Category Archives: Blogs

My surprising top ten blogs of last year

(Photograph by Ariane Sherine)

I started this blog in 2010 and it is usually referred-to as a “comedy blog” but, just out of quirky interest, here is a list of what were my Top Ten blogs in terms of hits last year.

This list is obviously more a reflection of who my readers are than anything else…

1) Where the Kray Twins gangster film “Legend” got it all so very badly wrong

2) The practicalities of putting your head in a gas oven: my 2nd suicide attempt

3) Krayzy Days – Why London gangster Ronnie Kray really shot George Cornell inside the Blind Beggar pub in 1966

4) What the REAL Swinging Sixties were like – gangsters and police corruption

5) Hello to the Bye Bye Girls – Ruby Wax’s offspring – two Siblings on the Fringe

6) Creating a Legend – The Krays and the killing of ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell

7) What it is like to be on the jury of a murder case at the Old Bailey in London

8) Why Chris Tarrant’s TV show OTT was taken off air – a naked Malcolm Hardee

9) Edinburgh Fringe, Day 12: How to destroy a comedy career & other news

10) The death of an Italian archaeologist who knew so many 20th century secrets

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Bloggers are really just desperate self-publicists… including me in this blog

You know you have lived too long when students think you know what you are talking about.

Yesterday, I was approached by a student who was writing an essay on “blogging as a means of journalism”. I told him I did not think of myself as a journalist. He did not agree. This is an edited version of the exchange.


– Do you consider yourself a journalist or any bloggers for that matter? If not, what do you think makes a journalist?

The fact you can ask the question implies the words ‘journalist’ and ‘blogger’ have different meanings. I don’t consider myself a journalist. Bloggers are certainly not news journalists – if they ‘break’ stories and report instantly on current news stories, it is not really a blog; it’s a news site. You could argue they are neo-magazine journalists providing comment and background.

Most bloggers are amateur dabblers and/or wannabe writers who want a voice in a world where they have none.

I started my blog to publicise a movie. Then to publicise stuff I was staging at the Edinburgh Fringe. It continued as self-publicity. If I were up my own arse, I might also say it preserves details of people in sub-cultures that might not otherwise be preserved. But it’s basically lightly-disguised self-publicity.

A good journalist is concerned with objective facts (whether reporting on them or commenting on them). A good blogger is usually more personal and ego-centric in style.

Some bloggers, of course, are frustrated wannabe journalists so the dividing line is muddy.

Personally, whether it’s a correct dictionary definition or not, I make a distinction between a newspaper report and reportage. I think a journalist/reporter’s piece has immediacy – you have to read it today or tomorrow for it to have any impact. Reportage (like George Orwell’s factual books and essays) can be read just as effectively years later. I would say Orwell’s Homage To Catalonia or Down The Mine are pieces of reportage by a writer, not journalism. Today, they could be written in the form of blogs.

– Do you feel any external constraints as a blogger? Do you ever feel under pressure to say specific things (or not say specific things) to protect people or yourself?

I do not generally write anything which, in my opinion, could legally, physically, professionally or personally damage people. I do not feel any pressure to say specific things and I do not give the subjects of my blogs copy approval in advance. My blogs are mostly interview-based and I record everything so I cannot mis-quote.

If – rarely – I want to disguise a person or a fact (eg if an unprosecuted or unknown crime or something ‘immoral’ or ‘embarrassing’ is involved) I will sometimes – very very VERY rarely – alter the name, geographical location or, if possible, the sex of the person involved. It means I can still tell the truth about the event itself but the person cannot be identified.

I have only done this less than a handful of times over eight years.

Altering the person’s sex totally throws people off any recognition.

– Has your blog ever been censored?

Only by me for reasons above.

I used to re-post a few of my blogs in the Huffington Post. I did once write a blog about rude words and discussed the use of the word “nigger” which is interesting because it is mostly completely unacceptable but IS acceptable from some people (eg Eddie Murphy, Quentin Tarantino) – and, in The Dam Busters movie, a dog vital to the plot is called Nigger, which was inoffensive at the time but is now worrisome to TV stations.

