When Jaz Cummins of Londonist approached me for an interview for their London blogger series, I was naturally delighted to oblige. As usual, I’m late with posting the result, which went live on Monday 6 July. And, as usual, ‘better late than never’ is my catch phrase. Voilà – the Epic answers to some Jaz-y questions.
The London Blogger Interviews #22: Epicurienne
(Villefranche sur Mer, 1 January 2008)
If you had to describe your blog in less than 15 words how would you do it?
Tales of travel and culinary adventure in London, Paris and Auckland (and the places in between).
Why did you start blogging?
I’ve always been one of those people who suffers irrational panic attacks if I don’t have a notebook and pen with me at all times. For that reason I wouldn’t last a day in the Big Brother house. I’ve been keeping journals since I was about nine years old, mostly filled with jottings about travels and restaurants and recipe ideas and inspirational quotes… A blog seemed like the logical next step to take.
What about London inspires your blog?
London full stop inspires my blog. I love the melting-pot atmosphere and the fact that if you can’t be it/ wear it/ try it on the streets of London, then you might just say it’s impossible. I particularly appreciate the fact that it’s possible to eat a different cuisine from a different part of the world every night of the month if you were really so-inclined. And I love the parks and green spaces all over London. Come rain or shine they’re a great place to go and observe Londoners and visitors to London, undertaking all manner of activity from picnicking to roller-blading or sitting quietly under a tree with a book.
What’s been your favourite cause, series or post on the blog?
I thoroughly enjoyed writing about our travels in Malaysia, which earned me a few fans in that part of the world and an interview with the Malay Mail, and you don’t have to ask me twice to write about Italy. But my favourite ever post has to be the video entry I made for the London Bloggers’ Meetup competition stating why I deserved to win a ticket to Blog08. I promised to wear big, wooden clogs to the conference, which someone obviously decided to test, because I did in fact win. And yes, I wore big cow-pattern clogs to the conference, earning me more than my fair share of odd treatment, but I’m pleased I did it.
Tips I can share with wannabe clog- wearers are 1. take them off before taking stairs OR take out comprehensive medical insurance before attempting to go up or down any number of steps. 2. they’re very warm. 3 wear thick woollen socks to make them really comfy. 4. they’re completely waterproof and 5. they make great pot plant holders when you get home.
What are your ‘last supper’ essentials if you had one day left to eat in London?
This is a really tricky one. I think if it were my last day in London, I’d go to Borough Market for breakfast, taking whatever was seasonally available for a snack. Needless to say, I’d take a tonne of photos to remember it by, and probably splurge on a few culinary bits and pieces for my new kitchen cupboard, wherever that might be.
I’d probably lunch somewhere Asian, like LiKo in Lisle street, where the tempura noodle bowls are fantastic value and you really get the feeling of being somewhere completely different from London, which is one of the reasons I like it so much. If my bank balance was looking really healthy, I might be persuaded to go to Nobu. But the main event of the day would be dinner. I’d invite our friends over for a big raclette buffet with asparagus and new potatoes, garlic button mushrooms and sweet vine tomatoes, with some fine French charcuterie courtesy of Monsieur, Epic’s herby chicken fillets and some crusty sourdough bread from the Hammersmith Farmer’s Market. I guess my last day in London had better be in May, given how much I love asparagus! The raclette would come from La Fromagerie in Marylebone, and I’d ask the nice chap at Nicolas to supply a few bottles of his driest Provençale rose to wash it all down. I have a tendancy to make myself hungry when describing food. That would be right now.
Would you feel more or less connected to London, or missed out on things without your blog?
I’ve lived in London for 15 years now, so you might say there’d be something wrong with me if I didn’t feel connected to London by now. However, the blog has made me feel a greater connection to London through extending my London-based community.
It also makes me think twice about things we take for granted as Londoners, which can be of interest to readers elsewhere in the world.
How has your blog connected you to another community of bloggers in London? The world?
