59steps – Three Years On
It’s coming up to three years since 59steps crept on to the internet. Since then I have posted 335 articles – well over half a million words, most of them mine.
I would be the first to admit that the content on 59steps is an acquired taste – well actually, many acquired tastes! That’s because I write about whatever interests me at the time, and my interests are pretty wide.
If I was writing this blog to make money, I would probably focus on a specific subject area – say, the Middle East – so that visitors would know the kind of content on offer whenever they visit. But that’s not what I do. Long-suffering followers of this blog know by now that not everything I write about will hit their particular spot, unless their interests are a perfect match for mine.
I don’t bother with search engine optimisation techniques, I don’t host advertisements, I don’t set out to appeal to anyone or any interest group. I just write.
I get huge satisfaction from writing. I’ve written throughout my career for one purpose or another, including print publication. But blogging is different, because it’s a two way thing. Whenever someone posts a comment, I reply (well almost always – I don’t respond to gobbledygook and ranting). And every time someone likes a piece or subscribes to the site, I look at their site, if they have one.
I’m not so good at acknowledging every like and sign-up, though I do sometimes post a message when I like what they do. In that case it’s not a courtesy – it’s genuine. But I do genuinely appreciate it whenever someone shows an interest in what I write.
Apart from the pleasure of writing, another joy is the serendipitous connection. A couple of years ago I posted three excerpts from my grandfather’s World War One diaries. He was at the heart of one of the most vicious battles of the war – Passchendaele. More recently I read one of my late father’s books on that very subject, In Flanders Fields, by Leon Wolff. It was written in 1958, and included a foreword by one of the British generals involved in the battle.
What made the book special was that I was able to match the diary with the timeline of the battle. The places my grandfather mentioned suddenly had new meaning. So did the events he described from his limited perspective as commander of an artillery battery. The mole’s eye view suddenly gelled with the big picture.
Then last week something happened that was only possible because of those diary posts. I acquired a new cousin.
A genealogist who was preparing a family tree for a friend in Melbourne, Australia. He posted this comment on one of the diary posts, the Dead of Fromelles:
“Hi Steve, I’ve sent you an email about Harry HICKSON. After reading this page, where you mention your Grandfather Harry HICKSON working with the White Star Line around 1912, I now know that your Grandfather is my friend David’s Great Uncle, as David has related the family info from his side of Harry HICKSON and the White Star Line, including a story about Harry concerning the ill-fated Titanic. Please get in touch so we can then share some family information. I look forward to hearing from you. Cheers for now, Neil”
A couple of emails back and forward established that yes, David and I were second cousins. He came from a branch of my family whose antecedents, from my end at least, were poorly documented. Neil then sent me a family tree that went back to the 18th Century – a whole stack of relatives I never knew existed. And of course I reciprocated with family pictures, updates on Harry’s descendants and a copy of the diaries. The dialogue is ongoing! All because I put some diaries in a blog.
Then there’s the pleasure of reaching people with a vast array of interests across the world. I’m constantly surprised at why they should be interested in the stuff I write. And occasionally another blogger opens up another world for me. A good example is http://thisdaythissong.wordpress.com/. The blogger is somewhere in Catalonia. He or she posts a song every day. In recent years I haven’t listened to a lot of new stuff. But I spent an hour listening to the songs on the site, and was amazed by the quality of the songs and videos on show. What was even more amazing was that I had never heard of any of the artists concerned.
I’ve also made the acquaintance of a number of fine authors whose work I have reviewed – far better writers than me, yet not so high in the literary stratosphere that they are not prepared to swap the odd email.
In recent months other visitors have included a guy who creates stories from paragraphs contributed by visitors, a lady in California promoting a sun screen, an estate agent in Patna, India, a Filipino logistician working in Oman, a poet from Burma, a menswear designer and a search engine specialist from the UK, a cousin-in-law in Sydney, a cartoonist and trainee opera singer from Canada, an Australian/Lebanese chef, a social commentator from India, a conference organiser from Dubai, a foodie social media manager from London, a photographer from Cincinnati, a blogger on Africa, a writer from North Carolina, a consultant from Canberra, a literary website from the UK, a photographer from Canada, a political blogger from Pakistan, an online novelist, an online marketer from Canada, an online fundraiser, a map fanatic from England, a novelist from Calcutta and a whole host of other travellers, obsessives, writers, axe-grinders and yes, ordinary people like me who just like reaching out to the world.
And what fun it is when the world talks back!
Thanks everyone, and keep visiting….