diamond geezer

 Wednesday, September 07, 2016

Cheers everyone! Yesterday I posted some inaccurate and incomplete paragraphs about Hyde Park and invited you to contribute. And contribute you did, thanks, with a volley of 40 submissions in the first hour alone. A second rush came over lunchtime, and by 1pm over 100 potential edits had been suggested. Activity floundered somewhat mid-afternoon, despite there being several errors left, because blogposts don't seem to have a particularly long shelf-life these days. But things picked up again in the evening, and by the end of the day there'd been over 200 comments, which just goes to show blogging's not dead yet.

More than 30 readers chipped in with at least one suggested improvement, which was nice, although that's barely 1% of those who read the post, which could instead be seen as a pitiful level of interaction. In my initial rules I restricted people to one comment per paragraph, but at noon I lifted the ban to try to clear the backlog. Only a handful of readers took advantage, but this included a small group of uber-pedants who leapt on the opportunity to identify as many mistakes as possible. One regular critic chipped in with a dozen, while my most tenacious daily reviewer offered nearly twenty. That's fine, I'd asked for it, and this was a particularly intractable challenge. But a handful of commenters delight in giving my posts this kind of close scrutiny on a regular basis, which you might deem an unusual level of interest, and their critique can take some getting used to.

Collectively you found more than eighty errors and inaccuracies in my first three paragraphs, the vast majority of which I had deliberately included. The grammatical errors were probably the easiest to spot because no understanding of the subject matter was required, with a particular emphasis on spelling, tense, ordering and the correct usage of words. When something doesn't quite read correctly we notice, and it's relatively easy to offer an improvement. Your comments definitely got much nit-pickier as the day went on, with some of you mulling over the appropriateness of every last word. But I'd like to offer a special commendation to those who spotted factual errors, because these required more specialist knowledge, or at least the determination to Google everything and check its provenance. Indeed it was generally these factual inaccuracies which remained unspotted until the end, which just goes to show how simple it is for me to write total rubbish without you noticing.

On normal blogging days my total rubbish can be entirely unintentional. It's nigh impossible to maintain a 100% accuracy rate in everything I write, especially when my posts are more objective than personal, and when there isn't a sub-editor to repeatedly ask "but are you sure?" If I have made a genuine factual error in a post then it's always good to know, because then I can go back and edit it and republish. It's never ideal for a wrong year, a misspelled name or a false assumption to linger on the internet where future readers may treat it as gospel, even rebroadcast it without knowing better. But don't expect me to react to every pedantic comment you contribute, particularly over issues of style or personal preference. This is my blog, so I retain the last word over what appears, despite how wrong you might think it is.

You were less interested in contributing to my fourth paragraph. I provided a skeleton structure and invited you to fill in the blanks, but few people were biting. It ought to be easy to fill in a blank in a sentence, indeed primary schoolchildren are asked to complete these kinds of grammatical exercises all the time. But when it's not your sentence in the first place, and a degree of factual knowledge or creativity is required, then taking part becomes less appealing. Collectively you got halfway towards completing the two opening sentences by the end of the day, but alas these were never completed. As for the end of the paragraph, for several hours nobody attempted to contribute any interesting facts or stories about Hyde Park, but some gems were eventually forthcoming. It's not exactly difficult to skim through Wikipedia, which to be honest is where I found out half this stuff in the first place, but it seems that group-sourcing an interesting paragraph doesn't really work.

