I started this blog precisely twelve years ago, on a dull Sunday afternoon. I didn't know what I was getting into at the time, but I did have one underlying motive, which was that I hoped it might help me to meet people.
At the time BestMate was preparing to move abroad, which he did shortly afterwards, so I thought I might be in need of a social top-up. Plus I didn't have the widest range of friends, having never been the oversociable type, so a few more might be useful. Plus I'd been single for three years, which seemed an age at the time, and it couldn't hurt to trawl my net a little wider. People might read what I had to say and be interested in connecting... I'm not sure I'd thought it through, but it was clearly worth a try.
And it sort of worked. Blogmeets were the big thing back in the day, as you might remember, so I stepped out and met some bloggers once or twice. And that was nice, we even had a few things in common, although often it was just that we wrote stuff and published it online, nothing more. Some of those names are now legends, while others faded away into obscurity, but at least I did genuinely get to meet new people. Even now I can sometimes be watching TV or reading the press and go "Omigod I know them!", although really what I mean is that I once had some beers at a table they might occasionally have been sitting at, which isn't quite the same.
Email's been very useful over the years in getting to know some of you out there. Hundreds of readers have emailed me out of the blue over the years, and I've usually responded, occasionally kicking off a chain of communication that's lasted a bit before fading away. Some of you, no offence, we were never going to get on. But for a handful of people it's been the opening of something more long term, at least in terms of communication if not actually meeting up, not just across the other side of London but even to the other side of the world.
I once used to chat to several of you on Instant Messenger, on services like MSN and Yahoo, back when that was a thing. It's still my very favourite form of online communication, but services have moved on and gradually my whole world's dropped off of it. I tell a lie, BestMate's still on there, but everyone else is elsewhere these days chatting in different communities I'm not a member of. If I did Facebook I might have acquaintances to chat too, but I draw the line at Facebook, hence a lot of my digital life is tumbleweed most of the time.
Twitter's also been very useful at helping me keep in touch with a wide range of blog-related acquaintances, particularly those who broadcast their entire waking lives online. But it's a very one way relationship, with me finding out much more about you than you find out about me. I don't broadcast my life in even partial detail, nor do I engage in conversations with other tweeters in public. I'd probably have made better-lasting social relationships if I joined in a bit more, bantered a bit, made arrangements to meet, but that's not ever likely to happen.
I don't know what you did this weekend, but it probably, at some point, involved meeting people. Maybe you live with them, maybe you're married to them, or maybe you just met up for beers or food or shopping or a nice day trip out somewhere. My weekend didn't involve meeting up with anyone I know, merely traipsing across the capital to do lots of stuff on my own. And that's fine, I'm perfectly used to making my own entertainment, indeed that's probably where this blog comes into its own. I can fill Saturdays and Sundays by going and doing stuff and then writing about it as some kind of justification that my life isn't somehow devoid of meaning. Indeed these twelve years have been great for getting me out across the capital and beyond, and I'm undoubtedly far more widely travelled as a result.
But as a downside, I fear comprehensive blogging may actually be to blame for my unsociable solitary outlook. I may go out and do stuff during the day but I don't go out so much in the evening because there are posts to write, which when I stop and think about it is ridiculous. And OK, I do go out with some of you sometimes, indeed one of last week's posts was started at 11pm after five bottles of Becks, proving that I can mix content generation with a social life. But in general all those years of blogging have made me more of a hermit than a gadabout, which isn't quite what I was hoping for when I started.
As for weekend trips, I've managed to find the occasional partner to go out exploring with, someone who doesn't mind heading somewhere obscure and exploring it in too much detail. This I'm chalking up as a big plus, thanks, not least because it encourages me to head to places I wouldn't normally go by myself. But most adventures are still best done as a solo trip, I find, because no hanger-on or friend would ever suffer the general all-over-the-place-ness of one of my days out (see yesterday's posts as evidence). Plus I can't cope with people who want to keep stopping for a coffee or a long lunch, I mean what's wrong with you when there's a world to be explored... and yes, I know why I'm still single.
So I'd say twelve years of blogging has merely reinforced my independence and introversion, rather than opening up my social life to broader dimensions. It's led to proper friendships, don't get me wrong, of the kind that involve occasionally going out for beers and providing mutual support, which is ace. But several other attempts at camaraderie, with people I should still be getting on with, I've allowed to fade away. It's not necessarily what I expected when I started typing on that dull Sunday afternoon back in 2002. And if you are that magic perfect match I should have met years ago, hurry up and show yourself, because in another twelve years it'll be too late.