Shortlisted: mummy, travel, expat blogger?

To the right of this post, there’s a pink logo which says “BiB” – this is a link to vote for me in the BiB awards – aka Brilliance in Blogging, run by the marvellous website Brit Mums. My category is “GO!”, in other words travel (it’s number seven in a long list). You can also nominate me in the Mads – just click on the pretty icon and then on the “Nominate” tab and fill in the form.

That’s the begging bit over with – if you want to stop reading now, that’s fine. Just so you know: I’ll send the boys round if you don’t vote for me. I know where you live. (If you take that seriously, it’s because you don’t understand English humour. It was a joke. Chill, dude. )

As someone who only does it – blogs, that is – when they get a minute, which isn’t very often, I was very chuffed to get on the shortlist, as there are some great blogs in there. There’s even a school contemporary of mine from 30 years ago.

It got me thinking about how I first started off blogging, back in 2008 (followed by a long break after my second child was born). Like many other journalists, I started blogging simply because everyone else was, so I realised I needed to as well – especially living here in Seville, where there’s so much to write about. It would be mad not to. It’s like getting a laptop, mobile phone, smart phone, Twitter account… you have to keep up (at the back).

One of the main reasons I dragged my heels was because I wanted to be selective about my blog posts – what I wrote about, and how I wrote about it. I find there are some bloggers who will write indiscriminately about anything and everything, and while some of it’s great, some of it *whispers* isn’t that interesting. Having said that, the great thing about blogging is that you can write about whatever you want to; all blogs are different, and they cater to every taste. You’re bound to find something you like out there. And, hopefully, someone out there will like what you write.

As a journalist with 20 years of experience, I’ve always preferred quality to quantity. Which is why I only post about once a week – twice is supposed to be the ideal. (That, and the squidgelet of time available after kids, house, paid work etc.) Less is more with blogging – keep ‘em keen. Remember I write for a living, so my perspective is different; also, I’m fanatical about grammar, which some aren’t. So I won’t read some blogs just becuase the blogger can’t write correct English.

But does all that really matter, you ask? To me, yes. I wince when I see a misused apostrophe. It pains me someone writes “would of” instead of “would have”. That may sound precious, but remember - I write for a living. So maybe other bloggers, who write without any training, deserve to win more than me, as a professional. Or maybe not. We all put in lots of time and effort. And none of us gets paid to write these blogs (apart from promotional or company-sponsored posts, which I haven’t done).

Finding topics for blog posts is never a problem, living here in southern Spain with all its craziness, but another of my struggles at the beginning was: who’s going to be reading this (if anyone)? For many years, I wrote for magazines, which have a specific target audience – we knew where our readers lived, how much they earned, how many times a week they ate out, how often they went on holiday, what level of education they had, what colour their knickers were… (OK, maybe not that).

We knew what to write about, and we could assume our readers’ familiarity (or lack thereof) with the subject, and we knew how they wanted to be treated – gently spoon-fed basic information without being patronized; or spoken to with confidence as knowledgeable/well-travelled/tech-savvy sophisticats.

At first, without a clear idea of who my potential reader was, I just bumbled on about what I’d done – bought a new Feria outfit,  or typical expat topics like the weather and cultural differences.

Then, as I got to know the blogosphere, I realised there are clear categories – including mummy blogger (which is what the aforementioned awards are for), expat blogger and travel blogger. The last two are obviously inter-related, as expats are by nature likely to explore, and the others can overlap too, but trying to straddle all three can get tricky. I read as many blogs as I can from all categories, but never as many as I want to, or feel I should. I’ve found some real gems out there: ones which make my laugh, and dream, and ones which hit me right between the eyes with their acute observations.  The blogging community is very supportive, with advice and suggestions always offered up by fellow bloggers.

As a journalist, I’m used to writing a post, and then editing and re-editing it ad nauseam until I think it’s OK to “publish”. I never just dash it off. And photography is so important now, hence there’s choosing, then fiddling with (wrinkle and cellulite removal, mine, mainly), the images too. However my technical know-how is seriously lacking; plug-ins schmugins. I can’t even embed a video. One of the things on my long list of Ways to Improve My Blog.

Inevitably, I end up blogging in the small hours, as daytime is for paid work and kids. Then, the next morning, I find spelling mistakes in my post and spend half the day correcting and rewriting. Ah, the perils of being a perfectionist. Who works late at night when tired. Not a happy combination.

