Ten. I never thought I’d still be here today.

I love this place with all my heart. Faults and all.

Look, I’m not going to waffle on here or bore you (any more than usual) but this blog coughed and spluttered into a life of it’s own a decade ago today, on 2nd May 2009. Yes, I’ve been doing this for 10 years now.

I have no idea how this got here.

I never thought I’d still be here today.

I don’t know why people read this or appear to enjoy it. My part in it is badly written, badly organised and my typing, rather than improving with practice, has become far worse. Ten years ago today I was smacked in the face and bundled into the back of a van. It’s still careering downhill and I’m in the back with no idea where it’s going but hanging on by the skin of my teeth.

The ride has been incredible fun and had fantastic highs and occasionally, deep, very deep lows. But it has been a wonderfully rewarding and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

I wish I could remember pushing the first ‘publish’ button, when I reblogged some pithy observation by Politics Penguin of Willenhall as a test at 7:11am one Saturday. Remarkably, the Politics Penguin blog still exists although its curator is not enjoying the best of health. My best wishes to Gareth.

I know I had no clue what I was doing and didn’t know what I wanted the blog to be. Local history was never really the intention, more mischief. And over the years it’s evolved. I don’t do politics so much anymore, as Walsall and national politics are now so bizarre you can’t parody either, and sadly, the people I used to bounce off… Are no longer around. So there’s this odd combination of events, parish notices, local history, cycling and stuff that catches my eye.

I had no long term intentions.

I never thought I’d still be here today.

When this started, I was noticed by Mark Blackstock and the wonderful YamYam, his brainchild website that put amateur content like mine and that of the burgeoning scene of local writers at the top of the same page as local news journalism. That’s what made this shambling edifice what it is. Sadly, Mark passed away in 2017. God, how I miss him.h

The scene that the Brownhills Blog was part of assembled around the wonderful community that grew around The YamYam and local online writers. I grew fond of many local blogs and news sites – from the ever-present Lichfield Live to the wonderful community that was WV18. From the surgical incision of the Plastic Hippo to the frequently bizarre and late-lamented Tamworth Time Hikes – probably the best local history blog ever to have existed. 

Walsall had a great political and current affairs writer in The Plastic Hippo. I came to know both he and Mark well – Mark was the impish, Norren Oirish, wonderfully gay real media man; Hippo the ex pat northern Brian Blessed tribute who filled my heart with fire and my head with sedition and sharp, excoriating one liners. 

Sadly we lost Hippo too, following a protracted duel with cancer that he pursued with dignity and courage. My heart still cries for Hippo.

I had no idea you could miss people like this so much.

I never thought I’d still be here today.

This last couple of years, work has been tough and I’m getting old. I no longer have the boundless energy I did to write into the wee small hours every night, and without my comrades, little reason to bother. Following the loss of Janey too, later last year, I resolved to stop writing this blog at the ten year anniversary. I was lower than I’d been for a decade or more. My heart was broken. I was tired.

I had been encouraging Janey to write. She was chaotic, manically enthusiastic but really could write and do local history, as her wonderful and thoughtful stewardship of her group showed (in reality, it was a lot more considered than many people thought). I was convinced if I could focus Janey’s boundless energy she would have a great outlet on the blog. I will always feel I didn’t work hard enough to nurture her talent. I failed. My heart went from broken to hollow.

Christmas came and went. It still was not improving. Nothing was healing.

I thought I knew that I wouldn’t still be here today.

Then, something odd happened. I started feeling it again, as the sun and flowers came in an early spring. Just gently. Gerald Reece came up with some wonderful donations. I felt the warmth and passion of David Evans’ quest on a local history matter. I realised folk were still reading what I wrote, even if I wasn’t feeling g the love. Maybe it was worth having a think about.

So I am still here today. And it will continue. 

I never thought I’d still be here today.

My thanks for ten years of boundless help to the young David Evans, Peter ‘Pedro’ Cutler, Aer Reg, Ian Pell, David Oakley, Gerald Reece, Geof Harrington, Bill Mayo and all who have contributed so much to this thing over the years. Without you all, and all of the many I haven’t named, and to those behind the scenes thanks so much. You have been part of something strange but wonderful.

Thanks are also due to those who help online too – old friend Linda, Phil, Stymaster and Rich who put up with far more shite than anyone should for no return whatsoever. Thank you friends.

There is still great stuff to come, I promise. But I’m going to have to slow down. I missed a lot of last summer writing a blog when I should have been out in the sun recharging. This thing is still here today, and hopefully for the future. But I need to slow down a bit.

I never thought I’d still be here today.

‘Some have died, some have fled from themselves, struggled from here to get there.’
– Paul Simon

‘It doesn’t seem right. I want to say no
But the only thing to do is let it go
I wanted to speak. I wanted to say…
But all these different words got in the way’
– Ivan Doroshuk

Thank you all
Bob

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16 Responses to Ten. I never thought I’d still be here today.

  1. andyropes7 says:

    Congratulations Bob a great support to local business and communities in surrounding areas keep going please best wishes from all at Walsall Wood FC # FTGOTW

  2. Tina B says:

    Well done, keep up the good work.!!

  3. geoguider says:

    Your commitment when you didn’t really feel the love is to your credit. It’s time to reduce your tempo, smell the flowers, eat an iced delight and enjoy more Pickle days. The Blog will still be there when you are ready to add something. “Chapeau” Mr R

  4. Martin Littler says:

    Thank you Brownhillsbob for helping to gather the local news,keep us updated on local events , for keeping us all entertained, for those old photo’s that turn up of the local area , i think i have been following Brownhillsbob nearly all of the ten years, so he’s to another ten years we raise our glass.

  5. LLIFE IS A HIGHWAY WE ALL MUST TRAVEL ITS LIFE AND STORIES ITS MYSTREYS UN RAVELL FOR TEN YEARS YOU HAVE GIVEN US A SINE POST WAY DAYS IF THE PAST AND FUTURE WAY YOU ARE KNOW BY FOLK FAR AND WIDE SPOKEN OF WITH GRATE PRIDE THANK YOU BOB FOR MEMORY LANE MAY YOUR GUIDE POST BE MANY GOD BLESS YOU MY MATE AND PEDAL A LITTLE SLOWER ALONG NATURES GREEN LANES YOUVE EARND IT

  6. Yvonne Moore says:

    I heard about your blog via Chaz at Clayhangar when he walked me round the newly ploughed potato field whilst twitching a wheatear. This field was where my Kimberley ancestors had a hucksters shop in the early 1800’s. Joined to follow the blog and here we still are. I still remember the cycle ride you did at the ‘new’ New Street Station recording the works. Being disabled ad not a great fan of trains I did enjoy that one. I have truly enjoyed the history and learning more about Brownhills and area. My arthritis is now too bad to cope with the marsh ad its mud so have not been for a while but Brownhills has many links for me. Thank you for the blog and all the best for the future

  7. Mad Old Baggage says:

    Thank you for everything you do and everything you have done. Here’s to the next ten years 🙂

  8. Martin says:

    Well, I for one don’t know how you do it, but I’m glad that you do. Look after yourself and keep on keeping on. All the best.

  9. Mick Roseblade says:

    A fantastic blog and proud that it’s linked to Brownhills. Great support to Walsall Wood FC and numerous community groups, individuals and good causes throughout our area. You have become a reference library for all local history questions – aided and abetted by some wonderful contributors such as the young David Evans, Bill Mayo, Gerald Reece, Brian Stringer, Kate Gomez,etc, etc to name just a few. Your knowledge and expertise across a hugely diverse range of subjects is truly incredible – well done Bob to you and all the administrators on the blog – here’s to the next ten years!!

  10. Mike says:

    Congrats Dear Bob, always a real good read. Keep your health All the very best going forward.

  11. FREDDIE BUTLER says:

    I always enjoy reading your stuff, hope it continues for a long time, thanks for your efforts,Fred

  12. Stuart Cowley says:

    Keep up the good work chap. In the dark moments think of all that you’ve achieved with this.I for one will always be grateful for your encouragement and enthusiasm for anything I’ve contributed in the past.You can’t be there for everyone though 100% of your time so it is time to step off the gas a bit and enjoy your life.

  13. Pete Barker says:

    Well done Bob for keepin’ on keepin’ on. Here’s hoping the Blog carries on long enough for Pickle to take over the reins! 😉 More power to your elbow, Sir!

  14. Ian says:

    Bob, thank you so much for your blog. It has been a constant friend to me, and family, this last decade, one that has seen so many lows and highs for us.You’ve hosted and posted some wonderful things, keep going if you can mate. You’re a part of the fabric and history of Brownhills now, and forever part of it’s legend. Well done, and thank you. But for you I would never have again heard my granddad’s voice again, and your tribute to Paul was beautiful.
    “Nature’s son
    Don’t you know where life has gone
    Burying progress in the clouds
    How we learn to linger on”

  15. Thank you Bob for continuing the blog and being the conduit for so many others to share their memories of Brownhills and Ogley. The blog is also a trigger for so many to bring their past memories back to the fore again. Sometimes I can’t remember something that happened last week immediately but can all those years ago when I lived at 7 Church road (now a car park) and later at 49 Catshill Road.

    It might be a decade since you started blog but from small acorns as they say…. Thank you

  16. Ann Cross says:

    I always enjoy reading your blog, please keep up the good work!

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