The currency of blogging: Blogger awards

Linking is the currency of blogging. If you want to get yourself  ‘out there’ one of the best ways to do so is to start blogging and then like and follow fellow bloggers.

very-inspirational-blogger

A fellow blogger recently gave me the ‘Very Inspiring Blogger Award’ – thank you Petrel. It’s a great way to connect and grow and while it may seem a little obvious, it’s still just nice to get it. Someone bothered: This is why I love the blogosphere.

It can also feel a little mercenary but that’s the world we live in. I wouldn’t have landed my first paid writing job if I hadn’t been blogging and developing an audience, and more importantly, understanding why that audience developed the way it did. Which was mainly through the connections I made on line, blogging.

In the same way that to gain more Twitter followers you have to follow more Twitterers, to grow your blog’s audience you need to do the same with other bloggers.  It’s a reciprocal thing: Don’t expect others to share your stuff, engage with you and follow you if you’ve no interest in doing the same with them. Twitter is a prime example. The micro blogging site has grown because the vast majority of its clients/customers/audience love to share stuff and to connect with new people who share their interests.

So, in the spirit of the award, my most inspiring fellow bloggers are (in no particular order):

Ripplestone Review

Write So Fluid

Quillers Place

The View Outside

Klahanie

D C Relief

Three Beautiful Things

Julie’s Quest

Do check them out and say hello 🙂

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That was the weekend that was

Last weekend, to be precise, when I got drunk on rose wine, twice. In fact, having two bottles of wine in the space of 36 hours made me a little bit wobbly, if I’m honest. But I was held steady by the wonderful friends who plied me with said wine, so that was ok.

photo (19)

So on Friday, it was over to one of Medway’s not-so-hidden gems, the Cafe Maroc. It’s small but perfectly formed and once you’ve been there, you’ll be telling everyone you know about it. Not only is it different, the service is fantastic and the food gorgeous.

The owner, whose name escapes me but I’m going to call Sweayne (on account of the fact that he reminds me of both Sean Lock and Wayne Hemingway) doesn’t bother with the trivial, paper based boringness of a menu. Instead, he sits with you and verbally runs through whatever it is he’s decided to cook that evening – much more civilised than the same set meal, don’t you think? So you can ask those questions directly: “How hot is it?” “Is it crunchy or chewy” “Ketchup or brown sauce with that?”

We hadn’t actually booked, which was a bit silly, considering there are only three tables. But Sweayne was very accommodating and let us eat in the lounge area, after sending us up the road to the offie for a couple of bottles – they’re not yet licensed at the Maroc, but you can BYO. I felt like a 14 year old, stealing out to bagsy some booze to quaff round the corner …

photo (18)

As you can see, I was that taken with the delights on offer, the camera wasn’t spared a thought until it was nearly all gone. With decent portion sizes at a very reasonable price, you can still top up with lovely home made lemon drizzle or fruity Guinness cake and the most heavenly minty herbal tea I’ve ever tasted. Trust me, I even texted someone about it, I was that impressed.

Open as a cafe during the day, and a bistro restaurant in the evening, you can find Cafe Maroc at the Chatham end of Rochester High Street.

Moving on to Saturday and it was meeting up time with my bessie mate who sadly lives in Essex. Consequently, we normally meet up halfway, at Lakeside. Not today! I said – we’re going Up West … but only as far as the East. A quick stop at Chez Sue to meet the family, with new addition Robbie (the lovely Schnauzer) and then a side stop at Westfield to view the Olympic Park (I’ve now seen it from afar when being constructed and de-constructed) thanks to Sue’s friend, who rescued us at Buckhurst Hill station when we learned the Central Line was buggered (techy term, won’t bore you with the details).

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A spot of lunch thrown in (where the other bottle of rose was consumed) and we headed out on the Docklands Light Railway down to my old home, the Isle of Dogs. We didn’t misspend our youth there, really, we had an awesome time, mainly drinking and dancing and being chatted up with the same chat up line every time: “Are you two sisters?” No?! No, we’re not – I’m four inches taller and we look nothing alike. But even the waitress in Westfield asked if we were related, which cracked us up. (Sue’s the one in middle of the group shot, at the front – see for yourself!) Does everyone else get that, when you’re sat with someone with the same hair and eye colour? I think not. I can understand it when we were little because we were always together – our mums used to park us in our prams, side by side outside the shops. Now, not so much!

