Back, But Not Quite Back

Well, I am back from my holiday week by the sea, and delighted to report that I am smiling! The weather was perfect; nice temperatures combined with blue skies and a sea breeze. The one shower we encountered was when we were driving back from somewhere, and it only lasted for ten minutes.

All in all, the perfect English seaside holiday.

Ollie enjoyed his change of scene, and made new friends too. He even got to sample a special canine ice cream, and there will be a photo of him enjoying that in due course. As we have been to that same place on four previous occasions, there will not be many new photos other than some of our accommodation, and Ollie relaxing.

But returning home to a house left closed up for seven days means there are jobs to be done, so I will not be back to blogging until next week. Meanwhile, I have had to delete hundreds of emails and post notifications, so apologies for not being around your blogs. However, I will do my best to reply to all comments left during my absence, and will get on that starting from Monday.

My thanks to everyone who continued to read this blog while I was away, ensuring that I had steady numbers of views even when I wasn’t around.

Best wishes to you all, Pete.

Blog Stuff

As we come to the end of the month, and Autumn looms, I felt prompted to have a review of my blog once again. Regular readers will be aware that I cut back on my posts recently, and that has a significant effect on views and followers, just as I had expected. That isn’t a complaint, as that was my intention. And it worked.

On my Home page, WordPress now lists my follower total as 8,481. I am happy to report that I have had a reduction in ‘fake followers’ lately, and only a few companies trying hard to promote their goods by following my blog. There are also fewer followers without Gravatar links or posts on their own blogs. That’s great to see.

Including this one, I have posted 3,482 posts since 2012, and had 541,620 views of my blog. Even after posting less, I still get between 225-400 views a day, much easier to deal with than the 600+ I enjoyed previously.

I am currently following 114 other bloggers, and with six exceptions, they are all posting and active. If nothing arrives from those six bloggers by the end of 2021, I will follow six different ones after Christmas.

Guest Posts are still popular, and I would like to remind all my followers, old and new, that the offer remains open indefinitely. If you would like a guest post here, just send me an email to petejohnson50@yahoo.com

The latest series of fictional short stories has been well received, with views more than comparable to my usual serials. Each first line was suggested by a fellow blogger, and this is a good way to engage with others in the community. Using links to their blogs also helps make us all better known to each other, further developing the feeling that we are all in this together.

Any post about my dog Ollie guarantees a lot of interaction. As he gets older and slower his popularity never wanes, and he remains very much the heart and soul of my blog, with his many admirers and his ongoing adventures on our dog walks.

My blog trundles along in the same old way, and I still love being a blogger as much as I ever did.

Guest Post: Chaya Ubhayakar

Today I am very pleased to bring you a guest post from retired teacher and blogger, Chaya.
https://chayasheela.wordpress.com/

My love of words….

It started with….
“Ajja, what is stupid?” I asked my beloved grandfather. I sensed that the girl who had uttered that word in the playground didn’t mean it as a compliment, and I wanted to know what it meant. Ajja was dismayed by my use of the word and said not to repeat it, and more importantly, not to address someone with it…ever. Confused, I was about to go and ask Papa when Ajja quietly gave me a pocket-size Collins English Gem Dictionary (1936 edition and still used by my hubby and me) and guided me to locate the word and learn the meaning. This little gem opened a whole new world for me…. A world of words to look up, and learn.

My Ajja was deeply spiritual, loving, and well-read, with elegant handwriting…. A man of few words. He was my first teacher of the English language. We had two big wood and glass cupboards full of carefully covered, gently treated and almost revered books. Some rare ones like The Discovery of India by Jawaharlal Nehru come to my mind. As a child, I would look through the glass with longing at those interesting, big volumes that were out of bounds for me. (Only grown-ups handled those precious books.) Ajja would often take a book out, put one arm around my shoulder, talk about the book then say, “You will be able to read all these books very soon.” Thus began my love of written and read words.

Nurtured by….
My Papa was a voracious reader who had mastery over spoken and written English. I would find him every morning with his eyes glued to the Indian Express newspaper, reading every word from front to back. On Sundays, I would sit next to him and he would give me the comic section to look at. My Papa was a great storyteller who used expressive words and mimicry to bring his characters to life and mesmerize us. I remember Papa sitting at his old typewriter, with his fingers flying over the keys and immersed in words that would magically appear on the paper. Like many of his generation, Papa’s writing style was floral. He loved to use sayings, proverbs, andexplain their relevance and usage to me. His aerograms sent to England in the ’70s, ’80s to me, my hubby, and my children were so wonderful that I love reading them even now. Papa made me appreciate the power and responsibility of the written word.