In my earliest blogging days I found out about the London Bloggers Meetup Group, run by the most welcoming self-confessed marketing blagger Andy Bargery. Through the Group I have been lucky enough to meet a lot of London-based bloggers, which is definitely helpful when most of the people you might get to know through a blog live miles away. The LBM Group gives a sense of reality to writing in the ether.
As for the rest of the world, I have had the great good fortune to ‘meet’ a group of regular readers, who give me a kick up the backside when necessary, are also funny, supportive and intelligent folk. I count them as friends and they live as far afield as the States, Japan, Australia and Paraguay.
What’s the most underrated thing about London?
It might sound crazy but in my opinion the weather is the most underrated thing about London. Why? Because when the sun shines, even if it’s just for a few hours, it transforms everyone’s demeanour from grumpy to friendly. Admittedly, it can be too grey, too cold, too wet, too depressing at times, especially in the winter, but even that’s good because it means we don’t take the good weather for granted. Ever. Even the heavy snow in January seemed to unite neighbours as they moaned about not being able to get to work, whilst secretly enjoying building their snowmen and igloos.
And for some general London chat…Where do you live and why do you love it?
I live in Maida Vale, which neither Monsieur nor I knew very well before moving here. It didn’t take long to convince us that it’s a great place to be in London, though. It’s handy for getting to the West End and has good connections to most parts of London. It’s not far from Paddington. It’s leafy in summer with hidden communal gardens where we can picnic. There’s a great sense of community. On Guy Fawke’s Day there are some fantastic fireworks displays in the area and at the end of a rough day at work, it FEELS like home. There are some great pubs in the neighbourhood and people are as friendly as I’ve ever found them to be in any part of London.
At our tube stop there is one London Underground employee whom I swear must be the happiest man in their employ, writing silly messages on the whiteboard each morning to cheer us on the way to work, and Little Venice is a picturesque place to visit – with canal cruises to take with visitors and decent eateries with water views. Right now, I couldn’t imagine living anywhere else in London, although now I’ve said that, we’ll probably find ourselves on the move.
What’s your favourite place in London?
My favourite place in London would have to be around the river. At lunchtime I sometimes walk down to the Thames near Hammersmith, where I work. There’s always a tonne of interest going on down there – rowers in training, people walking their dogs, runners, pub-goers, interesting places to eat, strange buildings… The river gives a sense of openness. When entertaining visitors to London, it gives a lot of options. I love walking along the various sections of the South Bank, be it in Battersea Park or past the Tate Modern, or hanging out at Butler’s Wharf, or taking photos of Tower Bridge, or having a pint by the boats at St Katherine’s Dock… There’s the wobbly bridge to cross, strange river traffic to watch, not to mention the wonderful views of the city, including St Paul’s and the Gherkin. If you want to invite me somewhere, just make sure it’s on the river and I’ll be there, bells ringing loudly.
What do you know about London that noone else does?
I once met a woman whose husband fell seriously ill quite out of the blue. He went into a coma and the doctors were quite certain he wouldn’t come out of it. The woman had heard about the Tyburn Convent at Marble Arch, going there each day to pray for her husband. He subsequently made an astonishing recovery, encouraging his doctors to write about it in medical journals. They couldn’t explain it. Everyone called it a miracle and the woman has no doubt that that’s exactly what it was. So if you’re ever in the honest need of a miracle, I would recommend visiting the Tyburn Convent, which is dedicated to the Catholic nuns who were hanged during the Reformation on the site where Marble Arch now stands.
Have you ever been sick on the tube?
No, thankfully I have never been sick on the tube, as in physically lose my lunch all over someone’s Jimmy Choos. I’ve felt faint in summer and claustrophobic on sardine days and certain armpits have made me gag at times, but luckily I’ve always made it to my stop without having an Exorcist moment. Having said that, as I was thinking about this question, I overheard a guy on the street chatting to his friend about having vomited on the tube the night before. That made me chuckle.
Anything else we should know?
Nope, I think that covers it. Thank you for asking me to do this interview.
For a link directly to the page, please click here.
