The Opera House in Sydney, photo taken from Quay restaurant

The Opera House in Sydney, photo taken from Quay restaurant

Hello there! Pull up a seat. How has everything been with you? Where have I been? Oh…

I really don’t like reading blogs that apologise for their absence. Why? This isn’t a newspaper, I don’t have an editor, I blog when I can and when I want to, and I would love to blog more. It becomes difficult though, when external pressures (book writing, bacon boxes, travel and other work that pays the rent and keeps me in Gremlins t-shirts). And here I am apologising, it seems. I just can’t help myself.

I am the sole writer here, and it will always be that way. That does limit content, and that is ok, as I am a big ole control freak, and I want everything to be just so and exactly as I saw it in my brain. Plus, this isn’t a place for food and travel stories, it is a place for my food and travel stories. I want to keep it that way. Ahem.

Blogging is a funny animal. When I started there was a few, and now there are a lot, which is great. But, I feel that there are a lot of people outside of blogging who want to define what a good blog is without maybe understanding blogging at all, and that creates pressure for bloggers (including me), when it shouldn’t.

It feels like lots of people are trying to own and control blogging from the outside, and I agree that there should be rules and strict ethical standards (which most bloggers I know do adhere to, if unofficially). It feels that the sometimes toxic conversation that surrounds it, and I say toxic because I always see that a certain small slice of protagonists use stories surrounding (usually) A. New. Blogger. who has wildly misbehaved (and yes, it is appropriate that they are called out for it), to define blogging as a whole. Added to this, usually these people don’t have many readers at all, and all the press does is draw attention to them, put them on a pedestal, and increase their readership.

With regard to ethical standards, for the record (and I have said this before, and many times) sponsorship, advertising etc are all fine (as they are for traditional press), but you must declare it and be transparent on your blog (and that goes for both sides). Most do. Readers follow because they trust the writer and like what they have to say, or how they say it. Once that trust is broken, they are gone.

The whole us and them thing is tragic and unnecessary. We do different things, in the main. I have many friends who are bloggers, but also journalists and editors too. Hey, I even have friends in PR! (And that is ok, too, you know). We all co-exist happily. For every one cowboy blogger, there is an equivalent journalist (rarely for the nationals, but they are there), and there are hundreds of diligent bloggers, just cooking and writing away, or secretly and speedily photographing their dinner. For them it is their outlet, their sanctum after their horrible day in the office, as it was for me.

I would like us to step off the merry-go-round and step back a bit and recognise the great passionate bloggers who are doing wonderful things that people never shout about. You just don’t know about them yet, or are wilfully ignoring them to prove your cause. And I am sorry if this has been discouraging for all of the newer bloggers out there, I am only starting to recognise that it was discouraging for me too. To the critics, I see your points, but please do consider that blogging (writing or reading) isn’t for you, and that is fine. Please just ignore it then, and get on with your day. I am so tired of the negativity. It is exhausting.

From an opposite angle, and this may sound like a contradiction, there are now many awards from established media that declare (unofficially) that good blogs behave in certain ways and do certain things. This is a good thing in many respects, they raise the profile of quality blogging and help to raise standards. I am very grateful for any that I have received, particularly from the OFM, a publication which I read and respect (and who, I believe, do it right).

However, I feel that sometimes some of these folks who declare this THIS-IS-A-GREAT-BLOG-AND-THIS-IS-HOW-YOU-DO-IT, don’t understand the diversity of blogging, or that a blogger needs to have a broader range (bloggers use text, photographs, illustrations, video etc), which requires a continually expanding set of skills, and can be imperfect, and that is ok. Often, it makes it better. (Now that I have read this for the twentieth time, I am seeing that this is just what happens, as blogging becomes more mainstream. And yes, at least twenty). But it is something that I have had to deal with, and that has bothered me. I have felt the pressure to change what I do to meet their requirements, or to feel that maybe what I do is no longer as good as it was. I now see that this (this being my reaction) is nonsense, and destructive, but I doubt that I am alone here, so I wanted to share this too. Rarely addressed is that blogging evolves, and that it needs to. In relative terms, it is a very new medium.

I have been thinking a lot about this lately – too much – which may also be a little (actually, I am now realising, that it is a lot) responsible for my hiatus. I have come to realise that none of this should matter, and it certainly shouldn’t bother me as much as it has done. My blog has always been my space, an hour or two every evening, where I typed after I cooked, or travelled, and shared, where I felt happy and removed from everything that might be bothering me. It hasn’t felt like this lately. I need my blog to be once more as random and life embracing as it was and was always intended to be. I do understand that a larger audience brings responsibility (an audience of one does too, in my opinion), but it shouldn’t kill the fun now, should it? And the audience is the best bit, on the occasion that they talk to me ;) (ahem, yes that is you).

So, I am ignoring everything and allowing this blog to just be. Allowing it to run away with itself, sometimes be silly, to play a little with video, imperfectly, and without worry. To exist in its own moment and not worry about what anyone thinks. I am over worrying about perfection, I never used to, and I think that this blog was always the better for that. When I started worrying about perfection, I stopped having fun and taking risks. The whole thing started to feel suffocating, and I very seriously questioned for a time if I wanted to continue. The answer is that I do, but on my terms, which is exactly how I began in the first place. It is time to shed my skin and start anew.

I am going to wade back out now, I never intended to wander into this when I started this post a few hours ago now, but I was driven to my laptop straight out of bed, I guess it wanted to come out. Truly, sometimes you just don’t know what you are going to write about when you sit down at your keyboard. Hello, subconscious! Should I really be exposing that to you? Well – quick head count – it looks like we all survived.

I am heading back to reviving ELAG now, which has been waiting patiently and hungrily at the side, shrinking with every toxic word. When I think of it, I always think of something positive and innocent and enthusiastic to share, wide eyed and small, and I want to protect it. Which is a feast for any psychologists reading, and I suppose, it is also why I struggle with being negative on here (but that doesn’t mean that I won’t be critical, something that is often misunderstood), but that is a whole other story and debate. And I am not getting into that now.

Back to the joy. Starting with some highlights from Sydney & Mudgee in New South Wales. There are lots more to come, I have not even edited all of my photos yet, this is only a smattering.

With thanks to Tourism Australia and Destination New South Wales, who supported my trip.

Before the pics, some housekeeping! :) – There are still places available for the next – and last for the foreseeable – Sunday Bacon Club on April 6th. The date had to be moved from the original March 30th date as I hadn’t realised that it was Mother’s Day (doh!). You can book by paying on paypal here.

You can still order April Bacon Boxes (including candied bacon salt, bacon flapjacks, bacon butter fudge, bacon butter toffee, bacon marshmallow krispie bars & bourbon bacon chocolate brownies). Numbers are limited. Limited edition gorgeous copies of the Project: BACON book are available too. I am investigating a possible paperback that will retail online, but this is not a guarantee, and won’t be available for a little while.

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Niamh

Cooking and travelling, and sharing it all with you.
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