diamond geezer

 Saturday, December 14, 2013

History of a post

I first had the idea to write a series of posts about the Victoria Embankment a long time ago. I'm not quite sure how long, but at least five years, probably more. I suspect I was walking along it at the time the idea popped into my head - an interesting yet brief stretch of London, fascinating to write about, with the added advantage that everyone's actually been. Much as I love to bring you the delights of an obscure suburb, a properly mainstream feature always goes down better.

I bet I was inspired by seeing something unusual amongst the familiar, a building or a feature I wanted to share, and thought "oh yeah, I could so blog that." I'll have considered writing a one-off Embankment post, about the lamppost fish or the sewer-gas lamp or whatever, but soon realised that an end-to-end series would be so much better. There's no point in blowing all that potential on a minor verbal skirmish, especially when there's absolutely tons to say.

I have this habit of getting over-ambitious ideas. It's a sort of trap I set myself, visiting someplace in the full knowledge that my attendance comes with a mandatory thousand word essay afterwards. And the bigger the visit, the more I know I'll need to write. I recognised early on that documenting the Embankment would be a major project, and not one to be undertaken lightly. A brief trawl would never cut it, I'd have to miss too much out, so I reckoned on three days write-up minimum. And that put me off ever starting, so I stashed the idea away in DG's invisible Book of Inspiration, and moved on.

Normally I'd save such a biggie for an anniversary, but the Embankment's 150th is still seven years off, so I put that idea on hold. Instead inspiration finally struck after I decided to write about one tube line a month throughout 2013. I left the Circle line until last because it's not especially interesting, and because I'd already written too much about it. And then I realised that the Embankment would fit the bill, being intrinsically linked to its component railway, so pencilled in 'December' at the start of the year, and promptly forgot about it.

When this month finally arrived I realised I'd finally have to go down to the Embankment and explore. I hate writing posts about places I haven't been, I miss the authenticity, and hopefully so would you. And I didn't mean to visit on my day off work, honest I didn't. But the weather was perfect, and I found myself a few minutes from Westminster Bridge, so off I went. A heck of a lot of photographs got taken, some for artistic reasons, others solely as a visual reminder of where I'd been. And taking photos always slows things down somewhat, so I soon realised that my Embankment walk was eating away at my day off rather than being the brief stroll geography suggested.

Scheduling a three day mega-post is always a matter of judgement. I know I need three consecutive evenings to work on it, which means it has to be scheduled for a week when I have no plans to go out. Fortunately for you lot that's most weeks, although sometimes BestMate scuppers things with an impromptu invite for dinner, and wine, and my ability to write a major post is seriously curtailed. I reckoned I'd be free on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings this week, allowing me time to concentrate on words and pictures, and leaving Friday free in case any exciting social options cropped up. If only I were capable of writing blogposts well in advance then life would be so much easier, but alas no.

I plumped for a "list" approach rather than sequential prose, because I hoped this would be easier for me to write and for you to follow. Even so, the whole thing took rather longer to put together than I was expecting. I had to look up every single segment on the internet, partly to check the facts I thought I knew but also to discover several I didn't. Each new location required a separate search, just in case, plus a lot of faffing around with any relevant photos. I had hundreds of these to skim through, and tweak, and crop, and upload to Flickr, and tag with relevant information, in case any of you were actually interested in looking. All in all a major undertaking linking words and pictures, whilst all the time trying to get the facts right underneath.

Tuesday's post took until after midnight to complete. Write the stuff, check the stuff, format the stuff, add the links, add the photos, publish. I usually have to check the post again at this point, but I was a bit knackered so left that until the following morning while I was eating breakfast. I realised I was in for a similar slog on Wednesday evening, so skipped the office Christmas party to ensure I had the time. Don't worry, I'd have skipped it anyway, because who wouldn't rather write about Egyptian obelisks than drink free beer with colleagues?

Wednesday's post actually took longer to compose because Flickr was playing up. That's less of a surprise these days, alas, as whoever's in charge continues to roll out stupid changes regular users despise, and viewing figures for those photos still haven't recovered. By Thursday evening I'd have preferred to fall asleep, but there was still a 1300 word post to complete, and hell I like the challenge. Once day one of a multi-day post is written I know I have to complete the lot, no matter what, otherwise I'm somehow letting myself down. It's damned stupid really, and intrinsically pointless, but it delivers the goods on a daily basis.

I'm sort of pleased that you lot didn't find too much wrong with what I wrote. Normally you're straight in if I make a mistake, or leave an ambiguity, or accidentally describe the wall-mounting on a station platform incorrectly. And you left some really interesting comments too, facts that added some depth to what I'd written, even mentioned some places I'd had to miss out. I received about 40 comments all in all, that's good these days, although helped somewhat by the Embankment being a place everybody knows.

And now the series is in the can, another idea transformed from concept to reality. The Victoria Embankment, chronicled, tick. I'll not be blogging it again, but I could do something similar one day, maybe the South Bank, perhaps The Mall. And I have further embryonic series of location-based posts up my sleeve for the future, just no definite time at which to deliver. Could be next year, could be the year after, could be 2025 if I keep this blog up. It keeps me busy.


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