Diary of an Accidental Naturalist

April 10, 2016

Something people always seem to do on the way home from holiday is to work out what was the best bit.  I won’t bore you with my holiday reminiscences— except for the one memory turned out to be the ‘signature’ moment.  It was an unscheduled animal encounter.

We did all the tourist bits.  We had to visit Kruger Park; one of the few unsullied and un-repopulated wild animal domains that at least approximated the original habitat and animal populations.  The animals mostly carried off their roles competently:  the solitary bull elephants were irritable old men, who barely acknowledged our presence in Land Rovers two hundred meters away; the white rhinos peered at us myopically from between the scrubby bushes and baobab trees; the giraffe affected the unconcern of elegant old ladies waiting for their turn at a tea-dance.

What happened to us on the morning of the last day was undoubtedly the high-spot and the keynote of our ‘extended family’ holiday.  One automatically reaches for superlatives when trying to describe what it’s like to come into close contact with whales, but I’ll attempt to resist the temptation.

We were lucky to be given hotel accommodation right on the shoreline of Table Bay, between Sea Point and Bantry Bay, for those who know the area. The emerald expanse of the South Atlantic stretched from almost below our balcony to a crystal sharp horizon several miles distant.

Earlier that morning

Earlier that morning

Patches of giant kelp carpet the sea floor and the white sand beneath is visible to depths of forty meters and more. So, we were packing up to return to England, yesterday morning, and something caught my eye just twenty or thirty meters off-shore. A glistening jet of water was propelled into the air by something just below the surface.  Then I saw the great dark shape outlined around it, silhouetted in the clear, sparkling water.  Then I saw another, then another.  I shouted to my family in the apartment: ‘Whales here! Now!’  The family cascaded onto the balcony area, tripping over the ankle- level recliners.  I focussed my camera on the nearest one: a large male, over twenty meters long and with a nose encrusted with orange barnacles.

Whales engender the strangest emotions.  A kind of fusion of sadness and joy.  A feeling of a spiritual connection that perhaps has its origins in a shared primal ancestry and common purpose: to stay alive in spite of everything. The whales, Southern Right-Whales, shouldn’t have been there. They are supposed to be viewable in the bay during mating season, from October onwards.  But then, thanks to our elevated location, we saw something that several other casual onlookers on the shore may not have noticed.  A long black, wavering ribbon wove a path parallel to the shoreline, about a hundred meters out.  At first, I thought it was kelp.  Then I noticed it was moving almost imperceptibly slowly from left to right across the shoreline.  It was a large pod of those massive creatures, apparently migrating, before our eyes.  Nose to tail, line astern, big and small they followed one another in what must have been a seasonal migration.  A large shadow at the front of the ribbon indicated the head of the procession and then smaller black shadows followed, many only a meter or so long in the middle of the order.

Part of the pod

Part of the pod

Perhaps it was the juxtaposition of our luxury and comfort alongside an ancient and timeworn ritual.  We were awe-struck in the face of these many giant creatures enacting a rite that evolution commanded them to fulfil, and felt uniquely privileged that only we of all the residents of Cape Town seemed to have noticed the stately progress of the giant black ribbon up the coast.  We, as a species, have a presumed arrogance.  Whether it is benign, as in the case of environmentalist concerns, where we try to wind-back the depredations of civilisation and restore a life and dignity to the creatures we share the planet with, or, the unthinking and ill-considered policy edicts of a president that puts populist short-term financial issues above all else; these creatures will keep on doing what they have done for millions of years.

I took photographs of course, just to prove to myself that I was not imagining it. But photographs are the reflection of a memory, and the experience itself buoyed us up as we regretfully left our holiday accommodation behind.

The watchman

The watchman


The Airbus that flew us out of Cape Town that morning flew over the sunlit bay and there, below us, were two distinct dark shapes, presumably still shepherding their brood past the Great Whites that ring Robben Island hunting for seal.  Sometimes holiday memories fade quite quickly, but we won’t be forgetting this one in a hurry.