The Huffington Post would not publish the piece, although the word was solely being discussed as an abstract word.

– Do you ever have any issues in terms of libel or slander when writing your blog? Does it worry you sometimes that someone will ever take legal action against your opinions?

No. I worked for BBC Ceefax (part of BBC TV News) and briefly in the newsrooms at Anglia TV, Granada TV and ITN. So I am careful.

If anyone threatened me with a libel action, I would go to court, defend myself (because, in England, lawyers have no incentive to win minor cases – they get paid anyway – and the legal system has nothing to do with justice) and publicise the shit out of it to get more awareness of my blog.

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The continuing fascination with suicide

suicideblogI have written this blog since May 2010 and I have a rough idea how the hits on it work.

On the day I post a blog, it gets big hits.

Slightly less hits the next day.

By the third day, the hits have pretty much stopped.

After that, pretty much – nothing.

Only rare, sporadic hits.

So I find it interesting that, almost every day, one particular blog I wrote pretty much two years ago – on 15th January 2015 – is still getting daily hits.

Not big hits in any way. Small numbers. But steady hits.

The blog was headlined:

THE PRACTICALITIES OF PUTTING YOUR HEAD IN A GAS OVEN: MY 2nd SUICIDE ATTEMPT

These are the figures for hits over the last fortnight. They seem fairly steady. The fact there are any at all for a two-year-old blog is extraordinary. The fact that they are regular and fairly steady is interesting.

Sunday 20th – 38
Monday 21st – 23
Tuesday 22nd – 22
Wednesday 23rd – 12
Thursday 24th – 15
Friday 25th – 26
Saturday 26th – 29
Sunday 27th – 38
Monday 28th – 46
Tuesday 29th – 28
Wednesday 30th – 34
Thursday 1st – 68
Friday 2nd – 59
Yesterday – 39

I have no idea what this means sociologically, but it must mean something.

The blog is HERE.

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Missing blogs, John Gielgud’s gay porn, James Bond’s toilet and Tony Hancock

John fleming - shocked look

Typical reaction to WordPress’ efficiency

My daily blog has not appeared for a couple of days because WordPress, which hosts it, had some technical problem which meant it was impossible for me to save or post anything. And, even if you pay them, they do not provide Support – you have to post on user forums with no guarantee of any response from anyone.

Giving them grief on Twitter seemed to have some slight effect – eventually. To a partial extent. I got this message:

Let us know if we can help with anything! Here’s how to export your content and take it with you.

I replied:

It might have been useful if WordPress could have sorted out the technical problem which means I cannot post any blogs. I might have thought WordPress would be more concerned with their software not working rather than helping people to leave.

After WordPress getting more Twitter and Reddit grief orchestrated by this blog’s South Coast correspondent, Sandra Smith, I got some reaction from a WordPress ‘staff’ member (whom you apparently can’t contact normally) – which was minimal and apparently transient, as I have heard no more from him.

But, about three hours later, when I tried again, the problem had disappeared. I had changed and done nothing. So I can only assume WordPress corrected the fault and never bothered to tell me.

As Facebook Friend Alias Robert Cummins succinctly put it: WordPress is amazingly shit, in all sorts of tiresome and complex ways, which I’d really rather not go into this late in the evening.

That is his real name, by the way – the one he was given at birth – Alias Robert Cummins. It is a bizarre story and one probably worth a blog at some point.

Anyway, the problem was eventually solved (I hope it has been, anyway) with the help not just of Sandra Smith but also the excellent cyber-guy and indefatigable Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show person Stephen O’Donnell.

John Ward toilet accessory with gun, silencer and loo roll

John Ward’s toilet accessory has a gun, silencer and loo roll

In the two days of missing blogs and navel-gazing, the world still turned, with John Ward, designer of the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards getting some publicity in Lincolnshire of all places because today the James Bond film SPECTRE is released and, a couple of years ago, John designed a combined gun-rack and toilet paper holder.