Our final destination was The George pub, on the corner of a street I used to live in, where my dad and brother played darts, and where I’d buy a big bottle of coke and a few bags of cheese and onion crisps for me and my mum to share while we watched M.A.S.H. Funny the things you remember so vividly, isn’t it?

One of our school friends, Jayne, decided to put a call out to our school year, thinking half a dozen of us would turn up. Cue about 50! It was rammed and great to find out what everyone has been up to and how they’ve changed. And play ‘Guess Who?’ At which point, as soon as the name was said, there was instant recognition – eyes never change, I’ve decided.

Back home the next day, for a final flurry in a busy weekend, watching my eldest in his cup final. It started so well – one – nil down to a penalty after a minute *rolls eyes* but back came the Medway Lions, with said eldest rising like a hot air balloon in a helium factory to head home the equalizer. 3-1 up with five minutes to go but he doesn’t like to let us relax – the last cup final he was in, they went 4-0 up just to be pulled back to 4-4 before running out 6-4 winners – this time, their opponents got one back to leave us all biting our nails before the whistle finally went. I still maintain it was 3-1 though, since their second goal was from their number 5 who should’ve been sent off in the first half …  don’t get me started.

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This weekend, I’m planning a quiet one. Apart from the theatre on Saturday night. Oh, and cricket on Sunday. Maybe next weekend?

Workshop: Get Yourself Out There! An introduction to blogging.

As a blogger for almost five years, I’ve run a number of blogs and I’m keen to pass on what I’ve learned to others stepping into the blogosphere. So here it is, a workshop for people who want to blog but are not sure how to get started or where to go with it.

blogger

The golden rule for writers is ‘Show, don’t tell’ – so I’m going to do exactly that! I’ll show you how to set up and customise your own blog, without any knowledge of programming, HTML, CSS or other techy talk! The only ‘tell’ you need is why you’re doing it: Which is, to get yourself out there and link with other like-minded souls, or, to find an audience and/or potential customers!

Using Blogger.com, the aim of this workshop is to give you an online presence which is simple for you to maintain, particularly if you’re busy or dislike using the internet. My wish is for each participant to leave the session with a fully operational, customised blog. If time permits, we can look at linking with social media, directories and other bloggers too, in order to build your audience.

You will need:

· a wifi enabled laptop (although our venue, coFWD, does have Ethernet cables if needed)

· an email address – you will automatically have a gmail account set up for you as part of your Google profile but it’s good to have an alternative for security.

· a unique password.

· A title for your blog – this is different from the web address and can be changed. The web address cannot be changed though, so I’d recommend using your name for that. E.g jayenolan.blogspot.co.uk is my blog address but the title is ‘A tingle in my fingers’.

Also, have a favourite picture of your own saved that you’re happy to share with the world, a favourite Youtube video you can find easily and a written piece about yourself you can use in your first posts. (You can always delete or amend afterwards).

The workshop will be held at coFWD, the coworking space at 161 Rochester High Street, on Tuesday, January 15th from 7.30pm – 9.30pm. The cost is just £12.50 and space is limited to just 6 places. Please visit the Eventbrite page here to secure your booking.

I look forward to seeing you,

Jaye 🙂

Happy National Freelancers Day

Happily, I can sing that to myself. Giving up the permanent and stressful office job in March to concentrate on writing didn’t go entirely to plan when the regular freelance writing job* I had came to an end, but temping and casual work alongside other freelance writing means I’m free to get involved in a lot of other projects.

One of which was interviewing Daniel Nash, of BRFM, a community radio show in Sheppey, which you’ll find amongst September’s posts on this blog under ‘My Sheppey’. He returned the favour, interviewing me – you can hear it here.

‘Write around the river’

Local writing collective, ME4 Writers, put together an exhibition and reading entitled ‘Letters Home’ which was the first time I’ve ever done such a thing since school – read all about the project and listen to the podcast here. I’m about an hour in but do listen to the others; a real mixture and very emotional.

The Rochester Literature Festival is so exciting to be involved with. The launch was fantastic and the second event, although a much smaller, more workshop led one, was equally stimulating. Read all about it here and sign up to the newsletter on the ‘About’ page so you don’t miss anything.

