Blogging, comments, photos...and a rant ensues.

posted on: Thursday, 17 April 2014

We've been together for four and a half years now, my blog and I. When we started I was full of ideas about where the relationship would take me, what I would gain from it, what I could mould it into. At the start I was competitive and entered blog contests and responded to blog challenges. I trawled other blogs and commented, 'making friends'. If I went away on holiday I arranged guest posts and made sure that the blog was never unattended for a moment. I posted all the time, tracking my stats - I sometimes look back on my archive and think, frankly, how did I have the time to post 31 times in a month in 2010?! I still had a big job at that time and a younger family! Like any relationship though, I put in what I wanted to. Now the blog and I are trusted bed-fellows and we rub along. Sometimes I post more often, sometimes not. They say take only what you need from life - so from the blog, this is what I take:

It's a place to write. To express what's going on with me. To catch up with friends. I have spent many an hour wondering why I write it and what it all means (often documented). But I carry on. I consider myself to be a blog veteran now. But it remains that I have never monetised the blog. There are no adverts. There are no collaborations or reviews. The only self-serving things I ever wanted from it was to promote my small business and furtively, that maybe a book editor would stumble by and offer me a book deal ;-) Hah.

I understand that there are some blogs which are much more than just a convivial relationship between blog and blog writer. They are a job or a role or a pathway to greatness. I have seen blog friends take the germ of an idea on a blog and make it a mainstream business, a full-on lifestyle, and I applaud them.

So when I get an anon comment like I did yesterday, despite myself, I react. I have rarely had comments that smart; overall the readers are kind and thought-provoking. Because I am not 'out there' trying to be anything, I have always figured I go below the radar for the kind of vitriol that exists on the web. But the issue of photo crediting has raised its head again and so I'm going to respond.

Anyone can see that the Internet has proliferated the use of photos in a way that a few short years ago we could not even imagine. Whilst this has been a gift to many (countless happy hours spent on Pinterest) it must have led to confusion and frustration amongst photographers, models, stylists, brands etc whose work can be seen ANYWHERE without credit.  This poster, for example, by the prominent blog Design Sponge started a whole furore of debate about the topic a few years back.

There has been the blurring of international boundaries on the web, the application of copyright laws between countries, a reliance on good practice that has, in all honestly, seeped away over time. I have observed all of this. And to some degree - in response to the claim that I don't credit photos accordingly, I agree, I put my hands up and say 'yes, guilty'. But equally I accept that the arena in which we work is a changeable one; that the shifting sand of the Internet is virtually impossible to stand still on. And as such, what pervades is this.

I blog because I love it. Am I going to consult a copyright lawyer each time I want to post a picture that I didn't photograph myself? No. Is that wrong? Maybe, yes. Do I live in the real world and have an understanding of the principles of legal risk? Yes. Do I think what I do is ethically wrong? Unsure, now you mention it. Am I like everyman (or woman) who blogs? Yes, I would say so. Am I going to stop blogging? No.

Here is what I wish: that people who want to outline the wrongs of society do so on things that really matter. Like how on Instagram or Tumblr, just a few short clicks can lead you to such vile photographs of harm and suicide or pornography and exploitation that honestly, they make your stomach recoil. That young people will see and act on these, who perhaps have not had the life experience that I have had to know that the staged, styled photographs are not real and are designed to make you feel something - good or bad. That there are images lurking on the web that we should all be in disgust about.

So is the real issue whether the photographer or the stylist or the magazine who printed it gets the credit? Are generally well-meaning bloggers really the culprit for publishing photos that may not always be credited? Do they try their hardest to locate the source of the image but as time has gone on the trail has been eroded? Is there a whole lot more wrong with the Internet than what I post here?

We have to all make our minds up about what we see and read. But my view, for what it's worth, is that gentle words and beautiful images do not harm and if a photographer ever contacted me (as they have once or twice, but rarely in my blog career) and asked me to credit their image I would do it gladly and with apologies for not having done so sooner. This may well be one of those posts I regret pressing 'publish' to and I am inclined to pause for a day and think about it. But on the other hand, the most often stated sentiment I receive in comments is that I write with honesty, so this is my honest opinion.