On Tuesday night there was another of our Bloggers’ Meetups, this time at the Silk Route-inspired Shish bar and restaurant in trendy Hoxton. This meant quite a trek from one side of London to the other following a hard day’s work, but it helped that the sun was shining and the tubes were all working. For once. Hallelujah to The God of Small Things.
Before long Epic Brother and I were downstairs at Shish, being greeted by Fashion Targets Breast Cancer reps who gave us smart little target badges, a couple of little target drinks vouchers and credit card-sized USB cards. PR Krista, who later made a presentation about the launch of the charity’s first online campaign, encouraged us to enter the evening’s raffle for target tee shirts. In case you’re wondering why it’s target this and target that, the target is the FTBC charity emblem so we saw quite a few of them in the course of the evening.
It was great to catch up with Splendid Chris and Formerly-of-Splendid Rax, who’s now enjoying a solo venture in PR, in between bites of gherkins and marmite on toast. Lolly and I ranted about the high cost of utilities mid-Credit Crunch and we chatted with Florentine Barbara about wine tastings and Italy, Photographer Peter who was quintuply booked up so had to leave early to attend his other four engagements of the evening, but not before enjoying the fruits of his drink vouchers. We even discussed creativity with newer meetup member, Creativity Consultant, Gregg Fraley. You can buy his book on creativity here.
Perched on a poof in the dim bar with North African-style lanterns swaying from the ceiling, I nagged Post It Note Politico Chris into writing a new book; so much so that the next time he sees me he’ll probably hide under a bus, moving or otherwise. Chris’s girlfriend, Nina, is working on a website promoting tourism in Mozambique, adding yet more diverse flavour to the evening’s conversation. Checking out one of the many charity fliers dotted about the place, Nina and I decided we liked the target tee shirts. They don’t look like the sort of tops you’d buy in the knowledge that 30% of the sale revenue is headed directly for a charity. Made by fashion retailers such as Top Shop, Warehouse, Marks & Sparks and River Island, the styles are current and perfectly wearable. Little did I realise how important that was to be later.
PR Krista took to the floor with great aplomb, explaining the story behind Fashion Targets Breast Cancer. It was established in 1994 by Ralph Lauren, who had lost his friend, Washington Post columnist, Nina Hyde to the dreaded disease. Hyde’s dying wish had been that Lauren should use his influence in the world of fashion to raise money for breast cancer research, campaigning and education. He kept his promise and the charity reached the UK’s shores in 1996. We heard about the importance of online outreach for charities such as FTBC, and interactive attention-grabbers, such as FTBC’s Million Model Catwalk, a site where you can put yourself on a catwalk with your favourite model/s and check out the latest in FTBC’s fashionable merchandise.
Following further discussion on how the blogging community can raise charity awareness, PR Krista presented a prize to a blogger called Derry who’d stated in 100 words or less the answer to:
Why should charities use online communications to support their cause?
His winning reply employed a quote by cultural anthropologist, Margaret Mead: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Krista and the FTBC team, who’d deliberated over which entrant should win, says that this statement “can be applied to both charities and to online groups such as bloggers.”
Derry took home the prize of a £100.00 shopping voucher kindly donated by FTBC partner, Marks & Spencer. Hopefully he’ll spend it on target merchandise for all his friends!
Next, the raffle was drawn (cue drum roll) and much to Andy Bargery’s dismay, my name was the tenth and final one out of the hat so I subsequently went home with a snazzy FTBC target tee from Top Shop. Later, when Andy told me he couldn’t believe my luck with meetup competitions, I said “I don’t know what’s going on. I never used to win anything before I joined this meetup group. Now it seems like I’m on a winning streak!” Long may that last.
A press release from Fashion Targets Breast Cancer states the following:
- Nearly 46,000 women and around 300 men are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in the UK.
- Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in the UK and 1 in 9 women in the UK will develop breast cancer at some point in their lifetime.
- More women than ever in the UK are surviving breast cancer thanks to better awareness, better screening and better treatments.
