Blogging love

Blogs are funny things – essentially a narcissistic pursuit (unless they have a worthy cause to share) and self indulgent – it’s a wonder that anyone ever reads them. Except of course, for the fact that humans are naturally inquisitive and love a bit of gossip and/or entertainment, which is generally what blogs consist of.

Thanks to following a variety of blogs found through a diverse range of random connections or stumblings-upon, I’ve built up quite a network. Amongst my little group of friends who also read blogs, we have a few shared favourites. Mrs WF and I love crafty ones as well as some of the more ‘Mommy blog’ American variety. In fact, we have been known to text each other in excitement when a Mommy’s given birth or (in my case) when one of our favourite bloggers left me a comment on here – honestly, I’d have squealed out loud had I not been in a large meeting and surreptitiously browsing. It’s a weird world.

Along the way I’ve made a few ‘blogging friends’ – people I’ve never met but whose blogs I’ve come across and commented on, or vice-versa. Is it odd that I’m rooting for a relationship to work out on behalf of a 40 year old woman I don’t know? Or, that I was super-excited to discover a girl my age on the other side of the world who loved Chalet School as much as me? My theory is that such friendships aren’t strange – they’re affirming and generally warm and fuzzy, which is always a good thing.

Sometimes I’m a little unsure about comment etiquette. Obviously, the original point of blogs was that you could comment and generate discussion, but I wonder if these days some bloggers forget their ramblings are visible to the entire world. Occasionally, I fear revealing my ‘lurker’ status, feeling a little stalkerish in my anonymous enjoyment of their writing and life – but surely they want people to read it, else they wouldn’t have created it?

I most definitely enjoy and appreciate random visitors. I love checking my stats and discovering how they found me. I generate wild and ridiculous fantasies about some of my more exotic regular visitors, and only very occasionally do I reject comments that I’m not keen on.

All this is a rather protracted preamble to my telling of a rather geeky moment that took place last week and is most definitely in my top 10 highlights of the holiday. One afternoon while enjoying a pleasant bbq I met the author of a blog I’ve been reading on and off for the last couple of years. Being fellow residents of the impossibly small Christian world, it was perhaps inevitable that this would happen – before you factor in my knowing her sister (something I didn’t fully realise for quite a while) and having a couple of mutual friends. It was all the more amusing/cringeworthy that this encounter took place in front of a select band of friends and acquaintances, at least one of whom has since mocked me for my geekiness.

It essentially consisted of me introducing myself with “Hi, we’ve never met and this sounds really geeky, but I read your blog…” – I felt like such a nerd! However, it was followed by their realisation that they’d also read mine sporadically (thank the Lord yet again for my highly unusual surname). Some mutual blogging love was shared in slightly high pitched, giggly voices and the world became a happier place. Honestly, on days when life is feeling a bit rubbish, the compliment I was paid will be remembered and I will smile…

Moments like this people, are why blogging’s most definitely a good thing.

Can Christians play quidditch?

A couple of days into last week’s Christian camping extravaganza, a thought hit me: ‘this is just like the Quidditch World Cup’. Before someone accuses me of either blasphemy or flippancy, I should probably explain myself…

[If you have no knowledge of the Quidditch World Cup then shame on you. I won’t be explaining, you can look it up yourself.]

Firstly, I arrived at the venue without seeing how I got there – much in the fashion of apparition, floo powder or a portkey. (Ok, I was in the back of a transit van, in total darkness, but still…)

Then there was the camping set up. Presumably it wasn’t just me that read the description of wizarding camping and thought “wow – that’s exactly how camping should be!”? For the uninitiated, wizard tents look normal on the outside but are basically a tardis inside – containing anything and everything one might want for a decent sojourn away from home.

Last week, I spotted a few examples of camps that seemed to be emulating the wizarding world. One friend actually had a shelving unit (with wooden shelves) in their abode; another (1970’s number) had a line of neatly pressed shirts hanging from a pole; whilst a fellow church family had created a chill-out area complete with deck chairs, coffee table and tablecloth. My own camp was hosted by a family whose motor-home possessed an iPod dock connected to wireless speakers, ensuring that Mumford & Sons could be played all over our site – all kinds of awesome.

I also wondered just how aware our ‘muggle’ neighbours (the town of Shepton Mallet) were of the activities going on within the Bath & West showground. Could they hear the noise of several thousand cheery Christians singing choruses at loud volume? Or did they only notice when the traffic became awful or when strange people gathered in huddles on the platform of Castle Cary station?