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WordWatchers: Priceless

February 14, 2016


Working hard at Symondsbury

As I write this, I’m nestled in a corner sofa in a rambling and eclectic house in deepest Dorset. The fire is crackling, I can hear the tap of keys, the hum of voices as two authors sit in the kitchen bouncing plot ideas around. The atmosphere is peaceful, relaxed, yet focused.


This is Symondsbury, the yearly writing retreat of WordWatchers, and the lovely folks who surround me are some of the most important people who have accompanied me on my writing journey.


I joined WordWatchers in 2008. I’d just moved to the area, was keen to meet new people and had an idea for a novel that I really wanted to write. One dark November night, I drove to a cottage in the woods and began the chain of events that led to the publication of my first book in February 2015.


What blew me away about WordWatchers was how dedicated everyone was, how invested they all were in their craft, how seriously they took it. I was shocked that they minuted their meetings – as if we were at work! Every meeting, each person made promises of what they intended to do that month, and those promises were revisited during the updates the following month.


I wondered if this was for me. It all seemed so formal. It was, after all, just a hobby – not a job. But as I got to know the group members, I realised how many of them had completed novels … yes, actually finished them! Katherine Webb, WordWatchers’ most successful member, had written six novels. When I joined, her seventh, The Legacy, was being considered by a major UK publisher. And then I realised something. Whatever it was this group had, it worked.


Some WordWatchers at Katherine’s book launch


The first promise I made was to write 10,000 words. I’m a conscientious person and found the fact that I’d have to account for myself the next month very motivating. Of course, no one would’ve minded if I’d rocked up and said that I’d only managed 2,000 words, but I so wanted to hit that target.


Six months later, I had a first draft. Six months after that, an extract from my novel won a competition and was circulated in an anthology to agents and editors. The following year, I had signed with an agent.


WordWatchers provided the most nurturing, encouraging and supportive atmosphere in which to grow as a writer. Thanks to their careful critiquing, gentle guidance and advice, I have improved more than I did during my degree in English Literature with Creative Writing. And it has been considerably cheaper!


It’s not just about writing, though. I was delighted to have two ‘WordWatchers’ tables at my wedding. I’ve been to summer BBQs, Christmas meals and weekend retreats. I’ve roped some of them into moving furniture around my house. When I was stuck at home with no power and unable to access the copy edits on my latest novel, a WordWatcher (John) was the first person I called.

Playing hard!

Playing hard at Symondsbury


As you can probably tell, this is so much more than a writing group. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that WordWatchers is like a family. I won’t name names but I know who I think of as the matriarch and patriarch, everyone’s favourite aunts and uncles, the squabbling cousins (yeah, I’d be one of them!), the naughty children. And – in the same way a family does – WordWatchers listens, sympathises and supports when ‘life stuff’ gets in the way of writing.


As I sit in this fabulous house where we’ve shared food, drinks, games, ideas and laughter over the last few days, I think about how comfortable we all are in each other’s presence, how easy it is to sit in silence while we’re working, but equally how easy it is to look up, ask someone’s advice on a particular word, phrase or scene.


I am taking a break from writing, and therefore from the group. I’m not allowed to say I’m leaving – I’ve been told it’s a sabbatical. I shall miss these warm, funny, creative, intelligent and generous people very much, and am just glad that I will still be able to see them at socials.


I was talking to Julian yesterday about some plot problems he’s been wrestling with. At the end of the conversation, I could see from his face how much better he felt, how – just from talking – we’d raked back some of the brambles and he could see a clearer path ahead of him. He told me, ‘That conversation was priceless.’ I replied, ‘WordWatchers is priceless.’


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A Christmas 75-worder #4

December 8, 2015

This 75-worder was one of my first, but I only recently transferred it to the format you see here. I’m happy with the concept, although I’m still not quite happy with the font…

It remains one of my favourite 75-worders too and one of the few that I’ve subsequently gone back and give a title to, The List of the Lost, in Paragraph Planet terms this would have been simply, He was a creature of lists, had it ever been published.


