I would like everyone to welcome the prolific Forcemeat to the table. I'm so absorbed in the review that I don't care about the blog in question at all. It's long, friends, but worth it.
Only yesterday I remarked to my Fanny that we ought to consider more charitable work. At the time she was busy removing bluebottle cadavers from the light fittings and storing them in the relevant cabinets and so she wasn’t overly enthusiastic, but I rather fancied myself as a clown-trousered philanthropist. To get into the spirit of things I attempted to distribute a large number of sturdy bones to the local primary, but was given short shrift by the ham-faced matron in charge. I tried to tell her that children thrive on marrow, but by that time the authorities had been summoned and it was time to hie me hence.
Greg Stock is a charitable man. He works very hard in three jobs to fund his adventures abroad, he is politically aware and charmingly susceptible to pretty sentiment. Greg Stock is a Canadian man, and this informs much of his writing; he posts about Canadian politics, the Olympic Games and ice hockey. Fanny informs me that the Canadians are a gentle people, and Greg Stock seems to be a gentle man. More importantly, he is a gentleman on a mission – a mission to set up one charitable project on each continent. Now even a heart as farctate with malice as mine could not fail to be touched by this kind of behaviour. I raise my glass to you, Greg Stock, for being a kind man. There are not enough.
But we are not here to discuss Greg Stock’s charitable efforts; we are here to have a squizz at his ‘blog’. I would like to make it clear from the start that the word ‘blog’ revolts me and any suggestions for a less vulgar word would be very much appreciated. I would also like to mention that I cannot give any real technical advice, filthy old Luddite that I am. My Fanny is typing this as I dictate from the commode. I had a heavy lunch.
Greg Stock has not one but five blogs, rising like tentacles from the central mantle of his website. The dawning realisation of the extent of Greg Stock’s endeavour caused me a minor attack of a bilious nature, but Fanny’s timely application of a stiff gin-and-Benecol saved the day, and I decided that the fairest thing to do was to review the writings at the ether-address I had been given, then take a quick shufti at the rest of it to back up my knee-jerk reactions.
This lead to an experience akin to wrapping your maw around a delicious-looking pie, one of those with a shiny, crimp-edged lid and maybe a little pastry motif on top just for fancy, and instead of the layers of succulent game for which you had readied your palate, getting a mouthful of warm, wet air not dissimilar to the dying fart of a little starveling cat. Go Yes to Everything Manifesto, besides being a strange way of putting it, is a mixture of politics,petty complaints about his job, mentions of other more interesting stories that are being told on his other blogs and the occasional finger-wag about how horrid humans are.
Greg Stock wants to be a ‘brand’, but he is not doing too well in the blogging world – most of his posts have a sad little ‘0 comments’ underneath. Greg Stock does not understand why this should be; he has linked and twittered and squatted on his MyFace and has basically wrapped himself up in shiny new technology like a robot puppy playing with virtual bog-roll. Greg Stock, listen to me – I think it might be because your writing is a bit boring. I think the trouble might be that although you live an interesting life, you have not yet found an interesting way of writing about it.
Sometimes you get it almost right, starting in media res, giving intriguing insights into character, popping in a few plumptious details to enliven the dish, but mostly things are a touch bland for my tastes, with the occasional hateful sultana of cliché. Yes, Greg Stock, I am talking about your lush green forests and your ‘soaring’ mountains. I wish I hadn’t mentioned sultanas. I loathe sultanas. They used to put them in the curry back at the School. Loathsome, bogey-like things. Fanny, could you pass me my hookah? Don’t type that, you ridiculous girl.
It is very easy to write things on the internet, but blogs are like underpants – you should always make sure yours are fabulous, lest you be hit by the 539 to Cleethorpes (for these purposes, Greg Stock, you can imagine said bus bearing down on you with my grinning, roseate face). It is easy to become lazy, and think that yesterday’s underkecks will suffice, that wearing any old pants is better than wearing no pants at all, but this is not at all true, unless you take your pleasure in contriving traffic accidents whilst going commando. This metaphor is exhausting, I must have more gin.
