Liebster Award for blogging (part 1)

This blog celebrates its first birthday at the end of May so it felt timely that a couple of weeks ago a fellow blogger, New Zealander Liz Cowburn from the Exploring Colour blog, nominated me for a Liebster Award. Our paths first crossed digitally late last year when she began reading and commenting on my earlier blog about a road trip around New Zealand. I was flattered by her interest, and I’m reet chuffed today that she feels my blogging is worthy of recognition. Thank you, Liz.

Memories of New Zealand: Mount Ngauruhoe

Given the title of her blog, it’s no surprise that Liz writes about colour, both in nature and in the human world. Her photos, and those of husband Nigel, complement her words perfectly. Through those words and pictures Liz presents a fascinating – and sometimes quirky – glimpse of life in New Zealand. She also touches on lots more interesting stuff, from the impact of last year’s Australian bushfires and Covid-19 on her homeland, to Irish pubs and the poetry of Rabbie Burns! If you haven’t already done so, I thoroughly recommend a visit to Liz’s excellent blog.

What’s a Liebster Blogger award?

So just what is the Liebster Award? Another of Liz’s nominees, Ann Mackay, summarised it perfectly, and rather than reinvent the wheel I’ll simply quote below what she has to say. Ann’s blog Inspired by Nature – Creative Explorations in Photography, Art and Writing, reflects her passion for gardening and the flowers she grows, and is definitely worth visiting.

Now you may be wondering just what the ‘Liebster’ (German for ‘favourite’ or ‘dearest’) Award is. It’s a means to allow readers to discover new blogs and by the recipients nominating more blogs, lots of bloggers have a chance to be found. (A sort of bloggers-helping-other-bloggers chain letter!)

SOURCE: Ann Mackay, Camassias: And Some Blog Love (1)

So, what do nominees have to do?

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you and give a link to the blog.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you
  3. Share 11 facts about yourself
  4. Nominate between 5-11 other bloggers
  5. Ask your nominees 11 questions
  6. Notify your nominees once you’ve uploaded your post

Having explained what I’m up to I’ll dedicate the rest of this post to tackling Liz’s questions. Then, next week, I’ll move on to the “Big Reveal,” when I will declare 11 facts about the Platypus Man to an expectant blogosphere, before nominating a few folk to answer some cunning questions of my own devising!

Liz’s questions and my replies

1. What connection (if any) do you feel that you have with New Zealand? 🙂

Prior to our trip there in 2019 my knowledge of New Zealand was fairly limited, and could best be summarised thus: “a country that is a bloody long way from anywhere else, very good at rugby but not so clever at cricket, a home to flightless birds facing extinction and lots of sheep.”

Our visit opened my eyes, and allowed me to glimpse briefly a place far more interesting and beautiful than I had imagined. What a great country, what lovely people, albeit people whose vowel sounds – to English ears anyway – are seriously weird! In various ways NZ feels quite British, much more so than Oz or Canada, but the elements of Māori culture give it a unique Pacific spin. Definitely one of my favourite places.

The Māori church at Putiki, in the suburbs of Wanganui, North Island, New Zealand

2. What place in this world do you most love?

The Orkney Islands, off the north coast of Scotland, are remote, beautiful and scattered with relics and reminders of their Neolithic and Viking past. There are more sheep than people, and more birds than sheep, which makes it my kind of place! Without family commitments I think Mrs P and I would have made a life there, but instead we must make do with visits every couple of years. We were due to go again in September, but we’ve had to cancel due to Covid-19. Next year, maybe?

3. Your favourite colour(s) are what? –and what do you associate with the colour?

I guess these days I would single out the colour of autumn. You know what I mean, that distinctive but elusive golden amber hue suffused with shadowy hints of blood, rust and decay, that subtle tone which is a beautiful but poignant reminder of time’s passing. All things must pass.

