Off the Page


Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Friday, 5th October, 2007

jayjayTHERE’S A JAY in next door’s sumac; it’s rare for it to touch down in the garden, although when there are acorns we often see them flying across the meadow to the large oak in a back garden three doors up the road.

This rudimentary GIF animation of jays flying over the meadow (right) appeared in this diary nine years ago, on 7th October 1998. I’d started my online diary just three days before that (below, left) and managed to keep up consecutive entries for just one more day before taking a week’s break but, following that, I missed out November altogether.

In the early days I compiled my web pages with Homesite and Photoshop 4. Despite the slow process of designing and uploading pages on my Amstrad computer via a dial-up connection, I must have been keen to explore the possibilities of the medium as, after less than a week, I took the trouble to learn how to make this animated GIF using the then free Microsoft Gif Animator.

diary October 2007
Nature Diary, A4 (8 x 11.5 inch format)
October 1998

online diary, October 4th, 1998There weren’t many examples for me to model my diary on at that time as, according to an article in Wikipedia, the first online personal diaries had appeared only 4 years earlier in 1994. The term ‘weblog’ was first used in December 1997 and the short form, ‘blog,’ wasn’t coined until the spring of 1999.


The layout, such as it is, of my online diary, was based on the illustrated page-a-day nature diaries that I’d kept off and on, in one form or another, for the previous 25 years. I've just taken my 1998 diary from the shelf in the attic to photograph it (above).

It's a shame that my hand-drawn, sometimes coloured, diary pages more or less came to an end when I started the online version but those previous diaries of mine just sit on the shelf in the attic and are never seen, whereas the online version can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection - including myself. It's much easier for me to use the Free-find search on my home page than it is to go up into the attic and riffle through all those old diaries.