John Hoggard

John Hoggard

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In the run up to Christmas

December 5, 2015

You can usually tell how busy the group is, with writing, life and sometimes both, by how many blogs the ten of us manage to write for the website…


We haven’t blogged since October…

OK, well, I’ve been meaning to do this for the last few years and have always forgotten. Even this year I’m five days behind, but here we go – my plan is to publish one Christmas themed 75-worder every day. Some will have been seen on the Paragraph Planet website before, most will not. Many will eventually appear in my (very) short story collection 75-Squared at Christmas if I ever managed to pull my finger out and collate them all. Some I probably haven’t even written yet (I tend to get quite inspired this time of year). Some will even feature illustrations by the talented artist Helen Withington.

As I’m five days behind, rather than this being an advent event as I’d intended, I’m going to go right through until December 31st instead.

So here we are – the first of my Christmas themed 75-worders:

Father Christmas Inc (FCI), a Division of Santa Claus Enterprises would like to make the following announcement: After the 15th consecutive year-on-year drop in the number of children classified as “Nice”, FCI hereby declare that the following behaviours will no longer be classed as “Naughty”: Not tidying your room, not doing your homework, breaking something (under $50 in value) and not owning up. However, after some boardroom discussion, outright lying will still be classed as “Naughty”.

As ever, thank-you for your time and, if it’s not too early, Merry Christmas!

John Hoggard

John Hoggard

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Farewell Leonard Nimoy

February 28, 2015

In the 1970s our family, wood effect colour TV only had 3 channels (although it had 6 buttons… (just in case?)) to watch. In those days, children were the remote control.

“Turn over to ITV son, nearly time for Corrie” my mum would say.


In the 1970s I don’t remember watching (and enjoying) many TV programmes with my parents, but there was one – Star Trek. I used to lie next to my dad on the living room floor (my dad had a thing about lying on the floor to watch TV) once a week and I was captivated.

Space ships, fights, aliens, strange new worlds… Kirk got the girl, McCoy told us he wasn’t a plumber, Scotty would somehow get the Enterprise through her latest disaster even though she cannae tak any more and Spock would find find things ‘Fascinating’.

In those days I didn’t know what physics was, but I knew I wanted to be like Spock, to study stuff and work out how it worked. That seemed like the best of things to do, to be.

Turned out that I wasn’t the cleverest kid, pretty bright, but no genius. However, I loved to learn, loved to know how stuff worked (many a toy suffered a carefully studied dismantling).

In 1983 my parents bought me a computer, a Commodore 64. I began to teach myself how to program, I found amazing worlds in games such as Elite (which introduced me to the Fantasy, Horror and Science Fiction author Robert Holdstock as a bonus). In Elite I got to boldly go where no-one had gone before (at least, in my own mind). I had friends, but not many, I never really tried to fit in. My parents will testify that I spent much of my time alone in my bedroom on my computer, or around the house of those close friends’ on their computers.

At school I discovered Physics and Computer Studies and, having got my GCSEs went on to study Physics at A-level. I didn’t do particularly well, but I scraped enough grades together to get me to University and I continued with my studies, Physics and Computer Science. Once again, I did enough, loved the learning but struggled to reproduce it in my exams.

Star Trek: The Next Generation was on the TV, it was good, but that concentrated, logical science role was watered down, distributed amongst the cast. There wasn’t anybody quite like Spock, except for Spock of course, who made a guest appearance in a few episodes.

After graduation I began working for the MOD, who put my multi-discipline degree to good use. I was finally a proper scientist and remained so for 13 years. I continued to study, doing a Masters part-time and while I’m no longer a scientist (except in my heart and outlook on the world), having moved into academia, I continue to find things ‘fascinating’.

