Dropping of the links

Tuesday May 10, 2005

I lay on the bed, looking up at the ceiling, all rose-coloured from the curtains and with a rainbow-edged streak of brilliance where the sun reflected off the garden pool and blasted against the window. Completely rested, with a clear chest and no joint pain, I felt pretty good. No rush to get up. A good time, perhaps, to examine my present state.

So I reached into the place from whence my poetry generally comes. Completely empty still, like a kitchen fallen into disuse, with the beginnings of cobwebs showing on the handles of cold saucepans.

No joy to be had there, then. What about visuals? I closed my eyes and waited. Nothing. The paintings in my head seem determined to stay, coy and shy, in the shadows, just out of reach.

Oh dear. Nothing for it, then, but to get up and be about the business of the day.

“Come on, Dolly,” I said, giving her an affectionate prod. “Time to dash away the shadows of the night.”

She gave me a glare, stretched, and then curled up, head tucked firmly into tummy.

“Oh, well, be like that.”

So I levered myself into a vertical position, waited a moment for my knees to sort themselves out, and wandered off in the general direction of the coffee jug.

By the time I’d caught up on the news or, rather, snapped it off in disgust and turned the radio on to the BBC’s Radio 3 classical music channel, it was clear to me that I’d have to manufacture some task or other, something to keep me ticking over once I’d finished formatting and uploading the journal entry.

I went into the living room to see if the ‘for sale’ sign had arrived. Nope. I could probably get a kick out of that but the bloke with the post and the big hammer hadn’t turned up yet. Hey ho. When it happens, you never know, I may feel moved to write a paragraph or two about it.

I donned my yard coat and went out to pick up a piece of wind-blown litter I’d seen from the window. Interesting. A chocolate wrapper. Not ours—we almost never eat chocolate. So it must have drifted in, discarded, like as not, from a passing car. I grabbed it with my picker-upper-stick, shoved it in the plastic carrier bag I’d brought out for the purpose, then wandered along the borders, looking for weeds. Not a lot there. Just a few seedlings that soon joined the chocolate wrapper. No dead heading to be done yet. I tied the bag up at the neck and wandered off to drop it in one of the trash bins behind the garage.

That, apart from an evening watering of tubs and hanging baskets, was my yard work done for the day.

Much to Dolly’s disgust I decided to get the daily vacuuming done next. That didn’t take long, either. Nor did the dusting. When you do these jobs every day they occupy less and less time.

“Ah well, Dolly,” I said to the grumpy, lumpish thing that’d just got its act together sufficiently to plod along into the kitchen. “Time for elevenses. You ready for your breakfast?”

That didn’t take long, either. The long hours of the day stretched out in front of me. I’m all slept out now, so I can’t pass the time that way, and reading didn’t appeal either. I did think of taking down my guitar and seeing if my finger joints were up to the task of holding down the strings accurately enough to bang out something loud, mean and noisy. Not today. Perhaps some other day, but not today.

And that was why I settled down to some Mozart on the player and began poking around the innards of my online journal structure, looking for something to improve. I’m still shying away from the job of re-jigging my picture galleries; it’s a big task, requiring many hours of time and effort. I have the time, and I do believe I have the energy, but I don’t have the will for that one.

So I put it on one side and turned to the turgidly routine job of pruning and updating my links, something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. When it’s done, I shall drop the blogroll from the side bar of my front page, speeding up the download time. Blogroll was a wonderful idea, taken up with great enthusiasm by many bloggers. That initial enthusiasm seems to have fallen away now, and the whole system is running slowly and erratically. Not a good sign for long term survival.

I plodded on, examining link after link, reading a good few old friends I’ve not visited for a long time, and mourning the disappearance of others, slipped away into the cyber-dark, some completely, others simply leaving the site up and running but with no updates for months, sometimes years. Rather like dead-heading flowers in the garden, I pruned them all from my list.

Now that so many online journallers have turned over to some form of blogging software, reading through a list of links has become a lot like walking along a bumpy, pot-holed path, slow, slow, and very slow. I have only a dial-up link, and it takes an age, gazing at a blank screen, to wait for many of the blogs to download. The problem is that the software leads the author into lazy habits, leaving days, weeks and sometimes months of entries, and photographs, on the front page before archiving. And the software assembles most if not all of the page before showing it. This takes a long time. Sometimes I have to sit waiting for several minutes, or long enough to get up and pour another cup of coffee. Then, when the page finally flickers into life, as often as not, it hasn’t been updated since the last time I visited.

There’s no need for this. All of the blogging software offerings I have seen have the option to specify how frequently archiving should take place, defaulting to a month. And that’s where most bloggers leave it, without thought for the poor sucker who comes visiting. The archiving interval can so easily be set much shorter, avoiding huge downloads and wasted time for the visitor.

I’ve almost stopped visiting blogs that operate like this, no matter how interesting, amusing or appealing they may be. And many of them are good. Very good indeed. I try to remember to visit once a month so that I can read them in one new chunk. Not entirely practical even then because it can take a long time to read a whole month, longer than I like to sit on a damaged spine in one hit.

So, with regret, I’m trimming those out of my link list, too. Life is too short.

Like I say, I plodded on, checking the links, checking the last update, pruning ruthlessly. It’s going to take me some days at this rate. Not an exciting job, and one that leads to heavy eyelids.

“Lawks, Dolly,” I said. “It’s a quiet time we’re having, to be sure.”

She favoured me with what might have been a fond glance, sighed a mega-cat sigh, and went back to sleep.

Late in the day, I came to realise I’d not seen another living soul, apart from Dolly, the livelong day. So I went back to the living room window to check for the appearance of the ‘for sale’ sign, and to see if there was anyone about. All my neighbours seemed to be shut in firmly for the evening. Even the dog in the garden opposite was missing. Two women were out for an evening stroll along the lane, bundled up in padded coats against the gathering chill, like slow-moving balloons, sparking a smile from me, and a parody of a well-known line:

Looking just a little like a Michelin man…

Gosh, but we really are having a quiet time, Dolly and I. So quiet you can almost hear the links drop.

Photos of house and gardens

Front of house, driveway & garage

Front garden

Back of house, study window to right

Graham’s workshop and rear of garage

Back garden

Side of house, where I sit to watch the flowers grow



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