The last statement is particularly pertinent to me as I know two breast cancer survivors, one of whom has lovelier hair now than before she lost it through chemo, and for whom a subsequent breast reconstruction has been so successful that she is known to grab a hand and say “feel”, because she’s so proud of how natural she feels and looks following such a long and painful ordeal. I take my hat off to her, and to all such brave fighters of cancer, be it breast or otherwise. Their inner steel is awesome in the truest sense of the word.
For further information on how to support the Fashion Targets Breast Cancer cause, check out the relevant links below.
Ralph Lauren – this is one seriously gorgeous site. Even if you’re not a clothes horse, take a peek!
Million Model Catwalk - this is where you can buy FTBC merchandise and put yourself on the catwalk with your favourite models.
Top o’ the morning to ya, and I know I’m a bit late in posting about a St Patrick’s Day celebration, but as a wise, New Zealand-born food-lover once said, ‘better late than never’.
London Bloggers’ Meetup Organiser, Facilitator and All-Round Guru, Andy Bargery and the team at Splendid Communications (Haran, Emma and Chris) recently arranged a heady evening of Guinness and Bushmills whisky-based cocktails at Diageo’s London Headquarters. Here’s the cocktail list for you to dribble over -
I confess I had not one, but two Bushmills apricot mules thanks to Splendid Chris accidentally (on purpose?) over-ordering for me. There’s something about the ginger ale that gives a particularly refreshing zing to this drink, so I didn’t exactly refuse the two highballs of deliciousness. I also braved a Bushmills Black Bush Vanilla Sour, which was wonderfully nostalgic in flavour, the vanilla present but not overpowering. In fact, with cocktails like the Old-Fashioned and a version of the Mint Julep featuring on the menu, everything I tasted made me think of times of yore.
At some point, someone suggested I try the Irish Coffee, but I needed some convincing. Then I saw one, served in a Martini glass, and sneaked a sip. Two dangerously more-ish Irish Coffees later and it was time to learn how to pour a Guinness.
Duncan makes sure I don’t spill a drop… ‘Allo love. What kin i getcha?
The mixologist for the evening was one Duncan Macrae and a patient man he must be for he spent some time teaching a small crowd of us to pour Guinness. We were told to hold the glass at a 45 degree angle, start to pour against the side of the glass and as the glass fills to around the two-thirds mark, ease it into an upright position, stop pouring and leave to settle. Once the liquid has turned completely dark, it’s time to top up the pint. Duncan showed me how to do a shamrock shape on the head, and this I managed to achieve… just, although it looked like the sort of shamrock that had been trodden on by a herd of marauding sheep, i.e. not the smoothest shape you’ve ever seen.
Those are the chins of serious concentration and the bud of a shaky shamrock.
Splendid Chris enjoys a pint o’ the black stuff.
Flanked by Melanie Seasons of Fake Plastic Noodles (left) and Splendid Chris (right).
Duncan Macrae tells Timinator that under no circumstances will he be served again tonight. No siree. Enough is enough.
Katie and Andy Bargery with their Bushmills Irish Coffees.
Apart from testing the Bushmills cocktails and learning to pull a pint, we also discovered that Maltese Guinness is alcohol free (it tastes quite nice, really, but nowhere near as dark or heavy as the real McCoy), that there is such a thing as Red Guinness only it isn’t red, it’s just branded that way, (in fact, when I tried it, the main difference was in the taste. It’s just like regular Guinness only maltier), and Drew from Chameleon Net spoke to us about the (then) forthcoming talk at the next Meetup, featuring the Equality and Human Rights Commission.
That Meetup happened last week. Once again it was good to catch up with all the regulars and meet some newbies to the blogosphere. The Equality and Human Rights Commission were represented by some passionate and entertaining speakers, raising our awareness of what they’re all about. One of their key areas of debate was whether to use traditional journalists or bloggers to write about their causes. Personally, when I hear of more hard-copy periodicals closing their doors and more on-line periodicals opening up, I think we’ll be left with no choice but to find a way for the two to co-exist. Yet, it’s also easy to understand that a fully-qualified journalist will be better equipped with certain skills than your average blogger, but sometimes bloggers explore viewpoints which journalists have failed to represent.