If you want to be a ‘brand’, you need to start acting professionally, and that means taking your writing seriously, because it is on your writing that you will be judged. Your writing needs to inspire your readers if you ever want to get any comments, and at the moment you have an ugly tendency to hector and kvetch.
I would recommend, Greg Stock (although the last person to take one of my recommendations is now languishing in Wormwood Scrubs), that you study the art of the vignette and read travel writers ‘til you rupture. Read everything, for that matter. If you want to become a better writer you must become a better reader.
When you are grown fat and sated on the talent of others, Greg Stock, take your many blogs and think of them as raw material. Comb through those hundreds of posts and pick out the juiciest morsels, then use them to craft twenty-or-so beautiful pieces, one on each of your favourite subjects. You could have one on each country you visited, one on each of your projects, one on Canadian politics, even one on ice hockey if you really must, or your unfounded and downright racist misconceptions regarding British dentistry and the availability of pastry snacks in Fleet Street dives. You could make each piece into a perfect, complete story, and then you could start again.
In one fell swoop you could smite your maladapted, many-armed monster and put in its place a sleek, toned god of a website. You absolutely must get a new logo – yours is almost identical to the logo of the cut-price travel agent who sold me that dreadful weekend on Little Sark. All my luggage was lost, and that was a terrible inconvenience as I had stowed my Fanny in the steamer trunk. We readers would be able to find you from your updates on Twitter, were we that way inclined, and over we would surf on a tsunami of enthusiasm to find you standing on your new threshold with your arms open in welcome. We would step inside and marvel.
What’s that? A concise introduction to the man Greg Stock? Clearly titled stories on a range of fascinating subjects that offer up complete worlds with memorable details and niftily-characterised inhabitants? Stories that make me feel I not only know Greg Stock as a political livewire, philanthropic titan and disgruntled barkeep, but also as a man? A regular blog that keeps me updated on all the things I leaned about in his stories and all the interesting things that he does and sees and learns and that reads like a scintillating serial rather than a series of disconnected statements about how rude people have been or how in his day tomatoes tasted like tomatoes and bananas were real men and you could take a jaunt to the Milk Bar and catch the matinee and still have change from a thrupenny bit to get the omnibus home? And we readers, enraptured, would get to know you a bit better, and by knowing you would feel more involved in your life and your charity work, and I know that it is important to you that people engage with the good work you do. People might even comment, as well.
My penultimate point is this, and I say it in my most serious voice: get rid of the adverts, they make you look like the kind of tawdry whore my Fanny invariably ends up with after one too many Snakebites down the old Duck and Cover. It is jarring to read a post about the deadening effects of consumerism and then scroll down to an advertisement for a £22 T-shirt. Your sidebar is a filthy pimp, continually trying to set me up with sexy singles in my area (but which area?) and attempting to pressgang me into marriage to one of its ethnically arbitrary stable of Indian or Tamil women. I don’t know if it is possible to choose who gets to advertise on your blog, but if it is, I would recommend that in your brave new world you plump for Fair Trade toffees and organic hemp as opposed to haute couture and hookers.
In conclusion, Greg Stock, you are probably a very nice man. We should all do more kind things for other people, and we know it, but still we draw the curtains and turn on our machines. As long as you aren’t secretly a terrible old murderer, I think you’re a decent chap who has the potential to turn his fascinating experiences into a fascinating blog and perhaps even into the ‘brand’ you so desire. All you need to do is learn how to write.
Ah Greg Stock, I could write about you forever, but Fanny has drawn my mustard bath and I have protuberances to soak. I have relished the opportunity to offer you some friendly advice. You don’t have to take it, old stick, it’s just the gin-soaked gibbering of a rickety old clown, but you might want to consider it, lest we meet one tight and airless evening somewhere you didn’t mean to go.
I think, though, that I will give the last word to Greg Stock himself, or rather, one of his discoveries. Look at this, and think about what you have done.
I give you two stars, one for your heart and one for the effort.
P.S. Dear Greg Stock, my Fanny has requested I inform you that The Guardian is an excellent publication and that she could never respect a man who thought otherwise. I myself take only The Daily Sport. For some reason these days I just can’t stomach the news without an awful lot of tits.