Archive for ‘writing’

November 28, 2012

portrait of a beginner blogger: please ‘like’ me

Tuesday 27.11.2012

As soon as you wake up you check your email to see if anyone has ‘liked’ your latest blog post. Your mood for the rest of the day depends on a) whether anybody has noticed you posted, b) how many people have ‘liked’ it, and c) who they are –  are they just ‘liking’ you in order to drive traffic to their blog, or might they actually have looked at your post? You spend all day constantly checking your email in the hope that you’ve received more ‘likes’.

You care so little about the self-promotional side of blogging – you are above that sort of thing, of course – that you don’t actually know why or how your posts get seen by the random people in the blogosphere who seem to ‘like’ your posts.

You don’t actually read other people’s blogs, or only the well-established ones, by people who actually know how to write. Your time is far too precious to waste reading people’s rambling, poorly-articulated efforts.

Gosh, 10 people are ‘following’ your blog. What does that mean? Who are they? According to WordPress they think your latest post was ‘awesome!’ WordPress is suggesting you click on links to ‘awesome’ things these people have posted because you might like them. Ok. Who’s this? Oh, this takes you to pictures of scantily-dressed young women. You’re clearly not part of this blog’s demographic. You don’t think you’d like this person who ‘liked’ you. Ok, who’s this? A self-styled, self-help guru on achieving mindfulness, fulfillment and inner peace through a macrobiotic diet. You don’t believe for a second they read your post about wine tasting. You don’t ‘like’ them back. The next one sends you to a post about being a missionary in an African country. What could you possibly have in common? And the one after that links to a post about eliminating swearing from his writing, and your posts are full of what he calls ‘f-bombs’. You are beginning to suspect that WordPress pays people to sit in front of a screen all day watching blogs being updated and randomly ‘liking’ posts. They’re like drug pushers, getting you hooked on being ‘liked’.

Look at this guy’s posts. Quite well-written, but no way are you going to read to the end. You toy with the idea of making a helpful suggestion in the ‘comments’ section about keeping posts short to ensure they’ll be read. But then you remember that you are not in this for the self-promotion, all that sordid, mutual back-scratching. You will attract readers to your blog because of the quality of your art.

You haven’t told anyone you know about your blog because it’s not ‘ready.’ When you’re satisfied that you’ve achieved a sufficient level of excellence in your art you’ll notify them. You’re not sure how. You’ve tried dropping hints to a couple of friends and family members about what you’ve been spending all your time doing but they’ve shown no interest in finding out the address of your blog. You long to belong to a community of mutually-supportive quality bloggers, who always read and comment on each other’s work.

In the mean time you guess you’ll settle for being ‘liked.’

November 25, 2012

how to deal with figures before you can count


November 25, 2012

how to play

110402 – watching A. play basketball in Casalecchio

Yesterday we were out of milk, and I asked A., nearly 6, to come and buy some with me. He had just opened one of those little juice boxes, so I thought I’d wait until he’d finished drinking. I distracted myself for a couple of minutes, and when I looked back to see if he’d finished, he a) hadn’t, and b) was playing with the juice box rather than drinking. I took a deep breath and suppressed my natural urge to bark at him to hurry up, and, instead, observed him.

A. announced he didn’t like the drink – “organic blueberry” – but that he liked sucking the droplets from the straw when he took it out of the box. I resisted grinding my teeth, contented myself with a martyred sigh and kept watching. He started pulling the straw out and sucking the juice from it; then he wanted to see what would happen if he put the straw back in up-side down with the short part in the box (it still worked) ; then he noticed that he’d put some kinks in the bendy part of the straw and wanted to see if he could get them out by pressing with his teeth (more or less). After about five minutes of this, he finally handed me the almost undrunk drink, saying he didn’t want it any more. I couldn’t resist muttering something about “wasteful!” but otherwise kept my hair on. I was impressed by how absorbed he’d been in his ‘messing around.’