As for the final paragraph, I left this entirely up to you. All I asked was that it was about Hyde Park and between 150 and 250 words in length. Eight of your suggestions fell short on word count, because writing as many as 150 words is hard. Two were deliberately gibberish, and two dragged in Bus Stop M to get a laugh. A couple of others were off-topic, such as this fine contribution from Dominic which alas focuses on attractions in Kensington Gardens rather than Hyde Park.
One of the more offbeat things to do in Hyde Park, almost at its very boundary with Kensington Gardens, is to head to the Serpentine Gallery, to absorb its tripartite array of contemporary art and architecture. Tripartite, as, first, approaching from the North, you encounter its smaller recent offshoot, the Serpentine Sacker Gallery, although frankly its exhibitions tend to be less interesting than those of its parent. Next, at the right time of year, like now, you'll encounter its temporary summer pavilion, specially commissioned each year. You could get an upmarket coffee here too. Then you'll encounter the gallery itself, which may or may not have an exhibition of interest on. Proceed for a swim in the Serpentine, then, when you're dried off, head for the Brompton Road to make a pilgrimage to one of the more beautiful (some might say eccentric) churches in London, the London Oratory, adjacent to the V&A. Light candles in the darkness, hear vespers sang in Latin with full counter-reformation ritual in effect, investigate the various chapels and their fixtures, imported to England from all across Europe (but especially Italy and the Netherlands) and, if you time it right (mid-evening one night a week, I forget which) see people venerate a relic of the founder of the oratorian order, St Philip Neri.
Below is a masterful parody from Steffen, which sounds potentially convincing but is almost entirely fictional.
Not many people know that Hyde Park was named after Gwendolyne Hyde, wife of county clerk Barnabas Hyde, and secret lover of Henry VIII. The king met Mrs. Hyde at the annual tapestry fair in Richmond, where she exhibited some examples of her favourite pastime's work. They began a tempestuous affair. The king, in an attempt to be discreet, created the park in 1538 as private grounds to frolic with Mrs. Hyde or, should she not be available, to hunt deer. Soon brazen courtiers jokingly referred to the park as "hyde park" – for the the king was hunting either "hides" or "Hyde". The name stuck even after Henry’s death, and by the time Charles I finally opened the park to the public in 1637 it was already known as Hyde Park everywhere. The story of the park’s name though has long since vanished into the mist of history.
The most professional-sounding paragraph came from Roger. This wouldn't look out of place in a magazine.
One of the perennial attractions of Hyde Park has been the chance of spotting a member of the Royal Family, going for one of their regular jogging runs or riding their bicycles. As long as people show suitable manners and deference (one must never point or stare!) they will often exchange a friendly greeting and maybe stop for a chat. A couple of years ago Princess Anne lost one of her Mum's corgis in the park and spent the next day putting 'Missing' posters on the trees. Other, lesser celebrities can also be regularly seen around the park, including Peter Andre, Kirsty Allsop and Colin Firth, and they are always happy when someone recognises them and asks them to pose for a selfie. Come to the park, soon, and see who you might see!
But the prize for the paragraph that sounds most like something I might have written goes to Joachim, for this winner.
One often overlooked feature of Hyde Park is a large underground parking facility accessible from Park Lane. It's only single-level, which is a bit of a waste, since the one thousand spaces could have easily been doubled without even slightly spoiling views across the park, but then again you shouldn't worry too much about residents of the Dorchester hotel. The car park has some historic significance for being one of the first ever to feature an automated ticket barrier when it opened in 1962. Unfortunately, I found none of the original ticket dispensers or barriers have been retained, a fact you might approve of more if you came here with the intent to park a car rather than out of keen interest in transportation history. Although I entered as a pedestrian, I was able to draw a ticket after dragging a couple of Santander bikes onto the contact loop. The remainder of my visit proved to be rather unexciting. Should I ever return, then at least the ticket will have gained in value considerably for the car park operator.
And I'll finish with this highly appropriate conclusion from ActonMan.
But as I neared the end of my journey round the Park, I suddenly became lost for words. Adjectives eluded me and adverbs and aphorisms escaped me. Metaphors misfired, facts failed and links became lost. A wave of assonance swept over me - or was it alliteration? It was then that I realised what the problem was - I'd been overwhelmed by pedantry, nit-picking, hair-splitting and sophistry and thereby rendered dysfunctional. I only hope this will be a temporary affliction.
Particular thanks to these five readers who attempted the job of entertaining you and tackled it with aplomb. And the rest of you, now you've read them, please be nice. It's tough to sit here and be picked apart.

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