The last 28 days (ish)

Feb 28
I have a job interview this morning. This means I have to leave the house. I haven’t been doing that much lately, due to unemployment and general anti-social tendencies. As soon as I get off the Luas, I scrub my hands with hand-sanitiser. When I shake hands with the people interviewing me, I reassure them that my hands are germ free.

I’ve started counting to twenty while I wash my hands. I’ve also started washing them more and more frequently as the corona virus gets gradually closer. I’ve been following the news about China, and Italy and the Diamond Princess cruise ship since the beginning of the year but now, with cases confirmed in Northern Ireland and the cancellation of the Six Nations match with Italy, it’s starting to take up more space in my brain.

This evening, I get a call to say I got the job. I’m delighted and more than a little relieved. It feels like a weight off my shoulders. I’d been unemployed for 4 months, and while I had been taking a bit of a break and being a bit fussy about what I was applied for, I was starting to worry that I may never work again. It’s a piece of good news for a Friday evening. I’m looking forward to joining the world of work again.

Feb  29
Storm Jorge is on his way and there’s heavy rain and wind forecast, but it’s a beautiful sunny morning in Dublin so I walk into town for lunch in Kim Chi. It’s a treat for being a newly employed person. Afterwards I go to see The Fall of the Second Republic at the Abbey. In the theatre, all the talk around me is about the virus, whether we were safe sitting so close to each other, what outings people would and wouldn’t give up. I don’t know it yet, but this is the last show I’ll see before the theatres close.

When I come out of the Abbey the storm has turned up as promised and I get the Luas home in the rain. I get soaked on the 5 minute walk from the Luas stop.

The first case of covid-19 is confirmed in Ireland.

KimChi
Kim Chi lunch

Mar 2
I start my Monday morning in the Criminal Courts because today is my first day of jury service. While I am keen to do my civic duty, it is standing between me and the start date of my new job so I’m hoping I don’t get called to serve on a trial. I spend the morning in a big, crowded room with the other potential jurors, all of us waiting to be told what to do. I’m reading One Perfect Day by Ira Levin, who also wrote The Stepford Wives and Rosemary’s Baby. It was written in 1970 but set in the distant future, in a creepy utopia where everyone is happy and healthy and well-looked after, but also constantly monitored and heavily medicated. It’s a good read and helps pass the time.

They start calling names shortly after 12.30pm. My name is not called and leave around half one.

Mar 3
Back in the criminal courts for another day of waiting around. When it’s time to select a jury, the court room appears on the big screen, the judge introduces the case and then name and numbers are drawn from a drum. During today’s second jury selection my name is drawn. I’m brought up to the court with the rest of the “raffle winners”. When my name is called a second time I’m handed a bible and swore in. The trial is expected to last 3 days which means I’ll still be able to start my job next week.

Mar 4
When I arrive in the courts this morning, I’m brought up to the dining room, to the table is assigned to my jury. This is where we’ll go each morning and lunchtime. The first job of the day it to decide what we want for lunch. There’s a choice of three dishes and we’re given a little slip of paper with A, B or C on it, depending what we chose. When it’s time to go up to the court, we have to move as a group – all 12 of us, plus of our Jury Minder – squeeze into the lift together. No room for social distancing here.

For various reasons, we’re dismissed early and told we won’t be needed again until the following Monday. Again, I’m wondering how long this is going to take and when I’ll be able to start the new job. There’s no many unknowns and it’s hard to cope with the uncertainty.

Mar 6
I meet a friend for coffee in Bang Bang. I give her a tube of hand cream as part of her birthday present, to combat all the hand-washing. We chat over coffee and sandwiches. It’s lovely to catch-up but still the virus is never far from my thoughts. On my way home I go into Boots and buy multivitamins and some zinc and vitamin C effervescent tablets. I don’t know what’s coming but feel the need to prepare for it in anyway. Giving my immune system a bit of a boost can’t hurt and helps me feel like I’m doing something useful.

