Should we let sleeping blogs lie?

I don't have any photos of a sleeping blog, so here is my sleeping dog - Smelly Dog.

I don’t have any photos of a sleeping blog, so here is my sleeping dog – Smelly Dog.

Every so often, I drop by to see you. I’m concerned, but you don’t know. You are comatose, frozen in time. Your stats line bleeps in surprise at my occasional visit, yet no beautiful nurses run in with Dr Carter to wipe your brow and call your family. Nobody does that for a blog. You are a sleeping blog, hanging in the void – waiting to discover if you will be reanimated, remain in creational hibernation, or disappear with a simple, decisive click of a mouse.

As time ticks by, I think back to when I first discovered you. You were one of the first blogs I followed – your positivity made me want to get up, get down, get out, get going and otherwise groove, James Brown style, as I read the latest batch of posts over my morning coffee. You were among the first real people (as opposed to robots) to send shivers of pride down my newbie blogger’s spine when you not only “liked”, but commented on my efforts.

Then suddenly, your posts ceased. I still pop by from time to time, and sigh as your post from six months ago fills the screen, the comments politely paired up below with their replies, like happy couples waiting for a table for two at the diner. I feel like a drug addict, staring through the chemist’s window at his fix of happiness on the shelf.

Never underestimate the effect a good blog post can have on the start of MM's day. You count.

Never underestimate the effect your blog post can have on the start of MM’s day.

I often hope that something wonderful happened to you. Maybe you had another baby, won the pools, inherited a Swiss chocolate factory or got swept off your feet by the working mother’s answer to George Clooney (with or without the coffee machine). Or has something awful happened? Maybe you got the dreaded blogger’s block. It was impossible to conceive that blogging could have fallen out of favour – if I love blogging so much, then surely other bloggers do too… or maybe they don’t. Maybe your life has evolved and changed, and your need for blogging has passed.

My finger has hovered over the mouse so many times – should I write a new comment, and see what happens? Would a quiet nudge in your cyber-spatial ribs revive you?

Thus the question reared its ugly head: should we let sleeping blogs lie?

Hands up if you have ever clicked on that email contact form to check if a fellow blogger is ok… I plead guilty. I nudged a favourite blogger in the past when he uncharacteristically stopped writing. I admit that I was concerned – was he ok? On the other hand… was it really any of my business? Why was I concerned about a person I had never met before? It could be perceived as rude – after all, who was I to get pushy? But could I do without my fix? No. I was uncomfortable to realise that my reasons were also selfish: I missed his posts and the interaction on his blog.

As you follow a blog, you inevitably become involved. You follow a life story, and strangely enough, a bond is created between people who don’t know each other from Adam. Two bloggers who chat regularly in the blogosphere wouldn’t necessarily even recognise each other if they sat side by side on the bus, yet they may bring a necessary smile to each other’s faces on a regular basis. The anonymity of sharing and discussing through the written word means that we are sometimes more prone to revealing our fears and feelings to our readers than we do to those who are close to us in our everyday lives. Welcome to the paradoxical blogging dimension, where people are both friends and complete strangers at the same time.

The Fox Tames The Little Prince

The Fox Tames The Little Prince (Photo credit: Pictoscribe)

This made me realise that blogging involves a risk – one described so well by Antoine de St Exupéry’s “The Little Prince,” when the fox tells the prince:

“To me, you are still nothing more than a little boy who is just like a hundred thousand other little boys. And I have no need of you. And you, on your part, have no need of me. To you I am nothing more than a fox like a hundred thousand other foxes. But if you tame me, then we shall need each other. To me, you will be unique in all the world. To you, I shall be unique in all the world….” 

Without being as melodramatic as the fox, who has never blogged and never will do, it’s true that building a relationship with someone, even when you have never met them in person, makes them part of your world. And however small that part may be, you notice when it disappears. Whether it’s a regular reader who suddenly goes off your blog’s radar, or a blogger who stops writing, something goes missing. Or maybe it’s just me? In that case, some of you are probably thinking it’s time to back off from MM’s blog incase she starts getting too demanding. But I don’t think I’m the only person who believes in the fabulous human dynamics of blogging.

So here I sit at the head of your blog bedside in the home for sleeping blogs, hoping that you will come out of your cyber-coma. I miss you. If you’ve stopped blogging for ever, thank you for sharing part of life’s journey with me. But if your stats monitor suddenly bursts into activity, Carter, the nurses and I will all be waiting for you.

