Tuesday, 13 February 2018

"Send Me a postcard, Drop Me a Line, Stating Point of View..."

Gated entrance to the Idiots 'R' Us compound

As the nation finally calms down after a long weekend of celebrations to mark my 64th birthday – No, really, you needn't! Please, enough, you're embarrassing me! Sit! Sit! – I need to have the security staff shoo the last revellers and TV crews away from the compound gates and take stock of what to do with the next 64 years. In the immortal words, what a long, strange trip it's been!

I was particularly flattered that the brand new Nuffield theatre in town had commissioned a play by Howard Brenton to mark the occasion: how they knew that my grandparents had spent the war years in Southampton working on the construction of Spitfires (which had been distributed around town in various locations, following the destruction by bombing of the Supermarine factory early in the Blitz) I don't know, but someone had clearly tipped them off, as that was the subject of Brenton's play, Shadow Factory. Why, thank you, Howard! How very appropriate! I suppose I should review it, but when people have gone to that much trouble, you don't want to seem ungrateful or give offence. It was nice just to get out of the gated compound for the evening.

Some events were less successful. An old schoolfriend whom I had not seen for very many years had disguised himself as an aged hermit – planning to surprise me on the South Bank, where I was visiting the Andreas Gursky exhibition at the Hayward Gallery – but had so successfully concealed his identity that he was very nearly taken out by the rooftop marksmen that always accompany me to London. Also, and ironically, an unexploded German bomb from WW2 was uncovered that very morning by workmen, thus closing the City Airport all day, and preventing Gursky himself from flying in and escorting me around the show, which caused him no little embarrassment. As for poor old Banksy, he was hacked off to discover that his extensive birthday tribute in my favourite underpass, which had taken him most of the night, had literally been hacked off by unscrupulous collectors within hours of completion. We will all laugh about these mishaps later, no doubt! I will, anyway.

Hey, no pictures!

So, OK, I may have misinterpreted or misunderstood or even made up some or all of the above. I'm 64, dagnabbit! I'm entitled. But, talking of misinterpretation, it's at such moments that a man should consider the measure of his achievements, not least his blog statistics.

Unfortunately, it is increasingly the case that Blogger's own stats are completely corrupted by robotic click-bait. According to a sample I took last week, for example, I had already had 1,829 pageviews in the previous 24 hours. Yeah, right. Somehow, these robotised multiple "pageviews" are able to masquerade as genuine viewers, with the intention of getting you to visit some dodgy site or other, quite often a "boost your pageviews" site, offering the very service I'm complaining about. I suppose if you want advertising revenue based on traffic then false readers are as good as real ones, but it's basically like buying yourself a degree in medicine to hang on the office wall.

Blogger Stats

Google Analytics Stats

Much more reliable are the figures from Google Analytics, which are – sigh – significantly but realistically lower. As in, a mere 89 pageviews for roughly the same 24-hour period. But we don't weigh our readers around here; we value each of you as an individual! Which is not so difficult, obviously, with these kinds of numbers.

But one thing I particularly enjoy is looking at your geographical locations, which Google Analytics claims to be able to narrow to a town or city (although I suspect, in many cases, this probably means the nearest "node" on the Web from where your broadband service is provided). And, I have to say, you guys are gratifyingly widespread. Here is a map for a few week's worth of pageviews:

Not much going on in the frozen north, there, but a nice global scatter otherwise. And here is the "Top Twenty" listing for the same period:

All of those towns have one or more viewers who, in aggregate, made more than 12 pageviews over the weeks in question, plus a tail of 100+ visitors who made fewer visits than that; most of them, it's true, giving just a single glance before slamming the door shut. Not everyone is curious about what goes on behind this Green Door [1]. Interestingly, it's a picture that, at the top end, varies only slightly from month to month. I know who quite a few of you are, because you email me or comment on the posts, but I'm very curious about my unknown regular Top Twenty visitors from, say, Belgrade (really?), or Écublens (a suburb of Lausanne, Switzerland, apparently). I suppose it's not impossible that some of these are merely hungry libel and copyright lawyers, watching and waiting... Not so much "ambulance chasers" as "blog lurkers".

Of course, this Google Analytics list will have excluded those truly faithful readers among you who have signed up to "follow" this blog by email; unless you choose to click through to see the latest post in context, you don't register as a visitor. I actually have no idea of how many such readers I have, as neither Blogger nor Google Analytics seem to record that information. It could be one, it could be a hundred; my guess is fifteen.

So, unless you are enjoying the thrill of "lurking" silently down there in the bushes (bush? saguaro desert?) of Canberra or Auckland or Tucson, or wherever you really are, why not drop me an email to say who you are? You might even want belatedly to join in the 64th anniversary celebrations. Though, please, no more cash (oh, all right, go on then: PayPal is fine), but definitely no more interview requests, and do keep away from those gates.

Twyford Down from the Itchen water-meadows, February 2018

1. "Green Door" was one of the strangest hits of the late 1950s. As it says on Wikipedia, "The lyrics describe the allure of a mysterious private club with a green door, behind which 'a happy crowd' play piano, smoke and 'laugh a lot', and inside which the singer is not allowed." My favourite lines are:
Saw an eyeball peeping through a smoky cloud behind the green door
When I said "Joe sent me"
Someone laughed out loud behind the green door
Ah, those Green Door folk appreciate the irony of a classic trope when they hear one! I'm glad to say that in my 64 years I have spent some good times on the other side of that door.

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