Virtual and Sometime Friends ( Really Careless Talk!)

Reflections on the just deserts of the truly talented writer.

Virtual and Sometime Friends ( Really Careless Talk!)

I have taken a long silence in the past weeks. Many loose threads are now waving at me to be woven into some kind of order. Having briefed the court case and found the book judged ‘not guilty’ I was bereft of purpose. Bereft also of much conviction that anything else I could say would have the value that justified saying it.

Some of those threads. Casual Observations, all.

• Blogging.

Unlike cooking which presents the necessity at least once daily, there is no appetite for a blog that is reflective, philosophically reflective, or too argumentative, or too long. Guilty as charged m’lud. I have perhaps twelve faithful friends who read and comment, and some at extravagant length. That is most warming and I can answer at equal length and never write anything else. This might discourage others who prefer to mwah or contrive pithy aphorisms. I have never prompted virtual kisses, probably not cuddly enough. I have my ‘demanding’ books and odd ideas about life, of no compelling relevance to anyone.

I did start a blog in the hope my books would gain readers, and many of my verbal followers have read one or both- perhaps eight altogether, and given the nature of those books they know me rather well, already.

So how to blog without skills to share for no evident appetites?

Yet without those friends life would be lonely indeed. They have come to be important, each one, and I can track them on the ‘like-lineup’ of other blogs and give a brief wave to their familiar avatars.

Another thing ( and I would like to know if others find this). I have ‘used up’ ideas on blogs and it has prompted suggestions like ‘Turn the Court Case into a Stage play’. But the salad wilts. It has languished on the table of my blog and been mostly ignored. I cannot make anything with it but a sort of spinach soup. I would much rather shop anew, but since very few read it, that is tantamount to waste. I might do it in time when it has been rinsed under a cold tap of neglect.

• Virtual Friends

It occurs to me that on line friendship should never be assumed as having much in common with the stop-in-the-street, have-a-coffee sort. Blog posts are like a brief torch that catches a facet of reflection. We face one another like crystals briefly stilled because we catch the same light. Another facet fails, or catches another nodding head.

For me this is the strength of on-line friendship, we relate to what is important that we share and move along. Many feel that this is indicative of superficiality. I disagree. There is a great economy in acknowledgment (or disagreement). I think where ideas are in the mix it is intimate, and real but perhaps being intimate needs no pursuit, or much time. A firefly should be enough to light up the dark.

If one was to meet for coffee it might spoil everything. One would probably find that we shared only ideas but not tastes, or values, or the use of money. If I had to double the tip for the nice waitress,to save face for another’s neglect, even good ideas would no longer retain their sparkle. It would spoil it for me if someone I really valued for ideas turned out mean, or vulgar, or emotionally up-tight.

I am not saying I suspect my friends of any of those qualities ( they are all extraordinarily generous) but I cannot talk about cricket for long..or show much interest in hair colour. Kindness might demand both!

Grander now than then!
Grander now than then!


I am half way through ‘Go Set a Watchmen’ and now remember why it is I write (and maybe should stop!) I won’t spoil things before I review it (and won’t then) but what is encountered is Harper Lee, who would never need to blog or talk over coffee. She is in every line and between them. I am not venturing to comment on the book but the revelation of someone who took the context of her childhood world and wove Maycomb so discerningly that Maycomb is my backyard and all those citizens, with their idiosyncrasies the aunts I never had, the bus drivers I know to avoid, and the short cuts through the yards I know to take. Yet she never ventured far afield and still could see them with that Austen eye for minutiae that told the whole story.

That's better!
That’s better!

Oh Lord writing! It’s a bugger, it’s a bitch, and such a come hither seduction. Whatever is the opinion of the moral defenestration of Atticus Finch ( and I sense the way we could be headed, but may be rescued?) it has allayed the belief that Mockingbird was a one horse carriage and a kind of happy-catch-the-current-racial-tension fluke. She is a master of time without even bothering to signal what she assumes her readers will intuit. She flips into the past without even putting on shoes or a comb through her hair, and comes back full tilt through the doorway of the present. Scout always broke the rules, with a finger to her nose and thank God, with the-proper-way-to-write police, she did. She pays all of us the compliment of understanding her deeply and seeing a story through her eyes. All the way. No blog necessary!