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Roll up, roll up….

 The Daily Prompt caught my eye this time: “As seen on TV. Write a script for a late-night infomercial — where the product is your blog. How do you market yourself? What qualities do you embody that other “products” don’t? What are the benefits of reading your blog?”. Here’s my entry – it was harder than I thought to blow my own trumpet!

MM loves playing with figurines.

MM  has Peter Pan syndrome, and loves playing with figurines.

Do you need a break from 24/7 news and long for an escape route to accompany that glass of Chardonnay and bar of chocolate in the evening? Could you do with a quick fix of humour to blow away the blues? If you’d love to have a good laugh without having to invite friends around for dinner and getting all the washing up to deal with too, then switch off the TV and get over to Multifarious Meanderings to poke some fun at everyday life.

 Penned by an expatriate mother of three who is not only one can short of a six-pack, but is proud of it too, this no-nonsense collection of life’s experiences will titillate your funbuds and leave you with a smile on your face.
Travel through time in MM’s archives, and discover the author’s mishaps as she strives to communicate in the States, finds truffle-hunting dogs under her neighbour’s tractor, copies off Wonder Woman at parent-teacher meetings, examines the perplexing issue of the Lost Sock Dimension, discusses Herr Hormone and his PMT henchmen, and much, much more.
Learn about nature with MM, who gives you the low-down on the migration of the lesser-spotted boob, and reveals the true, grim story behind Larry the Louse’s regular visits to your child’s scalp. Her recent symptom-checker for Peter Pan Syndrome has turned up trumps for many readers, who are now finally able to put a name on their condition and will meet one day in a cyber playgroup to play Lego together.
And there’s more!
MM provides, free of charge:
  • A humourous glimpse of her everyday life in the south of France.
  • The reassurance that things could be worse as you discover MM’s run-ins with the world.
  • An opportunity to chat with some lovely bloggers from all over the world who regularly pass by, and to check out their wonderful blogs too.
  • A reply to your comment on her posts (MM is a blogger who enjoys interacting with her visitors).

So head off to Multifarious Meanderings for an unlimited trial period now, and double, triple or quadruple your order….. It’s all free, fun and without any commitment on your behalf. All you need is five minutes of your time, and your chucklecard number. See you there!

An Open Letter to my Phantom Follower.

The phantom follower.

The phantom follower.

Dear phantom follower,

WordPress recently sent me a mail informing me that you have subscribed to my blog – once again. Although I am flattered by your repeated attentions, I am also somewhat flummoxed. I have lost count of the number of times you have signed up over the last few months. I am at a loss to understand why you feel the need to subscribe on such a regular basis; most people subscribe just the once, not once a week.

I am aware that changes of heart can happen; after all, everyone has probably made the decision to unsubscribe from a blog at some point in their blogging experience. That’s life, after all – a blog that initially has the literary attraction of double chocolate cake can lose its appeal and transform into the reader’s equivalent of rice pudding if the reader and/or the writer’s personal interests evolve in different directions, leading to an inevitable rupture as the two bloggers’ paths each go their separate ways.

Such is life. However, changing your mind then changing it back every other week is a surefire sign that you either have no clear idea what you’re after, or you’re a trouble-maker (bloggers call them “trolls”). I did wonder if you get an inexplicable thrill out of hitting that follow/unfollow button – some kind of very sad attempt to control people’s feelings at the press of a button. Surely not. Maybe you have problems with your eyesight and are confusing it with the “Like” button, but it would be very pretentious of me to suggest that. Oops, too late.

You piqued my interest enough to google you, for the same reason that I google numbers that appear too frequently on my mobile phone. You don’t appear to be a blogger. Herr Google informs me, however, that you have a personal diet plan. This put a new slant on the mystery – maybe your hunger pangs wake you at night, and you subscribe to the same blogs again and again in a desperate attempt to counteract your craving for calories. If this is the case, may I suggest that you open the fridge and succumb to the temptation of a large, creamy yoghurt instead? Alternatively, you could busy yourself with some scrapbooking – apparently it is one of your interests. How do I know? Herr Google relates that you have followed and unfollowed a scrapbooking blog until the blogger was so ired that she posted about you in a name and shame campaign. I won’t be naming you, nor shaming you. The first in case you are looking for free publicity (goodness know why) and the second because error is human and you may just have very bad keyboard skills.

