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Pontifications on Poison

Being some ramblings on events associated with poisonous plants.

Friday 1st June 2012

And so the experiment comes to an end. This is my 366th blog entry meaning, since 2012 is a leap year, that I have written something every day for a full year.

I started, on 2nd June 2011, because I’d just given my last talk of the season and wanted to have something to keep my mind on poison plants. I decided that I should try and see if I could find something to write about, daily, though I didn’t set out with the intention of doing so for a full year.

The reason for going for a daily effort was both to impose that discipline on myself and to see if there was enough different happening in the world of poisonous plants and psychoactive substances to make such an output possible.

My initial intention was to see if I could get through the summer of 2011 and I told myself that, once the talks season re-started, I wouldn’t have the need or the time to continue. When September came and I needed to begin preparations for Norham WI I found I could find the time for both and, somewhere around the end of December, I determined to complete a full year.

And I have.

I have drafted all of them in a single Word document. It makes it easier to check to see if I am about to repeat something I’ve written about or, which is worse, about to contradict an opinion I expressed some months ago. It is though just the first draft and I make quite a few, mostly small, changes once I’m building the webpage for that day. This means that the 290,000 words that Word NOW says I have written is only an estimate but it won’t be too far out.

The question of changes is a large part of this. Though I do edit and rethink as I’m building the page I don’t deliberately review and rewrite the whole thing. This was, for me, an exercise in getting my thoughts straight before I started committing them to the screen and trying to ‘get fit’ in writing terms by means of this daily workout.

To those who have become regular readers of this blog I can only say ‘Thank you’. You will have seen that a small number of plants has been responsible for a good many of these pieces. The top three must be Jacobaea vulgaris (syn. Senecio jacobaea), common ragwort, Heracleum mantegazzianum, giant hogweed, and Ricinus communis, castor oil plant.

And, of course, many of the entries have been concerned with psychoactive substances, legal and illegal, plant derived and synthetic chemical. There is always something to be written about the lunatic illogicality of the way the world deals with these substances but I’ve tried to avoid the simple repetition of what to me is the blatantly obvious fact that prohibition does most of the harm and that those who argue for it do so without a solid base of evidence.

As I said at the start, the experiment is over. I’ve decided to free myself of the shackle of having to write something every single day. I will continue to write whenever I think I have something to say and that may well turn out to be daily but I want to be able to miss a day or two rather than find I’m going through the motions or repeating stories I’ve told before.

When I started, I also joined Twitter as a way of announcing that day’s topic. I didn’t really understand Twitter, then, and I’m still not sure I do now but the other change I think I’m going to make is to use Twitter to point out topics that have interested me rather than trying to write 500 or so words about them to make a blog entry.

I’m aware, even as I write this, that I have some thoughts about entries for the next couple of days, at least, so it is entirely possible that in another 365 days I shall be marking my second anniversary and saying all of this again. 

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