On Tuesday this week my youngest daughter was ill and off school and she cuddled up next to me on the sofa. When she turned the TV on, it happened to be on CBS action and they were showing digitally remastered episodes of Star Trek, The Original Series. This particular episode was This Side of Paradise. An episode (made in 1969) where the crew, including Spock, are infected with spores that make them happy, content, chilled out and emotional. It was an episode I remember watching with my dad back in the 1970s and here I was, with my daughter, at the same age, watching the same episode thirty-five years later. The generational baton had been passed. I was incredibly happy. So, when I heard that Leonard Nimoy had died yesterday the news stopped me in my tracks, because, having watched that classic Trek episode with my 7yo had reset my time clock. Spock and therefore Leonard Nimoy was in his 30s again. I had forgotten he was 83 and in recent poor health. The last time I had seen him he was hanging upside from a tree branch, laughing and smiling…

On social media I have met like-minded people and so my News and Twitter feeds are full of unbelievably touching tributes to Leonard Nimoy. He wasn’t just my inspiration, he was the inspiration to hundreds, if not thousands of scientists and engineers and we are united in a strange sense of loss.

Gamers playing Star Trek Online met on Vulcan, their avatars stood in spontaneous and silent tribute.

Star Trek Online - Leonard Nimoy Tribute

Star Trek Online – Leonard Nimoy Tribute (thanks to Gabriel Souto)

Above us in the International Space Station, Astronaut Terry Virts paid the most simple and beautiful of tributes.

@AstroTerry on ISS pays his respects.

@AstroTerry on ISS pays his respects.

No doubt many more of my childhood inspirations will slip away in the years to come, they (and I) are of that kind of age, but there is still something very sad about losing ‘my’ Spock.

He lived long and he prospered.



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A Procrastination of writers, Part 2

February 8, 2015

In January 2014 WordWatchers spent an amazing weekend at Symondsbury Manor.

I captured my thoughts on that wonderful event in this blog: A Procrastination of Writers

We had such an amazing time that we talked about doing it again on several occasions and then it finally happened and we returned for the final weekend of January 2015.

The line-up was slightly different this time round: alumna Katherine Webb tweeted her frustration at not being able to attend this time, Chris McCormack and Danielle Auld had left earlier in the year but our newest members Oliver Randle and Tom Haynes came this time, thrown in at the deep-end in many ways.

The biggest void in our group was that poor Mel, our organiser, was missing, hurt in a car accident earlier in the week and in too much pain to attend. She was very much missed.


It was strange to be back and wonderful at the same time. The building’s quirkiness quickly enveloped us in its familiar and comfortable magic. Very quickly, any fears that Symondsbury wouldn’t be as special as it was the first time, that we were looking back through rose-tinted spectacles, were dismissed. Symondsbury Manor is a magical place for a procrastination of writers.

Julian took up his place in the same chair that he had occupied the year before and, other than a few games of table tennis and to play the (still out of tune) piano he barely moved for the entire weekend…

Julian in his 'usual' seat

Julian in his ‘usual’ seat

Julian on the (badly tuned) piano

Julian on the (badly tuned) piano

I took my place at one end of the main table in the communal area and, basically, didn’t moved. Having promised WordWatchers that 2015 was the year I would bite the bullet and return to my novel, Endless Possibilities.

The weekend at Symondsbury seemed like a perfect opportunity to start to keep that promise.

It turns out editing is rather addictive once you get into it and I rarely went to bed before 1am.

The editing addict

The editing addict at 1am

Since we got back from Symondsbury I have continued to edit my novel. I’ve been getting up at 5am and editing until 6am. It was this schedule and methodology by which I wrote the last 45,000 of this same novel in just two months (compared to taking 2+ years to write the first 95,000).

So, when I arrived at Symondsbury my novel had 140,000 words, when I left after the weekend it was down to 130,000 words and now, after four mornings of getting up at 5am it’s down to just under 127,000. It’s getting harder, the initial hack and slash of the weekend is down to some pruning, but it’s taking shape. Years of practising the art of the 75-worder is paying dividends.

