Chain mail


Chain mail (noun) 1. a type of armour consisting of small metal rings linked together in a pattern to form a mesh. 2. (also chain letter) letter intended to be copied and passed on to as many recipients as possible.

Just as with the knight in the image above there will be no links to the first definition of chain mail (he’s wearing plate armour, you’ll note). There will instead be a short discussion about a particular kind of chain correspondence: blogging awards.

Now, any online commuter these days will be familiar with pleas to copy and repost or somehow share text portrayed as of vital importance. Old timers may recall the emails that urged you to share information with a given number of correspondents, the passing on of such messages bringing you massive amounts of good luck but with failure to do so resulting in the breaking of the chain and dire consequences. Anyone on Facebook will have come across the urgings to copy and paste text (which you slightly alter) to all your Friends, though the incentives to do so are often less crude than the simple threat of the arrival of one kind of luck or the other.

The blogging community has its own version of this unsustainable pyramidal lovefest: the blogging award, awarded by bloggers to other bloggers. The most common is the Liebster award but there are quite a few other ones. Now I normally find this an annoyance as it commonly involves work in adapting wording before the next stage, work I’d rather expend on bookish matters. The best argument I’ve seen in its favour is that it can help promote deserving blogs. That’s as may be, though I personally doubt that such awards are as effective as claimed.

For me, then, my response is usually ‘Thanks, but no thanks’; as with most things in life, the key question is nearly always What’s in it for me? Rather selfish, I know, but that’s how basic human nature works — there’s no such thing as pure altruism, though some people do approach this ideal. For me to get involved in something I have to be intrigued, have my curiosity piqued. And so it proved with …


The Mystery Blogger Award

The Mystery Blogger Award is billed as an award for “amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there and they deserve every recognition they get.” Now I — and no doubt you too — will recognise that this is sheer flattery of the most generic kind: “one of the best out there”? Really? The award, created by Okoto Enigma, is supposedly “for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging and they do it with so much love and passion.” It’s less love and passion with me, more laugh and impatience.

Now here’s the Big But. BUT, in this case, Calmgrove was nominated for the Mystery Blogger Award by the wonderful flash fictioneer Petra at Inkbiotic, for whom I have great respect due to her imaginative creative writing and general good sense. And I was intrigued by the tinkering she’d done to the standardised text to personalise it (a prerequisite for awarding such awards). So — against my usual judgement — I’ve decided to give it a go. Excuse the following formalities:

List of instructions for nominees:


Display the award logo on your blog.
Thank the blogger who nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
Mention the creator of the award and provide a link.
Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
Answer 5 questions from the nominee.
Nominate 10 – 20 bloggers.
Notify your nominees by leaving a comment on their blog.
Ask your nominees 5 questions of your choice, including one weird or funny question.
Share the link to your best post.

Okay, here we go.

Three things about me

  1. I saw Queen Elizabeth II travelling in her golden coach down The Mall at her Coronation in 1953. I was four years old. I asked my mother where the Queen was going. She said, Just down the road to a roundabout and then coming back past here to her palace. What she didn’t tell me was that Her Maj had to go through a long coronation service first. We were waiting rather a long time for her return.
  2. For most of the first ten years of my life I lived in Hong Kong, first in Kowloon, then on the island. My father’s employment as a marine engineer meant the family got to visit countries as various as Japan, the Philippines and Thailand before I hit my teens. The result is I’ve a ragbag of isolated memories: deer in Kyoto, a glass-bottomed boat for viewing coral in the South China seas, a snake farm in Bangkok …
  3. I started learning the piano aged 5 from a Russian émigré teacher — “Bach, Bach, and more Bach,” was her parting shot — and after a lifetime of exams, diplomas and teaching I still keep up my technique by accompanying instrumentalists and singers for concerts, competitions and exams.

Inkbiotic’s questions:

  1. Where did the idea for your blog title come from? What does it mean?
    Calmgrove is a default blog name: the first four letters are from the four forenames my parents chose to lumber me with (clue: first name Chris) and the ‘-grove’ is the second half of my surname. CALM then is a good example of nominative determinism as, temperamentally, my inclination is to be exactly that. (I’m also inconsistent.) Nothing to suggest it’s about books though.
  2. What are your plans/ambitions for 2017?
    I’m essentially — despite a predilection for social media — a very private person. I’ll go as far as revealing that I plan to continue to live, to laugh and to love. As far as blogging goes, my plans are … more of the same.
  3. If you could download any file of knowledge to your brain (Matrix-style) what would you choose?
    Hmm, this is a bit like that question What would your superpower be? As the ‘download’ aspect somehow precludes changing the world for the better — universal peace, anyone? — I’d go for being able to accurately recall the notes for every piano piece I’ve ever learnt, so as to play them all from memory.
  4. What do you find difficult that other people find easy?
    That’s an easy answer: I find it difficult to remember names of people I meet. In fact, there’s often a real disjuncture between my recognising an acquaintance and recalling their name, even if I’d only been introduced to them moments before. I’ve even forgotten my partner’s name on one famous occasion. And yet I have fewer problems with people I’ve never met, such as politicians, authors or actors whose names appear in print.
  5. What modern saying or common language error gets your hackles up?
    Goodness, where to start? I suppose I find it irritating when the traditional British English way of pronouncing some slightly less than common words is superseded by North American pronunciations. Surveillance I always knew as ‘surveyance’ and not ‘sur-vail-unce’, harass as ‘harris’ and not ‘her ass’, covert as ‘cover’ with a ‘t’ and not ‘overt’ with a ‘c’. But that’s just me being a stick-in-the-mud; it suggests that I’ll have to go to the end of the queue, though maybe that’ll be “the end of the line” in the near future.