Like wizards, Christians aren’t always adept at adjusting to the real world, especially if they’ve been ensconced with their own kind for an extended period of time. Spending my day off in the amazing world of outlet shopping at Street, I kept bumping into my brothers and sisters in faith – and often swerving to avoid them. Two girls appeared regularly in the various shops I perused, each time shouting “praise Jesus!” at intervals and singing worship songs.

Clothing-wise, they also struggle. Some might say that you can spot a Christian a mile off – just look out for a socks/sandals/beard combo and you’re pretty much on the money. Bringing hoards of them together in the safety of a Christian-only environment means that they can give up trying to fit in with muggle fashion and give in to their Christian tendencies. The worst symptom of this is the Christian t-shirt. I’m not talking about ones advertising charities and campaigns, I mean the ones that look like ‘real world’ t-shirts but are just slightly altered to get a Biblical reference in somewhere. The winner last week was one emblazoned with Lord of the Kings (in the appropriate LOTR graphic) – utterly (un)hilarious. [I’ve come up with a top 10 – this may have to be a whole separate post at some point.]

Behaviour wise, you’ll often find Christians doing odd things. They’re very nice – pretty much all the time. In all the hours I spent on a till last week, I encountered only 3 grumpy/rude customers – not normal for a retail environment. This is a good thing of course, but it results in things I find difficult. Like the chattering in the shower queues… I struggle with mornings – little makes me happy first thing in the morning – except further sleep, or a very attractive man bringing me breakfast in bed. [I joke…or not!] Away camping, the situation’s even worse. You’ve not had great quality sleep, you’re dressed in a random combination of clothing (in my case joggers & an obscure US college t-shirt, possibly without a bra) and I don’t know about you, but I’m not in the mood for idle chit-chat in such a situation. Conversation directly relating to the showers – the temperature of the water or the length of the queue are both acceptable topics – is fine, but nothing else, especially not theology.

Of course I’m stereotyping. Not all Christians are like this, but it’s only when you’re amongst them en masse for a long time that such eccentricities become very apparent (or very annoying). And, like many wizards, for me the transition back into muggle land was slightly traumatic – it doesn’t help when it involves Paddington on a busy Saturday afternoon. But hey, at least I didn’t disintegrate into tears while topping up my oyster card…

A friend and a footballer

There is a lot to say about the last week. Being apart from my beloved laptop meant that I was reduced to writing down potential blog topics in a little notebook. [At a Christian event people watching you do this assume you are having profound thoughts and thus do not disturb you, simply looking on in awe at the stream of words flowing from your pen…] In fact, one of my top 5 highlights of the week relates to blogging, but I’ll tell all when I’m less tired and unclean.

Suffice to say, I’ve learned a lot about myself and a lot about coffee. Well, to be specific, a lot about working in a café (although I was taught to use the fancy machine for special coffees I never actually got to use it). After I’d got used to the routine I discovered my analness manifesting itself in hitherto unseen ways…

Exhibit A:

A pretty perfect Chai Latte (not actually on the menu, but once I’d been taught milk frothing technique and had spotted the chai syrup I deduced that my beverage of choice had to be only seconds away). Not overly anal, but it did please me that getting the right level of milk vs foam into the cup had quite a technique to it.

Exhibit B:

These beauties are Chocolate Mountains. Hot chocolate with mini-marshmallows, squirty cream, chocolate sprinkles, a flake and about a billion calories. There’s quite an art to their creation and they can be rather labour intensive – particularly tricky in the late shift when all people seemed to want was a sugar rush before bed.

I discovered that the key to getting into the groove for the Hot Chocolate/Filter Coffee station was to have a system supported by plenty of preparation and the kind of focus I somehow rarely stir up for my regular day job. Despite the noise, the team were in tune and with every cry of “Liz – another Mountain!” I was immediately to work. In fact, such was my dedication and artful skill that by the end of the shift I’d been declared Queen of the Chocolate Mountains. Beautiful.

Exhibit C:

One of the key analness indicators was the precise way in which the station had to be set up to function. It made me happy to organise the flakes in this tidy fashion, rather than a higgildy piggildy mess. [This is a box I filled once empty – I then tidied the second box so that it too met with my high standards.]

Exhibit D:
Actually, there’s no photo for this one, but a job I fell in love with on my first ever café shift was re-stocking the fridges ready for the next session. It involved counting, filling spaces, ensuring symmetry and creating a work of art. This is where the footballer reference comes in – Britain recently discovered (courtesy of Jonathan Ross’ final chat show) that David Beckham has an OCD complex with drinks cans and his fridge. Like Becks, under my care, the fridges balanced – labels faced the front, cans aligned, a certain number of each brand… It’s worrying.

And the friend reference? Well, I’d think that would be obvious…just call me Monica.