I already know that when I get to the end of this, I will do it again. I have already identified areas that I suspect will need pruning once I have the novel shaped the way I want it. This time though, I’m looking forward to it…

Until next time.

John Hoggard

John Hoggard


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I had a dream. When I woke up the world had changed.

September 6, 2013

I questioned one of my dreams, just over a year ago.

I’d already spent many years being published by newspapers and magazines and being read by newspaper and website subscribers but that didn’t quite fill the hole. I wanted to write a book.

So I wrote a children’s picture book. The hole remained. Writing without readers is like chips without ketchup. I needed to get the words turned into a book. Books were the secret sauce.

But then the questions started. Was my ambition to be read or to be ‘published’? – where ‘published’ meant validated by someone in the book industry. Should I wait in the hope of getting picked by an ever shrinking and increasingly busy publishing industry? Or do I back myself, ship something and try to find readers myself? Should I be trying to get a book made or an eBook?

Despite the loaded questions, the choice wasn’t that easy. I realised that the core reason I wrote was not for the validation of an experienced industry veteran (which would be sweet, it’s true) but for readers (their validation is even sweeter). Then I thought I could publish something and get feedback from readers more quickly than I could get feedback from a publisher or agent, and that was it – my path was set.

I set up my own mini publishing company, Batmack Books, and started learning the ropes with my own book PONG! as the guinea pig.

Taking this route was also due to my impatience. I’m not the sort of person who could spend a year sending out letters to agents and publishers. I tried a few but lost all drive to continue within a few months. It seemed such a lottery.

The second reason for going down this route was my job, and the philosophy I bring to it and learnings I take from it. My job is all about digital opportunities and digital strategy. I deal with digital innovation and digital disruption. I like it. I believe it’s important to ship your work, learn, adapt, iterate and ship some more. Learn by doing. I take this approach at work, so why not with my writing. Ship something, learn, adapt and ship something better next time.

I still equate traditional publishers with print books, and believe many publishers still focus on print. I’ve been part of the media industry and newspaper journalists have been through this already. When I started in the industry, being part of a big media organisation meant kudos, and being a print journalist meant respect. Bloggers and digital journalists were largely dismissed – they were outside the club. That was until they were recruited to turn things around as the industry played catch up with quicker moving digital operations like the Huffington Post. A ‘digital native’ now runs Johnston Press the largest regional newspaper group in the country.

Newspapers know that print is just one of the mediums – neither the least important nor the most important.

And as for the kudos of print book publishing? I see authors clinging to paperbacks, as newspaper journalists clung to print and I worry that we are investing too much in a format. Is a kindle bestseller any less important than a hardback or paperback bestseller?

What is a paperback but an information delivery system that has been usurped? Yes, it has cultural significance, it has nostalgia on its side, and there’s a tactile quality that hits certain buttons – but, as a delivery system for ideas, nine times out of ten, digital is better.

Don’t get me wrong, I love print and publish my own stuff in print, as well as digital. I even sell some copies but it’s not my primary focus.

I do well on iBooks and I’ve been lucky enough to be promoted by Apple several times, and on Kindle Fire I’m ticking over. For the cut they take, I’m not sure a publisher could do a significantly better job on digital sales than I can do myself – unless they were prepared to shell out some proper marketing money.

And besides, I enjoy too much of the digital publishing process and digital business to give it up. Cover design, font choice, layout tools, sales reports, pricing strategies, what works and what doesn’t in the fast evolving landscape of digital publishing. This knowledge is too important to my next steps, and too much fun, to hand over to someone else. The knowledge I gain crosses over to my day job and vice versa.

I can be flexible with my books and promotions. I can experiment and react, and I can publish other people’s books if I believe they’ll work well in digital formats. I can test Facebook promotions versus Google ads and monitor the impact of PR.