The colours of autumn: Maine, USA, September 2012

4. What connection do you feel/experience with Nature?

Nature – wildlife, countryside, open spaces – makes life worth living. I’ve always been into it, but I find my interest grows with the passing of the years. All 5 of my blogs have focused heavily on aspects of nature. For example, I’ve enjoyed writing about close encounters with devils in Tasmania and whales in Newfoundland, with grizzlies in Yellowstone and penguins in New Zealand. We are part of Nature, not separate from it, and my life is made infinitely richer by time spent alongside creatures great and small.

Spotted shortly after midnight, a wild Tasmanian Devil dining on wallaby roadkill, November 2016

5. Your favourite ‘active’ recreational activity …?

I played cricket in my teenage years, but retired due to gross incompetence. These days “active recreation” equates to a gentle stroll around a nature reserve or bird sanctuary, binoculars and video camera slung from my neck. My bad back, knackered knees and passion for chocolate cake prohibit strenuous physical activity … well, anyway, that’s my story and I’m sticking to it!

6. Your favourite ‘quiet’ hobby/interest?

Mrs P and I started taking a serious interest in birds during a visit to Scotland in the early 1990s, when we carelessly mistook buzzards for golden eagles! Since then our passion for birdwatching, and for watching other wildlife too, has just grown and grown. This shared activity is fundamental to who we are, individually and as a couple.

Puffin: Orkney, 2011

7. Is there something you enjoy ‘having a go at’ regardless of skill?

I was going to answer “no” on the basis that life’s too short to waste time on stuff one is bad at. But on reflection, I do enjoy singing in the bath, and Mrs P will tell you in no uncertain terms that I am the most tone-deaf person who ever walked on god’s green earth.

8. What was (or is) your favourite children’s book?

My parents told me that when I was young I used to love Alice in Wonderland. I still appreciate it now, not least because it contains one of my all time favourite literary quotes. I’ve had cause to trot out these wise words at various stressful moments over the years, for example when our rental car broke down on a remote gravel road in an out-of-the-way corner of a sparsely populated island off the coast of Tasmania, and we couldn’t get a signal on our cell phone! Lewis Carrol’s insight goes like this:

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad,” [said the Cheshire Cat]

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

More recently, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is an extraordinary work of literature. The movie and television adaptations completely fail to do justice to an outstanding piece of imaginative writing which, although notionally aimed at the teenage market, transcends all attempts at categorisation.

Other children’s volumes that grace the groaning bookshelves at Platypus Towers include Wind in the Willows (Kenneth Grahame), Holes (Louis Sachar), The Machine Gunners (Robert Westall), The Milkman’s on His Way (David Rees), the Tripods trilogy (John Christopher), Goodnight Mr Tom (Michelle Margorian), The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler (Gene Kemp) and Noughts and Crosses (Malorie Blackman). The best writing for children is brilliant, and should never be dismissed as “childish” or “just for kids.” Some of the greatest writers out there are writing books aimed, in the first instance at least, at a young audience.

9. Your current or past ‘occupation’ ie. work / study / keeping busy is …what?

Before retiring at the end of March 2018 I spent the best part of 40 years working in the UK public library sector, the last 15 running a city library service serving a quarter of a million people. I made this career choice because I knew that libraries can change lives. My father left school at a young age and did menial jobs throughout his life, yet thanks to the local library he was one of the wisest, best educated people I’ve ever known. Libraries made him, and in a slightly different way they’ve made me too.

Library at the National Trust’s Lyme Park country estate, Cheshire, UK

10. What’s your favourite creative activity.. what do you have a passion for?

I enjoy cooking, particularly experimenting with Indian, Chinese and Thai-inspired dishes. I also relish writing, pulling together stuff that interests or amuses me, rather than the endless boring reports that my employers had me churning out for decades. I do it for my own amusement, and blogging is my outlet. If other people enjoy reading it that’s great, but the whole point is that I enjoy writing it!

11. Is there something you can share about a challenge you face, or have faced?

Interesting question. Like anyone of my age I’ve had my fair share of setbacks and heartache, but nothing out of the ordinary. I guess I’ve been very lucky. I found university challenging, not academically but in terms of my self-confidence and sense of belonging. If I had my time again I’d cope better and make more of the opportunity that uni offered me. I blogged about my experience of Cambridge University last year.

