More than small beer or potatoes!

May the potatoes rise up to meet you . . .

Our potato plants are doing very well this year. It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over two years since I wrote somewhat lyrically about preparation and anticipation in the Allendale Diary, in relation to potatoes, but time moves along, doesn’t it! Although I didn’t realise it quite at the time of writing, the diary project was never just ‘small beer’ or, as they might say in North America, ‘small potatoes.’ Even while writing about the delights of growing them, I was very conscious of the potato’s status as metaphor. Well. I was reminded of this diary entry by a friendly editor of who came upon my musings, and who has published a very useful guide to storing potatoes.

Jenn Stark, editor and founder of this lifestyle site/newsletter/social media platform, who lives in New Zealand, was very kind about my thoughts on waiting for the big reveal of the harvest, and wondered if she could share the piece with their 100k readers. With great pleasure, of course, I agreed to reciprocate.

I’d been looking for an excuse anyway to send out a note to Allendale Diary subscribers, because the online blog is coming soon to the end of its natural life. When 2021 closes out, the diary will have been available for two full years online, all throughout the pandemic, its entries cheerfully documenting what life was like back in 2019 when it was just normal. For whatever reason, the diary pages still elicit a consistent century of views week in and week out. Meanwhile, although it’s been compiled into a big paperback, still available at The Forge Studios with proceeds going to charity (current tally is nearing the £1000 mark for good causes, raised locally), it seems like a shame to lose the electronic version entirely.

Happily, there’s a workaround, and that’s to present the diary in an eBook format. Using Adobe Acrobat Pro to combine the foreword, postscript, and all the blog pages collated by BlogBooker, I created a new pdf of the diary, which I then put through Calibre to render into a Kindle-friendly version. When the online blog lapses, I could try to serve it up on Amazon’s bookshelf where it can live in a slightly different incarnation. At that point, I can also enrol the eBook of the diary into Kindle Select for reading by anyone who subscribes to Kindle Unlimited, which may increase its reading audience worldwide. For all of this service, of course, Amazon will provide the storage, if I understand their publishing rules correctly, so that the project will have an independent life of its own after the blog hosting finishes. Incidentally, the new eBook is rather big: just about 2600 standard Kindle pages! As readers across the planet might delight in their vicarious experience of this community, I hope they may also come to know and understand some of the attractions of these North Pennine fellsides.

A prototype addition to the author’s bookshelf

At the moment, this has just been a preliminary exercise, but before I go ahead and launch this concept, it would be very worthwhile to have a set of opinions from readers and contributors as to the best way forward for the Allendale Diary project, which in so many ways has been a collaborative effort. Probably, as is the way of all things, the project will ultimately fall away into oblivion, but my thinking is that at least it could be preserved for another couple of years anyway. Perhaps generate more revenue for distribution to good causes, as was the purpose of the effort from its outset. Amazon’s sales figures are differentiated between products, so I can easily distinguish the revenue elicited by sales of my novels, for example, vs the revenue from the Allendale Diary eBook which would be earmarked for Allendale Lions Club disbursement.

Looking back on that year of diarising, it seems hardly feasible that 2019, the last full normal year before the Covid pandemic, should have been chosen for this ‘year in the life,’ but there we are. A comprehensive record of life in a vibrant community, before. And so, something to aspire to as well, as we hope to venture somewhere back into normality soon.

As I say, more than just small potatoes then. Though this year’s crop are very tasty indeed!

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