Friday, 27 February 2009

Guest Blog #4 - Andrew writes about what to write about

This is by my latest guest blogger. This entry is by Andrew, a Scot living and working in England. He has taken the unusual approach of blogging about what he decided not to blog about. Confused?! Read on!

Welcome to my guest blog entry. This is the first time I’ve done this and it is now almost 3 months since Stephen suggested it. I think I’ve finally got over my writer’s block now, so here goes...

It’s ironic that I should have had such a problem given that I write for a living. As a Paraplanner I produce reports and analysis for a Financial Adviser. Of course, what I write is rarely read by the intended recipients (indeed, I’m not sure how often my boss reads it either). Perhaps on a subconscious level the idea that this would actually have an audience is what caused me to struggle so much.

That’s not to say I haven’t had ideas. Topics have presented themselves and dismissed. Some great sentences have been drafted and forgotten. Deadlines have come and gone. In part, I’ve wondered how appropriate my thoughts have been for this forum and the carte blanche given to me stubbornly remained blank.

My initial idea, was inspired by a visit to the National Gallery of Scotland: a piece on sponsorship of the arts by the troubled banking groups. Both RBS and HBOS (as was) are huge investors in the arts, particularly in Scotland, and I thought to argue the merits of continued involvement even given the large public stakes taken by the Government. Inevitably there will be cutbacks but we need to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Bound up with this was the recent campaign to raise £50 million to ensure that the Titian painting Diana and Actaeon remained in Britain. After some 200 years hanging in London and Edinburgh, the, the Duke of Sutherland – had decided to sell it and offered the National Galleries of Scotland first dibs... for £50 million... with 3 months notice... at the start of a recession.

Much has been made of the scramble to raise the funds with huge donations by the Scottish Government, the National Galleries of Scotland, the National Gallery and various arts funding bodies at a time when many people are experiencing the pinch. The truth is that this Italian painting of a Roman myth is part of our cultural heritage. Saving it has secured a guarantee that the rest of the Bridgwater collection will remain on loan for at least 21 years. There is now also the option to purchase a sister painting: Diana and Callisto, for a similar sum in four years time. The timing may have been lousy but in the long run this nation will be richer for it.

The next idea, and by this point it was almost 2009, was to discuss New Year resolutions. Now doesn’t seem the time to raise these… or perhaps it is. Did you make any? How many have you kept? Is Lent really an exercise at giving people a second bite of the cherry? (Perhaps, unless cherry biting is what’s being given up…)

And so we reached February – after being giving a reprieve January – and still inspiration wasn’t striking. Stephen suggested I complete a “gay questionnaire” circular he had been sent, but that’s not really me. I mean, I am gay, but I don’t feel it’s central to who I am. Yes I have Dusty Springfield and Erasure CDs but that’s because I like the music – Streisand and Garland are absent from my collection. I’ve read Alan Hollinghurst's “The Line of Beauty” but that is because I like contemporary novels. My Facebook says I’m “Interested in Men” but I’ve not added any of the “I’m gay” applications. I’ve even given up on publications targeted at the “Pink Pound”. (As an aside, one in particular often leads with interviews with the tag line “their only gay interview” – what is that about? How can an interview be described as gay? Unless you mangle the language like Chris Moyles.)

So here we have it - many words on what I decided not to write about. A process of writing that never really got beyond a few aborted ideas. Perhaps I needed to be given a subject. Perhaps I should have written about the use of trusts for Inheritance Tax planning. Perhaps you’re wondering why I bothered at all. Whatever you feel – whether you would have liked longer pieces on any of the above topics or you will just be really glad that Stephen will be back writing the next entry – thank you for reading. I believe it’s customary to leave comments below. Be nice though, it was, after all, my first time.


  1. It's worth noting that I DID pressure Andrew over the past 3 months, but only because I knew the final outcome would be this good. Perhaps in future I should suggest topics for guest bloggers, but I like the surprise of reading something unexpected!

    Thank heavens that Andrew decided to avoid Inheritance Tax as a subject.

  2. It's not that easy to just sit down and write about something unless you have an idea to write about. I write articles every now and then. A 300 word article can take me upto 90minutes sometimes just because Im not in the mood.

  3. Dear Critical Illness Cover

    Is Illness-Cover a double barrelled surname?

  4. Excellent!!! Am completely baffled by the emergence of this talent in you, Andrew.

  5. What does a Paraplanner do?

  6. A Paraplanner provides support to a Financial Adviser. This involves product research, preparing advice, analysing the client's existing plans, writing reports and ensuring compliance requirements are met.

  7. How will the Duke Sutherland cope on the pennies that will be paid for the paintings?! The poor thing.