To satisfy my need to write about my local community, Goingoninmedway.co.uk has a number of articles by me, about interesting people doing interesting things. Hopefully, there’ll be more where they came from but firstly, I’m concentrating on a few ideas that have been kicking around for months, awaiting the time I had nothing else to do.  *laughs* There’s also a very interesting idea taking off – the Medway Christmas Carol, involving lots of local musicians and artists. If it ends up anything like its inspiration, it’s going to be fab!

My friend and fellow LitFest founder, Phil, is also regenerating The Regenerate, to which I’ll be contributing (even if we disagree about Rochester Castle!) plus – yes, there’s more – other LitFest founder and friend, Emma, is the editor of WOW magazine, so look out for me in there too!

*the local website – who wanted a local perspective and community bod – changed their mind and decided they wanted a qualified journalist, two and half years after I’d put my heart and soul into it. They let all the community publishers go (about 100 of us across the country) although some lucky ones were re-employed to cover two sites for the same money. Sadly, the Kent management went for one full timer to cover the whole area. So now it’s all rehashed police, fire and council press releases – which you can read in the Medway Messenger, along with a lot more local community news (send me yours for Upnor and Shorne!)

What would you do with your lottery winnings?

I love the KissFM breakfast show – although I only listen in the car on the school run – but Ricky, Melvin and Charlie always come up with a great discussion idea. Last week, the week that 18 millionaires would be made on the lottery show, they asked the question: What would you do with your million?

My top 3:

A car, the greenest money can buy. Just because, for once in my life, I’d like to have one that works properly: I’ve yet to own a car that doesn’t have little niggles, such as the headrest being stuck, or the seat belt being stuck, or the cd not playing properly, or the right rear passenger door not opening. One I can just have picked up if it goes wrong and repaired immediately, instead of the usual umming and ahhing about booking it into a garage or doing it myself. When I say by myself, I mean, hunting around for spare parts and hoping the eldest, who did two weeks work experience at Fords, can do it for me.  And if Ferrari can make a green version of the 550 Maranello, I’d be extremely grateful to them.

Ferrari 550 Maranello

Ferrari 550 Maranello (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A new house. A big one, yes, with the gym, pool, dance studio/club, 5 a side footie pitch, cycle paths, pitch and putt and so on … Most importantly, a dedicated writers room, theatre and a film studio – complete with a production crew of my own. I’m not sure how much I’d actually have left out of just one million here … maybe forget the gym and the footie pitch …

Employ household staff: In particular – a chef! No out-of-the-freezer meals for me any more. A proper home cooked meal, by someone who can do good old standard English fayre like a roast dinner but also a delicate Oriental dish, and a sweet and spicy Indian too! Add in housekeeper and chauffeur and I’m a happy little bunny. (And I help the employment figures too!)  This is my idea of heaven and probably the first thing I’d do, even while still living in a semi …

Women: Know Your Place! (It’s wherever you want it to be)

According to a diligent and thorough survey of – only 180 people – elderly women are figures of fun and women are token panel members! Conclusive, would you say? Read through this article in the Telegraph and see if you feel the same way I do.

For starters, Ann Widdecombe, whatever your personal views, was undoubtedly one of the stars of Strictly Come Dancing Series 9. It wasn’t because she was old or a woman or because she wasn’t a very good dancer – the so called  ‘joke’ contestant – it was because she was herself.  She didn’t win because, as all regular viewers, passionate about the show know, a good dancer has always won and no amount of media hysteria is going to change that, dance off or no dance off. Yes, I’m looking at you lot who kept banging on about John Sargent, instead of just letting him enjoy his natural run. Russell Grant was this year’s equivalent – supposedly the joke but he had rhythm and timing and the entertainment factor. The joke figures are the ones who can’t dance, but are convinced they can – and no-one knows who they are until a few weeks in. See what Ann had to say on the matter.

Being yourself, having a ball, and being paired with a professional dancer who understands what the show is all about (making the most of your partner’s strengths and entertaining a diverse viewing population) is the winning combination: Chris Hollins & Darren Gough didn’t win because they were good dancers (and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; they were) they won because they, along with Ann, had a ball, fell in love with dancing and it showed. Alesha didn’t win because she’s a young, pretty woman, she won because she was a fantastic and hard working contestant who had the perfect partnership and a down to earth, funny character …  is it my imagination, or are the media now embarking on a ‘Get Alesha’ campaign?