I’m sure you don’t want to drag this kind of bad reputation around. Please feel free to read my post “The serial liker” to get a better idea of my attitude to blogging etiquette. Although technically speaking you are a serial subscriber, you’ll get the general gist. And without wanting to be rude, when you’ve finished reading, please make up your mind and stop sitting on the fence. You are free to sign up and read……. or to have a chocolate biscuit or two in front of the telly instead. I promise I won’t tell Herr Google.

Thank you.

Bloggingly yours,

MM.

Written in response to “The Daily Post”, 13th August: “The Art of the Open Letter”.

Just for you….

I wanted to give you something special today. I thought about an exotic pot plant like the Bat Plant (google it, it’s sexier than Batman) but then I thought that this would be better.

Sunflowers

A field of sunflowers (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

“Why is MM offering me sunflowers?” I hear you mumbling as you reach for your coffee cup. Well, it’s simple. Because you are my sunshines. MM entered a competition, and lots of lovely people who read her ramblings made the effort to visit that website, read her offerings and even leave comments to help MM. MM did not win the competition, but the entry she voted for did.

Most importantly, MM got something else out of the competition experience:  an awesome feeling of support from all of you that swept her right off her size niners and left her with a lovely tingly feeling in her tummy. (And writers block too, ‘cos now I’m scared I won’t be up to scratch.)

You all came up trumps, because just one comment was picked out from 135 as the best comment made on all 19 entries… and I suspect it was from one of you guys! So without getting dressed up in a sequined black dress and indulging in hysterical histrionics on a virtual Cannes red carpet, a sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU all for your generous comments and for your presence; you all made my day, and do so every time we “chat” in the blogosphere. You have become a real gang of friends, and I’m proud to know you all. So I would like to offer a happy, emotional MM bear hug to you all. Thanks 😀

Joanna (alias MM)

And here is a hugga wugga sunshine song, more MM than any stupid Cannes speech, just for you!

Flower Power

Your humble scribe likes flowers and plants – as long as it’s on someone else’s patch. So this morning I was thrilled by an unexpected virtual wander around blogger Kathryn’s beautiful garden on her great blog Vastly Curious, which you can find here. The wisteria blooming out of the screen was so real that it would have any asthmatic reaching out for their inhaler. I was instantly reminded of my love-hate relationship with plants: they love to hate me.

I follow two blogs that talk about plants and flowers in the hope of discovering where I went wrong. Letters and Leaves has a twin passion for plants and literature. She ties her spade and rake to her bike, Macgyver-style, before cycling off with her book to her vegetable plot. I take my horticultural hat off to her, because she not only manages to make things grow, but actually eats what she produces.  I also have a soft spot for “A north east ohio garden”, where John Hric writes with enthusiasm about his day lilies – and the adventure of crossing them to create new flowers. His impatience to see what results from cross-breeding trials is catching, and I am intrigued by the tender way he refers to the “parents” and “grandparents” of each new “baby” he presents.

But put me in charge of John’s garden, and it would be transformed from a lush Garden of Eden to a post-apocalyptic wasteland faster than you can say “Alan Titchmarsh”. I freely admit to being the Grim Reaper of the vegetal vortex. The green finger gene deftly sidestepped me on its way through our family tree. In the same way that my mother just has to look at a plant for it to instantly transform the kitchen window sill into a dense stretch of Amazonian forest, a simple glance from MM is enough to make anything green keel over and die. Plants and I have an unspoken mutual agreement by which anything that isn’t already in the vegetable tray commits herbal hara-kiri within a month of meeting me.

Grim Reaper (advertisement)

“I hoe, I hoe, it’s off to compost you go…” MM’s alternative gardening version of the seven dwarves’ chart buster (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My main problem with plants is that they are at our mercy for everything. The thing that worries me the most is that the damned things have a real communication problem. We are told that we should talk to them, but how do they get through to us? They wilt. Plants wilt to communicate every single need across a spectrum going from water to sun through soil, fertilizer, air, company, and warding off evil spirits. Now, If plants could just talk, they’d have a deal. After all, if my kids had been born with leaves instead of mouths, they would be no more than fond memories in the steaming compost heap of my mind by now. (This also explains why I did not name my daughter “Petunia” or “Daisy”; I probably would have watered her to death before her first birthday.)

