Tuesday 24 November 2015

Where is the joy?

I was reading a few of my earliest ever blog posts recently, from back in 2009. I’ve not looked at them for ages but with the revival of NQS and the recycling of some of those early blog posts, I wondered how I’ve evolved in nearly seven years of clogging up the www. In a nutshell I have become a lot more boring. The photographs have improved, but the content has been on a steady downhill trajectory since around 2011. The joy has gone from it.

In 2009 when I kicked it off I was about to lose my job. I didn’t know this at the time of course, but under two months in and I found my world turned upside down. It was OK as Famille L had a plan which we swiftly put into action. It involved me being IN CHARGE!!!! (or being made to believe I was at least, in reality Mrs L was in charge). Whilst I had heaps to do, and many new things to learn (far-fetched things like how to shop for stuff to eat), I was at a loose end intellectually. Reading back some of what I wrote, I can’t in all honesty say that the blog satisfied this, but it seems a lot merrier. Much sillier, with happiness and humour derived from the minutiae of a new life spent grappling with domesticity. My many failures and few triumphs were shared with the spirit of a pioneer, issues with socks and cleaning products detailed to the nth degree, child-rearing and rarity-twitching combined to, err, interesting effect. You would not think that the life of a newly promoted and under-skilled house husband could possibly have generated so much material, but back them it seemed like anything I looked at was fair game for a few hundred words and what's more I had the time to do it. Craft is the wrong word, but I did take reasonable care with each post. It was pretty formulaic stuff really with the odd curveball thrown in, but somehow it worked, or at least that’s what I continue to tell myself. I enjoyed it immensely, despite the drudgery of most of the subject matter, and I remember giggling like a schoolboy at some of what I put down. It was of course mostly all true, albeit with a bit of exaggerration. I did struggle with really really easy things, I was absolutely hopeless at most of it to start with, but some of what I did to get through it, though not obvious to Mrs L, did actually work and somehow I have three very well grounded and fully-limbed children at the end of it. And the house is still standing.

Things are different now. In 2011 I went back to working in the financial sector. The flip-flopped life I had enjoyed for over two years changed overnight and it was back to suits and office cubicles. My pool of “life material” shrank dramatically, though my bank balance started going up again. For obvious reasons I cannot write about what I do in Canary Wharf, but take it from me that it is unbelievably dull and would not make good blogging material. 

Both my recent careers come with their own challenges, and I would take issue with anyone that said being a stay-at-home parent was a walk in the park, though we did of course go for walks in the park. WHEN ALL THE WORK WAS DONE WHICH WAS NEVER. But only one of the jobs turns me into a grumpy, moaning, unpleasant, stressed and objectionable individual. I’ll give you a clue: It wasn’t the one that came with a pink brush. So the combination of having done nothing worthwhile and being permanently irritable is not ideal for getting the creative juices flowing. Nor, frankly, do I often come home from work feeling in the mood for a bit of light-hearted blogging, so these days if you get anything at all it’s more likely to be a rant or a trip report. Very one dimensional and not very interesting.

It retained a bit of the old spark after 2011, but by the end of that year it’s a shadow of 2010 which is when I felt I really hit my stride. The numbers tell the story quite well, 202 posts in 2011 declined to 123 by 2014, and this year it’s a mere 81. Of these 81, probably a third of them are trip reports – I went abroad and I saw such and such. Zzzzzz. This leaves about 50 posts, and a miserable 50 at that. Where is the joy? How can I get it back? Am I at a crossroads? Can my nearly 41 year-old self rediscover the absurdity and joie-de-vivre that existed as a 35 year old? Why was I better at writing about doing the dishes than I seem to be at detailing birding the west coast of the USA? More to the point, why did I enjoy writing about the dishes more than I do writing about foreign birding? Is the difference purely causal? Or is it that I’m five years older and five years more knackered?

2009-2011 – Domestic drudgery and seeing the same local birds over and over again. Fun!
2012-2015 – Working in a fast-paced environment and travelling the world. Ugh.

