Sunday, 12 August 2012

My absent best reader

I'm not sure how many readers I now have -- I won’t check again until I've resumed a more regular outpouring -- and of course I've never known who they all were. But a number have responded quite regularly, either via published Comments or by email to me. Of these some have been interested in the research about Walworth School that I'm involved with, others in my broader themes of education, English teaching, literature and the arts.

It’s worth mentioning that if people found it easier to work out how to add a Comment to the blog, or could do so without getting a Google ID, more might do it. I don’t know why signing on is necessary: submitted Comments come to me anyway and I decide whether to publish them or not. Those in Mandarin I tend to reject.

Commenting has never taken off big time on my blog and that doesn’t worry me since it’s principally a way for me to keep writing and the responses that seriously make me think and that I can’t not take account of if I'm really, as I like to claim, in search of understanding, tend to come from a few people I know well.

Or knew, because the best of them, Andrew Stibbs, died at the end of last year. Andrew read and responded so faithfully -- by email rather than Comment -- that he became a large part of the ‘envisaged reader’ who I felt I was writing for. I’d reply to him either by email or, without publicly declaring that’s what I was doing, in a further blog posting. The exchange was a continuation of a correspondence that had started in 1959 after we both left school and went to different universities. Andrew knew more than me, about more stuff, and was both cleverer and more creative, including as a painter and poet. I suspect that a large part of the faltering of my blogging over the last few months has been because I've no longer had him to hold in mind as my sympathetic, critical and rightly demanding reader.  I've seriously missed his reactions to my postings.

Another reason, by the way, that I don’t get more comments is that most people haven’t got time to ‘follow’ blogs but only manage to look in from time to time. I know this from my own dealings with other people’s blogs that I admire and enjoy -- I already spend more than enough time on the computer and not enough reading books, full-length ones, from cover to cover. There’s a new blog that I want to read regularly but the author’s productivity is such that I know I won’t keep it up although he’s a terrific writer and his stuff is of great interest and means a lot to me. This person has loads of time: he’s recently retired from a very full-time job that, unlike mine (university teaching and research), affords no way of being continued outside the organisational structure. He’s moved from the city to the remote countryside and he’s on his own all day while his wife is at work. It’s about his current and past life -- Bermondsey, Bexley, other places in London and now Norfolk -- but plenty more besides, a wide range of things a lively mind reflects on. I recommend it: here’s the link:

Incidentally, my exchange with this blogger -- on my side almost exclusively as reader at the moment -- is also a continuation. He and I have been corresponding since, I think, the late 1960s.

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