Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Blogging Jim ... but not as we know it

Blogging, in the sense that most people do it, is contrary to my nature and at odds with most of the writing I've done - or had to do - during my working life. I've always written for an audience I know and understand. That was the essence of writing for the kind of specialist magazines I worked for. Get that wrong and you'd pretty soon be out of a job.

Blogging seemed much more spontaneous and rather random. Firing words off to an unknown audience. Maybe hitting a target ... maybe not. The process worried me.

I wanted to write a blog, but it had to be a blog with rules and a structure. So I turned to plants. They've been a recurring theme throughout my life and whilst I've written for magazines on topics as diverse as caravanning and printing, and outdoor pursuits and town planning, I've always felt happiest writing about plants and on plant related topics.

Blame my parents. They dragged us out on Sunday afternoon walks across what passed for the open countryside in the area between the sprawling industrial waste and housing estates of Wakefield, Dewsbury, Batley and Leeds. We always had our Penguin book of British Wild Flowers with us and we learned what a rich diversity of plants could be found even in such unpromising surroundings.

I don't think it was a 'normal' upbringing in that area. At school when it came to choosing subjects for A level, I said I wanted to do Botany .... and I was the only one. So I did it ... by myself. I couldn't believe how lucky I was. I used to go off for hours "collecting specimens". I had my own area of a lab to do microscope studies and my own windowsill for growing things. And I had a teacher who I used to see for an hour or two a week and the rest of the time I was left to get on with work I was set to do.

I got good marks in the exams and went off to do botany at university. The best I can say about it was that I got a degree. Student politics, beer, parties, writing for the student newspaper and a host of other things all seemed to offer much more excitement than sitting in a lecture room learning about the reproductive structures of liverworts or the biochemical processes involved in photosynthesis.

But the underlying interest in plants never went away. Much later I returned the favour my parents gave me by taking my children out on walks and telling them about the plants - how they worked and some of the stories attached to them. And that's really where this blog has come from. My fascination with the diversity of plants, their place in food, industry, medicine, culture ... and folklore. Why do they have the names they have? ... why do they grow where they do? ... why? ... why?

I'll be looking for some of the answers to those questions, to satisfy my curiosity and, I hope, to stimulate yours. And I'll be looking mainly at the plants I see around me - on our fives acres of rough pasture in Co Clare and in the woods, down the lanes and on the hillsides around us.

It'll be an interesting journey for me. I hope you'll find time to join me.


BT said...

Excellent explanation of your blog Jim. Look forward to more..

DK Leather said...


Thoroughly looking forward to reading your botanical explorations and explanations.


jinksy said...

This is the first blog I've found that enlarges upon its flower photos - great!
As a fairly new Blogland bod myself, I identify with the 'what to blog?' dilemma, but the longer I stay, the more I think the world is your oyster, as far as topic is concerned. Let yourself run riot over the Blogland world, and celebrate the freedom! x