Saturday, 3 September 2011

A Year in Blogging (Part I) - Why, How & My Favourite Bits

On September 4th last year, I decided to undertake a novel social experiment. I was going to go where I had never thought I'd go. Not only that, but I was going to go to a place which had in the past attracted ridicule from this very place.

Yes, I was going to enter the dark, murky world of blogging.

An Aborted Start
I had in fact made an aborted attempt back at the beginning of 2009, beginning with a blog post on the eve of President Obama's innauguration. But I only managed 7 blog posts over the next 5 weeks before it all dried up. But my Mayoral year in Cardigan from that following May to May 2010 ended up having long-term repercussions that led me to begin properly back in September last.

From Diary to Blogging
The manic Mayoral schedule which saw me complete 460 engagements in 12 months had a negative impact on my diary keeping. Having kept a diary since the beginning of 2002, any semblance of order fell apart as my Mayoral duties took complete control of my free time. As a result, over 7 years of the Cole Diaries came to an abrupt and unexpected end - the final entry being the day of my Mayor-Making in May 2009.

Although I had gently ridiculed my blogging friends in the past, I found in the summer of last year after my Mayoral year had been completed that I now had no outlet for my creative writing tendencies. Although I do not consider myself creative in the general sense, I have always had a passion for writing and whilst the diary was a more structured and in part formal means of communicating my thoughts to paper through the written word, it did nevertheless become a part of my daily routine - usually before I went to sleep.

But having now gone over a year without the diary, the thought of going back to it was not one that appealed to me. I therefore went back to my dormant blog and considered making a proper go of it this time as opposed to the false start of early 2009.

A Year in Blogging
There was no snappy welcome or introduction when I decided to jump into the blogging world properly as a diary substitute. No, instead I was spurred into action as a direct result of Wales' loss in their opening European Championship qualifier to Montenegro with this despairing rant about how Paul Bodin broke my heart back in 1993.

It was a marker for the future. Suddenly, here was an opportunity for me to write creatively about the interests and passions that have made me the person that I am. That means personal blog posts, blog posts about my work as a local Councillor in Ceredigion, blog posts about the Liberal Democrats and politics more generally, blog posts about my homeland in west Wales and blog posts on passions of mine such as sport and music.

I quickly found a rhythm with my blogging as it filled the void that had been left by the loss of my diary keeping. If there's been an urgent issue that has made its name in the news and I have happened to be on-line at the time to comment on it, I've done so there and then. But generally, if I have an opinion, I'll write about it in the evening after a day's work and before bed and will release it at a suitable point in the future. So I've usually got a back-log of a few blog posts waiting to be released as long as they are not time sensitive. I don't know if this is how other bloggers work but it has served me and my time constraints and working schedule, well.

In those formative months, Andrew Reeves was always at the end of a Facebook message, happy to help with any queries that I may have. I am indebted to him for the cheery support and encouragement that he gave to this green blogger still finding his feet in this overwhelming new world.

My Favourite Blog Posts
As I said, it was the opportunity to unleash the creative shackles of writing a formal diary to the more fluid form of blogging that has given me much pleasure over the past 12 months. In that time I have written 383 blog posts - just over one a day on average which almost corresponds directly to my old diary output.

The second part to this blog post which I'll publish tomorrow will cover the year in statistics but it's odd which blog posts prove popular and which don't. There are some that come out of nowhere to become the most widely read. Others which I've poured much love and affection into, are clearly not to the taste of the wider readership. But then, that's half the fun - not knowing which words of wisdom will fly and which will largely be left un-read.

So forgetting the data and the popularity or otherwise of what I have written, here's a small compilation of my personal favourite blog posts.

Losing a Father (Sept, 2009) - My Sympathies with David Cameron on the loss of a father, looking back at that same seminal moment in my life back in 2003.

The Pope and Me (Sept, 2009) - My views on religion as seen through the prism of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to the UK.

A Time for Lib Dem MP's to Rebel (Oct, 2009) - My take on the Tuition Fees Debacle at the outset. As I said then, "There's a time and a place for rebellion - particularly in government. This is most certainly one of them".

The Aberfan Perspective (Oct, 2009) - One of the most poigniant posts that I have written.

My Desert Island Discs Choice of 8 (in Solidarity with Nick Clegg) (Oct, 2009) - An opportunity for me to espouse the virtues of my all-time favourite pieces of music.

My Flirtation with Burma (Nov, 2009) - A personal recollection of an Asian Odyssey to the Bridge on the River Kwai brought on by the release of Aung An Suu Kyi from house arrest in Burma.

"In the name of God, do your duty" - A Tribute to Atticus Finch (Nov, 2009) - An ode to a literary, fictional hero, 50 years after the launch of 'To Kill a Mockingbird'.

Martin Bell, Ceredigion's W.I. and me (Nov, 2009) - My brush with a boyhood political idol (and Ceredigion's W.I.!).

A Homage to Christmas Number Ones (Dec, 2009) - A journey down the weird and wonderful world of some Christmas Classics (and some not so!).

I'd rather be watching the Darts down at the Lakeside... (Jan, 2010) - Realising a boyhood dream.

Jeux Sans Frontieres on S4C (1991-1994) - Wonderful Memories! (Jan, 2010) - Sentimental, childhood nostalgia.

Tesco Vs Sainsbury - Cardigan's Cuban Missile Crisis (Feb, 2010) - A supermarket war in Cardigan and my quotation of Dean Rusk in the Ceredigion County Council Planning Committee!

A Day in the (Cardigan) Life of Cllr Mark Cole (Feb, 2010) - Why I love being a Councillor.

Fianna Fail in Meltdown - Early Irish Election Results (Feb, 2010) - My fascination in Irish politics and history gave me a particular insight into a historic Irish election result.

The Deputy Prime Minister - Putting Ceredigion on the Map (April, 2010) - It isn't every day the Deputy PM comes to Ceredigion you know.

My Top 20 Greatest Sporting Commentary Moments Countdown (April, 2010) - Because I love sport and because I love iconic moments in sporting history.

My Ceredigion and Welsh Lib Dem Assembly Election Review (May, 2010) - Does exactly what it says on the tin.

An AV Referendum Battering? Good (May, 2010) - My blunt conclusion to an AV Referendum mauling.

Dyfed Celt Troops the Colour! ****Photo Special**** (June, 2010) - A proud day as our family's shire horse makes his big Horseguards Parade debut!

A Graduation of Aberystwyth Liberals (July, 2010) - Showing my appreciation to a fab gang of graduating student Liberal Democrat members.

My Weird and Wonderful Lib Dem Family (July, 2010) - Another poigniant post in the aftermath of the shock death of Andrew Reeves and the ties that bind my Liberal Democrat family together.

"Mr Gorbachev, Tear Down This Wall" - Berlin, 50 Years On (Aug, 2010) - A glowing tribute to my favourite world city on the 50th anniversary of the erection of the Berlin Wall.

Memories of my Father (Aug, 2010) - A recall of my father and his love of photography.

As it happens, that brief selection begins and concludes with personal reflections on my father. That is one of the reasons I've enjoyed this past year in blogging. It has given me an opportunity to reflect publicly on what has been a fortunate life to date and all of the myriad different people and places that have touched it.

Tomorrow as I stated above, I'll be releasing my blog stats for the year.

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