1. What made you decide to join the fray and start blogging?
I wanted to do something to raise a little money for charity last year, and being incapable of running a marathon and unwilling to throw myself out of perfectly serviceable aircraft, I decided to undertake a sponsored weight-loss programme instead. People would pledge to pay me so much for each pound I lost over a three-month period. I wanted to journal my progress so that my sponsors could see what I was doing, plus it gave me some added focus. Hence the blog title, a rather poor take on "Make Poverty History".
Shortly after starting I came to the non-too-startling realisation that endless shots of my bathroom scales weren't exactly going to bring the readers thronging in, so I broadened its scope and now write about all sorts of things. As a frustrated writer it's a good outlet for me.
2. The tag line of your blog is "Inside every overweight man there's a thin one. And a lot of gravy." How's the weight situation going for you lately? Is blogging helping or hurting your cause?
As I treated this as a long-term lifestyle change as opposed to a strict diet regime, I've kept most of it off. It crept up a little over the Christmas period, but I'm chipping away at it again. Now the numbers aren't so critical I'm more interested in how I'm feeling; how easy it is to run up stairs, how clothes fit me, the reactions I get from people who haven't seen me for a while, etc.
I guess blogging may well be helping my cause. While I'm sat here tapping away at the laptop I'm much less likely to be stuffing my face with pies.
3. When English people say they've lost a "stone" of weight, what exactly does that mean? How many stones have you lost since you started blogging?
A stone is equivalent to 14 pounds. It's one of a multitude of ancient measurement units that are pretty much unique to the British, and despite attempts at metrification is still widely in use. I love the fact that the wikipedia entry for "stone" classes it as being an agricultural unit. So now I can be listed alongside lifestock.
I eventually lost two stone. (For some reason, the plural of stone is, er, "stone". I know. We're funny that way.) But more importantly, I raised over £1,000 for RNIB, the Royal National Institute of Blind people.
4. Some of the parts of speech you use on your blog are very colorful. I really like the following, where you describe joining a veggie-by-mail club:
"I know this might sound a little odd. But I have taken to saying things like, "That apple tasted apple-y, " with an expression that is rapidly approaching awe. And as a result of their approach to stock control (if it's not in season you're not getting it), I have experienced more new things in the last fortnight than a stag party in Amsterdam."
I could use some vegetable recipes, so I'll resist asking about stag parties and go for the more innocent question: which of the new vegetables is your favorite, and what's the best way to prepare it?
Yes, it's probably best that we leave any Amsterdam stories untold. What happens on the road, stays on the road, and all that.
In terms of vegetables, kohlrabi was a revelation to me. Now there's a sentence you won't read every day. Thinly slice, sautee with sliced leeks and butter for a few minutes, then add some veg stock (you can use chicken stock if you prefer) and simmer for about 15 minutes. Grate a little parmesan on it. Enjoy. In my case this would be as a side dish to something meaty, but whatever floats your boat.
This is the first and probably the last recipe I'll ever post online. I am to cooking what Gordon Ramsay is to tact and diplomacy.
5. What's your proudest moment as a blogger?
I think I'm proudest when I get positive feedback on something I've written. For example, I did a post called "In Memoriam" on Remembrance Day, November 11th last year. A friend of mine told me she was going to take her grandfather to a local Remembrance Day service. He's an army veteran, but of course I only know him as he is now. I felt incredibly moved to think of this elderly and physically frail man having witnessed the horrors of war, and I wrote the post as a result - one of the few "serious" subjects I've tackled so far. My friend's reaction was lovely - she printed off a copy to give to him. That was a high point.
So whenever someone reacts to something I've written - whether I've made them laugh or otherwise - that's a proud moment for me.
6. How would you describe your readers?
They seem to come from all over. From the guy next-door, to New Zealand, literally the other side of the planet. I can't imagine what keeps them coming back but I'm very glad they do. I try not to spend too much time worrying about what they might want to see, to be honest. That's not meant in an arrogant way, but I post what pleases or interest me and it's a bonus if other people get something from it. It's constantly amazing (and a little humbling) when they do. If I had my time again I'd have liked to have considered writing professionally. I don't think I'm up to that standard now.
7. You're from the U.K. What are some of the differences you may have noticed between American and U.K. bloggers?
Well, there seems to be a lot more of them in America, for starters! Many of the American bloggers I read seem to be a lot less inhibited when it comes to writing about personal subjects in an emotional way. One I'm subscribed to called "Can't Remember Diddly" is written by an Iowa-based blogger. She wrote about the recent death of a family member and the impact it had on her in a beautiful and sensitive way.
The UK bloggers I read seem to be a little less likely to cover this sort of thing. Either they write about specific subjects such as politics or culture, or there's a degree of emotional detachment when it comes to personal issues.
It does sound like a stereotype, doesn't it? Brits not capable of emoting - who'd have thought it?
8. Why is it that English (and Welsh, and Scottish) people are so witty and wry?
Bless you. The cheque's in the post. Or the check's in the mail - you decide.
There are 60 million of us in a space smaller than Kansas. It rains all the flipping time. Seriously, when the sun comes out you get people dropping to their knees in shock. So perhaps being witty is the one thing that keeps us going. It isn't all Noel Coward and Monty Python, though - there are a fair few Brits I really wouldn't want to be trapped in a lift with. Or elevator. Sorry about that.
9. In your recent, very funny critique of CSI: New York, you said you couldn't wait for the debut of CSI: Abergavenny. What kinds of crimes would the CSIs be solving there?
Abergavenny is a very nice market town not far over the border in Wales. If you've ever seen the film "Hot Fuzz" you'll know how unlikely such a setting could be for a crime drama. Having said that, should they ever film CSI there and Carmine Giovinazzo makes an appearance, then my wife will probably be arrested for stalking.
10. Now that I've been introduced to your very funny blog, I'm definitely subscribing to your feed. Can you direct me toward your top 3 favorite old posts in the Archives?
Bless you once again. I'm going to have to sign that cheque now, aren't I?
Apart from the afore-mentioned "In Memoriam", I would recommend the following:
"One out, all out" - this was the first of the "overactive imagination" posts. I love the idea of coming up with something on the far side of feasible, then riffing with it. Since then I've gone on to write about such things as race rows in Star Wars and synchronised swimming teams made up from squirrels.
"I was never going to be that big in Nagasaki" - I don't very often do serious issues and have no idea where this came from, but it was fun to run through the arguments.
"Brighton Life" - just a great record of a wonderful weekend.
I realise I've kind of recommended four posts there. Sorry about that.