Friday, 27 April 2018

It's all about me...

I don’t often do this but today I’d like to tackle the mildly contentious topic of selfies.  I’ve had many long and interesting conversations with folks about selifes, especially when it comes to travel writing, blogging and social media.  Personally I really don’t enjoy taking them and only include them very rarely because, whatever my opinion, photos with people in regularly perform better (attract more likes and shares) than photos without people in them.  I generally only include them if we’re doing something particularly interesting and even then it’s usually just the one of me/us in amongst a pile of blissfully “me free” photos.

My reasons for not liking them are various – first up, who can honestly say they like looking at photos of themselves (apart from the Kardashians and anyone on TOWIE)?  Secondly I hate the fact that someone, somewhere, might recognise me – it actually happened once, ages ago on top of a fell, and it completely freaked me out.  Thirdly, and for me most importantly, the stories I’m aiming to tell via the blogs and the photos are rarely about me, they’re about the scenery, the history and/ or the wildlife.  I get really frustrated when my friends travel the world and their FB feed is full of photos of exotic locations, except that I can’t see the exotic locations because there are an assortment of grinning faces in the way.  I love my friends, but I already know what they look like and just keep mentally screaming at them to get out of the darned way so I can see the view behind them!

"Get out of the way - I can't see the sea!" 😁

It’s particularly noticeable on Instagram where I’ve had people follow me and, when I’ve gone to view their profile to see if I want to follow them back, I’m greeted with several thousand images of themselves grinning in front of mountains, landmarks or meals.  To me it comes across as narcissistic in the extreme, but these people often have tens of thousands of followers.  Let’s be blunt here, much as I love writing I also need to earn a living so attracting followers is important for potential exposure and (hopefully but not as often as I’d like), selling books.

I tried putting a Twitter poll out a while ago to ask people what their views on selfies were and the overwhelming response was that they didn’t like them.  Now either different people are responding to my polls or else someone is telling porky pies because photos with my ugly mug in them will pretty much always get more likes and re-tweets than those without.  I also asked a similar question about super saturated photos versus “as nature intended” photos and Twitter told me that folks preferred “as nature intended” and yet it’s the super colour soaked photos that often attract more attention.  I’m beginning to think that Twitter is not to be trusted!

The "Shiny Shoes of Awesomeness"
Are photos of feet "selfies"?
I’ve spent time looking at travel bloggers – those with masses of followers and those with only a few to see if I can spot a difference.  I’m telling you now that if there was one, simple, straightforward answer that I could give you this blog post would break all known records and I’d become rich overnight. 

Photo credit: Phil Rigby
I’m not about to name the folks who don’t appeal to me because that feels rude and they are lovely people, I just personally wouldn’t feel comfortable doing what they’re doing.  I’ve wrestled with the “do I have to include more selfies when I really don’t want to just to improve my engagement figures” question for a while and eventually was inspired by one feed in particular: Mallory on Travel He’s got tens of thousands of followers and yet if you scroll through his Instagram feed you’ll find hundreds of gorgeous photos from around the world and he’s not in any of them.  He’s proved to me that selfies aren’t essential so I’ve decided to follow his example.  “People like people” so I know I need to appear somewhere and if you really want to know what I look like take a peek at my profile photos, other than that I’ll mostly be keeping my face well away from the camera.  

Having said all that, I’d be really interested to hear what your views are – and this isn’t one of those “post a question at the end of a blog to improve engagement stats” moments, I really am genuinely interested in understanding other viewpoints on this one.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Weather is a state of mind

View from Porthmadog Harbour
Maybe it's because I don't have kids that I find some of the things kids do so funny.  I recently read a post on Facebook about the things kids have tantrums over and one parent described an occasion when his young son had a meltdown because he didn't want his gloves to be blue.  He'd apparently worn them many times before, without incident, but on this particular day he wanted his green gloves to be blue.  And they weren't.  So he threw a world class tantrum.  Judging by the comments, even those people with kids thought this was amusing, so I wasn't alone in my sniggering.

The thing is I can see the exact same logic, or lack of it, when it comes to ranting, railing and moaning about the weather.  The weather on a given day is not going to change just because we hate it anymore than that kids gloves are going to miraculously change from green to blue.  The weather is what it is so we may as well just get on with it.  Yes, it's been miserable this year but so what?  Stick on your thermals and your waterproof and get out there anyway.