Later. A.’s skateboarding process:

  1. Get auntie to carry skateboard downstairs.
  2. Pause to consider skateboarding across the flower-bed. Decide against.
  3. Complain that the skateboard keeps stopping and won’t go in the direction I want it to; when auntie points out all the cracks and pot-holes in the pavement, get auntie to carry skateboard until the next bit of smooth pavement.
  4. Wonder what kneeling on skateboard and pushing yourself along with your hands is like. Ignore auntie telling you to stand on it, or you’ll never learn.
  5. Scrape thumb painfully on tarmac. Ignore auntie telling you not to put thumb in mouth. Decide to try sticks. First stick breaks immediately.
  6. At the park the tarmac path slopes down. Find a bigger stick. Discover that the stick won’t slow down the skateboard without endangering fingers. Rolling off the path and onto the grass will. Also the tips of my shoes dragging on the ground will. Get auntie to carry skateboard back up hill. Again and again. Have not given up on sticks.
  7. Notice path through the grass, decide to try and skateboard across it. There are a lot of stones in the earth along the path. I must dig them out or I can’t get across. Where’s my stick? Oops, it broke. Here’s another bigger one. Scrape, scrape, poke, poke, there goes the first stone. This one’s big. Scrape, scrape, scrape…
  8. Here are some more good sticks. I’m a caveman. Look, I’m rubbing two sticks together to make a fire.

Lessons learned:

Shoes are better than sticks for steering and stopping.

You can ride down the hill with a friend if you’re both kneeling.

[NB. Interesting post here about playing and Aspergers]

November 22, 2012

the point of journalling

110309 Wednesday

I’ve just spent the morning harvesting my ideas from my recent journalling. I realized that the purpose of journalling, or rather, what I get out of it, is ‘braingasms’ – and I had one when I came up with that thought, a little shot of dopamine from my brain, rewarding me for my efforts.

There are days when I write pages and pages of crap and nothing happens, but then things start to percolate and float to the top in subsequent days. I wonder if I could graph the relationship between the number of ideas I have and the amount I write, to see if quantity really is more important than quality.

Finding ideas in amongst all the crap is like panning for gold – except far more unpleasant, and I don’t know if I can compare what I find to gold. The main gratification is the braingasms, and you get those whether the ideas and images are good or not. There’s no quality control in the brain department responsible for rewarding ideas.

November 7, 2012

when my mind takes a break from all the worrying

27.02.2011 Sunday – from my journal

Thought: If I looked like my personality I would look like Brezhnev, all totalitarian, beetle-browed, and responsible for an era of economic stagnation.

02.03.2011 Wednesday evening – from my journal

My hair clip has just sprung open, whacking me on the back of the head. I wonder who I can sue?

Today I updated my status on facebook a few times. I said that M. told me I looked like trailer trash, but I think I look more “Silicon Valley” or dot com.

I also reported that M. has become “mayor” of our local kebab shop, supermarket, and wine bar.

November 7, 2012

it’s all part of the process

01.03.11 – from my journal

This morning E. is coming around. When things aren’t great we have a tendency to depress each other. Or maybe it’s that I bring her down. She’s never been unemployed and the thought terrifies her. How can I not bring her down?

I just don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to do. I wonder if I wrote this 100 times, I’d feel better?

So far today I’ve watched 2 and a half TED talks, and it didn’t help. I did a search on innovation in Milan and got to a couple of interesting-looking websites. I looked up networking events in Milan and have put Toastmasters, British Chamber of Commerce and PWA in my diary. It made me feel terrible. I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to, I don’t want to. I don’t want to go to these things with the express purpose of meeting people.

All these things make me feel like such a freak. Ok I’m in a relationship, but I own nothing, I don’t have children, a mortgage, a pension plan. How dare I be a consultant, who am I to tell anyone anything? I feel like I’m going mental. This isn’t helping. I’m giving free reign to my demons and they’re setting the tone, taking over. God, I’m so scared. I’m so scared. I’m so scared. Is this helping? So the refrains of today – and it’s only morning, 9.51 to be precise, are: I don’t know what to do, I don’t want to, I’m scared. My brain is in “flight” mode.