My ‘best’ post on Calmgrove? I’m going with ‘Time to Read’ which as well as being the most ‘liked’ post of 2016 was also the one that produced the most response from bloggers — which, let’s face it, is the lifeblood of blogging, especially when it’s both thoughtful and stimulating.


Remember, I’m not at all in favour of corresponding by chain, so the following ten bloggers are ABSOLUTELY under no obligation to respond, to take up the challenge or to take any notice WHATSOEVER of their nomination. But if the spirit of these awards (what is a Mystery Blogger anyway?) is to promote worthy bloggers and their platforms, well, the following are all very worthy.

P.S. These are in NO PARTICULAR ORDER, not even alphabetical, so resist seeing any favouritism in them: I’ve only chosen bloggers who — I think, and hope — won’t take umbrage at being involved in this exercise or, at the very least, won’t unfollow me out of pique. If I haven’t nominated you don’t be offended — I’ve assumed you’re too busy or much less frivolous than moi — but you can still join in if you want to …

  1. Simon at Travels in my Own Country: reviews, travel, food, reflections
  2. Sari at The View From Sari’s World: Shakespeare, politics, life
  3. Lizzie at Lizzie Ross: writing for kids everywhere, and the occasional review
  4. Leslie at Colonialist’s Blog: rhyming punster and occasional ranter
  5. Lynn at Word Shamble: fantastic flash fiction
  6. Dale at Earth Balm Music: music and pretty much anything else
  7. Gert at Gert Loveday’s Fun with Books: fun and, er, books
  8. Lynne at Echoes of the Past: exploring the past in text and pics
  9. Stefy at e-Tinkerbell: literature, politics and whatever intrigues her
  10. Joseph at Implied Spaces: asemic poetry and altered images

My four serious — plus one frivolous — questions

  1. What three words best describe your blog?
  2. In your opinion is the world going to hell in a handcart?
  3. What would distress you more, the loss of your books or web connectivity
  4. Excluding English, what should be the world’s lingua franca?
  5. What piece of music would be the soundtrack of your life?

I’ll leave it up to you to decide which of the five questions was the “weird” one.

25 thoughts on “Chain mail

  1. inkbiotic

    Great answers! (and thank you for the compliment 🙂 ) Good to see you turn it into an award blog that is about the very nature of blog awards, very meta-thinking!

    Liked by 1 person

          1. Thanks for the nomination, Chris, but we have very solid infomation that Vladimir Putin is behind this project. He is constantly trying to hack us, so we won’t be taking part.


      1. Ha ha, I will treat it as an award, thank you most kindly. I could tell you enjoyed constructing the post, mainly because it was enjoyable to read, not like some, that are just lists……..I’m not sure why they have to be like chain letters….which scared the hell out of me as a child, thinking something nasty would happen, of course it never did….well, not through chain letters 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Chain letters deliberately play an subconscious fear, don’t they, which causes us to worry to worry about breaking the chain, denying good luck to others and bringing bad fortune to outselves. And all for no good reason! Pernicious little things. But thanks for the compliments about the post, I certainly had fun with it. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  2. It is always nice to be noticed and appreciated, so well done Chris! Your blog posts are always enjoyable and enlightening.

    I am with you though. Blog awards are one way to show appreciation for your fellow writers, and can be a way to find new blogs, but still, they leave a sour taste in my mouth. Your analogy is spot on, they do feel like chain mail and are often shared over and over again by the same people.

    I did however, enjoy your answers (how did you manage those wonderful boxes?) as it they gave us a fun inside look into a private person. I also assumed Calmgrove was a nod to the 60’s hippie movement. I should have known it went deeper than that.

    Thank you for nominating me. I may give it a go if only because I enjoyed your post and think you deserve some answers to your questions, but i may put my own personal spin on who and how I nominate the next set of victims, I mean award winners.


    1. Thanks for you appreciative comments, Sari, and I have to say that it’s a case of mutual admiration, for the same reasons!