HandSanitzerMar 9
Monday morning and I’m back in the criminal courts again. Hand-washing has ramped up. I scrub my hands after I arrive, and again before we go into court. On my way home at the end of the day, I drop into the supermarket to buy a few bits. Tinned tomatoes, pasta, chick-peas. Things I eat anyway, but don’t necessarily need right now.

Mar 10
I go to the library in the evening, joking that I need to stock up before we get locked down. I already have piles of unread books at home, technically I’ve been stock-piling for years, but now the St. Patrick’s Day parade has been cancelled and things are starting to feel more serious. I am actually worried about the libraries closing before I have a chance to take out a load of books.

There are 34 confirmed cases of covid-19 in Ireland.

LibraryHaul
Library haul

Mar 11
Being in court all day – without my phone, listening to the lawyers and the witnesses – is a good distraction from the virus. During the breaks though, we’re all looking at news on our phones. News and rumours. Rumours about schools being shut down, about the army being deployed. On my way home, I go into the supermarket and buy a few more bits, just in case. Bread, cheese, more tinned tomatoes.

Mar 12
This morning, during a break from our jury deliberations, we go downstairs to the main room and Simon Coveney is on all the big screens. He’s talking about how schools, colleges and creches will close from 6pm today. Later museums, theatres and other cultural institutions are added to the list. I was looking forward to attending the Where We Live festival in Project this weekend, while also worrying about distancing myself from people in the theatre.

Hand sanitisers appeared around the court building today. We wonder if the courts will be next on the lists of closures. It feels like a lot of people move through the building everyday. The dining room is busy at lunchtime and we’re still all crowding into the lift, 13 people at a time.

In the afternoon we return our verdict and are excused from jury duty for the next few years.

There are now 70 confirmed cases of covid-19 in the Republic of Ireland.

Mar 13
I finally start my new job. I’m a bit nervous. I refuse to shake hands with any of my new colleagues. Not that many people try and nobody insists but it still feels strange. The building is half-empty, lots of people are working from home. I get a tour and meet the colleagues who are left. We all try and keep our distance.

My evening plans have been cancelled – I was going to a theatre double-bill in Project – so I head straight home after work.

Mar 14
I’ve decided I need to do a big shop. Up to this point, I’ve just been buying random tinned foods, pasta and paracetamol. I need to figure out what I’m going to cook. I want to make things like bolognese and curries and soups that I can freeze in batches. I make a list. The aim is to have enough food to stay away from the shops for at least two weeks.

On my way to the supermarket, I worry that it’s going to be too crowded. I worry that there’ll be nothing left on the shelves. I get there it’s fine. It’s busy, lots of trolleys being filled, but people are making space for each other and having chats. The atmosphere is almost jolly. The only things I can’t find are chick peas and red lentils. I buy more cheese and lots of wine.

My aunt calls to cancel a family lunch planned for the next day. All week we were wondering if we should go ahead or not. It’s now definitely cancelled because she and my uncle both woke up with coughs this morning. They came back from Spain a few days ago so they are afraid they might have covid-19. The party’s cancelled while they try and get tested. Better to be safe than sorry.

Mar 15
It’s the first day of lockdown in Spain and my mum and my sister are at home with no kitchen. They live in an apartment in Andalusia. Work started on the new kitchen last week and right now it’s an empty shell with no sink and no oven. The builder is going to ask the police if he’s allowed to continue to work on it this week.

Mar 16
Monday morning and my second day in my new job. I’m a bit distracted, I’m glued to my phone, checking up on people. I want to know if my cousin is able to get her chemo today. (She is but can’t bring anyone in with her.) I want to know if the builder is coming to sort out my mum’s kitchen. (He gets permission from the police but all of his suppliers are closed so there’s nothing he can do.)

At lunchtime I buy more soap and more hand-cream in Boots. I buy stamps and a Mother’s Day card to send to Spain. I buy a birthday card and a cake for my sister. Her birthday is still over a week away but I don’t know when I’ll be in town again. Back in the office, I’m set-up on a work laptop so that I can work from home. The building is closing this evening and who knows when we’ll be back in.