So if you vote for me, you’ll be voting for someone who blogs for the love of it, risks exhaustion and familial ire for it, has quite strong opinions about it, and isn’t going to come out with insincere platitudes about other people who do it. Warts’n'all – that’s me. Ribbit.

Blog board picture credit

My first blogging award, 2011 in review, and 2012 (eek)

Image

I know I’m a bit late in doing a year review, but it’s still January (by the skin of my teeth), and I haven’t even sent off our Christmas thank you letters yet (written two weeks ago, lost on my desk, then refound a week ago).

MY FIRST BLOGGING AWARDS!

Back in November, I was given this award by fellow Andalucian expat mummy blogger Bibseymama. She is extremely funny and I urge you to read her blog, whether or not you live here, and whether or not you have kids. She has a great way of looking at the world which is guaranteed to make you chuckle.

I was supposed to pass the award on to recently-discovered bloggers. Um, I didn’t quite manage that because *whispers* I don’t get much time to read other bloggers. Although, since Bibsey’s kind award, I’ve started making more effort to read more food and Andalucia ones, and even about food and Andalucia. (Part of this is bloggers’ etiquette, which comes down to simple manners – you comment on my blog, and I’ll comment on yours.) You can find them in the column to the right.

I was lucky enough to get second award that month – Quiero Milk, who writes about her mission to become bilingual – very kindly gave me a Best blog award. And it was even in my favourite colour – pink!

THE BLOG IN 2011

Last year was a busy one for my blog – I did 60-odd posts, including nearly one a day in October, for A Post A Day. I was encouraged (OK, mercilessly harrased) into it by fellow blogger Digamama. That experience was a curious sweet torture - writing and blogging (in other words formatting text, adding photos) which I love, and having to come up with an idea for a post on a daily basis which I found a struggle. But it was a good exercise. I had a loooong break once October was finished. I’ve also been getting more followers, subscribers and comments, which is very exciting and makes it all worthwhile. I love hearing people’s  comments, criticisms and observations. So please, keep ‘em coming!

The blogging highlights for me were getting my new camera (which I STILL don’t know how to use properly); watching a flamenco performance with my close personal friends, the Duchess of Cornwall and the Duquesa de Alba; and cheering the latter on at her wedding (for some reason, my invitation to the marriage ceremony itself failed to materialise. Bloody Spanish postal system). That post was my best performer of the year. Thanks, Cayetana.

THE FUTURE’S… ER…ER….

Looking forward to 2012, which we’re already now a month into, I’ve shied away from having to think too much about what lies ahead. Jobs, economy, the future, pensions – the mere thought makes me come out in a cold sweat and go and find a large bar of chocolate to eat.

The key to (my) sanity.

Many bloggers listed what they wanted to do this year. The only thing I want is for my husband to get a job. Boring as hell, but there we go. Therein lies this family’s economic and emotional stability. My hopes aren’t high - unemployment is predicted to continue heading north - but you never know.

MODEST GOALS FOR 2012

Things I want to achieve this year: read more Spanish books; learn how use my lovely camera properly and take some good photos (my brother’s a photographer, and I’ve always wanted to impress him); cook more home food; tidy up my office.

My flashy camera, of whose controls I can use an impressive 10%. One of my aims this year is to actually (gasp) learn how to use it. Read the instructions, like. Steady, girl.

I like to be realistic – I’m not going to arse on about getting fit, running a marathon, learning Arabic, giving up chocolate, or any such high-falluting nonsense. Cleaning my house more often is about my level of aspiration. Doing more crafts with the kids. Baking the odd cake. KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid).

The Last Post (of APAD)

October is nearly over, which means this whole A Post A Day business is too.

Those of you who are kind enough to subscribe to this blog will be doubtless be relieved to read that your inbox will no longer be inundated with a daily dose near-blog-spam from me. But not as relieved as I am to write of this happy news (I’m conveniently ignoring the fact that I’ve signed up for NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month, when you have to write 50,000 words in one month – starting tomorrow. Cue panicky hysterical laugh.).

I haven’t quite made it to the target of a daily post, although I’ve posted many more days than not, if you see what I mean. Looking at the snazzy new calendar widget I’ve just put on here (see right), which will probably be removed once I’m back to one post a week or so, I’ve only missed four days, which I think is not too bad. And that was mostly because I needed a break from the computer, as did my family, especially my children.

“Mum, why are you ALWAYS WORKING?”

“Mum, STOP WORKING!”

Bad mummy. Tut tut.