      Calmgrove a nod to the 60s hippie movement? Maybe subconsciously. I subsequently discovered that there is a class of Japanese Buddhist temple called Zenrin-ji which can be (and has been) translated as ‘Temple of the Calm Grove’ (‘zen’ of course referring to a tranquil meditative state). I suppose that is a bit hippie-ish! Incidentally, one of Calmgrove’s two sister blogs,, started off as a haiku-inspired blog (though since extended and resurrected now and again).

      Looking forward to your own spin on all this, as and when it might appear. 🙂


  3. One of the big bonuses of your award is now I know what your blog name means…or at least how you constructed it.

    As a literal-ist, I always imagine a sweet, quiet, peaceful place to read each time I get an email notification of one of your posts lol

    But then again, even knowing the origin of the word…it still is 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very sweet of you, thanks Laurie! I try to err on the side of positivity with constructive comments, and if my posts exude calmness as well then so be it. 🙂


  4. Lynn Love

    Lovely post Chris. Love your three facts about yourself – I remember you saying before you moved around a lot as a child. Sounds as if you did a lifetime’s travelling before you were twelve!

    Your thoughts on blogging awards chime with my own. I’m utterly flattered for the nomination, though. And agree with blosslyn – your esteem is award enough in my book.

    This idea of chain mail is unsettling and as you say, continues in the digital age. I often find such things on facebook – ‘share if you love your grandchildren more than life’ was a recent one but I’ve had ‘share if you respect army veterans’, ‘if you love your country, bees, badgers’ etc. While these (often positive) fb posts aren’t playing on fear as the old chain letters did, I still wonder why they exist. Most people love their grandchildren – what does sharing a post prove? Many of us (while hating war) respect soldiers who fight in them, but sharing some ill thought out sentiment of support will not help their plight if injured, if they suffer substance abuse or mental health problems or help increase their pension. So what is the point? To make the person who reposts feel better about themselves, feel apar of a community of like minded souls, to make them feel they have somehow done their bit by showing solidarity with any given group?

    Ramble, ramble, ramble. This is way your discussion posts encourage so much discussion!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I was lucky to get that travelling in so soon, even if memories of it are few and far between.

      I’m thinking of doing a blogger’s award scheme that requires no involvement or work whatever! If I can work out something clever (and witty!) I will — but we’ll see. Then you could be first in line. 🙂

      Chain mail? I just ignore or delete it, and the same with FB posts — total waste of time except for those whose egos are boosted, however genuine their initial concerns. Anyway, your ‘ramble’ gives me encouragement to continue these kinds of posts!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I like the idea of award schemes with no involvement or work! Often thought of doing something similar – or a weekly ‘featured blog’, sharing ones I enjoy. I should ask around for guest bloggers too.
        I think you travelled more in your childhood than I have my entire life – what a fascinating childhood. Have you returned to Hong Kong since? Wondering how it’s changed since you lived there


        1. Yes, I’ve seen similar ‘featured blog’ posts too, even ‘featured blog post’ posts (if you see what I mean) and guest blogger posts — all ways to highlight worthy blogs, and all worthy exercises.

          I’ve not been back to Hong Kong since, though my son did a brief stopover en route to a stay in Australia and saw the street I lived in until I was four. Needless to say it was unrecognisable from what I remembered!

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Well, if you’d ever like to guest blog on Word Shamble, you are – of course – always welcome.

            Perhaps it’s best not to go back. I remember returning to my nan’s house years after she died. When I was a child it had a very ‘post war’ feel to it – brown / green patterned lino, that particular 1930s / 40s green paintwork, coconut matting, an old spinner for her laundry and an ancient gas oven that must have been at least thirty years old by that time. On our visit, the privet hedge from the front garden was gone – a landmark I’d known the house by – and because of that and general renovation we couldn’t even be sure which house was her’s. A salutory lesson for me – never go back.


            1. It’s also not a good plan to revisit houses-one-has-owned — why have they chosen that ghastly colour scheme / ripped out those original or restored fittings / let it go to rack and ruin?

              Guest blog: well, if you’re up for it the so am I! Happy for you to do something bookish — your choice naturally! — on Calmgrove, and if you trust me to provide a sample of creative writing to some theme or other …

              Liked by 1 person

            2. Oh, please do – I’d love to feature your writing. Pretty sure I couldn’t manage to write a book review for Calmgrove though – my powers of analysis are pale shadows compared to yours. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

            3. Thanks, Lynn, I’d be delighted! I’ll have a think, unless there’s a particularly pressing prompt you’d like me to consider! And from you I wouldn’t expect a book review — perhaps something about your writing processes, or how your creativity might get to work on prompts, or your progress or lack of with getting a novel published? Only some suggestions!

              Liked by 1 person

            4. Lovely. You just write what you fancy – I write anything between 100 and 1,000 words, so it’s pretty open on word length. And thank you for your lovely invitation. I’ll definitely have a think about a blog post and get back to you. Should be good 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

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