What’s updates?

I was already vaguely aware that I hadn’t updated my blog in a little while, and then yesterday I was pruning and sorting some RSS feeds in Inoreader, putting less active feeds into folders that identified them as being less frequently updated. I saw mine there as it hadn’t been updated in more than a month. (Inoreader’s ‘no updates in more than a month’ is a bit black and white, hence why I use folders for stuff that, say, hasn’t been updated at all since 2019, and so on.)

(It was interesting to me that the previous posts are all about experiences or things I did, and it made me wonder when I got away from writing about just anything, as opposed to specific events. I used to basically just keep a diary on my blog. The biggest change might simply be that I keep my diary more private now, so the stuff that ends up on my blog is the tip of that iceberg.)

Anyway in that time I’ve been thinking about the stuff I’ve been consuming recently, and a lot of it has been people’s homepages – not blogs as such, but homepages (which may incoporate a blog) – and yet again it’s something I find myself enchanted by.

Noah’s Distinctly Pink is a chaotic-yet-ordered collection of hyperlinked words – almost a wiki of their mind.

Evy’s Garden is a neat distillation of various ideas, concepts and mediums* into different rooms.

Meanwhile, Jamie just updated his blog with some updates and rationale that seem very sensible.

* I’m sorry, I know I mean media but it never feels right in my mouth

Noah has helped me want to further the development of a thus far hidden bit of my website which lets me hack together basic HTML pages to see if that’s a process I prefer to, say, using WordPress, or if it will remain a tinkering hobby and not a full standalone site. Crucially, Noah helped me by reminding me of some neat command line tricks for uploading data to a web server.

Evy gave me some ideas for how to present disparate, orphaned content: she has a jukebox that plays random songs she’s recorded, along with brief bits of metadata, and it gave me the idea to do something similar with various field recordings I have collected over the years. And to do it in a way that means inserting a single line of code pointing to a local MP3, and not a Soundcloud link or similar. I struggle with knowing how and where to present various types of content all under one website. I still think about this here website as blog-first, with optional sub-domains to be added as I see fit. But that’s the reverse of a website which also incorporates a blog.

And Jamie highlighted some design and layout choices that he has adapted to suit his blogging style, and – crucially – he has written about those choices, which I find interesting and helpful to read. Reading about a writer/web designer’s choices is a bit like seeing a website you like and viewing the source code – it reveals things that you might not have considered or thought possible/worthwhile. And that can set me off down another path of thought. That path of thought may not lead me to anything… but it just might. Either way, the process of wandering down that path is enjoyable in itself.


There’s a passage in this 2018 piece by Laurel Schwulst that I enjoyed a lot. I liked a lot of bits from the piece, actually, but this one really struck me. It has echoes of Evy’s ‘garden’ metaphor (and possibly I found this piece via Evy? I cannot remember now).

Website as plant

Plants can’t be rushed. They grow on their own. Your website can be the same way, as long as you pick the right soil, water it (but not too much), and provide adequate sunlight. Plant an idea seed one day and let it gradually grow.

Maybe it will flower after a couple of years. Maybe the next year it’ll bear fruit, if you’re lucky. Fruit could be friends or admiration or money—success comes in many forms. But don’t get too excited or set goals: that’s not the idea here. Like I said, plants can’t be rushed.

Website as garden

Fred Rogers said you can grow ideas in the garden of your mind. Sometimes, once they’re little seedlings and can stand on their own, it helps to plant them outside, in a garden, next to the others.

Gardens have their own ways each season. In the winter, not much might happen, and that’s perfectly fine. You might spend the less active months journaling in your notebook: less output, more stirring around on input. You need both. Plants remind us that life is about balance.

It’s nice to be outside working on your garden, just like it’s nice to quietly sit with your ideas and place them onto separate pages.

The notebook

Finishing a notebook is… not exactly a very noteworthy (hah!) event. Or is it? I find it’s far more common to start a new notebook than to finish one. But when you spend four years with the same notebook, you start to think, “Hey…maybe this is it? The one, true notebook? Maybe when this one is done I should… Get another one exactly the same…?”

Shortly followed by “Shit, four years have passed – do they even still make this notebook?”

They do.

Thank goodness.

As I say, I’ve never really had to worry about this before. I’ve had jobs where I’ve been supplied with a succession of the same notebooks. At Network Rail, the stationery cupboard was filled with these lovely ring-bound blue hardback A5 notebooks that I loved. And other jobs have supplied me with big ol’ Black n’ Red notebooks that feel very luxe, but the A4 format is destined only for a desk.

But this thing… It’s A5, with rounded corners. It’s got a soft leather(ette?) wraparound cover with nice off-white pages, and a little inside back cover pouch for odd bits and pieces. It has a bookmark ribbon and an elastic band to hold it closed. And I’ve carted it around all over the place: to the park, to the office, to various libraries and archives. I’ve written in it on trains and in cafes and… even, at my desk.

It started out as a notebook, occasionally becoming a diary (for one or two honest-to-goodness dated diary entries when I suppose I must have felt in the mood to write one out longhand), and it’s filled with things on various topics and in a variety of formats from diagrams, lists, scribbles, and word clouds, to multi-page prose and website mock-ups.

It is, I suppose, the nearest thing I have to a commonplace book.

I’ve often wanted to start a commonplace book. In my head, I’d sit and lick the end of my pencil (okay, not really), then note down the things I’d just learned, carefully indexing the pages to ensure I could return to the subject at a later date.

Nonsense.

I chuck most of that stuff into Google Keep as, nine times out of ten, the note-taking device I have on me is my phone. So most of my thought-vomit is aimed there, where it is (hopefully) searchable later.

So the notebook is a bit more intentional. I take it places. I have rudimentary sections: short wave radio logs; website mock-ups and admin work logs; diary entries, work timetables and to-do lists; opening pages of unfinished (unstarted!) book projects; sketches of imaginary photo book and magazine spreads. And so on. I can flip through it and see little snippets of ideas that never came to be, or concepts that still bubble around in my head from time to time, slowly gathering momentum. Or I can see, almost word-for-word, the introduction to the first edition of my book on Charles Paget Wade that I scribbled down one coffee-fuelled morning.

And here I am, some four or five years on and I am coming to the end of this one. I didn’t date the opening pages, but not far in there’s a diary entry from January 2016. It has held together beautifully, has travelled well, and has even permitted me to tear pages out occasionally to act as quick notelets. I suppose it’s odd that it’s taken me that long to use 150 pages. But it’s been there when I needed it. And I am very glad WHSmith still sells the same model. Especially so as I was able to see old and new side by side, and see how the years have taken their toll on the first one, as well as how neat and tidy and fresh the new one looks.

What adventures we may have. I can’t wait to see what the new one ends up containing.