Yes, I know what you are going to say.

Courthouse By TheHistoryPirate (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons

Featured Image By Jeff Reed (Altairisfar) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 us (, via Wikimedia Commons

Author: philipparees

A writer ( mostly narrative poetry) of fiction and non-fiction. Self publisher of fiction and Involution-An Odyssey Reconciling Science to God (Runner-up Book of the Year (2013), One time builder ( Arts centre) Mother of four daughters: Companion of old man and old dog: One time gardener, lecturer, wannabe cellist, mostly enquirer of 'what's it all about', blogger and things as yet undiscovered.

24 thoughts on “Virtual and Sometime Friends ( Really Careless Talk!)”

  1. I suspect that were we to meet over wine, or cocktails, not coffee, we would have much to talk about.
    I am waiting until a 2nd hand copy of Go Set A Watchman becomes affordable, because I feel strongly that I do not wish to put yet more money into the hands of the publishers. I have nothing but admiration for Harper Lee, but I feel sure she has been shafted and sidelined.
    As for me, virtual friends are pretty much my life. There are reasons why I do not socialise much where I live, and one of those is that I know quite well I am an oddity. A conversation on Sunday, sat at a table in an outdoor cafe at Disneyland (aka HELL) with my colleague reminded me that the things I think are not the things many others think.
    If I have been absent myself lately, it has been through exhaustion and pressure of day job. But now the summer is free for me, so should I manage to gather sufficient ooomph, we may yet meet.


    1. I bought it as a birthday present for my Jem- so called after the original! Not the Italianate version of Gemma. Part of my enthusiasm is her breaking of rules which goes to show an oppressive presence of how to courses and a hundred books telling me how to write, or, more often, how not to!

      I am deliberating on pretty well everything and momentarily paralysed. These reflections rose to the surface today and constitute merely a wave to assembled company. Thanks for reading.


  2. Yes, yes, gentle writer to gentle reader, on the blisses and disses of blogging, the virtual kisses which, were they real, might reek with garlic and bad teeth, but both have their day and procedural etiquette netiquette ways, one on the cheek, one in the cheek. Probably true Harper Lee didn’t need no stinking blog to get along, but one suspects Shakespeare would have blogged (full of aphoristic misbehaviors), Chaucer daily updates of his pilgrimage, Milton to explain the ways of God to readers (who of course knew only too well all the while), Blake not to be outdone. Certainly Montaigne would have blogged, indeed, did blog. It’s some of the moderns one can’t think of blogging: Wallace Stevens blog? Probably not, or if he did, it would be a private, locked account, members only. But William Carlos Williams might have been a blogger when he wrote about the plums and red wheelbarrows and yachts and housewives walking out in their shifts in the cold morning to retrieve the newspaper, long strand of hair falling, and ignored. Bukowski surely would have blogged, though he would never leave a comment, nor respond to one. Joan Didion has told us she would never blog, but of course she would have, then, when the Santa Ana winds began to blow through the basin – what blogger could resist?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hello Joe. Yes you are undoubtedly right, even if blogging was on paper in pamphlet coffee houses. I am delighted to find I still have friends lurking out of sight. I must find new ways to entertain them.


    2. But Wordsworth would have refused to do things as they happened, preferring “emotions recollected in tranquility” and writing it all to publish entire much later.
      Having been on a trip last weekend where the onus was on the teachers to tweet live as things happened, I much prefer the delay for much-needed tranquility and perspective.


  3. Ah well, Philippa, I still imagine that you would come over for a visit and to Plettenberg Bay as well … a lovely fantasy I have of you coming over to SA. I have to say that a few others I have met over the blogosphere are people I know I would love to meet. We wouldn’t have to talk at all …I’ve almost forgotten how to anyway!