Technology is also changing opinion on who would be better suited to covering certain stories, especially as with a single click on our phone/PDA/ laptop we can upload content to the internet, be it to our blog, or in 140 characters or less on Twitter, using any one of an increasing number of social networking sites and applications. In summary, technology is making it possible fofr just about anyone to break a story or contribute to it.
So, where to tonight? I’m off to a foodies’ Easter egg tasting, courtesy of Word of Mouth, the Guardian’s online food blog. Thank heavens I didn’t give up chocolate for Easter. Missing out on this event would have been an Epicurean travesty.
Andy Bargery at Londonbloggers.net has done it again. He has secured generous sponsorship for our bloggers’ meetup tonight, from Bacardi Breezer (the 100 calorie version) and House of Fraser. Epic Brother will be joining me at the meetup because I’m encouraging him to take to his keyboard and blog. It should be interesting for him to mingle with the blog-erati of London, whilst enjoying a low-calorie Breezer or two from the folk at Bacardi.
In anticipation of tonight’s festivities at Verve on St Martin’s Lane, Andy posted a competition. This time we had to say our most enjoyable methods of losing 100 calories and needless to say, because it’s a family-rated site, no indoor games of an adult variety were appropriate, not that I’d know any.
When I racked my brain, I don’t really have FUN losing calories, especially as the Epicurienne waistline has grown since co-habiting with Monsieur, due to our shared love of all things gastronomic and therefore I’ve been working hard recently to lose those extra pounds. None of it has been particularly enjoyable, although I’m happy to say that it’s working and I’ve dropped more than a dress size. My tips? I highly recommend coordinating the move of a large office, working 12 days straight, developing a chest infection and eating sea bass for Christmas lunch in order to kick start any weight loss plan. After that, eating less in the evening and swimming three times a week should work wonders along with a bit of Wii to combat the bingo wings.
When I thought harder about fun ways to lose 100 calories, I could have said that the achievement of climbing Ben Nevis was fun, but it wasn’t. It was bl**dy hard work going up and we got lost on our way down and my group included Little Miss Moany-pants, whom I dearly wanted to kick down the side of the mountain at one point. To make it worse, once we’d checked out the summit, which was freezing and looked like the moon, we realised that going DOWN the mountain hurt our legs more than going UP. It was a complete ankle-cracker. No, it was not fun. The best part of climbing Ben Nevis was the last 200 metres when we could see the pub.
Then I thought of kayaking. I love kayaking and so does Monsieur, but there’s a good reason why they call a tandem kayak ‘the marriage wrecker’. The last time we stepped into one of these boats, Monsieur and I had been engaged for a mere 48 hours. By the end of our little trip down the Dordogne, I think we could both have burned a further 100 calories by beating each other over the head with our paddles. No, I couldn’t put that down as fun.
I don’t ‘do’ gyms, apart from swimming, which I love. I no longer have the stamina for clubbing but I do like dancing around the living room. I can do certain Wii games but I’m embarrassing at others, and when I tried to play PS3 at the weekend, Monsieur got so frustrated with my lack of skill that he had to leave the room. (I think my somewhat vigorous abuse of the console may also have contributed to his exit.) How else can we kill those calories? Well, I heard once that housework burns them off, but I’ve never enjoyed shaking a feather duster or vacuuming, so cross those off the list. However, in the course of my research I found that pretty much everything I do during a typical day contributes to burning those calories, from blogging to cooking. Yes, my friends, you can even lose weight whilst whipping up some dinner.
So that’s what I decided to write in my entry – a Day in the Life of Epicurienne. I also had fun playing around with my avatar and the Paint application. Hmmm. I may not be a whizz at Photoshop but you just may see more Paint-ed pictures here soon. Here’s my entry:
They’ve also challenged us to describe our local watering hole in 150 words or less, stating the reasons that keep us going back, sooooo I wrote a poem. No one said the competition entry couldn’t be in poetry… then again, none of the other entrants has waxed lyrical about a pub throughout their entire entry. So far, that is. The closing date is Friday 25th July, so perhaps there’ll be more poems by then.
