Shotgun Blogging

As it is too hot to finish off my serial fiction post, here is a reblog from 2015. Many of you will have seen it.


I have been perusing other blogs of late, and drawing some personal conclusions about the nature of many blogs, including my own. Some of my favourite blogs publish articles of great import, sparingly posted. They are usually sumptuously illustrated, or have accompanying photographs, generally of high quality. Although they do not appear that often, the response from their audience is always immediate, and in great numbers. These bloggers are at the high end of this pastime, the careful craftsmen in our blogging community. They have experimented, worked hard and meticulously, and achieved something enduring, with work to be proud of. I think of them as the Guild Bloggers, masters of the art.

Then there are the Niche Bloggers, predominantly photographers, poets, or writers of published works. They post only about their subject of interest. We might see something of their travels, or their personal developments in their chosen field, but…

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Some Britsploitation films

Another old film post from 2013, a look at some very different British films. I think only Eddy and Vinnie have seen this one previously.


The Antipodean film buff, and blogger extraordinaire, James Curnow, recently added an interesting post on his website, at  It was a look at twelve Australian films, and he wittily entitled it, ‘Ozpolitation: Twelve Australian Exploitation Classics.’ This was a play on the often-used term, ‘Blaxpolitation’, common in film writing to describe a genre of American films that featured predominantly black casts, small budgets, huge Afro hairstyles, and jive-talking leading men. These films were mostly made in the 1970’s, taking popular cinematic subjects of the day, and re-making them with a black cast, and lots of cultural references relevant to the largely black-populated districts of America’s cities. Well-known examples include; ‘Cleopatra Jones’, ‘Car Wash’, ‘Shaft’, and ‘Superfly’. They usually had soundtracks featuring leading black artists of the day, including such leading lights as Curtis Mayfield, and Isaac Hayes.

This gave me food for thought. British Cinema has not escaped this…

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Start a blog

Many people decide to do something new, faced with the prospect of another fresh start as the year turns. Some join a gym, or weight-loss class. Others determine to learn a new skill, or develop their education. Many want to travel, and see those far-flung places that they have only dreamed about before. For some bloggers, those who are serious writers, they may think that this is finally the year to write that book.

Then there are the potential bloggers. They have thought about becoming a blogger, but never taken the plunge. Perhaps they have some friends who are bloggers, or follow existing blogs that they enjoy. The urge to blog for themselves lurks in the background, but they have never quite got around to starting one. This post is a message to people just like you. Just do it. It is free, easy to set up, and can be immensely rewarding too. If you think you wouldn’t know how to go about creating your own blog, consider my story. I started at the age of 60, possessing only very basic computer skills, and the templates provided by WordPress. Five years on, I have two blogs, and I am a part of a great community of bloggers, from all over the world.

If you have an email address, you can be a blogger. If you have ever searched for stuff on You Tube, or chatted to friends online, then you can learn how to be a blogger just as easily. Think of a name, choose a free theme, and off you go. Maybe you want to blog about something you are passionate about, like books, beauty, history, or films. Or you might want to get your writing and poetry out there, to the huge audience of blog followers. Something as simple as chronicling how you learned to drive, ride a horse, or are coping with a new pet. There are no rules, as it is your blog.

That’s a great feeling, to say the words ‘My blog’. Even if it is only read by family and friends at first, it will be an electronic legacy left online for as long as you desire. Your thoughts, hopes, dreams, work, or ideas available for anyone to see and read. Something just for you, that may well become admired by thousands. Or maybe not, it doesn’t matter. If you come across some stumbling blocks along the way, ask other bloggers. They will always help out, and are happy to do so, believe me. If you don’t know any yet, then ask me. My email address is on my ‘About’ page.

Make 2018 the year you start that blog, and join the huge community of bloggers.

My blog: Some thoughts

The first real day of winter today. Freezing wind, cold rain that felt like sleet. Dark and gloomy by early afternoon, and lights on just before 4. After Ollie’s dog walk, I sat in front of the computer and stared blankly at the screen. This time of year is normally the best time for blogging. Long dull evenings, not much to do outside, and little enthusiasm for venturing out into the cold and damp.