Mar 17
I’m not one for going out on Paddy’s Day, either to the parade or the pubs so the stay-at-home advice doesn’t bother me today. I spend the morning watching the mini-parades online. St. Patrick driving out the corona virus is my favourite. I also enjoy the Muppets singing O Danny Boy. I sit out in the garden in the afternoon, enjoying the warm sun and a cold gin and tonic. It still feels like a bank holiday and a break from everything that’s going on.

In the evening, we watch Leo addresses the nation. He does a good job – he’s serious without scaremongering.

Mar 18
It’s the first day of working from home. I’m mostly trying to figure out what my job is and what I should be doing. I’m working upstairs and my sister’s working downstairs. We meet up for lunch and morning and afternoon tea-breaks.

There are 366 confirmed cases of covid-19 in the Republic.

Mar 19
Today we got a cat. It was my sister’s idea – her argument was that it’s an ideal time to get a pet because we’re going to be at home all the time. She sent a few texts asking if anyone knew of a cat looking for a home and my auntie offered one of hers. Edgar arrived today and he’s a delightful addition to the household.

Edgar
Handsome Edgar

Mar 21
A week ago I had never heard of Zoom. Today I have two separate Zoom meet-ups.

On the Zoom family chat, my aunt and uncle tell us that they got tested for the virus on Friday. They are now waiting for the results but have had no symptoms since last the weekend, so they think they’re probably fine. In Spain, they still have no kitchen but the gas hob is set up and they have a fridge and microwave so they’re ok.

Mar 23
Week 2 of working from home. I’m finding it hard, my attention span is shattered and I struggle to focus on anything for more than 10 minutes. It takes me a while to realise that this is more than just struggling to work during a global pandemic. I was out of work for four months, and now I’m trying to remember how to be an employee and how to interact with colleagues, while also trying to figure out the new job and get used to working from home. I’m trying to manage it by being kind to myself, reminding myself that’s it’s ok to find it hard. I’m also making lists and trying to do one small task at a time.

All the while the global pandemic continues. There are now 1125 confirmed cases in the Republic of Ireland and over 40,000 people waiting for tests. Six people have died as a result of covid-19 in Ireland.

Mar 25
CakeCandlesToday is my sister’s birthday. Cards came in the post, she got a Just-Eat voucher and a homemade voucher for “future pints”. We have birthday cake, and candles and singing. I put the candles in the box instead of the cake because it doesn’t seem like a good idea at the moment to breath all over food.

Mar 26
I’ve started writing down my scheduled Zoom meet-ups in my paper diary. This is partly because the blank pages and the cancelled events are depressing me and partly because my brain is turning to mush and I worry if I don’t write it down, I will forget to turn up.

Mar 27
There is so much I’m grateful for. I’m grateful to live in a country that is taking this threat seriously. I am grateful for good broadband. I’m grateful that my mum has good broadband and we’re able to keep in touch. I’m grateful for the lock-down which means I don’t have to nag her to stay home because the Spanish police are doing that for me. I’m grateful to have a job that I’m able to do at home, grateful to have something to do and for the wages. I’m grateful to have a house that I like spending time in, that’s comfortable and roomy. I’m grateful to have a garden. I’m grateful that An Post is still working. I’m grateful to the wonderful medical staff and all that they are doing, while at same time hoping that I won’t need their services. Everybody morning I’m grateful to wake and feel well. Really I have nothing to complain about.
This diary was written retrospectively this week. It’s an attempt to record how quickly things changed and also to paint a picture of where I’m at right now. It felt important to do that because there are going to be more fast, dramatic changes over the next few weeks and months. It stops where it does because I feel like the extra restrictions on movements that came into affect on Saturday morning marked the beginning of a new phase of the crisis. 

This meant I didn’t write about how different my grocery shop this weekend felt in comparison to the last big shop two weeks ago. It felt a lot less less like Christmas Eve and a lot more anxious. And who knew the end of the world would involve so much queuing? I know we will get through this, that it’s not really the end of the world, but it feels like the end of the world as we know it. We will be changed by this and when we come out the other side, the world will be different as well.