The results of the survey mentioned above suggest they’re influenced as much from what those 180 watch on the telly as their real – life perceptions and prejudices. As an avid viewer of the panel games mentioned, Jo Brand is always fantastic value; Victoria Coren, concise and precise; Sarah Millican just has to mention cake and I’m hers. However, there are other women I see who are, quite simply, not as funny. My criteria for a panel is that they make me laugh; I refuse to count how many of each sex have taken a turn.

I’m no fan of shoving a woman in to make up the numbers; I’d hate to be promoted to make up a quota instead of earning it.  I don’t need to be told I have rights; I know my rights. I don’t believe I think the way men want me to think (as some tweet I saw the other day suggested) I’m perfectly capable of making up my own mind, thank you. I’ve worked in some very male dominated environments and can honestly say I’ve never been harassed. So women, quit complaining and go on an assertiveness course if you need to. The world is yours, you can achieve anything you like – take a look at the money lists. There’s not as many women as men but men had a head start – we only got the vote 90 years ago. And as much as that was down to the Pankhursts, it was also down to the Nightingales and Frys too – driven women have always achieved, not had it handed to them on a plate because it was their ‘right’. Male or female, it’s ambition, acumen, drive and belief that will find a way. Timidity isn’t exclusive to females; there are plenty of men who don’t achieve.

Enfranchisement, that's the word I was looking for ...

Women’s Lib had its moment, now it’s up to us individually. Want to stay at home with the kids? It’s your choice, do it. Want to work full time? Knock yourself out. There’s no right or wrong.  It’s our choice. And I do wish the righteous few would let us just get on with it.

Photo courtesy of Ell Brown on  Flickr

That ‘Green’ Thing

Doing the rounds of the internet – it’s so very true and reminded me of another blogger, who was tidying up his life to make it cleaner, greener and neater and taking back time from the modern day gadgets and media. We  should all take note. I’m already looking at the plug sockets and thinking which ones I could lose. And seeing how long it takes the kids to notice …

At a supermarket, the cashier advises an elderly woman that she should bring her own bags because plastic bags aren’t good for the environment. She apologises and explains “We didn’t have the green thing back in my day” to which he responds: “That’s our problem today – your generation didn’t care enough to save the environment!”

He was right – there was no ‘green thing’ back then – instead, glass bottles were turned to the shop or off licence to be re-used; there were no lifts or escalators using energy in every office or shop; most people walked to the shops instead of climbing into a 300-horsepower machine to go shopping; fruit and veg was bought loose and washed at home – there weren’t bins full of plastic, foam and paper packaging that needed huge recycling plants fed by monster trucks all day; babies nappies were washed because disposable hadn’t been invented – and dried on a washing line instead of in an energy gobbling machine burning up 220 volts – wind and solar power was harnessed; kids got hand-me-downs (hand-made or hand knitted) clothes from their siblings, not brand new clothing shipped from the other side of the planet; shops repaired things with ‘spare parts’ – whole items weren’t thrown away because one small part failed; we only had one TV or radio in the house, with a screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?) not a screen the size of Wales. In the kitchen, blending and stirring was done by hand instead of by electric machine; fragile items sent by post were wrapped in wadded newspaper to cushion, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap; a petrol burning or electric machine wasn’t used to mow the lawn, but human power. Doing all these things manually kept people fit – there was no need for a brightly lit, air conditioned health clubs with electronic machinery and millions of plastic bottles full of ‘special’ water. There were water fountains in schools and offices instead of using disposable plastic cups; pens were refilled with ink instead of being thrown away and a new one bought; razor blades were replaced, not the whole razor; people used the bus, or rode their bikes, or walked to school instead of mum being a 24 hour taxi service; there was one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances; a gadget to receive a signal beamed from a satellite 2000 miles away wasn’t needed to find the nearest fish’n’chip shop.

It wasn’t called the ‘green’ thing – it was what you did and it saved money and energy. Granted, it didn’t save time – but doesn’t the harking back to those vintage years reflect that people seemed so much more content with their lot? A damaged environment, regrettably, is the price we’re paying for progress, convenience and leisure time.

