Tuesday, 3 May 2005

Meeting on the net

The great advantage of meeting new people on the net as opposed to meeting them in person is that you have total control over the relationship. You can end it whenever you like because there can be no come-back: they cannot telephone you and you will not bump into them at the supermarket. There is no commitment: you are never going to meet any of them.

If you are fed up with them but they choose to go on emailing you or leaving comments on your blog then a few clicks will dispose of their unwelcome communications; you don’t even have to read them first. But often the loss of interest is mutual, like a marriage nearing an undramatic end: you merely discover after a bit that you have nothing to say to each other.

Actually I have not often found it necessary to break off a net acquaintanceship. I have run into a few people whose continuous ranting becomes tedious or who want to tell me that my relationship with Jesus is unsatisfactory or who are dreary in some other way, but the great majority of contacts have been agreeable, interesting and stimulating.

Through Other Men's Flowers I have had some kind of net contact over the last eighteen months with dozens of people. These differed in the depth and intensity of their involvement: some just engaged in a brief exchange of jokey comments in their blogs or in mine, some permitted me to plagiarise their writings, and with others I have had months of email correspondence amounting to several thousand words. Nearly all these contacts were rewarding in one way or another and through them I have acquired some valuable mentors and interesting mentees.

In no particular order, here are some of those I am or have been in touch with:
A speech therapist in Bolton, a translator in Brighton, the first cousin once removed of a Prime Minister (not ours), a world expert on cryptography in Hertfordshire, a professor of law in Baton Rouge, a seventeen-year-old poet in British Columbia, an interpreter in Brussels, a teacher of law in Montana, a newsreader on Channel Four, a professor of English in Newark, an Honorary Senior Research Fellow in Sociology & Modern Korea at Leeds University, an embittered Vietnam vet in Australia, a law lecturer (another!) at Stanford, a librarian in Florida, an IT worker in Luton and another in Chislehurst, a student in Arlington VA, an engineer in New Delhi, an aspiring writer in New Jersey, a musician in Hove, a writer in New England, a polyglot teacher from Lesotho living in Paris, a woman who spins and knits in California, a banker in Grand Rapids, a lawyer in Michigan, a researcher and project associate in Atlanta, a net administrator in Houston, a teacher of English undergoing chemotherapy in London, a retired newspaperman in Oregon, a professional photographer in South Dakota......

These were all total strangers. Of course, there are also people I know - relatives, friends, relatives of friends and friends of relatives - who read Other Men's Flowers and make occasional comments - supportive, critical, contemptuous or ribald.
I have a huge advantage over nearly all those who are kind enough to spend time corresponding with me: my time is not nearly as precious as theirs because I never have any real work to do.

19 comments:

MrVilhauer said...

You never have real work to do? Well I think that sounds wonderful. Let's be friends.

Tony said...

Yes, it is indeed wonderful. But my guess is that you will have to wait fifty years or so before you are eligible to join my club, the members of which can't even remember what real work was like.

PerfectlyVocal said...

Rest assured, the relationship is equally valued from the other side.

MrVilhauer said...

Fifty years?

Why, I'll be nearly 80 years old! There will be flying cars...and freeze-dried food! Robots will do my laundry! Computers will be forever banished!

Anonymous said...

E-Sonnet Internetus Interruptus

The cyber waves doth flavour human choice,
Of disembodied souls mindless extremes.
Of wit, of rambling malcontent, of voice
Sparked with compassion, silliness and dreams.
Electronic waves kiss shores of distaste;
One mouse click, myriad synapses lost.
Blogs; some gourmet, others begat in haste,
Yet others, meme-trendy, count not the cost
Of corrupted language to o'ersway
The cerebral flow of young minds thus free
To gorge on world wide web feasts which decay!
Yet, so too, a human banquet may be,
Other Men's Flowers, no posies denied!
The threads that bind them link journeys untried.

Great White North Boy (sometimes poet, sometimes not).

Tony said...

Blimey. That's the first comment in blank verse I've ever had.
If I made it a rule to delete all comments except those in the form of Shakespearean sonnets that'd cut down the number of frivolous remarks and sort out the men from the boys, wouldn't it?

Gervase said...

The sonnet's not bad, for an Inuit, if that's what he is, but the metre limps in places and he should know that doth (=does) can have only singular subjects; here it should be do.
I would give it 7/10, could do better.

PerfectlyVocal said...

Hmmm - would my comment have gone down better in Iambic Pentameter?

Tony said...

No, Cal, your comment would have been heart-warming in any language or metre.

Anonymous said...

Gervase:

1. I'm not Innuit.
2. Thanks for the 'doth' lesson. That's useful to know. Sir Tony has my permission to change it to 'do', should he feel so inclined.
3. I am 17, and that's only the third sonnet I've written.
4. I was challenged by a friend to use those exact words at the ending of each line.
5. 7/10, eh? Maybe, I should just become a journalist?

Great White North Boy

MrVilhauer said...