My Aai,(Mum) somehow made time in her busy day of taking care of all of us to read to me. Herreading interests are mainly scriptures and teachings of saints. Aai would sit down with me after dinner with a bowl of sliced, fresh fruit and show me mythological big books mostly with pictures. She would turn each page and relate the story in pure Konkani (our mother tongue). Aai showed me that words could transport me to a different world in each story.

Taught by…
My teacher read Marathi literature with such enthusiasm and joy that it was contagious. She introduced me to the nuances of puns, similes, metaphors, and personification. My English teacher drummed the importance of grammar into us and had us chant certain phrases to make sure we would use appropriate words when writing in the past tense, present tense, present continuous, or future tense. To this day, I remember the chants, “ He goes, she goes, it goes, I go, we go, they go.” Or, “I am going, she is going, he is going, it is going, we are going, they are going!”

Hello, Your Royal Highness….
As I left my school days of Enid Blyton and college days of heavyweights like Shakespeare and Wordsworth behind me, got married, and moved to England, I discovered the wonders of words in a whole new way. At public libraries, I had unlimited access to books penned by renowned English writers. In local theaters, I was able to watch plays where thespians brought characters of great writers like Shakespeare to life. I finally made sense of the literature I had read but not fully comprehended as a college-going youngster. I learnt the Queen’s English and pronunciation in a “proper” manner!

A matter of spelling….
Our life took us to America — a land where the written, and spoken language is English. However, the difference in the usage of English In England and America cannot be starker. Another opportunity to learn new words, and relearn old words with different spelling and pronunciation. Once I mentioned to a friend that I called but her phone was “engaged”, she replied curtly “people are engaged, phones are busy!” I went back to university in my fifties to gain a degree in teaching and entered the world of textbooks, and American literature. My favorite classes were creative writing and poetry. My creative writing professor often remarked that he found my writing well-composed and very interesting but, often “wordy”. I valued his opinion and have tried hard to be stingy with words but, alas, “Old habits die hard!”

My love affair with words continues….
My journey as an elementary school teacher gave me ample opportunity to share my knowledge gathered from living on three continents. Although I mostly taught Math and Science, teaching vocabulary played an important part in my day. I adopted words from my students too. Except when they insisted on using double negatives (which was always accompanied by a sheepish look) like, “I didn’t do nothing, Miss!” I could just imagine my grammar teacher being horrified by the use of double negatives which was a definite “no, no!”

I started writing with gusto after retiring. Often inspired by my 91 year-old mum. As a new blogger I have found the perfect platform for my passion for reading and writing. As my love of writing and reading words in Konkani, Marathi, and English continues to deepen, I can feel my Ajja’s and Papa’s smiling approval from their place in my heart.

Please visit her blog to see more, say hello, and welcome her to our wonderful community.

Blogger’s Books: Lorraine Lewis

I am very pleased to let you know that the lovely Lorraine Lewis from https://blindwilderness.wordpress.com/ has had five of her poems published in a new anthology that is available to buy now.

An anthology of faery places. Focused on the winter court and the darker fae.

With Stories By

David Powell

Ruan Bradford Wright

Victor Nandi

Serena Mossgraves

Keely Messino

Sean Padraic McCarthy

Raz T. Slasher

Russell Addams

With Poetry By

Beulah Vega

Patricia Harris

Lorraine Lewis

Ruan Bradford Wright

And Art By

Allene Nichols

Vonnie Winslow Crist

Patricia Harris

Here is what Lorraine has to say about it on her blog.

‘I am delighted to announce that today INTO THE GLEN published by Fae Corps Publishing Inc. is being released.

I am also absolutely delighted to announce that five of my poems are in the book’.

Available on Amazon U.K. here:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Under+the+shade+into+the+glen&ref=nb_sb_noss

You can purchase it here:
https://books2read.com/Intotheglenundertheshade

If short stories and poetry are of interest to you, please follow the links to find out more, and show Lorraine some community support.

A Premium Upgrade

For a few years now, I have paid an annual fee to have a ‘Personal’ Plan with WordPress. That gave me no advertisements, easier access to tech help, and extra storage space for photos. Considering my blog is my main hobby, I didn’t think the fee was excessive, and for the first year, it included my ‘dotcom’ blog name too. (I now pay a little extra for that)

Then along came the Block Editor.