Below you will see my entry, referring to Gordon Ramsay’s Warrington Pub, which is located altogether too close to our home. I love it there. It has an amazing polychromic front porch decorated with stunning art nouveau tiles, and a beautiful old double-sided bar in carved mahogany. Thank heavens it didn’t go All Bar One on us. We should treasure our old beauties like the Warrington. There’s altogether too much sanding of pub floorboards going on.
Before you find out what the competition prize is, I must now subject you to my first ever attempt at poetic pub reviewing:
The No-F-Words Warrington
The Warrington Pub down on Warrington Crescent’s
The local I frequent for R ‘n’ R.
The specialness lies in its Olde Worlde presence –
So different from cloned and identikit bars.
Last year it closed for some renovation,
As stellar chef, Ramsay, acquired the deeds.
For patrons whose interest is mastication,
The Warrington’s back feeding everyone’s needs.
It hasn’t gone posh with pretentious infection;
Builders swig next to the girls wearing Choos.
The staff will advise on your beverage selection
Whilst fielding your questions on Big Gordon’s news.
From dressed Cornish crab to a Casterbridge Ribeye
The Warrington should seldom disappoint.
The fishcakes are gourmet, they surely ain’t Birdseye
And old-fashioned bar snacks help add to this joint.
The only thing marring my Warrington visits –
A lack of expletives directed at chefs.
The atmosphere calm, there are no flying trivets
Or verbal abuse freely peppered with effs.
THAT’s precisely why I decided to enter this competition. I’ve always wanted to travel by airship. There’s something so Indiana Jones about it.
Following a recent London Bloggers’ Meet-up, Andy Bargery posted a note on the Meet-up site to say that Berocca, that fizzy vitamin pick-me-up in a glass, had launched a Bloggers’ Relief Pack. If we bloggers were interested in receiving one, we should follow this link and apply. Well, I’m very excited to say that Berocca e-mailed me last week to say that I’d be receiving one of these packs, containing all sorts of stress relief toys to ease the angst of keeping the target number of weekly posts on track.
Someone at Berocca must know my dirty little secret. When I was at university, I passed all my exams thanks to Berocca. Paying no heed to the directions which state that just the one tablet a day should be dissolved in a glass of still water, I downed three per day, at least. Anyway, the interesting by-product of consuming so many vitamins (a healthy mix of the Bs and C) is psychedelic green pee.
Throughout exam weeks, I stayed alert, succombed to no nasty germs and my pee remained the resolute green of a highlighter pen. Each year, when exam time ended, the Berocca went to live in the bathroom cabinet until a hangover or the threat of a cold brought it out again. In the meantime, my pee returned to a regular colour and always gave me a shock. “Something’s wrong,” I screeched to a girlfriend one year after exams, “my pee’s yellow!” Shaking her head at my stupidity (too many brain cells dead with exhaustion, no doubt) she said “that’s because you’re not taking Berocca anymore.” Doh. That was a real Homer Simpson moment.
Even now, my colleagues and I live with a tube of Berocca in our desk drawers. In fact, I’ve never known a workplace without Berocca living in a drawer somewhere. In desperate times when faced with an empty chemist shelf I’ve tried wannabe versions but they all taste wrong. If we’re going to fight our ailments, we’ll be fighting them with the original vitamin kick-start fizz with a giant B on the packet. I’m therefore quite excited at the prospect of receiving my Bloggers’ Relief Pack with its box of Berocca inside, although now I have an adventure ahead: going to collect it.
The delivery company tried to deliver my bubble wrap keyring, Dead Fred pen holder, and other Berocca goodies on Monday. They only deliver during working hours but Monsieur and I are strangely enough at work during working hours, so I suggested they return on Saturday. “We don’t deliver on Saturdays.” came the response. Brilliant. So now I have to find a way to collect it from a depot that lies in the middle of an industrial estate, located halfway between a cemetery and a prison (eeek) and a long, long walk from the nearest tube station. It should make for an interesting blog if I make it home alive. In the meantime, thank you Berocca People, for raising the profile of the unsung bloggers out there, killing themselves to finish their posts on time. I guess that’s where Dead Fred comes in…
Last night I joined fellow bloggers for another rendezvous of the London Bloggers Meetup Group. After some humming and hah-ing about which venue to assemble at, we found ourselves back at the Coach & Horses in Soho, for a night of blog-ducation.