Back and go-slow...

posted on: Wednesday, 16 April 2014

I am returned from the mountains. I had the best time; we all did - it was one of those glorious family/friends holidays where everyone got on and everyone had fun and it all went really well. The weather was unseasonably warm so we skied in t-shirts and enjoyed lunches in the sun and my face is tanned like I have been to the Caribbean, but the rest of my body is post winter-appropriate pale. I have a love/hate relationship with skiing, having learnt as an adult I will never get that perfect shoop-shoop that others seem to have (those who learnt as children). But this time, with the fantastic visibility and wide open pistes and not too many people I finally got it. I got that lovely rhythmic feeling of the shoop-shoop. It rocked.

via inspiration lane
It was made all the sweeter by the inclusion of the chalet girl. What a treat to not have to lift a finger or cook or clean. I observed these girls with interest; their days not dissimilar to my normal housewifery activities. A whirl of bed making, wiping, preparing, clearing for the next onslaught. I have to say I basked in not doing anything.

We watched the film 'About Time' when we were away. If you want to feel love and be reminded to love - watch it.

Back and it's Easter holidays and my son turns nine today! I am so in love with my kids at the moment, we have had a good time lately altogether. The thing he wanted the most for his birthday? A digital watch, night-vision goggles and a football. What more does one need?!

The hint of spring is filling me with happiness and that bottled hope for a good summer. No sooner was the ski wear packed away did I start planning summer wardrobe items and dusting off sandals to be worn when it warms up.

Following inspiration from my friend Simone, I have started printing out life quotes and sticking them on mirrors and on walls around our house. Interesting response. Immediate one from my son about this one was: 'this means get off your gadgets and use your imagination doesn't it?' Hah. So maybe what I say (on repeat) does filter in?!

And so, post-holiday everything goes on. The bags get unpacked slowly and thoughts turn to what is ahead when the children return to school in a few weeks. I like the summer term, in fact I like everything about summer. We now have a countdown (as Boo keeps reminding me) to her getting braces on her teeth (14 days), to when we go to see One Direction again (51 days) and when we go to Florida (82 days)...yay for that.

Wants, reads and notices...

posted on: Friday, 4 April 2014

Isn't it lovely that Spring is here? Is it here or is it approaching? I think it's here. Daffodils especially make me smile when I see them. So deprived are we of flora over the winter months. I do this every year, I emerge from Winter as if I have been in hibernation.

I have one of these friendship bracelets and now I want to give one to everyone I know. They are so delicate and sweet.

Can we talk about lingerie? For years I was a Marks and Spencer girl; Brits will understand this, a gazillion British women have grown up wearing M&S bras and it's been great. A few years ago a wise friend directed me to Marie Jo lingerie; absolutely exquisite items that are spookily comfortable and well-fitted. The outlay was high but I did invest and my 'habit' has grown from there. The prices make me wince but there is the view that we spend so much money on what we wear on the outside, why do we not lavish money on what is on the inside?! Comfort is all and the beauty of them in an added bonus.

After twenty years together I have finally accepted that my husband and I need a bigger bed! Lingerie? Beds? What more shall I share? We are having a 6 foot bed delivered tomorrow as frankly I need as much space as possible when I sleep. And there's the prospect of brand new linen to match. Heavenly.

We are going skiing to France next week with friends...this provokes the annual love/hate relationship I have with this pursuit. Love the mountains, fresh air, scenery, food; hate the black runs, the silly boots, the schlepping up the mountain. A break will do us good though...looking forward to it.

Some thought provoking blogging this week by my friend Alison at Cowparsley; a point well made. As often referred to here, one thing I notice about leaving my thirties behind is the creeping consideration that clothes must be appropriate for my age. Whenever I feel down about this I turn to the Nora Ephron book 'I Feel Bad About My Neck'. The ultimate in witty straight-talk. The final chapter in that book gets me every time; if ever you were hesitating in telling your best friend you love them, read this and do it now. My other go-to book when I want to feel better is 'Living Beauty' by Bobbi Brown. Almost guaranteed to make me see the good in my advancing years.