He used to own a gun licence himself: something that never made me sleep easy in bed.

When no new blogs were being posted the last couple of days, the old one getting most hits was last Wednesday’s blog, about David McGillivray’s new short film of a previously un-produced gay porn script Trouser Bar written in 1976 by Sir John Gielgud.

David Mcgillivray (left) during the filming with Nigel Havers

David McGillivray (left) during the filming with Nigel Havers

The film (still in post-production) includes performances by Julian Clary, Barry Cryer and Nigel Havers. One blog reader user-named ‘Ludoicah’ commented:

I’d say with a cast that includes Nigel Havers and Barry Cryer that there is zero chance of this being any sort of a porn film, gay or otherwise, and it is probably, at most, a mildly risqué sketch.

To which David McGillivray replied:

Incorrect. It’s utter filth, liable to deprave and corrupt. I was blindfolded while I was producing it.

Sir John Gielgud’s script was inspired, it seems, by his love of men in tight trousers, particularly trousers made from corduroy.

Last Thursday, the day after my blog on the film appeared, the following was posted (with photo) on Trouser Bar’s Facebook page:

Trouser Bar still - corduroy trousers

Trouser Bar still – corduroy trousers un-creamed by Sir John

I’ve just seen the rough cut. Sir John would have creamed his corduroy jeans at this close-up.

It also quoted Sir John’s letter to Paul Anstee of 19th October, 1958:

“The students at the schools and universities [in Pennsylvania] are a wonderful audience, and a good deal of needle cord manch is worn (very badly cut, and usually only partly zipped!) so my eyes occasionally wander.”

Also posted on the Trouser Bar Facebook page was this quote from a Galton and Simpson comedy script for Hancock’s Half Hour in 1958:

Sid: “Hilary St Clair.” 

Tony: “Hilary St Clair? I bet he’s all corduroys and blow waves”

with the comment:

Even in the 1950s it seems that corduroy was associated with homosexuality.

All this, plus a photo on my blog of Sir John Gielgud with Sir Ralph Richardson in Harold Pinter’s No Man’s Land, made Anna Smith – this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent – ask::

I wonder what kind of porn Ralph Richardson wrote?

and to mention:

Tony Hancock. Is this the face of a 1950s criminal?

Comedian Tony Hancock – Is this the face of a 1950s criminal?

I bought a Tony Hancock album last week at a junk shop. A woman wondered to me whether he was a criminal.

“He wasn’t a criminal,” I said, a bit annoyed. ”He was a comedian!”

“He looks like a criminal,” the woman countered, doubting my certainty.

“It was the 1950s,” I said, exasperated. “Everyone looked like a criminal back then.”

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How to actually write a blog – maybe

Blogs - a crowded market

Blogs – a crowded market

I started writing this blog to publicise something I had done and now it is still partly that, partly self-publicity.

Occasionally, people mistakenly think I know what I am doing and ask me my advice.

For example, my chum Doireann.

Doireann
I would love to start a blog or just write in some way as a daily thing. I find writing therapeutic – it feels a bit like a ‘conversation with the universe’ combined with a reviewable record of thoughts and experiences that I often find useful for working out what’s going on in my head. I write intermittently and sometimes read back over stuff I wrote years ago. I have hundreds of half-used notebooks I’m not ready to throw out.  Writing on a computer is so much better. I feel I’d like to write creatively more regularly. Maybe I’ll do a little course on it. Did you study writing at all?

John
No. Don’t do any writing course. You can write/are writing perfectly already. If you think there are rules, you won’t be original. Never think of being ‘a writer’. It will end in adopting a fake style. Just communicate thoughts and ideas. Never think of yourself as ‘a writer’. Just a communicator. A written chatter.