M3Mobile sponsored the evening, buying beers for the first twenty-ish people. I must (typically) have been number 21 to arrive because there were no beers for me and the upstairs wine was £5.75 a glass! (Didn’t realise at the time that we weren’t supposed to bring drinks up from the downstairs bar, so I avoided the queue and did just that. The downstairs wine was cheaper by far! Later on in the ‘Naughty Corner’, as we dubbed the tiny upstairs terrace, we wine drinkers had a therapeutic moan about that. We need to corner a wine sponsor!) Almost immediately I managed to meet Barbara, one of the bloggers on my must-meet list. She runs a company called Glocal Travel specialising in sustainable travel to Mexico and blogs about it. She’s up for an award so congratulations on the nomination, Barbara!
I also chatted with Chris, who blogs about music and must meet The Plummet Onions writer, Tim, who was at a gig last night so unable to join us. Then there was Mehrdad, a photographer who is also web-design-techy enough to give me good advice about how to get help jazzing up this site so it doesn’t look so WordPress-y anymore so thank you to him. Kate, who blogs for cheapeats told us about a wonderful Thai in Waterloo. Apparently its looks belie the tasty food to be had inside for a song. Kate – when you read this, please would you send me the name again?
Then Andy introduced the first of our Blog School lecturers, Xavier Damman, who told us all about his brainchild, Commentag, a tag filtering plugin that helps organise your discussions and displays tag clouds for your comments. “If you have no tags, you have no visibility,” he told us. “And if you make a comment that receives no response, it’s a waste of time.” Well, yes and no. I think it depends on what you want to get out of your blog.
Next, Improbulus took the floor to talk about her blog which receives upward of 2000 hits a day. Here’s some of her advice for us blog-folk:
- The title is important. Use good words in the title to capture your audience’s attention.
- The first 55-60 words should contain the key words relating to that post.
- When tagging, use synonyms, UK AND US spelling, singular and plural forms, and when words could appear as one, two or hyphenated, use all forms. As one blogger pointed out, this is often sorted out for you automatically by the search engine.
- Link OUT, especially to Wikipedia. This encourages discussion.
- Multi-link the same reference to Wikipedia and one or two other sites.
- Refer to previous posts. You don’t have to do the “click here” method each time; you can highlight key words and link them instead.
- When you get your own domain name it will take a while to build up your readership under the new name so if you’re intending to change, do it sooner rather than later.
- A single comment feed for the entire blog helps raise traffic.
- Specialisation tends to help. (although some disagreed with this point. As one chap said, it depends on what you’re looking for.)
- Use Friendfeed to aggregate all your activities, such as Twitter.
- Frequency of publishing is important.
- Write posts ahead and build up your stock.
- Re: Google Adsense, put the Google search box on the blog. Most of Improbulus’s revenue comes from the box, not ads.
After a quick break for a chat with our new best friends (cue Jed and a crowd from Qype), we had further presentations from Tony Scott about the upcoming Wordcamp UK and M3 about their product. Then it was time for me to go, or so I thought, only somehow I ended up (yet again) putting the world to rights with Tony, Andy Roberts DARNETand Tony’s friend, Tim, over some extra beverages. We talked about the blogging evening, whether or not marriage is a valid institution, Wordcamp, the meaning of smirting and new age festivals.
That’s what I love best about these evenings: how many conversations you can have about completely unrelated topics with people you’ve only just met. I went home with a handful of new Moo cards and a head full of ideas. Thank you again, Andy Bargery, for organising the event. I will be back.
PS Do you think I squeezed enough tags into this post???
The next London Bloggers Meetup will be on 29th July at 7.30pm, venue TBC