Although my husband suffered too. “Not now, darling, I’m writing my blog.” “AGAIN?” I haven’t broken it to them yet that will be tied to this damn machine for hours every day for another month.

So what has APAD taught me? Well, I’ve learned that a) I can put together a post much more quickly than I thought; b) it’s not worth writing a blog post unless you have either something interesting to say, or some decent photos which tell a good story; and c) I need to proof-read my posts more carefully, as I kept finding mistakes in them, having got fed up with endless fiddling about, and impatiently posted them before I’d checked them properly. Sloppy writer discipline. Tut tut.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my regular posts. Well, I hope you’ve opened them, at least. Now they’ll revert to their customary irregularity. And we can all breathe a big sigh of relief.

Happy Halloween!

 

 

Big romeria’s little brother

Perfectly proportioned - tiny pony, tiny cart, tiny passengers.

Three weeks ago, it was our local romeria, the Romeria de Torrijos.

We missed it this year, thanks to an impressive hangover, but today we made it to its little brother, Torrijos Chico. The destination for both events is the Hacienda de Torrijos, which dates back to Moorish times.

Whereas the main event largely consists of women dressed up in their frilly gitana frocks, astride snorting, prancing Arab steeds, at this one the fashion is more informal and country-ish (although there were a few dresses too, especially as worn by little girls – can you blame them?): long, dark-coloured skirts, Cordoban hats (flat crown, wide brim) and brown leather riding boots. Even the men had leather on their legs, in the form of chaps. Tweed, Barbours – think English horse-racing event crossed with fox-hunting meet.

The Barbour set, al estilo Andaluz.

Men's fashion - zajones, or leather chaps. Note the tweed caps - international style language of country gent.

The action consists of groups of friends, the same ones who dressed up in their finery for the romeria a few weeks ago, having a picnic in the same place where they celebrated in early October. Except this time it’s more casual, apparently. For which, read another excuse for another party. This is Andalucia, after all.

They obviously can’t bear the fact that after the main romeria, they have to wait a whole year for another major shindig, so they just do it all again, on a slightly less grand scale, a few weeks later.

Little girls in matching dresses and accessories. "How cute am I?"

I’m not sure if I’m impressed by their stamina or surprised by their extravagance. But then, I guess hard times call for desperate measures – everyone needs to forget their dire economic situation and have an afternoon of eating, drinking and dancing in the autumn sunshine with their friends and family. Or two. Sounds fair enough to me.

What do you do when your old Renault 6 dies? You chop it in half and make it into a horse-drawn cart, of course.

In addition to a couple of the achingly pretty carretas (arched Wild-West style caravans which dominate big Torrijos), we saw carriages (carruajes), ranging from one made from the rear end of a car, to mini carts (carros), to a grand hansom-and-four. Mules, oxen, tiny ponies and gleaming throughbreds made appearances. As always, all ages were represented, with lots of children driving, and riding in, the carts and wagons.

A festive trailer, drawn by oxen. I believe its colour scheme could be accurately described as "gay".

Wagon wheels and pink print fabric - Little House on the Prairie meets Changing Rooms.

A detail I hadn't noticed before: monogrammed tack. Bridle, saddle and other accoutrements were marked with the owner's initials (DG). Love it.

It’s not an Andalucian fiesta without some dancing – these little girls kept the side up. ¡Hasta la proxima!

Doing a quick Sevillana in the middle of the road, as you do.

Another view of Seville

A view of the river, Triana bridge, and the walkway on the other side. I bet you can't guess where it's taken from.

Whose great idea was this Wordless Wednesday? I’d like to shake him/her by the hand.

Why? Because it gives me the opportunity to do a post which is all pictures.

So this week, the last of October’s Post A Day madness, I bring you some unusual images of Seville.

A particpant in the annual marathon. Some Semana Santa pasos feature Roman legionaries. I love the way he's fully armed and ready for battle.

A replica (thanks to Azahar for putting me straight) of the statue - La Giraldilla - which sits on top of the Giralda, the former minaret which is Seville's most famous landmark. It is used when the original is brought back down to earth periodically for a clean-up. A rare chance to get a look at a Sevillana icon. Note her slinky, clingy dress and on-trend gladiator sandals.

The foot of a costalero poking out from under a paso. Their slow, carefully orchestrated movements as they carry statues of holy figures on these ornately decorated platforms are one of the integral features of Seville's Semana Santa. It must be a curiously intimate experience, being in a dark, crowded space with all those other men. But all we can see of them is this shoe.