    It’s good to take a break from blogging from time to time and indulge in the joys of reading. I haven’t yet read ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ – an awful admission but there it is. I like the reviews of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ and am intrigued at apparent volte face from Mocking Bird to this one in which Atticus seems to be a neo liberal or some such.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are almost in the position of someone admitting they have never watched The Sound of Music! Almost a dinosaur. What reading watchman does is illuminate the reasons why so many Indie authors write series. Being able to count on pre-knowledge makes the job much easier after the first, and the selling easier than that! But you are in a unique position to read them the ‘wrong’ way round and would have very different views. Ah Plet remains a dream!


      1. I was forced to watch The Sound of Music on a coach by people who thought my failure to have ever seen it, a moral one. TKAMB is a good book.


    2. Now that I have finished ‘Watchman’ ( and I feel a review bubbling) I would seriously caution you, and particularly any South African growing up with racial tensions, not to read Watchman before you read Mockingbird. The relationship between them is one of increasing the depth of understanding into new dimensions. It may not be as polished a book, nor as tightly woven, nor such a good ‘story’ but its whole raison d’etre is to examine the surface success of Mockingbird and show the complexity underpinning the hero. As a Jungian you would understand that!


  4. I am sure I will be revitalised soon Alexander and find things to share with friends I would miss terribly. I will probably review Go Set a Watchman but not for the usual reasons. It hardly needs my contribution.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Silences are good, nature pauses. Like today, hardly a leaf stirs here in my garden. Entangled states tend to untangle with time. Nature is like that. Blogging, too, needs pauses. Our posts are only short inspirational breezes for a handful of similar roaming minds.

    I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ as a child. It brought home the racial tensions of America’s South. What impressed most was the visual writing, the mindboggling injustice of some people, their pure malice, beyond racism. The children’s pranks may even have freed me to mock some so-called good adults in my own childhood. The presents left in the hole of a tree by Boo, the reclusive neighbour, a kind of guardian angel, fuelled my imagination, and his final selfless reward for the children’s trust deeply satisfied.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I admire the economy of thought. If you had to contrive a family that would tear the heart strings could you do better than motherless children in the care of Atticus ( with judicious remedy from Calpurnia) It sets up both books ( as I now discover!) Much to learn from that decision! In subtle ways Boo represents the imagined horror that is, in essence wholly benign.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. It might not be a letdown meeting in person. Maybe it would be a delightful relief in person, being more loose and casual and free in give and take, walking along the ground as your blog entry does here, which is plain and fresh and from the heart. Makes me want to stay around and explore more ideas, and not despair when one or several of them come to nothing. Hell, what you read is also what you get in person with me. I don’t play behind personae, or if I do slip behind one, it’s not long before I recognize it and step back out where you can see me. I think masks and personae quite often are just habits – or fronts – which we don’t mean to hide behind, but do so because we’re only too human. It happens naturally. I never realized that I’ve been doing it to myself too. – What gave birth to the first mask? Primal fear? “The Author” or “The Artist” are also just masks and personae. They’re not the human being.

    If given a chance individuals really do want to tell their own stories, plainly and simply, out of their natural selves, naked as the day they were born. I have this sense that the first storyteller was not an artist. The most fully human who speaks candidly and with candor and moves in with touches of humor tells the best stories. Methods and techniques make me bristle and feel I’m being manipulated and coaxed. “The Author” coaxes superlatives of praise out of others. How many dust jackets and book covers have the same words on them, in stilted lifeless variation. My eyes glaze over.

