Tag Archives: Blogging

Out Of A Job – And Into A New Blog!

It is the best of times, it is the worst of times. I’m not in the habit of plagiarising Dickens, but the two of us do have one thing in common: We were both paid by the word. Were being the operative one in this lamentable context. I shall explain…

Tuesday two weeks ago, at 11 am, I received a devastating call. I had lost my writing gig. “A change of corporate focus,” I was told. A decision taken by management in a far-away head office, by people I had never had any direct dealings with. Unlike all the other times, this latest reshuffle within the company, which had supplied me with a steady flow of work for the past twelve years, had not turned out to my advantage. To put it mildly.

There would still be some work for me, I was assured. However, it was going to be of a different nature and – as far as I could tell – there wasn’t going to be enough of it to keep me in fodder.

In short, it was the kind of news which puts the wind of existential panic up a freelancer’s arse. Or make that a hurricane.

The state of red alert lasted for about 24 hours. A fellow freelancer, bless her kindly soul, shuffled me a contact promising me regular work in my field. A couple of days later, another potential client registered an interest.

Maybe, just maybe, I was going to be OK.

But August being August, nothing happens fast, so I’m having to exercise my very puniest of mental muscles: my patience. A bit of distraction was called for, and seeing as I’d been sitting for absolutely ages on the desire to start a fresh blog venture, I decided to go for it, and my brand spanking new dedicated language blog Multilingual By Choice (it’s meant to make me sound like a purposeful and focused individual who doesn’t spend three quarters of her day lounging around in pyjamas ogling cake porn) was finally born.

No need to groan quite so heartily, people – I won’t be attempting to “make grammar fun” or go on about the aspirated phoneticisation of gerundiated nouns. It’s going to be more about life than linguistics. Take a look: http://www.multilingualbychoice.blogspot.com

But before you dash off to coo over my shiny new baby, do have some cake! I’ve a splendid selection prepared for you, all sampled and approved by yours truly:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Holiday Cake 🙂

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lemon sponge cake. One of my Mum’s creations.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Posh Shopping Centre Cake

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Made by one of my Mum’s friends with apples from her garden

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Another friend, another cake 🙂 Apricot & custard this time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And here it is in its entirety

 

Oh, and I’ve got a new blog, did I  mention that?! http://www.multilingualbychoice.blogspot.com

 

Advertisements

My Six (Admittedly Eccentric) Blogging Pet Peeves

I’ve been blogging away for a couple of years now, and, as regular readers will know, I tend to home in on food (CAKES!), languages and travel, liberally interspersed with assorted frustrations and bemusements thrown up by the daily grind.

Most of us, given the time constraints imposed by daily life, are selective readers, who are little inclined to read or comment negatively on posts that deal with topics we don’t much care for. What’s the point of pissing on somebody’s bonfire, unless you’re one of those deranged individuals who gets a kick out of trolling, right?

Now, I do receive “complaints”. My comment section is replete with reproaches like these: “too many flowers”, “not enough Don Quijote”, “I can’t stand sweet stuff”, “all cats are evil”, “not another bloody food picture!” etc. My blogging buddies just love giving me stick. It’s my absolute favourite part of blogging 😉 As for any serious discord of the abusive type, I’ve been mercifully spared so far.

Anyway, this is the train of thought that got me thinking about the kinds of posts/blogs that don’t particularly float my boat, and which I tend to skip. Here we go:

Poetry
I’ll probably be pelted with rotten eggs for this, but I’m one of these troglodytic heathens who finds the sticky heart sap of other people’s sentimental anguish packaged up into overwrought verse unpalatable. There, I’ve said it.

HOWEVER, if a poem bounds up to me dressed in the frilly knickers of humour, I’m more than willing to give it a shot. Anything for a good chuckle. But, on the whole, poetry – meh!

I should probably confess at this point that I have written poetry myself. When I’m grappling with troublesome life stuff, I find that it helps my processing. I’m aware, though, that the words I choose are powerful to me, and to me only, as the specific associations between words and feelings are unique to my tumultuous emotional landscape. The concept of putting my wretched outpourings up on a blog strikes me as being equal to masturbating in public. The activity may be highly gratifying for the perpetrator, but for the bystanders… not so much.