Why did Toastmasters work for me? Because there is a point to the public speaking thing. It’s challenging – in a real way. I’m not sure I ever “sold” myself, but it does force me to show myself, even to myself. Ok, I need to start doing it again.

What would my future me tell me? Don’t worry it will all sort itself out. I mean, it has done in the past, always, something’s happened, I’ve made things happen, things have improved, dramatically. But, honestly, I don’t know what to do. I really don’t.

November 6, 2012

will I do whatever it takes?

28.02.11 – from my journal

My biggest problem at the moment is that I don’t want to do whatever it takes, I’m just not willing to. I don’t want to rent out all my brain energy for someone else’s benefit. I suppose if there was a social benefit I would feel better about it, but to further the interest of the insurance industry – I can’t see the point. There must be one.

I once said to Julia in a coaching session that I wanted “more interesting problems” – but did they really get more interesting, the more money and the less time I had? What are interesting problems? Surely it doesn’t get more interesting than “how to earn a living”? How to earn a living and not turn into a zombie? How to earn a living and be free, feel free, be you? What does that mean and why is that so important to me? Why am I not interested in furthering the human race? Why am I so unbelievably self-centred? Just as well my genes aren’t going to be passed on, although I suppose I have enough nephews and nieces to ensure that will happen. For most people it’s sufficient to do whatever it takes to raise your family and to feel like you’re doing a better job than your parents did, to get a sense of progress. Why has that never been enough for me? Why does this feel like a good use of my time? I have no idea why I’m writing, I have no idea about writing for other people, this is entirely for me, no audience, so why on earth does this feel like a good use of my time?

November 6, 2012

one of my inner censors

28.02.11  from journal

What if I took my book-writing aspirations seriously? What would I even write about? I’ve been ploughing through my coaching journals, which is a bit excruciating, but sometimes I seem to have stuff to say. The most boring bits are where I’m focusing on work, on trying to think in ways that don’t come naturally to me. I keep thinking things like “stop trying so hard, love” – I feel like I’ve got some kind of misogynistic Northerner in my head, shaking his head pityingly at my attempts to be a businesswoman, since business is something I clearly have no understanding about or feeling for. Actually this is totally true. I’d love to not bother my pretty head about things like this but sadly I have to provide for myself and my feckless young man. I wish I could be feckless. No I don’t. I just wish I had some non-demanding, rent-paying work so I wouldn’t have to worry about this aspect of my life.

November 4, 2012

first world problems: 3 haikus about living in Milan



Drink up, pay up and

Leave. Milanese cafés don’t

Like you to linger.


My cappuccino,

Tepid, just as it should be.

But, please, in winter?


Lindt, I can’t find your

Caramel à la Pointe de

Sel in Italy

October 29, 2012

Greek goddesses WAY more interesting than Greek gods

Writing exercise, circa July 2011

Pasiphae’s story

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I’ve just heard that my oldest friend, Daedalus, has murdered my husband. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the evil, vindictive old sod is dead, I don’t think anyone will miss him. I’m not sure what happens to me now. I suppose I’ll have to devote the rest of my life to worshipping at some goddess’s altar, or something equally tedious to keep me out of trouble. I’m more sad that I’ll probably never see Daedalus again in this lifetime.

God, what would my life have been like without Daedalus? Daedalus with the huge brain and no common sense. His trouble is he cannot resist a challenge, no matter how dire the consequences are. You won’t believe how my husband finally managed to track him down. Minos was determined to find him and kill him after he escaped from the tower with poor Icarus. Daedalus was in possession of too many state secrets – in particular, the plans for the Labyrinth – and there was all that bad blood between them, what with him designing my “love box”, which, you could say, started all the trouble. Actually, if that idiot Minos had sacrificed the right bull in the first place, none of this would have happened.

Anyway, Minos had thought of a problem that he knew only Daedalus would be able to solve, which would drive him out into the open: something about how to pass a thread all the way through the spiral of a shell, although why anyone would want to do that, I don’t know. Men and their “problems”.

