I’ve developed a taste for something a little unusual.
It’s slightly strange, vaguely self-centred and I do it all alone.
I’ve seen others at it too. Some make it dirty.
No, I ain’t eating Pot Noodles.
It’s writing a web blog – an online diary or digest of news stories, chat, opinion, vitriol, lustful thoughts or plain rubbish.
Blogging is what they call it and it is becoming big news. Often the blog is even the messenger bringing the news itself.
Many of those which have gained notoriety have been either smutty or nutty: blogs of the sexual fantasist, rumour monger or conspiracy theorist. The most famous, Belle de Jour, the anonymously-written, intimate adventures of a London prostitute, spawned a frenzy of media interest and a bestselling book.
But, a little like ‘high-class hooker’ Belle de Jour herself, blogging can be what you want it to be.
Blogs have been developing in the United States since the early 1990s but ‘blogging’ only made it into the Oxford English Dictionary in 2003 and neither my US or UK spell-checker recognises blog, blogger, blogging or blogged.
Now though a number of blogs have sprung up in Wales.
Blogcymru.com provides a starting place to find the most regularly-updated efforts, while britblog.com lists more than 100 Welsh sites. Titles include Taffia Don, Never Knowingly Wrong, Smiling Under Buses and Chronicles of a Lonely Genius, a name which speaks for so many bloggers.
I’m distinctly z-list as yet but I’m there at whatiswales.blogspot.com.
Some people just want to talk, others really have something to say.
The blogger at A Life In Wales movingly takes readers through the painful stages of her illness and her battle with a tumour. “As my 50th birthday is just a few days before Christmas I’d hoped to be over and done with hospitals by then but it seems I will be carrying this into 2006,” she wrote recently from her home somewhere in rural west Wales.
Meanwhile, there is a Kerry Katona version of Belle de Jour, Chav Mum, a gaudy red and yellow blog which smells of chip paper.
Experiences include an unsatisfying ‘romantic moment’ behind Cardiff International Arena and a cab ride home with a friend. “(The driver) said, ‘Where you going?’ We said, ‘Home!’ and laughed our heads off. He said, ‘Which caravan park’s that then?’ Cheeky bugger. Ashanti p***** on his seat in revenge.”
Politicians are in on the act. Peter Black, David Davies and Leighton Andrews are dedicated bloggers, while Brynle Williams hasn’t had anything to say since last year’s message on January 15, 2005.
The blog’s sense of immediacy has seen some newspapers, particularly The Guardian, grasping at them hungrily. It has developed not only its own blogs but is referencing others.
Mainstream news comes increasingly from fewer sources. Wire copy means that a single interpretation of a story is likely to be read by people around world: the same words run by daily newspapers from Swansea to Scunthorpe, and often to Sydney and Singapore too.
In addition, recent research has shown that both Americans and Europeans trust the opinions of “average people” more than most authorities.
It was therefore of little surprise that the invasion of Iraq proved a boon to bloggers.
Salam Pax became world famous with his Baghdad diary, while hundreds of American blogs launched on both sides of the debate – some started by members of the military.
Bristol law student Jo Wilding worked hard to bring truth from the Fallujah (and had her work celebrated by John Pilger). Youth Aid Iraq-organisers Kevin and Helen Williams, of Newport, South Wales, did the same from Baghdad.
In many ways, modern life has made people feel weaker and further from power. No matter how many march against a war, it goes ahead; while, in the office, anonymous, fat-cat shareholder greed outweighs the hard-work, commitment and loyalty of any employee.
So why not check out the blogs? They are not all intelligent, trustworthy or worth reading.
But they give voice to all sorts of people. Support your local blogger.
(as published in The Big Issue Cymru, New Year edition)