    My own interest in people, anyway, so many different natures, is a fundamental motivator for interaction, even around those with whom I can’t seem to find a natural harmony. Friend or enemy doesn’t have to be the end of all relationships. There are fascinating encounters which I value as well, which remain on the level of friendly acquaintanceship. Even heated arguments have given me something: from them I learn when to back away, or where to put the “Proceed with Caution” sign. There are places I will not revisit, but I’m glad I visited in the first place. It strengthens my primary instincts. I’m beginning to realize that my inability to find the natural harmony is as much due to my own hang-ups and inhibitions, and clinging too much to a set of ideas, making pets and obsessions out of them, and a lack of heart and courage.

    If the words come from an honest and true place what matters if they’re delivered via a blog, hand-written in a letter, or said in person in conversation? These words could turn up anywhere and they’d still be ME. As you know, Philippa, I’m ME in an email to you, and this voice here is ME too, as it is in person if we were going for a stroll together.


    1. Touche John. I KNEW this off-the-cuff post would provoke disagreement and it has from all my good friends here. As an employer with whom I had a flaming row ( risking the roof over my head and over my children’s heads too) said ‘Good, now we both know each other, we will be friends! After that we were. Very good friends.

      But that is the greatest test of friendship. The freedom to disagree.

      What I was trying to flag up was the necessity to celebrate the points of contact that occur without necessarily expecting more. The limits of the quick in-and-out medium ( and the fact that most of us are overwhelmed with demands) does not invalidate the precious congruence when it comes.

      I have been more than fortunate in the close group here that engages. I suspect I would like all of you face to face and you would like one another. All are generous and open and as an old woman, confined by circumstances, that is unexpected richness. I never meant to suggest concealment or masks but perhaps the ignition of a fire from a piece of newspaper that may ignite more, or is free to fail to!

      Brian’s suggestion that the Court case would make a good play has given me a new creative future ( in time). What more valuable than that?

      I like you best when you get hot under the collar!


  7. Since “Watchman” was actually written before “Mockingbird,” I wonder if Lee’s agent didn’t ask for the simpler, purer Atticus as a means of guaranteeing acceptance among readers of the time. I could see where Lee might have written each version to address the different sides of a complicated man, in a way that made true emotional sense to one who knew him well. I will always be glad for the book that was published first, but will be interested to see the portrait of a Southern gentleman with prejudices intact. That is the South I know.


    1. I think it very likely. Possibly Atticus was a flag waver for a publisher intent on making him the mouthpiece of his own liberal views, whereas Harper Lee must have grown up with both sides of that equation. Yet in recalling one’s father many a writer irons out the faults without prompting. In a very critical review by Philip Henscher in the Spectator today he calls Watchman a ‘bad novel on the way to a very good one’. He finds much to fault, clunky and bad grammar, slightly ‘Doris Day’ romantic cliches and disputes that Harper Lee even intended it published. He suggests that a responsible publisher might have made it available in a scholarly edition with a commentary of HL’s development ( and probably better after her death). The issue of Atticus’s attitude to race he does not really deal with. I find myself less the literary critic simply because she has such economy of narrative and can recapture childhood in ways that still seem fresh.


  8. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Are you a writer?

    Have you had quite enough of “social media”?

    Do you wonder if you really have to Tweet and do all those other things “They” say you must if you ever expect to sell books?

    Check out this Re-blog from Philippa for a radically different point of view………


  9. Reblogged this on Notes from An Alien and commented:
    Are you a writer?

    Have you had quite enough of “social media”?

    Do you wonder if you really have to Tweet and do all those other things “They” say you must if you ever expect to sell books?

    Check out this Re-blog from Philippa for a radically different point of view………


  10. Philippa, your writing has this delectably toothsome quality to it. Each thought is like a perfectly balanced forkful of flavors that continue to surprise and tempt me back into the bowl.
    I do hope that the many thoughts of yours that bubble up to the surface will find their way onto paper and posts.
    I’m hooked. And hungry.


    1. What a recipient for a snack I threw down in the hope of finding hunger, even just the bolt and blow out the door kind. Sometimes those are the meals most remembered, the charred bones on the beach when the sun is sinking. So glad you came and lingered awhile.


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