So we can safely conclude that on the intelligent gift idea scale, giving MM a plant ranks 0/10. As far as good ideas go, it is on a par with asking Myra Hindley around to babysit, accepting Eva Longoria’s kind offer to drop your husband off at the hotel, or temporarily entrusting your piggy bank to Bernie Madoff. Yet despite my gold medal-winning inaptitude to take care of anything green, a strange family rite occurs in this house once a year. Every spring it is the same scenario: 1. PF buys plants.  2. PF charmingly “hides” plants beside the washing line at the bottom of the garden. 3. Children give MM the plants as Mother’s Day offerings. 4. MM digs holes in the garden for them to die in. (That sentence was ambiguous: I am of course referring to the plants and not my children).

Clementine the Mandarine, sole long-term survivor of MM's fruit boot camp. Note Paddington Bear style instructions label around neck. instructions

Clementine the Mandarine, sole long-term survivor of MM’s fruit boot camp. Note Paddington Bear-style instructions label around neck.

“Clementine” the Mandarine is the only long-term surviving contestant in the “who will survive MM” contest – Bernard the Bougainvillea quickly declined into an irreversible coma last year, and went to blossom in the floral fields of horticultural heaven not long after I’d noticed the instructions label hanging forlornly around his withered neck. As I entrusted his mummified remains to the depths of the garden muttering a perfunctory “leaves to humus, dirt to dirt” under my breath, I was elected “bad plant mum of the year” for the umpteenth year running, and informed that next year I wouldn’t be getting any more.

I lived in hope for an entire year that the plants would be replaced by their weight in chocolate, but this year PF set off undeterred once again for the local plant store, where he  gravely elected this year’s unfortunate candidates for MM’s horticultural version of Death Row. He just can’t help himself. You can give the man ten out of ten for determination: Optimism is my husband’s middle name.

Sunday lunchtime thus found MM staring out from behind the floral equivalent of the great wall of China at her beaming offspring. I was relieved to see that the choice of plants has finally moved away from the usual frail and fragile exotica demanding filtered holy water, daily meditation and feng shui-flavoured compost spiked with tropical fruit bat droppings. This year’s candidates are more resistant and realistic plants like dahlias, flowering sage and strawberries. If these don’t survive, I’ll no doubt be getting Triffids next year. I duly thanked my offspring, and went to the garden to dig the graves of my next victims. Here is the macabre scene for Act Two of MM’s tragic Mother’s Day impromptu plant play: “The Death of the Strawberry Sisters”.

The future tombstone of the Strawberry Sisters. I will play "Strawberry fields for ever" at their funeral.

The future tombstone of the Strawberry Sisters. I shall play “Strawberry Fields Forever” at their funeral.

I crouched down on the ground at sunset and levelled with my new recruits to outline their future in MM’s merciless berry boot camp. “The deal is simple: I give you water. You don’t wilt, and you give me strawberries. Any desiderata must be spelled out in stones at your side in simple code – “W” for Water, “S” for Sun, “F” for fertiliser. Last year’s winners were called the Cocktail Commando – a tough tomato trio. They were Solanum Supermen; top-notch tomatoes who followed the vegetable plot to the letter. Now it’s over to you, Strawberry Sisters. I don’t want wilting wallflowers, I want girl power. Berry nice, girls, over to you.”

They didn’t reply. I’m feeling anxious. I’m off to have a word with those weeds now – I can swear I heard them whispering on the sidelines……

MM needs YOU!

English: Uncle Sam recruiting poster.

Yes, I’m talking to you!(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

MM has entered a writing competition! My epistolary efforts and those of 18 other international bloggers were published today, and the overall winner will be announced on Friday. The theme is “Working Abroad”. It has been treated to force ten MM mental machinery, and turned into a description of the French working schedule (or lack thereof) during the month of May.

To read it, click on the link below which will take you to my entry in the most recent Expat’s Blog Writing Contest, called “Maytime Mayhem: The eye of the French working cyclone”.

If you enjoy what you read, please don’t hesitate to leave your comment directly after the text on the same page – comments are taken into consideration to choose the winning entries. Also feel free to share via Twitter and/or Facebook/ carrier pigeon if the fancy takes you. I will, of course, love you all forever and ever, whether or not you choose to read or comment 😀

The Expats blog site is a fabulous platform for expat bloggers all over the world; why not sign your blog up there too?

Link to my competition entry here:

http://www.expatsblog.com/contests/472/maytime-mayhem-eye-of-french-working-cyclone

Have a good read! MM xx

Pam Spam and the decontamination chamber.