We're just back from a week in Wales and for the five full days we were there the weather was rain, sun, rain, sun, rain - in that order.  No messing around with a bit of grey skies and drizzle - nope, we either had full on sun or full on rain.  I kid you not, these are 5 photos, one from each day:

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5 (Steve was pulling that face on purpose!)  😁
Plus, is it just me, or are the folks that moan most about the weather the ones that are least likely to venture outdoors anyway?  So, basically, the problem with the weather for them is that it's a bit wet when they're getting from their car to whichever building they're visiting.

In an effort to buck the "whinging about the weather" trend, here are my five fab reasons to be happy when it's cold and wet.

1.  It's a perfect excuse to visit museums, art galleries and interesting old homes.  Yes, I know they're open when it's sunny too but they're perfect for soggy wet days.  They usually have great cakes too.  Porth y Swnt at Aberdaron on the end of the Llyn Peninsula is utterly fascinating and a brilliant combination of art gallery and museum.  It tells of the history of the region as well as celebrating its wildlife and there is plenty there for kids to do too.

Porth y Swnt at Aberdaron

2.  Because the sound of the rain, either on trees or drumming on the roof of the campervan is so relaxing.  You can buy relaxation albums which contain the sound of rainfall - but why spend your money on that when you can hear it for free?  Plus it makes great patterns on the windows.

3.  Because the beaches, and any other outdoors attractions, are way quieter - in fact you can usually have them all to yourself while everyone else hides away indoors.

Lloyd George's Grave - not a soul around
Miles of empty beach - perfect solitude
4.  Because when it's stormy the sea looks AMAZING!  I couldn't do it justice with my camera phone but the waves crashing onto the rocks were spectacular.  You don't get that in the middle of a heatwave!


5.  Because when you've been out and about getting soggy, cold and wet, there's nothing nice than a hot drink and a slice of well earned cake - or curling up under the duvet with your favourite people.

FAVE cake of the week from The Withes Brew in Pwllheli

You could even use the time to teach yourself some new and highly valuable skills. 

Of course we made the most of the sunshine too - the only thing I wasn't impressed with during the entire week was the £12 per person entry fee for Portmeirion.  We checked their website but couldn't see mention of much other than hotels, accommodation, shops and cafe's so we gave it a miss and had a fabulous adventure on Black Rock Sands instead.

Here's the rest of our trip in a nutshell:

Beach walk near Llanystumdwy

Criccieth Castle

Pwllheli Beach

Quick paddle!

Morfa Nefyn

Morfa Nefyn

Morfa Nefyn - excellent beach walk!




Black Rock Sands

Black Rock Sands

A dirty bike is a happy bike!


For those who are interested we stayed at the Camping and Caravanning Club Site at Llanystumdwy - it's small but perfectly placed for exploring the region.  The bus will pick up and drop off at the campsite gates.  

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Show me the way to glow home...

Lighting the way...
Those fabulous fellows at Fix the Fells have come up with an innovative way to fix the fells AND help keep walkers safer after dark - glow in the dark gravel.  From Sunday April 1st all the paths fixed by their amazing team of volunteers will contain this futuristic new product, and it's hoped that other National Parks will follow suit.

The inspiration behind the idea
They've taken their inspiration from computer games such as Fable where the player's route ahead is illuminated so they never get lost.  Inexperienced hikers getting lost on the fells after dark is a serious issue so it is hoped that this revolutionary approach will help to keep people safer.

The gravel is environmentally friendly and is made by rolling the gravel in a large drum, coating it with iridescent plankton from the seas around the Maldives.  In preliminary tests it was found that the rainfall in Cumbria was sufficient to keep the plankton alive and glowing.  Co-incidentally it is also hoped that the farming of this plankton will provide a much needed boost to the Maldivian economy.

In the future, as night falls across the fells, the paths leading the way to the various summits will glow gently, aiding any walkers still trying to find their way home and also creating a beautiful artwork of interconnecting routes, best viewed from a local pub garden with a pie and pint of local ale.

Happy (and safe!) hiking!

(P.S. Yes, of course this is an April Fool's wind up - but Fix the Fells really do need our money to keep the fells in tip top condition - to learn more about their fantastic work and make a donation PLEASE CLICK HERE.  Thank you 😀)