Regular readers will remember my long campaign against this being forced on users, without the option of retaining my preferred ‘Classic Option’. So I seriously considered giving up blogging, once the Block Editor became the only choice.

I am currently still using the old Classic Editor though (not the Classic Block offered on the new version) and that was supposed to have disappeared by March 2021. No doubt it will go at some stage, and meanwhile I have experimented with some posts using the Block Editor, eventually discovering that I am able to manage my very basic blogging using that. But only when it comes to it of course.

(I don’t intend to start another for and against Block Editor debate with this post. That ship has sailed.)

As I want to stay blogging for as long as I am able, I recently upgraded my payment plan to ‘Premium’. The main benefit of this over the Personal Plan is to greatly increase the space allowance. If you have a free WP blog, the space allowance of 3GB can soon be eaten up by adding photos and images. Moving up to the Personal Plan at £36 a year doubles your storage allowance to 6GB, and after a few years I have still not reached that limit.

The Premium Plan costs £84 a year, and boosts that space allowance to 13GB, which should last me a long time. And I think that £1.61 a week is a small price to pay to be able to relax and enjoy my hobby without worrying about running out of available storage space. I am hoping it will be many years before I have to think about the next option, the Business Plan, which currently costs £20 a month.

(Note that all plan upgrades include the storage already used, and do not start from scratch. So if you have already used 3GB and upgrade to 13GB, you will in effect have 10 GB available)

Gravatars and Site Links: Here I Go Again

In the last month, I have had 33 new followers who had no link to their blog or website attached to their Gravatar image or graphic.

That is 33 people I am unable to thank for following, and 33 blogs or sites I am unable to view, comment on, or perhaps follow.

Regular readers will no doubt yawn, as I try once again to advise you how to do this.

But if you do not take my advice, your blog will remain unknown, impossible to find, and you will be wondering why nobody ever comments, or leaves a ‘Like’.

Please read these posts and links, and connect your Gravatar to your blog or website. It is not difficult, even I managed it.

You can thank me later.

Bloggers and Gravatars: More advice


https://www.wpbeginner.com/beginners-guide/what-is-gravatar-and-why-you-should-start-using-it-right-away/
http://en.gravatar.com/beetleypete

Blogging: Content Is King

This post is mainly for the information of new bloggers. The rest of us already know about it.

I have recently reduced the amount of time I spend blogging. Going from 4-5 posts a day down to 1 or 2 has given me lots more time to do other things that were being neglected in favour of writing and blogging.

Reaching a peak of over 800 views some days, my own blog was tying up a great deal of the day, mainly spent replying to comments on posts. Then I had to read and comment on the posts of bloggers that I follow.

Many new bloggers ask questions about why so few people read a post on their blogs. They write something, put it out there, and they are then disappointed when hardly anyone reads it, or engages with it.

My answer to them has always been that they have to keep providing content for people to read. I have often used the phrase ‘content is king’.

Now my recent experiment offers solid evidence of this theory.

After cutting back on posts, I saw daily views drop considerably. As that was my intention, it wasn’t an issue. Views were averaging less than 200 a day, with a peak ten days ago of 450, for two posts. This Monday, I was very late posting.

With nothing new to offer the readers, my views dropped to a dramatic low of just 47. After posting late, that jumped to 210 views by midnight.

There you have it, proof positive. Content is king.

Guest Post: Gauri Sirur

Today I am delighted to feature a guest post from Gauri. Originally from India, she now lives in America.

My Book of Memories
(Or my life chronicled through some of the books I’ve read. And the memories they evoke.)
I glimpse a paperback on a friend’s bookshelf. It takes me right back to college when you were too uncool for school if you hadn’t read the book’s author. My daughter tells me a literary classic — my mom’s favorite — is being remade into a movie. And now I hear my mom’s voice quoting from the book.
Books evoke memories. These are some of mine…

Growing up…
My Book of Memories opens with a fairytale. I am lying in the back seat of the family car, with my shut-eye doll, my fuzzy blanket, and Enid Blyton’s book of fairytales. (There were no seat belts back then.)

My little brother, Ash, rides in front with my parents. He likes to look out at this world. I like to lose myself in imaginary worlds.