Five Favourite Newsletters

Newsletters, Tiny Letters, SubStacks, whatever you want to call them, I love getting these updates from people’s lives in my inbox. I’ve always loved email. I subscribed to so many mailing lists in the pre-social media days of the internet that email was how I first got to know people online. Email is still the first thing I open when I sit down at my computer.

A good newsletter can feel like a great secret and it feels a little bit odd to be talking about my favourites out in public like this. Maybe it’s because they are sent directly to me and that makes them seem private and personal, or maybe because they remind me of the early days of online journals when every newly discovered site felt like it belonged to me alone. But I like sharing the things I love, and I can console myself with the fact that very few people read this blog, so they will remain mostly secret!

These are five (plus one bonus one) of my favourite free newsletters.

1. Patelagrams
Vinay Patel is a screenwriter and playwright who sends out a weekly newsletter that’s mostly about his writing life and a little bit about his cats. I really enjoy reading about how writers write and he also writes well about the things he’s seen on stage and screen. He writes for theatre and tv and I like reading about the differences between the two processes, and about the next stage, after the thing is written and handed over to the directors, designers, actors, etc to become something more than words on the page. The newsletter provides a good insight into the day-to-day life of a busy, working writer who is juggling lots of things – bits of teaching and mentoring, seeing work performed, meetings, writing deadlines – and what that looks like, or more accurately, what it feels like from the inside.

2. The collected ahp
Anne Helen Peterson wrote one of my favourite essays this year – How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation and she also writes this regular newsletter. I really enjoy her writing so I’d probably read it no matter what she was writing about. As it happens, she is currently writing a book on burn-out and her newsletters are often about her own experience/recovery, which is interesting to me. She also includes a great selection of other things worth reading around the internet.

3. Jimsy Jampots
Amy Jones was a writer for The Pool until it folded last year and I subscribed to her Tiny Letter because of her writing there. She used to send out a regular newsletter that I looked forward to every Thursday. I don’t think she ever missed a week! The newsletters are less regular now but they haven’t stopped and I still enjoy them when they appear in my inbox. The style is a personal “what I think” section, some recommended reading from around the internet and also a curated list of things to buy, from dresses to notebooks, novels and necklaces. I have bought things receommended by Amy on more than one occasion but I also just really enjoy her writing.
She has also written a book called To Do Lists and Other Debacles.

4. That’s What She Said
Anne T Donahue’s is one of the first newsletters I subscribed to and still one of my favourites. She has a wonderful, chatty, informal style which reminds me of old-school blog posts. She tells you where she’s writing from and what’s she’s been up to, but also writes a lot about trying to figure out life and is very frank and open about how difficult that can be. She sometimes answers readers’ letters, Agony Aunt style, and every newsletter includes pet peeves and sources of joy provided by subscribers. I often feel like I have a better understanding of the world after I read her newsletters. This feeling is often fleeting, but I enjoy it while it lasts!
Anne also has a book out – Nobody Cares.

5. Can’t complain
Emily Gould is a writer living in New York with her husband and two small boys. I read her novel Friendship a few years ago and signed up for the newsletter because I like her writing. They are occasional treats that give me a glimpse into a life that is very different to my own and that’s why I like them. There was one a few months ago that just gave me such a rush of nostalgia for the descriptive, serious blogs I used to read a lot of in the late 90s/early 00s. She also often includes recipes.

Bonus – Criticism and Love
These were a series of critical essays written with love by Maddy Costa and Andy Field. They were dense, nerdy writing about (mostly) British theatre makers. There are no new essays coming, for now, but the archive is still online.They remind me of things I read in college when we were often taught about theatre practioneers we would never get to see and that we could only experience through someone else’s description. I like reading about theatre and I like seeing how other people write about it. Each essay is an indept look at the work of one company or indivdual. I think it’s a lovely thing to do for theatre makers, to collect their work in this way and share it with others. (The theatre makers might not agree.)

11 Things I Learnt at the 2019 Dublin Fringe Festival

I really enjoyed this year’s Dublin Fringe Festival. It was two weeks of booking more shows than I could really afford and seeing wonderful performances all over the city. It’s one of my favourite times of year. I love coming out of a half six show while it’s still bright out and then heading off to see something else. I love bumping into friends in theatre foyers and hearing what they’ve seen or what they recommend. Here are some of the things I learnt over the course of the festival.