But my print books sell slowly – I don’t know how to get into bookshops. I probably sell 50 iBooks for every print book. And for children’s picture books, bookshops are still important. This is the part of traditional publishing I can’t reproduce – the distribution to bricks and mortar stores.

Which got me thinking – if a traditional publisher knocked on my door would I jump at the chance of being signed and being ‘accepted into the club’?

The truth is it would be flattering and lovely but now I’d be asking what exactly they’d bring to the party. Marketing? Distribution?
I’d probably give up the print rights but they’d have to be offering something pretty special for me to part with the digital rights.

But how important are print rights?

Paperbacks are part of a declining ecosystem. Stories are more widespread than ever, but paper and bookshops are in retreat, replaced by movies, eBooks and online shopping.

Bookshops open coffee areas, or branch into stationery as they try to shore up revenues but the tide is against them. They can’t compete with eBooks and the wide choice offered by online shopping.

I love libraries but again it’s no accident that they now run so many events, stock DVDs and music CDs, and have banks of computers. Diversification beyond paper books is necessary to survive.

Since I started questioning, my dream has evolved. I want to be read by more people (lots more!) but I no longer care so much about the format or what companies or tools help me succeed. I also now know that I quite like producing books (or eBooks) not just writing them. End to end, for better or worse.

I’ve shipped PONG! in print on Amazon, on Kindle, Google’s Play Store and Apple’s iBooks, and helped WordWatchers produce an anthology. In doing both I learned stuff and my next picture book, due out in October, has benefited.

There are pros and cons in DIY, of course, but checking in on your dreams every once in a while and seeing if they’ve changed or if the world has changed around them – well that’s something I’d definitely recommend.

Me courting print media, despite everything I've just said!

Me courting print media. Old habits die hard.

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Thank you Doug

July 6, 2013

Not many people will have heard of Doug Engelbart, even though his recent demise means he was on the news quite a bit over the last few days. However, any writer who has used a PC to capture their words, is likely to have used a package such as Word, Open Office, Libre Office or the equivalent has a lot to thank Doug for.

Doug invented the mouse.

Doesn’t sound like much really does it, but think for a moment, about how intuitive that little device under your palm is. Move the mouse, move the pointer on the screen. Click an icon to select a function, click on a piece of text to jump to it. Highlighting, dragging and dropping… All (most) achievable by remembering a host of multi-key keyboard shortcuts but nothing quite so nice, or as simple, as the interaction you get with a mouse.

I started writing on a computer when I got my Commodore 64 back in 1983, I even invested in a proper WYSIWYG Word Processor called GeoWrite which ran under GEOS (effectively a replacement OS for the C64) – but it used the cursor keys to move around and a host of function keys to select, erm… functions. It wasn’t until 1989 when I got my Commodore Amiga A500 which came with a mouse and I had yet another investment in a Word Processor called Wordsworth. Wordsworth had fully embraced that potential interaction between words and writer. All the things we now take for granted were there, the icons, the drop down menus, left click to do one thing, right click to do something else. It was a revelation.

When I got my first laptop – a HP Omnibook (800CT) it came with a funny little mouse on a stalk that popped out of the side of the machine – it’s still possibly the best mouse I have ever used.

Now of course, writing this blog on my little Asus Netbook, it has, like pretty much all (non-Touch) portable devices a touchpad and while it’s OK, it finds ways to screw me up in ways a mouse never did. I don’t think I ever worried about my mouse suddenly doing something odd with the position of the pointer, or misinterpreting a single click as a double. Convenient though the touchpad is I’d still rather be using a mouse.

Although we’re being dragged into the era of the touch screen, the tablets, phablets (or is it Tones?) the layout of a writer’s interaction with the application that collects, collates and structures their words still has a lasting legacy, a tip of the hat, to that initial mouse driven interaction with the computer.

Thank-you Doug.

