Fugitive Time and Shopping in Warrington

Just back from a shopping trip to Warrington, on which more another time, but it reminded me that I haven’t posted on this blog for a while. Life has been getting in the way rather too much for the actual life I am trying to lead – researching, gardening, writing, with innumerable breaks for tea, cake and a middlebrow novel – and I need to get myself back on track.

I decided some time ago that work on my book had become bogged down and that I was merely amassing piles of information as I followed some interesting side-trail. What I needed was Focus and it seemed that the best way of doing this was to turn my book into a research proposal and embark upon a PhD. (As you do.) As each stage of my academic career has been marked by some ridiculously over the top life crisis I was rather reluctant to set the wheels of Fate in motion once more, but went ahead and made enquiries anyway. (Ave, etc. etc.)

Amazingly, I found the right chap at the right place first crack out of the bag but the difficulty now is in finding time for the interview. All my MA work is on obsolete technology (anyone remember those little hard rectangular ‘disks’?) and my potential supervisor, though gratifyingly interested in the research outline I sent, naturally wants to see some academic bona fides beforehand. Earlier in the year, I decided that the way forward was to write some More and Better essays but am now (obviously) looking back at such gay innocence (1930s sense) with the hollow laugh of a Bertram Wooster caught sans Jeeves.

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Writing a Book Proposal for a Publisher

When writing a book, you inevitably feel at some point as though you’re grappling with a large mass of material that’s rapidly getting out of control. I’ve been trying to take a few steps back with my own work, recently, by writing a post outlining my research, how I came to start it and the key points that interest me in comparing the urban development of Warrington and York.

It’s proving a very useful exercise: cutting down my initial 11 pages to just two is helping me focus only on the core elements of my argument; and thinking of what I’m writing in terms of a blog post, rather than an academic essay, is also making me focus on my potential readership.

It was while I was thinking along those lines that I started to wonder what publishers looked for in book proposals and a little internet research threw up these rather comprehensive guidelines from Palgrave Macmillan.

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WordPress versus Blogger

Being on WordPress is very different to being on Blogger: there’s none of the log-on-and-write that is so liberating, and comforting, to novice bloggers and techno-phobes like myself. What it does make you realise, though, is that blogging is a serious format, somewhere along the lines of a press-release or newspaper column, with its own style of writing that must be similarly learnt. I think it’s the lack of physical entity that makes many people rather look down on it, but it seems to me that blogs are merely a technological replacement of the ‘zines of the eighties and nineties (or perhaps another facet; do these still exist?) the next generation of self-publishing. It must be enormously liberating now to be a teenager and instead of endless hours with pritt stick and scissors, and then hawking it round, just pressing ‘Publish’. Or did the physical effort involved impose some kind of discipline; did it weed out those who weren’t prepared to put in the time or had nothing to say?

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The Return of the Native?

Perhaps not so very shortly after all.

It is now February and I have just spent most of the weekend transferring all my previous posts across from my Blogger site to here.  I set up this site when I first started having problems trying to post, and have now transferred everything over to WordPress while I try and work out what the problem is.  I’ve been sidetracked by a lot of annoying issues over the summer and autumn but I’m hoping for a month’s break now to catch up.

I started a post on flood meadows during the very wet autumn; with luck and a following wind I will be able to complete it by next weekend.

Here we are again

I don’t know if any of the original gang is still with us – we seem to have picked up France in October and Poland put her head round the door and quickly withdrew – but to those who are, I can only apologise (again). It’s been a long, long while since I last posted and ‘the summer holidays’ doesn’t really justify such a continued silence, seeing we are now in mid November. I did start a post, somewhere in September, but had to put it aside when Life intervened.

So. Onwards and upwards. Normal transmission will be resumed (very) shortly.

 

‘Building a Community’

One of the things that is continually stressed, in advice on improving your blog for techno-idiots like myself, is the need to ‘be aware of your community’ and to ‘build it up’. To an Englishwoman, and particularly as an Northerner, this smacks of Showing Off and Putting Yourself Forward, both heinous crimes (the Americans are looking at each other in blank amazement here). I suppose it’s the sense of deliberate artificiality, which makes me feel so squeamish about the concept.

However – it may amuse you to know a bit about yourselves and where you’re all from. Perhaps it’s easier if I view it as introducing people at a social gathering.

The largest number of pageviews comes from the UK, as you’d probably expect, though how much of this is me checking paragraph length for smartphone users is hard to say. The USA comes a close second, possibly because there are three towns called Warrington over there, and there was a large American Airbase just outside the UK Warrington at Burtonwood, during the Second World War.

Germany reads regularly, though I think this is just one person, and Russia turned up sometime in June and has stayed with us since. Turkey is the most recent reader – Welcome Turkey! (starting to feel a bit Eurovision here) – but has quickly caught up Russia on pageviews. Spain and the Ukraine browse occasionally and China, Malaysia and the Phillipines have looked in just the once.

So there you all are – scattered across the world, reading about the historic built environment of my home town. It’s a very strange thought, though oddly gratifying.

It would be very interesting to know more about you all; I’m intrigued, in particular, as to what search threw up a blog on regeneration issues in a provincial English town, and what could have led China, Malaysia and the Phillipines to click on one of the posts. Are you ex-pats? Ex-Warringtonians?

I have considered turning the ‘allow comments’ bit on, but not replying to anything posted would be extremely rude and I’m struggling with the correspondence I currently have. So I’m afraid we’re stuck for the moment.

If you’re that interested in the town you may like to look at another blog I came across a while ago – on the Warrington regional dialect. It’s full of all sorts of splendid words I remember from my childhood (‘mithering’, anybody?) which are as incomprehensible as a foreign language to outsiders. (I recall my surprise when my lecturer told the students that ‘slutch’ was an unknown archaic word when we came across it in an 18th century Lancashire text.) For those who want to get an overview of English dialects and accents, as a whole, there is an excellent group of pages on the British Library website that includes audio clips.

 

An Editorial Apology

It has been a ridiculously long time since I last posted and I hope to get back into the swing of things again soon.

I’ve been looking into the background of the New Towns for the next bit of my book (Warrington was part of the third wave in the late 60s) and it’s very interesting to see the extent to which the policies of the time (out of town sites, prioritising of car travel, separation into zones) have contributed to the problems Warrington is facing today. What is even more interesting, to my mind, is the way in which these ideologies are still informing current thinking amongst the town’s policy makers, and that, despite over a thousand years of existence as a settlement, they continue to define Warrington only in terms of the last 46 years.