It’s rare for spam to make it though the impressive WordPress filter – it rarely gets things wrong. But you made it through last night, Pam.  (I have of course changed your name to rhyme with “spam” – your real identity is safe with me.) You slipped through the WordPress spam barrage with more ingenuity and prowess than Catwoman, and were waiting impatiently for me in my list of comments awaiting moderation when I opened Pomme’s browser this morning. Today’s « false positive » has given me the chance to write a post, whilst it offers you a unexpected moment of fame in an obscure corner of cyber space ruled by a half-potty hybrid of housewife, career-woman, book-lover and amateur photographer suffering from scribal diarrhoea and lost in the wastelands of the Languedoc. Lucky you.

I didn’t understand a word of what you wrote in your comment, which had nothing much to do with my blog, and have presumed that you are a spammer. I have therefore asked the WordPress immigration service to kindly escort you to my spam folder so that you can enjoy the company of your kind of people from now on. I imagine this place to be a little like an airport departure lounge, but one designed for passengers who need to be isolated from the others. A kind of decontamination lock-chamber for Village People who have lost the plot. Here in the spam folder, you can feel free to sell each other timeshare apartments and exchange tips to boost your blogging traffic to your heart’s delight, without using my humble blog as a springboard.

La mirada de CatWoman

Pam Spam meowed in despair. “Foiled again!” she hissed, as she sank to the ground in the bad girl corner of  the Spam Lounge.  (Photo credit: sukiweb)

I’m sure that you will all have lots of things in common, starting with your original use of the English language. I must admit that I was a little concerned at the idea of you promising to “inspect” my new posts. The verb “inspect” makes me anxious and is reminiscent of bad experiences like the tax office, airport customs officials, children with head lice and roofs with leaks. Whilst we’re on the subject of language, please put a space between “I” and “actually” the next time you write – you never know, that letter “a” may have smelly armpits. Or he could give “I” the eye.

You do appear to have some idea of appropriate language use, as you use the term “beautiful brides” and not “gold-diggers” in the link you provide. You apparently sell women to gullible western males run a dating agency with the sole purpose of providing happiness for sad and lonely people across the globe. Whilst your magnanimity is commendable, your spelling, punctuation and grammar really don’t do you justice. I therefore suggest that you take a few English lessons; it would be an asset in your bid to make your “products” and/or services more inviting.

If you sign up for English lessons, please do invite some of your other spamming pals along. Make sure that the sexily named “Mikebreedlove” attends, and suggest he takes an appointment with a psychoanalyst as well. His comment : “I was suggested this website through my cousin. I am not now positive whether or not this post is written by him as no one else understand such distinct about my difficulty. You’re amazing ! Thanks !” left me nonplussed and concerned about his relationship with the cousin in question.

Mikebreedlove is just one of a rather entertaining gang of weirdos imprisoned in my spam lounge. These include Elmira the serial killer, who finds that my blog is the « best place for knives »,  and a pseudo-philosopher going by the endearing name of “chronic pulmonary obstructive disease” who managed to upstage you beautifully with his profound statement: « A fabulous crony are probably not anyone, however an associate are forever your sibling.”

SPAM

The tastefully decorated exterior of the WordPress Spam Lounge. (Photo credit: AJC1)

My favourite spam lounge inmate to date, however, has to be “Church Fundraiser”, whose recent plea for help was heart-breaking.  His message was not intended to raise money for the widow and the orphan, as I had expected, but to enquire if I have any bright plug-in ideas so that the poor man could read my blog on his Iphone. Well, Church Fundraiser, I’m sorry to inform you that I don’t know anything about plug-ins for Iphones. I am an exceedingly boring technophobe who has a phone that just phones, and who prefers communicating with real people around me in public rather than hiding behind a smart phone to talk with the interactive Siri. (Ask Siri where you can dispose of a dead body. He will promptly give you the address of the local dump.) Mr Pious, I doubt that you will be taken seriously if you pull the latest Iphone out of your pocket during your crusade to crush rampant consumerism and defend the rights of the poor. My answer would therefore be that you should practice what you preach, sell the Iphone and feed an entire family with the proceeds for a couple of weeks. Unless, of course, you are not a church fundraiser, and are a spammer instead. God forbid….

So, Pam, there you have it.  Welcome to the spammers lounge. Have fun with sexy Mike, Church Fundraiser and a whole bunch of people who are impatient to feed you RSS (whatever that is), boost your traffic and otherwise make your blog the most popular event since Jesus parted the waters. I’m sure you’ll have a whale of a time. If you don’t, there’s a dictionary on the table in the corner. Read it.