Kings College, Cambridge, viewed from “the backs”, August 2019

17 comments

  1. Ms. Liz · May 20

    Wonderful response Mr Platypus, I enjoyed reading this so much – thank you! What a lovely view of Mt Ngauruhoe and I adore the Puffin.. and what a devilish Devil! Your words about me, the OH and my blog are most kind and much appreciated. As you already know, I’ve also worked as a librarian and loved what you shared about the importance of libraries and how your father made good use of them. The interior of the Māori church at Putiki looks stunning! Glad you included that photo and that you enjoyed your NZ trip so much, it’s a long way to come! Thank you Mr P.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 21

      You’re welcome. I so pleased we have met (digitally) and can share thoughts and memories. More revelations next Wednesday!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Bristol Sunset – Exploring Colour
  3. T Ibara Photo · May 20

    Hello Mr. Platypus, it’s a real pleasure to learn more about you and Mrs. Platypus. Just wanted to show my appreciation 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 22

      Hi Takami. Thank you for your kind words. Next week’s post will reveal a bit more about my mysterious past! Best wishes to you and your husband.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Ann Mackay · May 20

    I enjoyed reading your responses and can particularly agree with you on the Orkney Isles being a wonderful place. Colin and I were both brought up in the nearest mainland county (Caithness) and made many happy trips over there. (Depending on how calm the Pentland Firth was.) I could see Orkney from the hill behind my home and watch the ferry coming across – feels like a long time ago! Thank you for the kind mention! 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • Platypus Man · May 22

      Thanks Ann. I’m pleased to learn that you’re another fan of Orkney. We don’t know Caithness nearly as well as Orkney, though we’ve spent a few days there over the years. It’s quite appealing in summer, when the sun is (sometimes) out and the days are long, but I imagine it must be bleak in winter, particularly when as Atlantic storm tracks across!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Ann Mackay · May 22

        Very bleak – and windy – in winter. Caithness is pretty flat and the wind can howl across it. (Once my Dad was blown off his feet!) Orkney has a very special feel to it – there’s so much history in the landscape. I used to love reading George Mackay Brown’s books, which were set there. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      • Platypus Man · May 22

        Yes, I’ve ready George Mackay Brown. He’s one of those writers whose words are rooted in a particular place. His writer’s “voice” is very distinctive.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Nice blog

    Liked by 1 person

  6. kathee2013 · May 21

    I am so very happy and proud of you for this nomination! You write like a poet and your descriptions of life across the pond are delightful. Your photos allow us to see places, people, animals and structures that we can’t see here. You allow us to be a small part of your life through your words and photos. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · May 22

      Thank you for your kind words. One of the great joys of the WordPress community is that it enables us to peep into the lives of people across the world, people whose circumstances and experiences are very different from our own I’m so pleased that you enjoy reading about my little life. Tell Bruce that his English admirer is thinking about him right now 🐶 !

      Liked by 1 person

  7. katrinature · August 13

    I thoroughly enjoyed reading this and I think that’s partly because your descriptive writing is very vivid and flows wonderfully and also because I was amazed by how much we have in common! 😂 The way you write about your connection with nature is very relatable and I too love puffins and Tasmanian devils! I’ve written blogs on my experiences with both. I’ve always wanted to go to Orkney but haven’t made it there yet (even though I’m from Scotland). And my favourite childhood books are the noughts and crosses series! Great to discover a blogger I can connect with on so many levels!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Platypus Man · August 14

      Hi Katrina…Thank you so much for your inspiring comment. I’ve just had a quick flick through your blog, and can immediately see we are soul mates. Devils, puffins, kea, humpbacks … so much in common. You wrote about nature reclaiming a home during the Covid-19 lockdown, something I nearly wrote too, you wrote a piece inspired by World Elephant Day while I missed the deadline for a similar piece on World Lion Day! (oops, next year maybe?) I will read enjoy reading your blog in depth over the coming days. Expect a few comments!

      And thank you for the positive feedback about the way I write. That means a lot to me. Have a great day!

      Liked by 1 person

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