Another Alexander Technique lesson has revealed it's all about a pelvic tilt for me. Bizarre. But actually true. When my pelvis is in the right place, my shoulder stops hurting.

OK and on the topic of sex - I follow Joanna Goddard's blog and am often impressed by the range of topics she covers. Like this post about sex and this one. I like the honesty and I wonder: is this her or does she have an editorial staff thinking this stuff up? It's been well-documented that bigger blogs now have a team working behind the scenes and this makes me think how blogging has become so much more like reading a magazine article than understanding one individual's point of view. I like the latter; shouldn't a blog exactly be that: a 'web-log' - a diary?

And at the end of the day, I do still want to own an Equipment silk shirt. I keep coming back to it. I bought an imitation last year but it went back...sometimes you have to go with the cult item because it is the cult item. There is a reason an item has become a cult.

And it's the weekend, which is all good! Have a good one.

Building my empire...

posted on: Wednesday, 2 April 2014

On a normal morning (for my mornings are all normal these days) I will drink a cuppa earl grey tea and look at Pinterest before every one else is up. There is always beauty and there are always quotes and really, there is all I need to start my day with thoughts of loveliness. BUT it can also feed the need to reconsider my empire. I look and I think: what am I doing today? What clothes should I wear? What will I achieve? (laundry) What is in my empire? And so on and so forth, dangerously close to the existential panic that is comparing ones life to others. The irony with Pinterest is that very few images are real, they are styled and beautified; and even though we all know this, we still covet relentlessly. Or at least I do. I don't think I am alone in that...

It strikes me that much of what has driven my behaviour in recent years has been fuelled by the need to build an empire. To make a life. Education followed by work, followed by home-buying, followed by marriage, followed by children. Archetypal modern woman? I even started my own small business when I had a creative urge. I blog and I think and I think and I blog. Round and round!

An example: I look at how I am parenting my daughter right now - as she pushes every boundary that exists in her near-teenage world and I really have to stop and reconsider on a daily basis. I even notify other fellow-mothers to do the same and then find myself not heeding my own advice. You see, part of building my empire is that it has all the necessary components and includes (and I can be honest here) beautiful, healthy, successful children. Are we deluding ourselves if we say that these things haven't crossed our minds? I (not so) secretly want life to look like a Pinterest board. I want her to do stuff and behave a certain way because it is somehow preordained in me that she should. And if she doesn't, I get frustrated. And then my so-called clever, cohesive parenting style goes out the window!

Real life gets in the way and the self-questioning starts! I jest; for we all know that when push comes to shove, the trappings of the beautiful and successful are not important. But somehow it's more human to disregard that key bit of knowledge about life and blithely wish for the perfect. Surely we all do it? Please say 'yes'...

Whilst we are sharing can I also say that my house, whilst on paper sounds like a rural idyll is in fact a complete mess??! Sadly my neat-freak tendencies have not rubbed off on any other member of my family and so I spend my days like some sort of Wile E Coyote spin trying to make everything look more lovely. I'd settle for just a little bit lovely - you know, clear floors not strewn with mismatched muddy shoes, counter tops not smeared with spilt sauce. Rogue, dried up baked beans under the cupboards. I can even admit: mouse droppings in my utility. Old farm houses are rife with problems and mice seem to be one of them. I hear them at night in my attic...tippy tap tap dancing like there's a party up there. At least someone in the house is partying ;-)

from Christina Strutt's book 'Living Life Beautifully'
What I also notice about these First World problems is that they come back perennially, even though we try to put them to one side and refocus on other more important matters.

Is there a way to keep focus on what is important? Is there a trick I need to learn? I am sure that being less serious in life may be one approach. Looking on the bright side? Chilling out? Not thinking too much? I seems to me that to live your life with any ambition, in whatever form it comes, leads to priority-confusion. I mistook career ambition as the most compelling kind, but I see that mother-and-child-ambition is in the mix as well. Not to mention ambition for status or beauty or wealth.

Time to take stock and decide one way or another what it all means. Ultimately I have to revert to what is important to me and try to keep hold of that day to day. Good luck!

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