Fiction
Oh, I do so relish reading fiction – it’s my favourite pastime. But I like to get my daily fiction fix from books (or my e-reader), not from the blogosphere. It’s just a personal preference, I totally get why somebody may want to publish the fruits of their creative writing in blog format. However, I personally turn to blogs because they give me a whiff of real life, as it happens to real people in different parts of the world.

To me, the idea of reading fiction on a blog is like going to the theatre to enjoy a live performance, and then being shown a film instead. Even if Viggo Mortensen happened to be pirouetting naked in this flick, it’s just not what I came out to see in that type of venue.

“I’ve made a commitment to post every day until the sun burns out”
OK. Let me be brutal: Nobody bloody cares. Whether you post every single day. Or once a month. Or thrice a year. Really. Not one iota.

What I do care about is informative posts, funny posts, pictures of luscious cheese I can drool over… you get the idea.

Blogging is not an obligation. It’s a hobby (unless you’re paid to do it). And although it can be very social, it’s not a team sport. You’re NOT letting people down when you don’t show up for a few days.

There’s no sacred covenant a blogger signs with their readers. Despite what some bloggers might think, people don’t leap out of bed in the morning, desperate to read what KoreanHausfrauInRwanda rustled up for dinner last night, and then cry into their coffee when there’s – shock horror! – not a single word from the treacherous tease.

Cafe

“She went off to have some baby and then didn’t post for THREE full weeks…!” [Taken at the Crocodile Cafe, Muswell Hill, London, if anyone’s interested]

War-And-Peace-length posts
If the WP Reader says 2,000+ words, count me out. To be honest, for anything over 1,300, I have to be seriously into the blogger and/or the topic.

Wikipedia entries
While I appreciate a few sentences of illuminating background explanation, where appropriate, is there really a need to copy & paste eight paras of historical eventage? Instead of data dumping, maybe we could… you know… insert a link to one of the hundreds of pages which already give that information? Just a thought. The internet is nifty like that.

What I relish reading  about is how much someone detested the yowly flamenco performance they saw last weekend in Granada, not a dry, dull (and ultimately, safe) rendition of the musical genre’s hundreds-of-years of stomping, twirling, castanet-clacking history.

Ghost posting
So, some lucky blogster decides to abscond for a couple of weeks to go wild water rafting down the wifi-bereft Yukon, and, in what can either be interpreted as a bizarre act of misguided altruism or an existential fear of losing their entire readership, they squeeze the last remaining dregs of energy into cranking out a batch of posts in advance, to be released by the iCloud elves at three-day intervals.

Now, what’s the point of that?! The lights are on, but nobody’s home…?

You see, I like the banter, the comment ping-pong, the irreverent feedback, the hilarity that ensues after posting. Reading and commenting on a ghost-posted piece is like being invited over for dinner by a dear friend, and, just as I arrive on their doorstep, being told: “Hey, I’ve cooked up some fabulous nosh, it’s on the table, enjoy, but I’m off now for an evening of line dancing with the Nashvillains. Cheerio!”

Erm… as much as I love great food, I was actually looking forward to the company even more.

OK, that’s it from me*.

So, what about you? Any blog-related turn-offs you’d like to vent? The more irrational and difficult-to-justify, the better. Now’s your chance, get it off your chest 😉

I realise this post will cost me 90% of my readership…

[*I do harbour a number of more commonly-shared irritations, such as people never responding to comments, paragraphs that run on for 20+ lines, and, of course, my ex-ed/proofer’s innards contort when exposed to posts littered with heinous spelling and grammar violations, but there’s already a zillion posts about these types of foibles, so I thought I’d spare you. In fact, this sentence is so long, that it would probably annoy me on someone else’s blog…]

Cheesecake…? What Cheesecake?!

I was walking past one of my favourite Muswell Hill bakeries today for the first time in three years. Its hallmark used to be a delicious tray of freshly baked cheesecake gracing the window. Well, it seems that standards have slipped abominably since I left town three years ago:

MWH Bakery

WTF is this?! Alien turds…???

On a more positive note, I’ve had the most fabulous day, meeting up with a number of pals and flitting from one cake paradise to another in the process.

I spent the afternoon in Marylebone, where I used to live as a student (oh sweet nostalgia…) with local resident Karolyn. She is the author of one of my favourite blogs, Distant Drumlin, and one of the most lovely people on earth.

Simone and Karolyn in Patisserie Valerie

Karolyn and I in Patisserie Valerie, dosed up on cake and Earl Grey.

Bloghopping Mad!

It’s a fine sunny Monday here in Toledo – ideal for a spot of bloghopping. And this is not just any old bloghop, oh no, but one that’s meant to be all about the “writing process”.

I did not, you understand, come up with such a lofty concept. I’m merely attempting to catch the bouquet tossed high up into the air by Linda of expateyeonlatvia, who summarised her writing process to me once as “I pour myself a glass of red and start ranting”. I sure wish my rants were half as hilarious as hers *wistful sigh*.

Let’s get to the questions:

What am I working on?
Hmmm… I guess…. life…and my(exasperating)self. I’m a lazy ol’ sod and inclined to let things slide. At every opportunity. I procrastinate, the discomfort grows, until panic sets in, and only then do I spring into action. A couple of days ago, I came across Stephen Covey quote: “Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important”. That just about sums it up for me.

It’s a constant tussle between the daily grind, and maintaining the trajectory that propels me towards the things I actually want to do, and these things tend to require quite a bit of tedious planning.

This also applies to writing – the most satisfying posts tend to the the ones I’ve been brooding over for a while.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?
I don’t think my blog fits into one particular genre. Is it an expat blog? A food blog? A language blog? A travel blog? A humour blog? Well, it’s a mixture of all of these, more of a shaggy mongrel than a streamlined thoroughbred.

I’m not actively trying to set myself apart. I’m not selling a “product”. I just want to express myself, share my experiences and link up with people of similar interests. I like discussion, puerile puns and silly banter. I get things wrong sometimes, and I don’t mind people picking me up on it – that’s what the comment box is for.

I’ve come across blogs that didn’t have a comment section. Or bloggers who just don’t respond to comments. What’s that all about?!

Why do I write what I do?
I write every day because that’s how I earn a living. Of course, my work writing caters to my clients’ needs, and even though they give me a lot of freedom, it doesn’t entirely satisfy me on a creative level.

The blog provides a counterbalance, it’s an outlet for my thoughts and observations that have no place in my work writing. In the Food Follies and Global Consumerism sections you will find those posts that are closest to my professional writing, although the language will be more informal and I’ve tackled issues from all sorts of precarious angles, which would be wholly unacceptable to my business clients.

I set up the blog for three reasons: To help me develop my writing in other directions (particularly in the language and humour realms), to bore the pants off my friends and family with what I’m up to (“look, she’s scoffing yet another cake!”), and to connect with like-minded bloggers all over the world.

How does my writing process work?
That depends. Since I started blogging, I don’t go anywhere without my camera. Some people go into anaphylactic shock when they discover they’ve left their phone at home. For me, it’s a missing camera that gets my knickers in a twist. If I see something that’s pretty, delicious or just plain ridiculous, I snap it, wedge it between a few lines of text, and up on the blog it goes.

The process for the non-photo-centred posts is really quite different. Some of these will have been festering in my brain for aeons, until they suddenly reach critical mass. This tends to happen at the most inconvenient of times, i.e. when I really should be doing something else, like my PAID work. By now, I’ve accepted that I have about as much control over the expulsion process as a pregnant woman in labour. It just has to come out, whether I like it or not.

I must add, though, that my (non-photo) posts are never written and published within the same day. I usually take ta least three days, sometimes longer, to get from the first few rickety draft paras to the final version. There can be as many as 30 revisions. When I reach the point where I can’t tell anymore whether I’m making a piece better or worse, I know it’s time to stop fiddling.

Californian writer Annie Lamott wrote once that one of her greatest fears was being run over by a bus outside her house right after having churned out a first draft of a restaurant review or whatever. People would find the document on her computer, stare open-mouthed at what are clearly the incoherent ramblings of a maniac, and be convinced that she had, in fact, killed herself. I can relate to that. It’s an involved process, almost equally as exhausting as it is gratifying. For that reason, I could never conceive of writing a novel, and I have boundless admiration for people who manage to accomplish such a feat.

A gratuitous flower pic. Because Linda loves them :)

A gratuitous flower pic. Because Linda loves them 🙂

OK, time to pass the buck. And it goes to the amazing Anna from gohomeandaway. Incidentally, it was expateyeonlatvia’s raucous comment section which brought us together. Anna, a native Muscovite who blogs from the great Russian capital, spent a large part of her formative years and early adulthood in the US.

Anna loves both cultures as much as she finds herself torn between them, which makes it a very compelling blog for all of us who have spent a substantial stretch of our lives outside of our birth/passport countries. I think that this post, which is about the intrinsic sexism that still prevails in Russian society today, illustrates her struggles rather poignantly.

Language Boat Guest Post

A while back, Amy Estrada, a blogger from California now living in Taiwan, asked me to write a guest post for her fantastic blog Language Boat. She runs a series called Perspective Collective, in which the contributors talk about their language learning approaches, their motivation, and what advice they would give to other language learners.

Here is what I wrote, plus a rather strained-looking photo of me.

But Amy’s blog is not just about language stuff. Oh no. Posts entitled What American Guys Do To Women That Taiwanese Guys Won’t, I Will Never Date Taiwanese Women Again!,  and I Actually Did Want To Have Sex With Him! are compulsive reading, whether you have any interest in languages or not 😉

Language Boat’s latest post, Public Nose Picking In Taipei, ended with this whopper of a cliff-hanger:

A Taiwanese friend recently called me out on a behavior he finds offensive and gross, so in a future post, I will share what I, and many of my fellow Americans do, that Taiwanese people regard as disgusting.

How the hell am I meant to sleep until then?!? Damn you Amy!!!

Picture of a lamp, just to add a splash of colour:

Taken in a Toledo tea house

Taken in a Toledo tea house

Is It True That 90% Of Internet Searches Are About Porn?

Well, I took this to be cyber myth. Until yesterday, that is, when I looked more closely at the long list of search terms that had led the punters to my blog over the past year.

cake porn
Before starting this blog, I had no inkling as to the existence of this niche. (Although I watched American Pie back in the 90’s.) But hey, I’m certainly not too proud to exploit it, and I did indeed once publish a post entitled ‘Cake Porn’. Shame on me 😉

look up at the lady cakes
Do you prefer jiggly or firm?

Bakewells

A big thank you to my lovely friend Lazooligirl for bequeathing me this image… and she would like to point out that hers are gluten-free.

I like melons
I bet you do…!

lady on the potato cake
I don’t even dare wonder what she was doing on there…

great multilingual woman porn
I guess this is a real turn-on for some… and I did have requests, once or twice, of this nature by former partners. And I did (shame on me again!) publish a post about getting it on for the first time in Spanish.

Ramona the hole story
Bedtime reading for adults, I presume…

naked image of englishmen
Hmmm…. they probably wanted to check for webbed feet rather than get off…

일본게이텀블러

It’s Korean for “Japanese gay tumbler”. I must confess, curiosity won out and I put it into the search engine myself. I discovered that Japanese men seem to have a lot more … erm… to offer than I had previously assumed. Thanks, Korean guy (I presume), for educating me on this.

giantpenis

And here she is, with her brand new  double seater from PRIKEA.

Just Last month, I was chuckling in disbelief at expateyeonlatvia’s search term post, which featured “Latvian grandad cock”.

Turns out, I laughed too soon.

People had indeed hit on my blog in the vain hope of getting to ogle wrinkly danglies:

Granny over 70 nude blog
Naked grandad pissing
Naked grandparents pics
Granny cake porn

*     *     *     *     *     *

OK… let’s move on to a different kind of carnal desire.

Predictably, I get traffic from budding domestic goddesses in search of practical advice regarding the art of baking:

Need cake professionals to enlighten me
Sadly, I’ve nothing constructive to say on the matter. My expertise focuses exclusively on the scoffing end of the baked goods life cycle.

How to make a cake looking like the ‘trotter’ van

Del Boy and Rodney got the superhero treatment... it's amazing what a bit of sugar coating can do!

It’s been done! Del Boy and Rodders even got the superhero treatment… it’s amazing what a bit of sugar coating can do!

Why has the marzipan on my cake dissolved?
That may have been me licking it off…

Bavarian cheesecake day
If only there were such a thing… we can but dream…. sigh.

Japan has no bloody clue about cake!!!!
My sentiments exactly. See this post.

lady who was in fashion industry named amira and now makes little cakes
Her and I should definitely get together.

A couple of language related searches:

theres no such thing as proper english
Not on your planet, evidently.

Are you aiming to become polyglot or somewhat?
I do try… but as for you, I wouldn’t get my hopes up.

What and what are type of english?
What and what are you fuckwit?

A few simply baffling ones:

car poo outside my front door

inauspicious russian mom with her son’s

4 pics 1 word steeple, nun, two hands

And my two all-time favourites:

Im totally possessed

went abroad didn’t like it shan’t go there again

Fireworks And Champus: It’s The Blog’s First Birthday

After a procrastination phase of about three years, this blog burst into existence one year ago today. It required a severe dose of bullying midwifing by a blog addict friend (you know who you are!) brandishing an immovable deadline, which happened to be 23 September 2012.

The blog was meant to provide a ‘creative’ counterbalance to my work life. Most of you will probably know that I write food industry related articles for a living. Just a couple of weeks ago, I made editor’s pick on globalmeatnews.com. I can tell you’re all quaking in awe. Yes, ladies and gents, every wanna-be butcher on the planet has a piece of mine stuck to the inside of his locker.

A blog, I thought, would give me an outlet to write about things other than food. As it turns out, I blog a lot about food. You just can’t sideline an obsession. Some people don’t like food. I’ve encountered two such mutants in my lifetime (probably more, but I didn’t know that about them). I’m sorry, but if this applies to you, we can’t ever be friends. If you have aberrant culinary preferences that don’t coincide with mine, well, I’m willing to talk about it. Not promising anything, though.

As a virgin blogger, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. And one thing I didn’t see coming was that I’d enjoy taking photos. In the past, I’d never even been remotely interested in squinting into a gadget, but seeing that I find blogs totally devoid of pictures a bit dull, there was no way round it. At the very least, an image breaks up the text nicely, it gives the mind a brief moment of respite before tackling the next paragraph. Not wanting to filch all my images off the interwebs, I bought a cheap digital camera.

It was a reluctant purchase, but I knew all would be well as soon as the package arrived. My new toy had been sent to me, coincidentally, by a company in Bavaria, not far from my place of birth. Whoever packed it, had tossed a handful of chocolate sweeties into the box. I was delighted. These people knew my soul! At the risk of sounding sexist, I think the addition of chocolate should be standard procedure for every technical utensil dispatched to a female customer. Especially if the item is battery operated.

Anyway, photos were meant to illustrate and lighten up the text, nothing more. If you’ve been following my blog for longer than a day, you’ll have realised that the photos have totally taken over. Now it’s the words that accompany the photos, rather than the other way around.

There’s some seriously brill photo blogs out there, run by people with technique, filters, tripods and zoom lenses capable of making out mating microbes on Pluto. This isn’t one of these blogs. This is the home of fuzzy, grainy, wobbly and out-of-focus, interspersed with passable flukes.

Trolls were something I was a bit concerned about initially. So far, not a single one has reared its snaggletoothed maws. What popped up instead were a bunch of amusing, clever, interesting people. (By ‘interesting’ I mean just deranged enough to make me feel close to normal.)

So, I guess I might as well stick around for a wee while longer. Thanks for all your views, likes and commentary. Do keep it coming 🙂

A round of celebratory cup cakes for you all from Toledo's poshest patisserie

I was fibbin’ about the champs & firecrackers, but I can stretch to a round of celebratory cup cakes from Toledo’s poshest patisserie