Regardless, it brought a tear to my eye.

bonhead said...

To Great White North Boy,
What Mr. Gervase says about your sonnet may be true, but his comment sounds incredibly pompous and mean spirited for a supposedly educated person, and I would think that he might at least acknowledge that--given your age--it is, in fact, quite nicely done. I mean
what? Let's discourage young people from writing at all. Hell, I can talk about other people's sonnets and how you're supposed to write them all day long, but you know what, I've never tried to write one myself--Have you Mr. Gervais? or do you just study, teach, and talk about them too---And then attack people who are having some fun exploring the form and developing their writing skills? Good Lord!

gervase said...

Mr Tink:
It would be improper to disfigure this urbane and erudite blog with unseemly brawling, but I really must respond to the grotesque and gratuitous impertinence of the comment you have made in it, addressed to me (with my name spelt two different ways). Pompous and mean-spirited, eh?
Anyone who can write poetry as well as this young man clearly needs no defence, and anyway his response showed that he in no way felt under attack.
If you had taken the trouble to look at my blog you would have seen that my writing has always been characterised by its gentleness and the warmth with which I encourage my young students, whose comments show that they regard me with affection. You would also have seen that Gervase is not my surname.
Anyway, if this young man is a poet - which I think he is - no observations by a grumpy old Scots academic will discourage him.
As for my own poetic skills, I did write some sonnets in my youth but my only published poems are in Old Norse, my specialist subject.

bonhead said...

Gervase, Sir.
You have my apologies. I don't know that my comment was "grotesque"--I mean--I was just defending the fellow; and you can see where my heart is; and your post was rather blunt. But I was impertinent; and I was tired; and it was very late here; and my comment went too far. I did go to your profile--not your website--after my post, and realized that you were a Scotsman; and an extremely well-educated and accomplished one. I only have my wits Sir--with few accomplishments in this life to speak of--and it pains me to have been the source of that slight to you. My heart was with the poet. Your response to my comment reveals much more to me of the kind of man that you are. I am at least man enough to acknowledge that I was wrong and ask--again--that you please accept my apology and forgive me. I'm not a philistine! In fact, I am of approximately 1/16 Scotch-Irish
decent on my grandmother's side, and can claim both the Fletcher name on the Scottish side; and the Ofarrell name on the Irish side--For what it's worth. Lol!

Gervase said...

Mr Tink:
A graceful apology, accepted with equal grace.
However, I am sorry that you have not looked at my website, for you would have found much to interest you there.
(By the way, Fletcher isn't much of a Scottish name: fletchers made arrows, and we Scots were not interested in longbows - our claymores and our skean dhus were quite enough to see off the Sassenachs. Ask Mel Gibson.)
Lang may yer lum reek.

bonhead said...

Gervase,
Thank You!
I look forward to visiting your blog soon.
As for "Fletcher" not being much of a Scottish name, I leave you to ponder the following excerpt from The Clan Fletcher Society website at: http://www.spaceless.com/fletcher/flet3.htm

"One of the most magnificent of the many lovely Highland glens is undoubtedly Glenorchy, whence the Fletcher Clan is said to have originated. The Fletchers claim descent from Kenneth MacAlpin, the first king of the united Picts and Scots, and ancestor of our present Royal family. The Fletchers were the first to 'raise smoke and boil water' on the Braes of Glenorchy (Is e Clannan-Leisdeir a thog a cheud smuid thug goil air uisge an Urcha). The patronymic of the Clan was Mac-an-leistear, and prior to 1700 was written in documents as 'MacInleister'. When surnames came to be used, in about 1745, the name was anglicised as Fletcher - the equivalent of the Gaelic 'Leisdear', man of the arrow. The first person to use the English 'Fletcher' seems to have been Archibald the VIIIth Chief". Read on to learn that a MacInleister once even saved the life of Rob Roy! Sounds like a solid Scottish name to me!

Gervase said...

Fletcher is indeed a Scottish name and I apologise. Careless of me not to look it up; my only excuse is that I have never met a Scottish Fletcher and since the word is Middle English from Old French it didn't occur to me that a Scottish clan would have adopted it in 1745; Leisdear may mean the same but is obviously a different word.

Anonymous said...

An interesting debate about the name origins of Fletcher. Given that the reference is to my website (spaceless.com) I thought a further comment was worthwhile. The association with the MacGregors (who claim Fletcher as a sept name) may have had an impact on the popularity of the name as may have the association with the Campbells (of Glenorchy). It does appear that the Fletchers faced at least some degree of torn allegiance and perhaps adopting the name of close relatives had it benefits!

Gordon

Tony said...

Why, thank you, Gordon.

There is a sadness here; the man who started the discussion about the Fletchers (having some in his ancestry) had become a friend on the net. He was travelling in a camper from Albuquerque to Oaxaca, blogging daily, when suddenly his blog ceased and I have never been able to regain contact.

I fear he met with an accident.