for her Sonnet (Wordsworth’s At Sunset), the second for a Shakespeare performance (Juliet’s The clock struck nine). My pride was through the roof; but a tincy, wincy, weeny part of me did think how come it took me 13 years?
4: Graham Reid, who wrote the Billy Plays which launched Sir Kenneth Brannagh’s career, taught me history for a while at school. He was an inspirational teacher who saw stardust in every pupil he taught. And if he didn’t, he soon made sure he sprinkled it.
5: I’m hugely allergic to red peppers – not particularly interesting, but useful to know if you ever invite me to dinner.
6: I’m 50 – that’s definitely not interesting, I’m just getting used to saying it. And I partied until 4.30am on my 50th birthday – that’s not interesting either, but I’m very, very proud of it!
7: I can’t dance – well, according to my husband, my daughter, and all of my friends. Actually, that is a fib – but this time, they’re the ones who are lying! .
Now it’s time for me to announce my own nominees for a Versatile Blogger Award. They’re all brilliant bloggers and damn fine writers, each with a very individual story to tell. If I told you exactly why I love each of their blogs, we’d be in for another full post: just trust me – and check them out yourself. Your life will be better for it, I promise!
So, in no particular order we have: