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Letter From England Number 13

June 2011

Blimey, I actually managed to get this written right at the beginning of the month, rather than sneaking it out halfway through. In this letter I will be finishing off a few themes that have been running. I hope you enjoy!

Matt Cutts - The Shrewd Operator

In recent times I have been rather obsessive about Google, which considering I want to get more visitors to my sites I guess, is a good thing. But, I promise I will not mention the company for a bit of time after this.

If you are trying to work out how Google ranks sites, then pretty soon (in about a minute) you will bump across this fellow, Matt Cutts. Probably best described as the 'public face of Google'. He is also called many other different and often not complimentary names.

Official Photograph Of Matt Cutts

At some point Google claimed they used over 200 factors in their rankings ... yes 200 and it's probably a lot more. But what are they? How are they weighted? Plus and this is a BIG PLUS some are added, some removed and then weightings altered. It never really ever stays still.

A great resource to glean whatever little titbits of information Google decide to release is to watch the short videos, that Google releases on YouTube. Matt Cutts is the front man. In the last month I have watched them all, looking for tips and clues.

There are facts, clues and myths dispelled, but the line I just love is 'I wouldn't worry about that too much'. Hmmm ... It is almost like a party guessing game and laid back Matt Cutts plays it very well!

I like to think I am rather good at games and over the next few months we'll just see how much I have worked out.

So Matt, if you read this keep an eye on my sites, your videos are great fun and also if you ever want to hire a rather disreputable and decrepit programmer then look no further :)

A Sad Loss Of Life

Although generally life is good, barring the little annoyance of not having a job, leading to lack of money and finally and worst of all limited pub time. But this is no way as sad as a minor tragedy that really could have been avoided.

Tadpoles In A Pond

In the park the dogs get walked in, there is a big ditch and spring this year the frogs really got their act together. The result was a mass of tadpoles. Unlike our American cousins, we have had little or no rain for a few months now. Day by day the water level fell and to our shame many of us watched the ditch dry up and hoped for rain. Well, it didn't happen and it is now dry and the tadpoles are no more.

I along I guess with a few others feel a bit guilty, so I have made a vow. Even if it contravenes wildlife law, if the same thing happens next year I'll either work out a way to fill the ditch or move them and that is a promise!

Thinking More Like A Hippie

As I get older my views have not mellowed as I expected, instead they have got more extreme. Politically I am heading left of Lenin, with more than a touch of anarchy hippiedom. If it wasn't for my love of black clothing, I think I might actually become a fully fledged old hippie.

An Old Hippie Couple

This is another story about the park. It is fairly large with woods, a pond and playing fields. On one side is a main road, with a verge similar to the one in the photograph, but wider and no bank .. but you get the idea.

In the last few months there has been a lot of activity with surveyors and men in hard hats milling around (which is all a bit strange as they are walking around the park, just like the rest us who are not wearing hats). It appeared to be some sort of land management exercise. Now it has all changed and you can see it is the beginning of building work.

After a bit of investigation, it emerges it will be a multi-million pound hospice. The development is being carried out by a local and very respected charity and apparently every one is in favour of it. Meanwhile, a few miles away there is a big battle regarding the building of houses in a field.

Road Side Verge

In the area I live there are empty industrial units, a parade of shops half empty and a few demolished sites.

The way I see it is that when we eat away at green land that is it. It will never return and just because it was a hospice being built by a charity, people did not want to be seen to object.

Well, to the little ecosystem there it makes no odds whether it's a McDonalds, a car park or a home for the most saintly of Saints. It will soon all be gone.

If I ruled the world, I would make a very simple law; no more land should be built on. Use what you already have, and I would go further. After a certain length of time, any unused buildings or plots would be turned back to nature. That would soon have an effect on the empty shops and derelict buildings, I see every day. Plus, I think the odd grasshopper and butterfly might well approve!

Spotlight - Whispering Books

In a previous and failed project I gathered a large amount of fables and legends that were in the public domain.

They had been sitting on my computer hard drive for some time. Last year I thought, as I had spent quite some time formatting the text and images it would be a good idea to use them for a little site.

Screen Shot Of Whispering Books

The idea was a quick week and a bit development, that might get a me a few hundred extra visitors a month. A bit of pay back for the time I had originally spent. Well, the result was Whispering Books and it has been a much bigger success than I ever imagined.

My monthly users are well into the thousands and growing rapidly. Which is great, but the flip side is that it's another item on the to-do list. Rather, than just let the site trundle along this success means I am going to have to keep it updated with new stories.

I Wonder What Will Happen!

As is quite usual, I have been so busy that I have fallen behind with all my household chores. But, more importantly, I did not begin this year's gardening exploits as early as I had planned. I have started now and all the spare window sill space is full of small pots.

My Seedlings In May

Emboldened by last years rather overwhelming success I have become rather ambitious. Peppers, chillies, tomatoes, courgettes (zucchini to my American cousins) and aubergines are now sown. One thing that I neglected to do, is label them, which I think may cause me problems further down the line. This weekend will be a mini blitzkrieg on the garden itself, along with a spot of outdoor sowing.


Well, that's another letter written and next month I will make it a bit more fun. I have a few ideas including a favourite recipe!

I hope you have a good month!