Continue reading “11 Things I Learnt at the 2019 Dublin Fringe Festival”

7 ways to start preparing for the next recession now

Based on nothing more than a hunch, I think there’s another recession coming. A hunch, and the fact that stock markets are plummeting, the US is becoming increasingly unstable and if the UK succeed in crashing out of the EU, they are going to take us down with them. At home, the soaring rents and house prices aren’t sustainable – can’t be sustainable – and in the boom and bust cycle which we seem cursed to repeat, that means a recession is on it’s way.

Nearly €2.5bn wiped off Irish stocks amid global slump
From the Irish Times on Dec 6th 2018

After seeing this terrifying headline early this month, I started thinking about what I could do to prepare for this inevitable recession. I always feel better when I have a plan.

My plan does make some big assumptions. It buys into the narrative that there’s more money sloshing around right now than there was 5-10 years ago. I know this isn’t true for everyone. There are over 10,000 homeless people in Ireland. There are children growing up in hotel rooms. Over 15% of the population is living under the poverty line and the income gap is growing all the time. People are working good jobs and still broke because their salary is being eaten up by rent.

This silly listicle will not be relevant to a lot of people and I’m sorry about that. A better way to prepare for a recession would be for the government to take the Apple tax (and the Google tax, and the Facebook tax) and invest it in social housing and other public services. I can’t make that happen so here are some things to do instead.

1. Get out of debt.
Obvious one first. Pay off your loans, clear your credit card, get out of your overdraft. If you find yourself penniless and out of work, you don’t want to owe the bank anything. You’ll miss repayments and the interest will just keep clocking up. Clearing debt is a very boring use of money but if you are lucky enough to have a bit of extra cash now, invest it in becoming debt-free as soon as possible.

This also means that if you have a future financial emergency, those lines of credit will be available to you and might help you ride out the recession.

2. Save.
Another boring, practical piece of advice – start saving. Preferably with a credit union because it’s easier to borrow from them. Set up a savings account and a weekly (or monthly) direct debit into it. Even if it’s only for a small amount, some savings are better than none and being a regular saver looks good when you go looking for a loan. I also like the credit union because it’s hard to get at the money. There’s no cards or electronic transfers, you have to physically go into the building. That helps my savings grow!

3. Learn to cook
The cheapest way to eat well is to cook for yourself. It doesn’t have to be fancy just learn how to make the thing you like. The BBC Good Food website has lots of easy recipes with clear instructions. (Personally I really like this two-step recipe for chicken, sweet potato and coconut curry.) Cooking well isn’t hard but it takes a bit of practice. Better to make your mistakes when you can afford to, so if the meal is completely inedible there’s a pizza in the freezer you can have instead.

Inviting friends over for dinner is also a good way to enhance your social life during a recession when nobody can afford to go out. Finally, as well as being able to feed yourself and others, being able to spend time preparing good grub is a great when you have too much time on your hands, because of unemployment or under-employment.

4. Invest in clothes that last, especially shoes/boots/coats.
If you can afford it, spend money on good quality shoes and coats that will see you through a few winters. This is good advice from a budgetary and environmental point of view but also because you find yourself walking more in a recession and it’s good to have things that keep you warm and dry.

5. Join the library! All those books!
Libraries are great. Not only are they full of books that you can take away for free, they are also warm places you can go and use the internet without spending any money. You’ll also be grateful for their weird collection of DVDs when you have to cancel your Netflix subscription and can’t afford to go to the cinema. You could argue that you don’t need to join a library now, but having lots of members help libraries stay open and (I imagine) help them argue for budget increases, so by joining today you can help make sure they’re still there when you need them. Also did I mention the free books?

Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times, part of Patrick Freyne's article on the Dublin Central Library in the Ilac Centre.
Photograph: Tom Honan/The Irish Times, part of Patrick Freyne’s article on the Dublin Central Library in the Ilac Centre.