It is also close to the end of another year of blogging. One more year of keeping in touch with valued blogging friends, and meeting so many new ones too. A year when I have tried my best, often against the odds I can tell you, to be positive, and only look for the good things in my daily life and routine. It has been a year when Donald Trump and Brexit dominated many blogs. Countries divided, friend against friend, a civil war of words online. Better than the violent alternative, obviously. But still occasionally distressing.

But for my blog, it has been a great year. More views and new followers than ever before, and lots of comments and engagement on posts. Stories published outside of blogging, more photos taken and posted, and despite the increase in the time necessary to keep things running, it was time well spent. Once or twice this year, I have actually thought about stopping blogging. It takes up time that really should be used for other things. Things like routine maintenance around the house and garden, and reading, which is something I have virtually stopped doing, outside of the posts that I follow, and other articles online. But I would undoubtedly miss it, and more importantly, everyone in the community that I am happy to be a part of.

So on it goes, in the same old way. I tried something new this week, Poetry. Despite some positive feedback, I was far from happy with the results, and doubt you will be seeing any more poems from me on this blog. I have more guest posts on Sally Cronin’s blog coming up. Christmas themed posts from a few years back, that she is kindly revitalising for me. I have neglected to write any film articles for the estimable of late, and that is something I should rectify soon. My new weekly post, ‘Thinking Aloud on a Sunday’ has been well-received, and may well lead to other themed ideas, in 2018.
I may post less film reviews next year though. To be honest, hardly anyone reads them, except for some stalwart film fans. And I have already watched the films. 🙂 If you would like me to carry on with those, please let me know in the comments, and I will.

My series of ‘Significant Songs’ is at the same level. Music is a matter of taste in every respect, so it is understandable that people tend to only react to songs or music that they also like. But I will continue with that series, as those songs mean something to me, however vague the connection might be.
My personal favourite category, the short stories I enjoy writing so much, will also continue, as and when the ideas form in my mind. But I am all-too aware that Ollie, and photos, are without doubt the most popular recurring themes here. I will try to remember to make time for posts about Ollie the dog, and to add more photos, until my space allowance expires.

But my blog would be a pale shadow of itself if not for your involvement and comments. So if you have any thoughts and suggestions about posts or categories, feel free to say what you think in the comments section below. I promise I won’t be offended or upset! December is soon upon us, and after that, we will be blogging in 2018. Even typing that number makes me feel as if I am writing science fiction!

My best wishes to everyone, as always. Pete.

The Blogging Journey

Is it just me, or do others out there see being a blogger as like going on a journey into the unknown?

You start out tentatively, with those awkward first posts, and that hurriedly chosen theme. Your sidebars and widgets are undeveloped, and there is so much about WordPress that you just don’t get at all. The dashboard menus are confusing, and adding images doesn’t seem simple either. Then there are the Categories. What do you call them, and how many should there be, if any? Tags might seem obvious to some, but I had no idea how to tag posts. When I first started out, my posts had almost as many tags as text. Then I found out that it is best to only use five tags or less. I wondered which ones to use after that, and looked at other blogs to get some ideas.

Then came ‘Publicize’, and ‘Sharing’. I didn’t have a Twitter account, or a Google+ identity. So, off I went and created accounts with both. Many new bloggers already use Facebook, so that might give them some idea how to do all this stuff, but it was all Greek to me, as the old saying goes. It took me a long night to discover that I had to add images to my ‘Media Library’, before I could insert them into a post. Then a lot longer to realise that my allowance would soon be eaten up by adding too many photos. After a while, I decided to stick with what I had, even if it didn’t look anywhere near as good as the other blogs I was reading.

Remember that feeling of excitement, when someone viewed your post, and WordPress told you that you had a ‘Like’? You had written something, put it out there, and someone somewhere had not only read it, they had ‘Liked’ it too! Then came those first comments. What to do now? Do I reply, even if an answer doesn’t seem necessary? Then when I decided that I would, I forgot to click the ‘Reply’ box first, so my answer just appeared as another comment, with me suitably oblivious to that fact. Then someone actually ‘Followed’ my blog. I was amazed that they would even want to, and still new enough to be unaware that not all ‘Followers’ are really going to follow.