I’m happy when it takes a long time to get to our destination.
* * *
At the time of my in-car reading sessions, I was five years old and living in Pune, India. Mom was an avid reader. She frequented a circulating library that offered Women’s Weekly and Women and Home magazines — along with a modest selection of novels — to its predominantly female clientele. And Enid Blyton’s books to the kids who tagged along.
Blyton’s books were inhabited by an eclectic mix of humans, fairy folk, toys, and barnyard and woodland animals. In this fantastical world, you might find a little red door set in the trunk of a very old tree. You turned the round green doorknob, stepped through, and found yourself on a railway platform. From here you could take a train to Fairyland, Goblin Hill, or Toyland.

I have to admit that although I’m far from six now, I still stare very hard at the trunks of very old trees, checking for little red doors. I’m looking at you, giant sequoia. You never know, right?
* * *
In my early teens, I devoured paperbacks. Mainly mysteries and romances. Mom spoke of Thomas Hardy, Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters, and Daphne du Maurier in hushed tones. To please her, I read Pride and Prejudice, Wuthering Heights, and Rebecca. And then, to please me, I read them all over again.

Dad, a naturalist at heart, got my brother and me a slew of illustrated books on birds, reptiles, mammals, and dinosaurs.

I got back from school one day to find a T-rex and a brontosaurus — both about four inches high — squaring off on top of the radio in the living room. Dad had fashioned them out of Plasticine (Play-Doh). He believed in giving us a hands-on education.

Pluto and Persephone…
Tai, my father’s elder sister, worked at the Oxford publishing house in Mumbai. Every year she gifted me a book for my birthday. When I turned eight, she presented me with two children’s books of Greek mythology. Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, Narcissus, Medusa. I was as riveted by the names as by the stories.

During a college literature class, a professor asked if anyone knew the story of Persephone and Pluto. I put up my hand. She gazed at me with newfound respect. I thought it best not to reveal that I had gotten my deep knowledge of Greek mythology from a children’s book.

All growed-up…
After marriage, I lived on a farm with Raj, my parents-in-law, and Raj’s granddad. Our farmhouse was three miles from the nearest village. But even here, there was no dearth of reading material.

In his room, Raj’s granddad had a cupboard full of books tenderly covered with brown paper. I could take my pick from Dickens through Poe to Pearl S. Buck.

When we moved from the farmhouse to an apartment in Mumbai, half of the books moved with us. And then, over the years, a quarter of those treasures found their way to Houston, where I now live.
* * *
Some of these books are close to a hundred years old. Time has tinged their pages a light sepia. I have to turn the pages carefully lest they flake off.

I open the books, and a musty-sweet aroma wafts to my nostrils. Suddenly, I’m looking out the living room window of a certain farmhouse in India. A bullock cart rumbles past on the dusty track outside the window, heaped with sacks full of freshly harvested peanuts. Just beyond the track, row upon row of young sorghum fronds flirt with the breeze.

Coming to America…
My book memories of America, where I moved twenty-some years ago, with my husband and daughters, are a world away from bullock carts or flirtatious sorghum.

From Mumbai we flew into Cleveland, OH, where my daughters enrolled in middle and high school. My older daughter’s English Lit. syllabus included The Black Pearl, which was my introduction to American literature. My memories of this book are decidedly mixed.

On the one hand, I loved the book; it inspired me to read another Steinbeck classic, The Grapes of Wrath.

On the other, The Black Pearl remains closely bound up with that fresh-off-the-boat, disorienting sense of foreignness. With the shock of the biting Cleveland winter after the muggy warmth of Mumbai — the cold inking chilblains on the backs of our hands. The isolation — trees bare of leaves, streets bare of people. The echoing quiet. Most alien of all, the smells — the insistent tang of Lysol and wood-polish; that plasticky new-car smell.

Twenty-some years later, the country that once felt alien is now home.

And now, this…
I started my book collection in Houston eight years ago, right around the time of my grandson’s birth. The first book that I bought was Kafka’s Metamorphosis. A fitting title, I thought, for my own metamorphosis from mom to Grand Mom.

Several of the books in my collection, from Hamlet through Harry Potter, are storied in more ways than one. There is enough nostalgia here to fill yet another Book of Memories. But that’s a story, or a blog post, for another day.

Yes, books evoke memories. What are some of yours?

Here is a link to her blog. Please take time to visit, and welcome Gauri to this community.
https://gaurisirur.wordpress.com/