6. Vote for anti-capitalists.
I don’t know if the general election is going to happen before or after the recession hits but when it does, you should vote with the recession in mind. We need a government who doesn’t always take the side of the property developers or the landlords or the banks. We need more tenants and less landlords in the Dáil. We need more socialists who will increase investment in public services. We need people who will put an end to the boom and bust cycles.

Leo Varankar described himself as “the CEO of the organisation” on the Late Late Show recently. CEOs tend to be selfish, power-mad psychopaths and we shouldn’t let them be in charge anymore. We need a leader who is less like a CEO and more like a caretaker. Someone who looks after the country and has it’s best interests at heart, someone who identifies where cuts can be made and also where we need to invest. Someone who understands that they don’t own the country, they’re just looking after the place for bit. Please vote for someone like that, when the time comes!

7. Look on the bright side…
…a recession might be the only thing that will bring down our carbon emissions. The last recession really helped with that but they started climbing again as soon as the economy started to recover. Yes, this is clutching at straws and it is a fairly bleak bright side but we were identified as the worst offender in the EU for carbon emission last week, which is another super bleak and depressing headline, so I’ll take any bright side I can find. We need a few more politicians who give a shit about global warming in the next Dáil as well.

What to do when you’re feeling over-whelmed by the state of the world.

Image from a Buzzfeed article on 21 Perfect German Words We Need in English. Check it out, there are some beauties there.

There are so many things to worry about right now. So many things to care about and feel anxious about and powerless to correct.

For a start, in Ireland the number of people being made homeless is going up every week and the government don’t seem to be doing anything about it. There’s the shamefulness that is Direct Provision where the government is paying companies large amounts of money to keep people seeking refuge in intolerable conditions. Ibrahim Halawa will spending a fourth birthday in jail in Egypt as his trial was postponed for the 16th time and we are still forcing women to travel aboard for a basic medical procedure.

Further afield, there’s the uncertainty of Brexit to worry about as well as the hundreds of unaccompanied children that were recently moved out of the Jungle in Calais and sent who-knows-where. France is still under a state of emergency after two brutal terrorist attacks, refugees are drowning in the Mediterranean, bombs are raining down on civilians in Syria, millions who fled the war there are living in refugee camps and Israel cut off the water-supply to Palestine during Ramadan this year, just the latest in a long series on attacks on the Palestinians.

And that’s all before we start worrying about climate change or what will happen under the Trump presidency.

It’s hard. It’s hard to take it all in, to feel all that fury and sorrow. In the face of so much horror it’s easy to run out of feelings. Even when you feel like you want to help, how do you choose which of the heart-breaking issues to focus on? Sometimes it’s easier to throw up your hands up and do nothing, feel nothing and just try to have a good time because it’s becoming increasingly obviously that the whole world is going to shit. It’s a pretty bleak way of seeing the world and it’s hard to sustain because the horrors keep creeping in.

When the bleakness is threatening to overwhelm me, I take solace from this quote.

“Of course individuals can make a difference, but the fact is that evil has had the whip hand in this world since Cain. That doesn’t mean we should stop trying to be good, but we shouldn’t kid ourselves, either. Evil is not going to be vanquished. Our job is to resist it, and to plant the seeds of further resistance so that goodness never entirely vanishes from the universe.”

Chris Cleave, author of The Other Hand/Little Bee.

I like it because it lets me off the hook a little bit. Once I accept that I can’t fix everything, it’s easier to just concentrate on what I can do. I can’t knock evil off it’s perch, but I might be able to balance the scales a bit. It’s helps me feel less useless and more hopeful because it suggests that the little acts of resistance, of goodness, of kindness do make a difference.

Doing something is always better than doing nothing. It chases away the hopeless, useless feeling; at least for a little while. So what can we do? There’s the usual things – donate money, volunteer, get on the streets and protest, write letters to governments at home and aboard. Volunteer.ie have a database of volunteer opportunities. Giving blood is good if you’re short on time and money because it’s costs nothing and you can only do it once every three months.