After a while, I suddenly thought that maybe I should be following some other blogs too. After all, some were kind enough to follow me, and the least I could do was to follow a few in return. Very soon, I started to be aware that we were all in a community. We followed each other’s blogs, commented on comments, and regularly posted more and more stuff. It started to all feel very ‘normal’, and routines of adding images, sharing, re-blogging, following, and commenting, all became second nature. It was like that moment when you have just started driving a car. Although you have passed your test, it feels strange to be out on your own. Then one day, you know your way around, no longer worry about what gear you are in, and feel just the same as all those other drivers.

But there is still more to learn, more tricks and tips to pick up. How to avoid Spammers and scammers, who not to follow, and who you should be following. Adapting your style to suit the blogging format, and making sure to keep your blog fresh and active by varying your posts, and keeping the flow going. Remembering to comment, to check your notifications for things you have missed, and adding replies to comments on your own blog, when appropriate. By now, you have got a long way into that journey, so what next?

For me, it was a change of Theme. After a long time with that original theme, I was becoming fed up with looking at it. And if it was getting that way for me, then what must it be like for those reading it? A change of theme, a different font, and a sort out of those categories. Adding the ‘Like’ button for comments was my next move. At least anyone who commented would know that I had read it, even if I hadn’t had time to reply. On the advice of a fellow blogger, I removed the long dull list of archive months and years from the sidebar, and replaced it with a drop-down menu instead. More advice from someone else made me move my ‘Follow’ buttons higher up, so it was easy for new readers to follow, if they so wished. My final addition was the ‘Choose language’ button. I know that the translations are far from perfect, but you are at least letting non-English speaking readers know that you value them too.

That was it for me, my journey was complete. For now, at least.

How to have a popular blog

Continuing my seemingly endless series of posts about blogging, I have more tips for new bloggers, or for those of you with tired or stagnant blogs. As I approach my fifth anniversary of blogging, and have reached a current total of 1,222 posts, I have noticed a few things along the way.

Many of us are more than content with our blogging lot; happy with the way things are, and we bumble along in the same old way. Yet there are a lot of bloggers who watch the tumbleweed pass over their blogs. They yearn for more interaction, and become disappointed with the performance of their blog. It was not how they thought it was going to be when they started, that’s for sure. They tire of posting, wonder if it is all worth the effort, and sometimes just give up on the idea.

So, how do you get off to a good start, or revitalise a blog that has hit the doldrums? I have a few suggestions that you could try.

1) Post photos. People love to look at pictures, and generally prefer them to reading text. After all, if they just want to read, they could curl up with a good book.

2) If you don’t want to take photos, add images, gifs, or graphics. These are easily available, and free to find, all over the Internet.

3) When you run out of ideas, re-blog somebody else’s posts. If they have a re-blog button on the page, just use it, and allow your readers to see that you are bothering to read other posts, even if you are not writing any yourself. Add a nice comment, and perhaps advise the original blogger that you are going to do the re-blog. It is an easy way to get out of a blogging slump, and helps someone else in the process.

4) Specialise. If like me, you have a general blog, with a few categories and a mix and match approach to blogging, you may discover that this is not working for you. When this happens, it is time to specialise. Pick something you know about, perhaps a hobby, or a lifelong interest, and revise your blog into one on a specialist subject. Then follow lots of other blogs on that subject, and you will soon become part of a community again.

5) Change your theme. If you have settled on a theme from day one, and never changed it, you might find a new look is all that is needed to brighten things up, and renew interest from others. WordPress has a large number of free themes, and you can preview your blog on them, as many times as you like.

6) Delete your old blog, and start a completely new one, with a different name. If you have reached the stage where you no longer feel you are getting anywhere, re-think the whole process, and start from scratch. If you have active followers, you can write a last post informing them of the change, and a link to your new blog.

7) People cannot comment on posts if you don’t publish any. Just because you got only four views on your last effort, and no likes, doesn’t mean that the process is pointless. Your next post may well hit the spot, and be more rewarding for you. But you have to publish it, or you will never know.

8) Remember why you started blogging. Keep it in mind when it all doesn’t turn out like you had hoped it would. If it was a good reason, then it’s worth continuing, if only for yourself.