I mean it’s perverse isn’t it? I have all these opportunities now and I make the most of them. I constantly burn the candle at both ends and do a huge amount. I enjoy most aspects of my current life a great deal, but I think my writing shows that I enjoyed my time at home more. And I don’t dispute that, those two years were fantastic. No work, lots of time with the kids and master of my own time, brilliant. And I knew then they would never come again and it was an opportunity not to be missed. So what to do? How can I get the spark back? I’ve been thinking long and hard about this as I sit and stare at my computer screen and realise I have absolutely nothing to say. Back in the day this never seemed a constraint, I would think about what I did that day and off I would go. These days the screen remains blank and I go off and have a G&T, and you dear readers get nothing. Or if you do it’s more often than not half-hearted. I’m constantly impressed by those bloggers who do seem to have a steady stream of something meaningful to say. Not drivel like me. 

So I am musing on what to do. How to refresh myself? I’ve only had two “back to basics” ideas so far, and they were pretty obvious. If I were to re-takeup domestic duties as a hobby, would my blog improve?! Ditch photography, start dusting. It’s a thought isn’t it? Sack the cleaner, get back to doing the vacuuming myself. I used to love that vacuum, spilled rice was a joy. Baked-beans less so but if left a while they became easier. It rather lacks the element of competitive listing so important to birding, but I’m sure this could be worked around. But this is where the second idea comes in! Get back to local birding of course! Properly I mean. Every time I get out there I love it. And every time I say that I don't do it! Well, that’s a slight exaggeration, I have a go and then lapse again, as it can be dreadful, and as I’m also sure I’ve said before, I’ve not got the time to work the patch properly. A snatched 30 minutes here and there simply isn’t enough time to do it justice, especially with other birders out there more or less constantly, annoying you with good birds. This is what leads me to the “sod it” decision more often than not. That and being at Heathrow.

Ultimately it all comes down to time and not having enough of it. There is so much going on that free time is rare and I can’t do everything I want to do. A day would need to be 36 hours long at least for me to get to all the things on my list. This is why vacuuming and writing a decent blog post about vacuuming rarely feature, I just don’t get round to it. That post I wrote a couple of weeks ago about memory I had been wanting to do for ages, but I kept forgetting to do it and doing something else. When I finally got to it it was pretty easy to bash out, but I’m convinced that the time between thinking of it and then doing it meant it lost some spontaneity. When I was a Domestic Goddess that was all part of the fun. Mop down, keyboard out, write some rubbish, cook dinner realise no food in the house, go shopping, cook dinner. Which is what I've just done as it happens, cook dinner. It involved unwrapping two pizzas and turning the oven on, not exactly haute cuisine but, as ever, all I had time for. Pizza #2 was enhanced with Chorizo, and was a massive hit with the children, stratospherically better than the Margherita it started off life as. Worthy of a separate blog post? In 2009 I probably would have done it. In 2015 I simply can't be bothered. Be thankful for small mercies.

PS I've sprinkled this post with some "old life" photos. Do any long-time readers remember what it was like?


  1. I have fond memories of the ever-looming Mount Garment...

    Re the 'where is the joy?' question: tell me about it! However, I suspect that for some bloggers writing is simply in the blood, and will not be denied. In your case I'm glad.

  2. I remember it well. And yes, it was much more amusing in the old days. But then so was mine...

    1. I miss the doomed-to-failure nests. Absurdly predictable, and incredibly boring when you stop and think about it, but somehow it just worked.

  3. Thank you, I think it was because there was a narrative beyond the 'here is the list of birds that I saw today' type of thing (which I can't sustain). In a strange way I miss them too, and keep thinking that I might return to check the SNAFU status remains. But I don't. It was only a couple of mental coots after all...

  4. I was always in awe of how you even dared to try twitching with the kids in tow (in toe - aaaaargh not the toe photos!) - we went on a family twitch this afternoon to see the local american bittern. The kids were moaning a bit cos the bird wasn't on show. And then it stuck its head up. And the kids went nuts cos they'd seen it. Then it disappeared and they started moaning again. Then it reappeared and they went nuts again. Then it disappeared and we went home.

    my blog is really boring. it was ever thus. except now i can do crap photos.

    ho hum

  5. The fact is in those days you had less stress, more time and young kids to help create some of your best stuff. Even though now your time of less your own, your blog is still one of the go-to reads. Long may it continue.

  6. cheers for the comments all, maybe I'm on the way back.