But if you feel completely overwhelmed and really don’t know where to begin, or feel like you want to do more but don’t know where to start, I suggest getting a few friends together and start a “change the world” group. (Your first order of business may be to give it a better, catchier name.) It can be part support group, part action group. Meet up regularly, talk about the things that are upsetting you about the world and then decide what you’re going to do about it. You also get to hang out with your friends; have coffee and cake, or go for a few drinks. Changing the world has a bang of worthiness off it, like it’s not meant to be enjoyable. It puts people off. But it doesn’t have to be that way! Make sure your group is fun as well. You might decide to organise a big fundraiser, or buddy-up to volunteer together, or everyone might want to do their own thing, but they have the support of the group, and they have to report back so there’s accountability.

This idea comes partly from Malcolm Gladwell’s essay Small Change, about the importance of strong-ties between people involved in social activism, but mostly it’s because I think communities are important. The way we live our lives now makes it difficult to be part of a community so we have to make our own. Real-life social interactions are important, sitting in a room together talking about everything and nothing is good for the soul. But it can be hard to organise time with friends and we end up relying too much on social media instead. Organising a regular meeting means you will see your friends more often. People already do this with book clubs or dining clubs, why not a change the world club? I also believe in collaboration, often the ideas that you come up with in a group are better than the ones you come up with on your own. In a group it’s easier to stay hopeful and not let yourself or others fall into despondency. Hope is important if you want to change the world.

“Hope is not a lottery ticket you can sit on the sofa and clutch, feeling lucky. It is an axe you break down doors with in an emergency. Hope should shove you out the door, because it will take everything you have to steer the future away from endless war, from the annihilation of the earth’s treasures and the grinding down of the poor and marginal… To hope is to give yourself to the future – and that commitment to the future is what makes the present inhabitable.”

Rebecca Solnit, Hope in the Dark (More glorious quotes here)

And because I love Charlie Brooker, here he is singing with the Blockheads. This video also lets you feel nostalgic for the things we were fearful of in 2014.

I am not a Blogger

I started reading blogs almost 20 years ago, back when they were still called online journals or online diaries. The ones I read were mostly written by girls in high-school or college in the US. They were young women who had taught themselves html coding so they could create webpages and graphic design so they could create banners and logos. But really it was all about the words. In the 90s, the internet was generally more about words; connection speeds were slow and images meant more bandwidth, which was more expensive. Those early blogs were about about real people spilling their guts online, usually anonymously. The writers felt they could be their real selves online. They were kids who had the time and inclination to play around with computers (back when there were one per household) and learn about coding. This is what the internet was to me – online journals, webzines, mailing lists. I studied computers in college because I loved the internet, but I think what I really loved was words. I spent a lot of time online reading those websites. I had a long list of URLs that I would visit daily. I loved finding new blogs and having loads of back issues to read. I discovered the world that way.

html-for-beginner-2

Blogs and bloggers in 2016 are very different to the ones I used to read. It’s no longer all about the words, and you don’t need to know about html anymore. Now bloggers are more likely to know about algorithms and hashtags. There’s a blogger lifestyle, posts tend to be more aspirational than confessional and everyone wants to find a way to earns a living from their blog. Actually, I think writers always dreamt finding a way to make money from their blogs. And writers did get hired or published because of their blog, but the blog wasn’t usually the thing that made money. It’s interesting to see how it’s changed, and also how it’s stayed the same. The most successful blogs still have an honesty to them, and they are the ones where the writers engage with their readers.

However, I am still an old-fashioned, turn-of-the-century blogger. I don’t want my blog to be my job. I just want to write stuff and put it on the internet where people can read it and hopefully find it useful or interesting or entertaining. I have been writing on the internet for almost as long as I’ve been reading the internet. At this stage I can be fairly sure that I will always struggle to update regularly and I will always feel a bit weird when people ask me about my online writing in real life but I still like having a corner of the internet that’s mine. I can’t blog the same way as the hip, young Millennials and that’s ok. They’ll do their thing and I’ll do mine.

This is a long, convoluted way of saying that I’m going to try and write more regularly, but this will not make me a blogger. I’m just a person with a website.