Every October I start getting weekly reminders from WordPress that my premium plan is about to expire. And, every October and well into late November when the reminders seem to get more pressing and urgent, my heart sinks at the thought of coughing up 90 odd dollars to keep this site going. Not that I resent paying paying for my theme, I like it, the theme that is, but because for the past couple of years I’ve posted so rarely that I wonder if its really worth keeping this site going? But then just as I think I’ll jack it all in, something out of the blue, or something rather surprising and lovely happens that is always a direct result of having kept this site live. Once again, I dig out the credit card, pay up and look big for another year.
Most of you will know that I started writing my stories when we moved to Indonesia in 2011. Holed up in a cockroach invested tower block in the middle of a traffic island on one of Jakarta’s busiest, choked arteries, life as a trailing spouse wasn’t quite the sexy proposition that I’d first thought it might be. At times, the thought of throwing myself off the balcony seemed quite a tantalising option. There were long days to fill and my idea of going on long walks and doing lots of exploring on foot was thwarted because of the chronic pollution and the fact that there are barely any sidewalks. Just scant, broken paving, gaping pot holes and the very real risk of plummeting head first in to an open sewer. Because of the traffic congestion, a journey of say, three miles could take over three hours in a taxi. I began to feel horribly trapped and rather useless.
Irishman then came up with the cunning plan of me writing a blog. I wasn’t very sure what a blog was. ‘It’s anything that you want it to be, Lottie’ ‘You can post photos, write stories, absolutely anything’. The next morning, instead of sobbing, I started to write. The words poured out and I found the process quite cathartic and pleasurable. It was exciting pressing the publish on my first post and soon I started to gain followers and people started to leave comments. And, it was one of the very first comments left on one of my early blog posts that inspired me to write about our sojourn in Jakarta in the way that I did.
‘You’ve got to accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don’t mess with Mister In-Between’ (Bing Crosby)
The penny bounced. Cockroaches, my pathological hatred of squat n’ drop toilets, bouts of gut wrenching, arse blowing dysentery could now all become perfect fodder for my blog posts. Who wants to read about perfect lifestyles anyway? I wouldn’t eliminate the negatives, instead I’d turn them in to positives and that’s what I mostly wrote about for the two years we lived in Malaria Mansions.
The enjoyment and pleasure that I found writing about our adventures, continued when we swopped continents and moved to Spain. A new life in a country that I’d only visited twice before, there was certainly plenty that amused me. Moreover, with no plumbing inside our house and buckets in lieu of a toilet, there was still opportunity a’ plenty to vent my childish toilet humour. In short there was a wealth of things to write home about until that is, I realised that I could start to run into trouble if I wanted to write about people. I come a bit unstuck if I can’t include other people in my stories. Stories need characters but I don’t want to risk opening up a can of worms if I write about the folk around me. In writing, you can disguise people as much as you like but there’s always the risk that either they or someone that knows them will read what you’ve written and recognise some quirk, some feature that points the finger and says loud and clear ‘Ooh, I’m pretty sure that’s what’s his name down the road that she’s writing about’
and we can’t be having that, can we? My memory is like a sieve for many things, but when it comes to characters, people, or things that will make a good story, I’ve got them all carefully stored away up there in what’s left of the grey matter, a waiting the opportunity to be given new life on the page. Maybe one day I shall give myself a fancy nom de plume, spill the beans and write a book.
You may be wondering where this particular story is leading (and at one point, truth be told, so did I) There’s been rather a lot of back pedalling and going over old ground but its important for the context and the clue lies in the first paragraph. ‘I wonder if its really worth keeping this site going?But then just as I think I’ll jack it all in, something out of the blue, or something rather surprising and lovely happens that is always a direct result of having kept this site live’.
Therein lies the answer. There have been many positives and lots of benefits from starting this blog. In the early days it was a life saver, quite literally. Absorbed in the act of writing, and later doing research and writing articles for online magazines kept me busy. When I wasn’t writing or thinking up stories, I started following and commenting on other folks blogs. I soon found that that there’s a whole world out there of people that I have quite a bit in common with. Having online friends is one thing but actually meeting them in the flesh is another. I’ve lost count of the people that I’ve got to meet through this blog and the opportunities that have presented themselves to me by dint of keeping it going.
This particular post, only the second one that I’ve written this year may have cost me 45 dollars but its worth every penny because if I hadn’t started blogging, I would never have met one of the loveliest, kindest women in the world, my soul sister in California. I doubt very much that before my blog we ever would have had two offers to appear on television, one for an American show and another for a UK tv series, which we took part in and have subsequently been filmed in again for the next series. If it wasn’t for meeting a complete stranger who had read my blog and got in touch with me, I wouldn’t have been invited to take part in a radio show here in Spain, nor would I have been asked to illustrate a book cover for the fabulous American author, Martha Reynolds. Not least all the wonderful and inspiring people that we’ve met up with over the past six years because of The Rioja Diaries.
So, thank you, Irishman. Telling me to write a blog wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
My illustration is for the book, Villa Del Sol by Martha Reynolds. available today on Amazon, You can buy your copy here https://www.amazon.com/Villa-del-Sol-Martha-Reynolds/dp/1977819621