Doireann
That’s reassuring to me!  I think I will never think of myself as a ‘writer’. I only want to think of myself as someone who loves to write – but by that I mean I want to share ideas and converse and hope for responses/interaction or maybe just insight. I worry that I haven’t got ‘craft’ but, when I argue with myself about it, I sometimes conclude that writing for me is about trying to send something personal out with the hope of feeling understood and connected, even if my voice is flawed and silly. Having someone to listen (even if only an imagined someone) gives me a sense that I am not alone.

I do worry that what I write is narcissistic and of poor quality. What you say gives me hope that maybe what I want to do is actually OK. I still worry that I’d come across as a self-obsessed ass. It doesn’t feel like I just want to go on about myself. I genuinely love people and find them fascinating. Thinking and writing about people and their lives calms me down and gives me perspective. Whatever about that, I do find it hard to push past the fear of being thought of as stupid and selfish with nothing interesting to say.

John
People want to read about people… that’s what I tell people writing autobiographies… It ain’t about the facts; it’s about emotions and people. No-one wants to read a list of the thousands of things that happen to someone every day. So choose something that encompasses and exemplifies what you feel at a particular point.

It took me about a year to get a feeling for what my blog was about.

No point testing it out privately. You have to leap in, expect the worst and hopefully good reactions will happen.

My advice is never think of you as writing something (a writer); think of yourself as if you are the reader – You are seeing the words you write appear on the page as you write them, knowing none of the background you yourself know. You are simultaneously the reader AND the writer and you are totally ignorant as the reader. All you know is what appears on the page as you write it.

Doireann
This feels better – thinking about myself as the reader. I’m probably only talking to myself anyway!

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The UK’s Funniest blogger?

The UK’s Funniest Blogger trophy

The potential UK’s Funniest Blog trophy

Yesterday, So It Goes – the daily blog you are reading, in case you have forgotten or stumbled on this – was shortlisted in a vote for the UK’s Funniest Blog.

This took me a little by surprise because, although I have myself been known to call this a “comedy blog” for publicity purposes, I have always seen it as part-humorous, part melancholic and part-nihilistic.

Clearly no-one has actually read my blogs about suicide, psychosis, crime, murder and the general mental instability of comedians and how corrupt the British police are…

Kurt Vonnegut’s novel

So It Goes: Tralfamadorians said it first

I think there might be a slight hint in the title SO IT GOES that this may not be a laugh-a-minute blog. The name, of course, comes from the repeated refrain in Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five. It is what the inhabitants of the planet Tralfamadore say whenever someone dies.

The full title of Vonnegut’s novel is: Slaughterhouse-Five, or The Children’s Crusade: A Duty-Dance with Death, by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., a Fourth Generation German-American Now Living in Easy Circumstances on Cape Cod (and Smoking Too Much), Who as an American Infantry Scout Hors De Combat, as a Prisoner of War, Witnessed the Firebombing of Dresden, Germany, the Florence of the Elbe, a Long Time Ago, and Survived to Tell the Tale. This is a Novel Somewhat in the Telegraphic Schizophrenic Manner of Tales of the Planet Tralfamadore, Where The Flying Saucers Come From.

On the opening page, before the novel starts, there is a quote:

The cattle are lowing
The Baby awakes
But the little Lord Jesus
No crying He makes

Kurt Vonnegut died in 2007.

So it goes.

Obviously.

I read Slaughterhouse-Five before 1991, when I was hit by a truck.

I Stole Freddie Mercy’sBirthday Cake

Malcolm Hardee’s autobiography, which I wrote for and with him in 1995

Since 1991, I have not been able to read books. I can write them, but I can’t read them.

That’s funny.

Peculiar.

Maybe the nomination is for Funny Peculiar rather than for Funny Ha-Ha.

Other nominees in the Funniest Blog shortlist this year include genuine comedians Janey Godley and Tony Cowards.

Personally, I have voted for Janey and I recommend you do too.

Nothing against the talented Tony. But Janey is my chum and The Scotsman correctly called her “Scotland’s funniest woman,” while the Daily Telegraph called her “the most outspoken female stand-up in Britain” and Billy Connolly simply said: “She is a fucking great comedian”.