9) Don’t give up too soon. Rewarding blogging doesn’t happen overnight. There is no quick fix, and it takes time and effort to establish yourself in a blogging community. Be determined, and keep going.

10) Look at lots of other blogs. Don’t just post your stuff in isolation, and expect everyone to come knocking at your door. That won’t happen. Read what others have to say, and look at how they are saying it. Steal a few ideas by all means, but keep your own style, as copycat bloggers are always obvious.

There you have ten more tips. They are useful for new bloggers, and also for experienced bloggers who have become weary. Remember, almost any blog can be improved. You just have to want to do it.

Blogging: Some things I have learned

I am not from the computer age. I was not a young man when I first had to learn to operate a PC. From the outset, it was a challenge. I constantly asked advice from younger people, or those using computers for a living. But it didn’t really sink in. For me, what they found intuitive and easy to grasp, was a baffling process that I could just not get into my brain. I took notes, created cribs, and constantly referred to them. Many years on, and I have only recently understood how to set up photo folders, and attach pictures to emails. Countless hours spent in trial and error before this PC, have resulted in me reaching a basic level of computer skill that most ten year-old children have already far exceeded.

But I have been writing a blog for almost four years, so I must know something about computers, and how the blogging platform works, surely? Well, not really. I have barely scratched the surface of what can be done on WordPress, Twitter, or Google +. I still don’t know how to schedule a post to appear when I am not around to press publish, and I have no idea how to arrange several photos into small boxes, or place them on different parts of the blog page. I am still unsure how to embed links, without using the whole cut/paste method. After all this time, I make a lot of mistakes, and find it just as hard to get to grips with computers as I did when I first saw one. When I have thought long and hard about giving up blogging, it has not been because I find writing difficult. It has been from frustration at my lack of understanding of computers.

As far as blogging goes, I have discovered a few things about it, at least as far as the WordPress blogging platform operates. These may be of some use to new bloggers, or those still struggling to get the best from it, like me.

1) If you add a photo or graphic to your media library to use it in a post, don’t delete it. If you do, it will disappear from the post, rendering what you were writing about meaningless. You have to keep them. They add to your allowance, but unless you consign the whole post to the trash bin, you have to retain them in the file. Make sure to check that allowance too. A lot of photos can suddenly eat into it, and you can go from 2% to 30%, in the blink of an eye.

2) If you re-blog something from another blog, all the images from that post will also transfer into your own media library, as if by magic. If you delete them, they will not appear on your re-blogged post, but the original will not be affected.

3) Add video links from You Tube, or similar sites, and they generally appear on the blog post as you intended. However, they are constantly monitored by the originators, and are frequently removed by them; or by You Tube, or by holders of copyright. Your video link becomes a grey blob on the blog post, sometimes containing a warning, if clicked on. This means that you have to constantly review and update any video links; delete the old one in the edit screen, and find a new one to replace it. When you post a lot of film and music clips, as I do, this housekeeping is a necessary and regular chore.

4) If you use images from websites and other sources, it is advisable to credit them with the original image. Copyright is a minefield, so if in doubt, don’t.

5) Play around with free themes. So many bloggers (myself included) stick with their original choice, and are generally oblivious as to whether or not it really suits what they have developed their blog into. On the menu, choose ‘Appearance’, then ‘Themes.’ Look down the list available (there are lots) and the free ones are clearly marked. You can preview the new theme, with your own blog content instantly inserted. If you don’t like it, choose another one. Should you decide that you prefer your original theme, no harm done. But a change is a good as a rest, so the saying goes.

So, just five tips. They will no doubt be laughable to those who see this sort of thing as second nature. Each one of them baffled me though, so if only one person is saved from hours of blogging frustration, I hope that it helps.

Themes and appearances

Update to this post.  After all the -most welcome- comments, I am now using this theme (called Penscratch)  for a while, and experimenting with header photos. This current photo is not mine, but very like the area nearby where I walk Ollie by the river. It will do for now.

