Blogging with a pen; and a story about words

One of the first lessons I’ve learnt about blogging is that there are two basic requirements of the genre:

1) Something to say

2) An internet connection

Okay, the first requirement is open to interpretation. On the journalism course that I’ve just finished, one of the major complaints (of many) that the course leader held was that the vast majority of bloggers who are supposedly spelling the death of the newspaper fail unanimously on the ‘something to say’, or rather, ‘something to say that is worth listening to’ test. I know I may be a case in point.

But the second requirement is a bit trickier. Last week I moved to a new flat where the internet policy seems to be ‘try to tap into the neighbour’s wireless’. So I now find myself in the cold, dark, medieval off-line netherworld. Which is why these words were written with something called a ‘pen’ on a thing called a ‘notepad’, traditionally the tool of the ‘journalist’.

At this point I could make some poetic remark about the satisfying feel of ink and pulped papyurus, or the physical reality of the handwritten word. But that would be bullshit. Words are words.

Which leads me on to an anecdote. I had trouble with words today. They caused me hassle, and I don’t like hassle. It happened at my part-time job which involves dealing with that dreaded demographic, the general public. It was a member of the general public (albeit an ageing, slightly deranged one) who approched me and asked for a ticket (for I sell tickets). Fine, I could do this. But then he said that he had won some competition last week, or maybe it was two weeks ago, but he hadn’t been able to claim his prize of a free ticket because he’d left to go to the cinema by the time the congratulatory email had arrived.

He then stopped talking abruptly, significantly, waiting for my move. ‘So you won a free ticket but couldn’t claim it?’ I asked. This is where our word-paths diverged. It became unclear whether the man had actually won, or whether he just wanted to make some point about the Catch-22 email-leaving-house quandary. This had gone far enough, so in an effort to get rid of him, I said that if he brought in the email we could give him a free ticket next time. What he said next surprised me. He asked, in all seriousness: ‘Is English your first language?’

Cheeky bastard.

Instead of replying, ‘No actually, it’s Swahili’ or ‘Non, je suis francais’, I laughed awkwardly and said ‘Yes’. That was the end of it. I reluctantly sold him a ticket and he slithered off.

This meaningless anecdote is an example of words not doing their job. Sometimes communication between two highly-evolved human brains just can’t, or won’t happen. You might as well wear one of those antique diver’s helmets and shout in Japanese.

For the record, English is my first language – with a shade of the Fife. I hope my words make more sense to you.

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