Who am I to contradict Billy Connolly on matters of Funny Ha-Ha?

You can vote for Janey HERE.

Voting closes on Monday 23rd March 2015.

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My worldwide blog statistics

Pencil_CUTIt will be interesting to see what the number of hits are on today’s blog, as it is a blog about the number of hits on this blog.

People seem to assume, when they suggest blogs to me to publicise themselves or their shows that this is a comedy blog (it is not wholly, as I mentioned last week) with a readership mainly in London (which it certainly is not).

I assume that my blogs will mostly be read on the day of posting or a few days later, but they could well be read in five years time and readers may not be from the six main ‘British-cultured’ countries – the UK, Ireland, US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

But today I realised, looking at the statistics, that Germany has featured quite highly in the last month and I have no idea why, because I don’t think there has been anything of particular Germanic interest included.

Below are this blog’s ‘Top Ten’ countries, by hits.

On the accompanying maps, the biggest-hitting countries are of a darker colour and countries registering no hits whatsoever are white in colour. I clearly have to find something to blog about which may be of interest to people living in Greenland and Spitsbergen and to pull up my socks in Africa.

The explanation for the appearance of India in the last list is because of the demise of the much-lamented (by me) Indian website We Speak News to which I used to contribute.

At least Iceland is dependable, even if Spitsbergen hates me.

BlogStatistics_7days

… in the last seven days

MOST HITS IN THE LAST SEVEN DAYS
1  United Kingdom
2  United States
3  Germany
4  Australia
5  Canada
6  France
7  Ireland
8  New Zealand
9  Japan
10 Italy

BlogStatistics_30days

… in the last 30 days

IN THE LAST 30 DAYS
1  United Kingdom
2  United States
3  Canada
4  Australia
5  Germany
6  France
7  Ireland
8  Netherlands
9  Italy
10 Spain

BlogStatistics_Quarter

… in the last Quarter

IN THE LAST QUARTER
1  United Kingdom
2  United States
3  Canada
4  Australia
5  France
6  Ireland
7  Germany
8  Netherlands
9  Italy
10 New Zealand

BlogStatistics_1year

… in the last year

IN THE LAST YEAR
1  United Kingdom
2  United States
3  Canada
4  Australia
5  Ireland
6  Germany
7  France
8  Netherlands
9  Sweden
10 Spain

BlogStatistics_3years

… in the last three years

IN THE LAST THREE YEARS
1  United Kingdom
2  United States
3  Australia
4  Canada
5  Ireland
6  Germany
7  France
8  Netherlands
9  Spain
10 India

Just for the sheer hell of it, below are the source of this blog’s hits yesterday, an average Saturday. Good news for comedy critic Kate Copstick; bad news for me from Greenland and Spitsbergen.

UK, US, Germany, Australia, Canada, Ireland, France, New Zealand, Japan, Italy, Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Poland, Spain, Finland, Norway, India, Thailand, Russia, Turkey, Mexico, Denmark, Israel, Czech Republic, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Philippines, Indonesia, Greece, Iraq, Iceland, Argentina, Romania, Sri Lanka, Belgium, Hong Kong, Uganda, Brazil, Slovakia, Kuwait, Colombia, Algeria, Serbia, Vietnam, Portugal, Malaysia, South Korea, Costa Rica, Tunisia, Ghana, Kenya, Austria, Venezuela, Liechtenstein, Pakistan, Albania, Singapore, Bulgaria, Nigeria, Ukraine, Estonia, Jordan, Bolivia, Guam, Antigua & Barbuda, Puerto Rico, Bahrain, Hungary, Lebanon, Egypt, Myanmar, Lithuania, Croatia, Slovenia, the Ivory Coast, Luxembourg.

If anyone would like to tell me what life is like in Myanmar or Luxembourg at the moment, I would be interested to know. Or even moreso in Greenland and Spitsbergen.

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