I think most bloggers get to the stage where they become tired of using the same theme and style to present their posts. Many change these themes regularly, others once a year, or on a whim. Some change when their own blogging style changes, or use the themes to reflect their moods. Many photographic bloggers look for styles that showcase photos well, and some literary bloggers prefer darker, black or brown themes, with light text, when they are discussing books and stories.

I have used my theme since day one. I picked it to give a ‘warm and cosy’ look, with an idea of the countryside. As I rarely publish photos, I felt that I didn’t need a landscape format, or bright background, and the A4 page design seemed to suit my idea of a ‘journal’ too. The green and grey text on a clear background seemed to me to be able to be ‘read well’, and the absence of any border images meant that nothing distracted from the words.

After almost three years, I am now getting a little tired of this theme though, and wondering if it is not looking a little stale. I have recently made use of the excellent preview feature provided by WordPress, to examine just what my blog would look like, if I changed to something new. After trying more than twenty different themes for size, I didn’t feel comfortable enough with any of them, to risk the change completely.

So not for the first time, I am throwing the topic open to my dear readers and followers. What do you think? Do you like the current theme? (MistyLook) Should I stick with it, or do you think I should grasp the nettle, and change completely? Or would that just be too strange?
Please let me know in the comments.

The Blogging Mojo

When Austin Powers famously realised that he had ‘lost his mojo’, it was an amusing theme for a whole comedy film.

In the world of Blogging, the loss of the Blogging Mojo can seem like something much more serious. After a great week up to the 24th January, I have lacked inspiration, and ideas, failing to get much down on the blog. Despite having three posts still in drafts, and notes for a good few more, they are just not happening. Even this short post, essentially to explain the absence of other, potentially interesting articles, is having to be dragged out of the keyboard, as if I am typing, and thinking, underwater.

I could blame the weather, as I have often done for other moods, and inactivity. Grey days, cold, constant rain, perhaps not conducive to creativity. But that would be wrong. This weather is usually a great incentive for blogging. Shut away from the elements, in the small room grandly called the office, is the best place to be, when it is forbidding outside. Also, the weather is the same all over the UK at the moment, yet other bloggers are prolific, and posts are appearing in my Reader at a steady rate.

I have been doing some volunteering, but not enough to use as an excuse to be away from my blog. Ollie’s tail problems, hopefully concluding today, with removal of the stitches, have been bothering me, naturally. However, they have provided me with ideas and thoughts for posts about that very subject, so I can’t blame it on his tail. I haven’t even got around to clearing the last of the leaves, despite having a good crack at it recently. So, I can’t use the excuse of gardening, at least not in such bad weather.

I have been active blog-wise, as far as commenting on other people’s blogs goes. I have kept up with those that I follow, and even sent in work to be published ‘over there’. It is just beetleypete, lacking mojo, feeling directionless, and perhaps having almost run its course, in the present format. I have successfully managed to disregard dramatic blips in readership. Those very quiet days have been contrasted by some of the busiest ever, so the average is actually higher. It is not that I want, or need, a bigger readership, or following. I just want my blog to be better, and more satisfying.

It could all just be a slump, and I will soon appear on the other side, back to the same form as before. I am prompted to ask though, particularly of my regular followers and readers, ‘What do you think?’ Should I carry on the same, posting about all sorts, as and when. Or, should I be doing something different? Now is your chance to pour on your unbridled criticism of this blog. Tell me what you like, what you hate, and what you would like to see more of, if anything. Should I just scrap it, and start over anew? Feel free to be harsh, or kind, depending on your mood. I am asking for some directions, like a motorist who finds himself lost, in a town he thought he knew well. The place I am looking for might be as easy to discover as the next on the left, or as far away as the ring-road.

See you all soon. Pete.



Musical Updates

I have been posting a lot of musical themes lately, so it occurred to me to look back on some of the earlier ones, and to add some clips, to make it easier for the reader to listen to the music I am going on about. I spent a fair amount of time this evening, and found some appropriate clips to add to some earlier posts. These are;

Pete’s Playlist (1)

Pete’s Playlist (2)

Concierto de Aranjuez

Rhapsody in Blue

Cover Versions

So, if you want to revisit these posts, for any reason, you will now find relevant clips to listen to. I apologise for the previous omission, but I was not completely sure that I was allowed to do this, at the time I wrote them.