It seemed all the more pertinent when I read today that kids think they’re deprived if they don’t have an i-pod or the latest trainers or satellite tv – and in terms of how they feel, I get that – they compare themselves to their peers and if their peers’ parents are daft enough to indulge them, then feelings of envy will surface. So it’s up to parents to point out to their little darlings how well off they actually are – make them sit and watch Children in Need and Comic Relief all the way through, not just the fun bits, to realise just how much they take for granted.

It’s all go!

And because it’s all go, I’m not going to make the deadline for the 2 Days Later competition this time around. But, I have all the pieces in place, I now know how my digital camera works and will be filming the indoor scenes over the next couple of months, while I knock together a script for 2 Days Laughter! Then come Spring, I’ll get the outside shots done and hold fire for the next one!

Restore Rochester Castle have gone crazy with events – see here if you wish to take part/donate or attend in a sponsored walk around the Castle grounds or a Fancy Dress Halloween special at local wine bar/club, Olivers. There’s also a very straightforward ‘Donate’ button, if you could be so kind as to spare just a £1 – every little makes a difference, thank you! Long term project wise, we’re putting together a book about the castle, made up of pictures, photos, paintings, poetry, anecdotes and more, from whoever wants to contribute, so watch out for details on that, coming soon!

The LitFest blog is finding more events and news to share and Strictly Come Dancing is starting this week, so The Rhythm of Life will be updating regularly. And I thought I’d finally, finally, cracked it with a chance of landing a new, part time writing job last week, only to find it wasn’t part-time and I did actually need journalism qualifications! But I received some superb feedback which has boosted me, especially in respect of The Scatter blog, so you may see more activity on there – and, if all plans come to fruition, a book!

Until then, I’m off to Upnor on Tuesday to hang around the Magwitch film shoot, courtesy of Viola Films! Pics and quotes will be posted on Rochester People and Rochester LitFest – I’m very much looking forward to seeing the action!

 

Meeting Ironclad stars, James Purefoy *swoon* and Jamie Foreman!

As an Associate Member of the Restore Rochester Castle committee and Community Publisher for Rochester People, it was my job (yes, it was tough. Very) to interview the astoundingly smoulderingly handsome personage that is James Purefoy (Rome, Solomon Kane, Injustice – I could go on) and the soon-to-be-the-most-feared-hard-man ever to grace EastEnders, Jamie Foreman (Layer Cake, Nil By Mouth and countless more!) Who was so sweet and lovely he’s completely ruined what Derek Branning could ever be for me! They were guests of honour at a special screening of Ironclad at Rochester Castle on Saturday night, and did a fantastic job helping us fundraise. Click their names to see the interviews.

The film was fantastic (considering my limit for violence is Indiana Jones) and with the weight of history and a terrific ensemble cast (it’s been likened to The Magnificent Seven, only with more blood) the story rose above the carnage to give us a snapshot of what it must have been like (some liberties were taken, to be fair) in that space, at that time. For the low down of the screening on Saturday night, see here, and view the smouldering galleries here. I’m only surprised the camera didn’t melt.

Recycle your phone to the Aspinall Foundation! Please. If you don’t mind.

Did you know, 100 million mobile phones are thrown away each year!! And, because they and other techy toys are manufactured using a metallic ore called Coltan, a wonderful primate called the Drill is in imminent danger of extinction.

Coltan is mined from areas the Drill (I know, ironic much?) lives in – western Cameroon, Bioko Island, southeastern Nigeria – and the bigger the demand for mobile phones etc, the bigger the danger to the Drills habitat. The mining companies open up large areas of Primary forest to travel to the ore to mine it and the Drill is suffering the consequences. Like being hunted isn’t enough.

Yes, he's sad - he and his cousins are losing their homes ...

So how can you help? Well, by recycling your phone to the Aspinall Foundation, the components inside can be re-used, decreasing the need to mine more from precious habitats. And by doing this, Aspinall’s will also receive vital funds which is then put directly towards the conservation of species like the Drill.

They're not happy about it either ...

There are still two weeks of school holidays left, why not take the opportunity to visit Port Lympne or Howletts and see at first hand the wonderful work they’re doing.

... and all you have to do is send your old phone to Aspinalls - simples!