Apparently, Daedalus was being hidden by his new friend, King Cocalus of Sicily, who wasn’t about to give him up. But Daedalus knew how to solve the riddle and couldn’t resist showing off how clever he was, so he told Cocalus how to do it – it involved an ant – and Cocalus presented Minos with the solution.  Of course, Minos knew immediately who had given Cocalus the answer, but he couldn’t come right out and demand that Cocalus hand over Daedalus – that’s not how kings talk to each other, and it would have led to a diplomatic incident – but he let it be known that he was on to him, and that things could get very, very bad if he didn’t give him Daedalus. Cocalus graciously invited him to his palace to spend the night so they could talk things over the next day.

This is the part of the story I like best. Cocalus invited Minos to try out his new “hot shower”, the latest innovation in Sicily. And who do you think invented it? Daedalus, of course, and it was obvious to Minos, even if they weren’t at the stage of openly admitting anything to each other. Minos couldn’t resist trying out Daedalus’ latest contraption, and Cocalus’ daughters contrived to kill Minos by using it to pour boiling water over him. It seems that Daedalus had been tutoring Cocalus’ daughters and had inspired great devotion in them.

That’s Daedalus all over, inspiring incredible loyalty in people, even if I’m not sure how much he deserves it. When I first met him all those years ago, when he first came to Crete, he’d just been banished from Athens for murdering his nephew and star pupil, Perdix. That’s the thing about Daedalus: tremendous capacity for objective reasoning, but absolutely no understanding of the extent to which he is at the mercy of his emotions. I mean, he pushed Perdix off a cliff because he was threatened by the boy’s potential, by the possibility that the pupil might surpass the master.

Of course, I owe Daedalus everything. Things haven’t been easy for me, but I have no regrets. How could I regret the love of my life, my Cretan Bull? True, our son, Aterius, a.k.a. “The Minotaur”, caused us years of heartache, and let’s not even mention all those Athenian youths and maidens he devoured over the years.

Our love was spiritual, divine, transcendent, but Daedalus had to help us out with the physical side of things, and built us the “love box” that allowed us to consummate our love. People say that Poseidon cursed me with “zoophilia” when he found out that Minos had preferred to keep the Cretan Bull he’d sent him – as a sign from on high that Minos was the favourite to be King of Crete – rather than sacrifice it as he was required to. Minos had even tried to pass off a normal bull as the Cretan Bull during a sacrifice, but he was fooling no-one.   Especially as my Cretan Bull was busy rampaging all over the island at the time. When he wasn’t making love to me.  I am sure my Cretan Bull was one of Zeus’ many manifestations – how else could you explain the rapport between us? People said I was sick, possessed, and I was forced to go through all sorts of healing rituals, make cleansing sacrifices and pray for redemption for days on end, until it became clear to everyone that this was no mental or physical aberration – this was real, passionate, transforming love.

I’ll never forgive that bastard Theseus for killing my Cretan Bull at Marathon. Ok, he did subsequently rid the world of the Minotaur, who really was a bit of a pest. I have never been able to look at another man, or beast, since. Not that things were ever great between Minos and I. I didn’t want him, but I didn’t want anyone else to have him either. As the daughter of the God Helios I have a few extra-mortal tricks up my sleeve and I put a fidelity charm on him, which made him ejaculate serpents and scorpions, killing any woman he had sex with. Anyway, I shan’t miss him. I will miss Daedalus terribly, though.