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Seeking Inspirational People

June 2, 2013

A good friend once said how much he disliked the ‘greyness’ of corporate life, how empty everyone seemed.  I asked him how much of himself he took to work.  He thought a moment and shrugged. Fair point, he said.  This person, who was always at odds with ‘corporate’, has now moved on from a life spent running company websites to make award-winning short films. And yet, how grey was he to the co-workers he greeted each morning?

I went on a business trip recently, meeting my colleague on the train at Wolverhampton as we headed north.  We’d not spent much time chatting before that (and probably won’t again – at least, not through work.)  He was the techie pre-sales engineer and I was the product manager, coming together for a customer visit.  We got chatting.  He was into photography, and showed me his pictures.  His wife had the bug too, and I saw arty night shots of trees illuminated by the two of them as they ran around shining torches in the darkness, while a slow-release shutter rendered the couple invisible.  The photos were very good.  But even better was the picture it painted in my mind of love and life in action.

Something got me thinking today.

About all the inspirational people.  Not the ones on the big stages, but the ones who aren’t really trying to lead anything other than a normal life.

About a friend, now gone, who spent his days at home, naked and relaxed, pottering.  Brilliant and very much at one with who he was and how he expressed it.

About the primary school teacher whose love of Simon & Garfunkel and the canals of England and Wales, through her methods and wonderful eccentricity, ignited in a ten-year old boy two passions that live on decades later.

And about the friend who called today, to speak to my wife, but made the happy mistake of asking how I was, whose comments have left me that little bit more certain about things, and whose remark that she’d been listening to ‘Let Her Go’ by Passenger took me to the album on Spotify.  Genius.

Does corporate need to be grey?  Do we need to strip the personality from our product messaging?  I’ve always struggled with this, and see no reason why it needs to be this way.

And with this in mind, my penultimate shout out (in this unashamedly self-indulgent blog) goes to the copy-writer who I’ve got to know over the last year, whose battle with bland finally seems to be paying off, as the company he writes for finds a more ‘human’ voice – and in doing so, will perhaps inspire a few more people to look again at the products and services he’s writing about.

My last shout… to my wife and daughters, whose unflinching belief is a daily inspiration, adding wind to the sails as I work to justify their faith.

The list is not exhaustive, and as I’ve written just these few I’m reminded of all the people I’ve not included in this short list.  Hopefully they know.  I guess the point is, be open enough to notice the incidental comments and happenings from which inspiration just might spring, and be bold enough to take a little more of yourself into everything you do.

When I was at university, I learnt about a study once carried out on ‘luck’ by assessing two self-selected samples (unlucky people and lucky people).  Count the number of photos in this newspaper, they were told.  You’ll get money once you’re done.  And the faster you’re done, the more money you’ll get.  Three pages in, there was a piece of text that gave the number of photos and instructed people to stop immediately and collect their money.  Lucky people saw it.  Unlucky people didn’t, as they stuck to their course and counted the photos, ignoring the text.

That’s all.



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Post Christmas…

January 8, 2013

I did write one more Christmas related 75-word paragraph and originally I wasn’t going to do anything with it other than share it with my fellow WordWatchers. I put the general feel of it down to post-Christmas blues.

However, my local council decided they had no Christmas spirit and left behind all the black sacks that my neighbours put out (am I the only person who recycles?). The contents of these black sacks are now spread all over the footpath and suddenly my little paragraph seems to have captured the moment surprisingly succinctly.

Fat, bloated, filled to bursting, gulls peck into two week old rotting flesh and loudly decry the waste. Stuffed with paper and plastic bindings of toys already forgotten, broken or pushed into the back of the cupboard, these silent sentinels are dragged to the curbside to await collection. To the curbside so that they can be emptied of the reminders of our excesses. Empty, like the promises to ourselves in the form of New Year Resolutions.

Cheery I know, but cathartic nonetheless.

Rocket Scientist

John Hoggard ex-Rocket Scientist









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How to survive a critique


WordWatchers is reviewing one full novel a month. By the end of 2017, it will have critiqued 7 novels. 5yrs after she wrote it, Abbie's blog about the process is still very relevant.

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