October 18, 2012

morning pages

Journal 21.02.11

The trouble with journaling on the computer is that it’s easy to get distracted by emails and all the other things I could be doing on it. I need to decide that all I’m going to do for a period of time is journal, write randomly like this. It’s got to feel like doing floatation tanks, like nothing can touch me while I’m doing this. Of course, it’s particularly impossible today with A around, but he’s glued to this Spiderman cartoon I downloaded for him. Now Alan’s sent something boring-looking. Ooh, the pull to read the document is strooong, but I will resist, as it’s very unlikely to contain any earth-shattering revelations. Now I want to watch Spider Man with A – it’s a really good episode, about when Peter Parker gets a costume from outer space which is an actual alien. A is sitting on a chair with his eyes 5cm from the TV. Please God no-one ever read what I’m writing. This is absolute stream of consciousness stuff which is why I sound so retarded. Even when I’m conscious of what I’m thinking I can’t help sounding retarded. Obviously I am a bit. Trouble is I pass for normal in most situations. It was interesting seeing Massimo (Alessandra’s) yesterday. His voice sounds like mine, like it was never used when he was growing up. I wonder if he recognized a fellow introvert. I hope the bloody dish-washer finishes soon. It’s going to be quite hard to cook without any pots and pans. God, I am such a bird brain. Maybe I’m more like a bird than a snake. Andrea compared me to an eel, but that was only because of the slippery part. I feel like a snake or lizard because I need to lie around re-charging my batteries before engaging in intense bouts of activity which completely run my batteries down. I’m not very mammalian. Birds are not mammals, but they’re warm-blooded. Are birds reptiles? As dinosaurs they certainly bore a great resemblance. I suppose they’d have to have a warm-blooded metabolism to generate the energy to fly in a constant way, rather than being forced to depend on heat.  Why don’t I just trust my reptilian tendencies? I could accept that I’m going to be unproductive a lot of the time, that it won’t be “efficient” to hire someone like me if you need to see your workers constantly at it. If you want to see results you should hire me, but don’t expect to understand the processes I follow or to see how I deliver the work. It’s just not like that. Ohh, Peter Parker has his clothes off, and looks very sexy. I have about 15 minutes before I really should start cooking. I wonder when the bloody dishwasher will be finished. I wonder if –

October 18, 2012

10 defining moments


  1. at school, doing worse at my math test after studying than when I didn’t do anything
  2. losing the creativity contest at the conference to the Sausage Eating team, whose idea was “eat sausages”. Our idea was for pasta that would change colour when it cooked. How could we not win?
  3. Going from deciding I’m surrounded by cretins and morons at the beginning of the conference to thinking I’m surrounded by the most brilliant people ever
  4. Having M tell me he loved me the first time we slept together
  5. passing my Financial Strategy exam
  6. when dad died he became Saint Dad, while mum became The Evil One
  7. being with S. and A., how I can flip between being all sweetness with A to superbitch with S. I’m like one of those really annoying people who baby talk to their dogs and are horrible to everyone else.
  8. My boyfriend dumped me, the bags in which I’d stored all my summer clothes were stolen, my dog died, I thought I’d never smile again, and then I met my baby niece, Clementine
  9. Having my wishes come true, and then realising how superficial my desires had been
  10. how I go from being wildly opinionated to having no opinions at all
October 17, 2012

elements for wine-tasting bingo

24.03.10 Wine Exhibition, Villa Favorita, Verona

  • is the wine aged in: a cask, an old cask, a barrel, (extra points for using local wood varieties in the production of the barrels) in steel containers, in terracotta amphorae, in terracotta amphorae underwater
  • how long the wine is left to macerate on the grape skins. And why did you decide to do that anyway?
  • treatments: how much sulfate? copper? did you sexually confuse the butterflies?
  • are the grapes grown on terraces, on steep slopes, at high altitudes, in a microclimate
  • are the grapes indigenous?
  • fancy schmancy stuff: have you used red wine production methods with white grapes? Have you decided not to filter your wine?
  • does it have “natural” smells? (horse shit, chicken shit, etc.)
  • Is it “natural”? Is it organic? Are the grapes grown using biodynamic methods?
  • are the grapes allowed to shrivel on the vine, or in crates?
  • the bottle: is your bottle a cool shape? Does it have a big dimple? Do you have a nice label?
  • How old is the wine? Does it have a good nose? Finish? Good legs?
  • Colour: transparency, lightness, rim or meniscus …
  • elegant or complex? Alcohol levels…
  • Are the grapes used grown by the producer? How old are the vines? Is there a cru?
  • Once you’ve opened the bottle, do you want to finish drinking it?
  • Big or small producer? Do they tell good stories? Are they a slave to market forces or rugged individualists and pioneers? Do they use easy or difficult grapes? Are they dressed as sommeliers? Is that annoying? Do they like drinking? Do they spit the wine out? I will judge you…