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Second Annual Report

August 26, 2011
by the gentle author

As a slow writer who struggles to put words together, it astonishes me to discover myself writing this Second Annual Report. It certainly was a foolhardy undertaking that I set out upon two years ago on 26th August 2009 – promising to write a story every single day – but I do not regret it because it has brought me so much pleasure.

I do not quite know how to account for the more than seven hundred stories that I have published since then. In fact, I try to avoid an overview because it fills me with vertigo to contemplate how many words I have written, almost as disorienting as trying to imagine what lies ahead over the next quarter century of this endeavour. Yet the reality of this project consists always in writing today’s story and, as far as possible, I submit myself to the job in hand, which can be relied upon to provide more than sufficient challenge to fill one day.

As a child, I never understood why I could not go and speak with everybody, and I used to knock on the doors of people in my street and ask about their lives. Even now I do not  know why people choose to be strangers to one another and not enter into conversations at bus stops and on transport. Fortunately, my chosen occupation permits me to fulfil my lifelong curiousity about the lives of others. And, in the last two years, I have met more people than I ever did in my life up to the moment I began writing these pen portraits, and a good many have now become friends.

Although I had some experience of writing before I commenced, these two years of contriving a story daily have changed my life. Sometimes people assume that I knock off several at once and publish them at leisure. But the truth is that I always write tomorrow’s story today, often working late into the night until it is ready.

Whenever I get the chance to look back at previous posts, I am struck how they flow one after another, as if preordained, when, in fact, I rarely know what is coming next. It is a situation that creates a certain internal drama, exciting and terrifying at the same time. While – from those already published – I may persuade myself  that tomorrow’s story will appear inevitably, I get fidgety as the day fades if I have not yet begun writing, or – worse – I have not decided what I am writing about. Yet each night, when I publish my story, the drama is resolved and I can go to sleep peacefully, before waking up ready to start again.

As you will appreciate, it keeps me on my toes, with so many people to write about and you, the readers, awaiting tomorrow’s story. I recognise a constant imperative to do my subjects justice and I know I cannot disappoint you. It is a perfect situation for a writer, especially a slow writer.

I did not realise that this would be the outcome when I set out, but I am very grateful for it, because it has proved so rewarding. Years ago, when I complained of my long afternoons struggling to compose a single sentence, people used to say, “If someone put a gun to your head, couldn’t you write faster?” Now this is situation is remedied, I can answer those people by declaring, “I have found the gun!”

As I pass the two year milestone, I am going to take a moment to draw breath, celebrating this anniversary by publishing a week of favourite posts. Meanwhile, I shall take the opportunity to tidy my desk, weed the garden, sew on buttons and prepare myself to set forth again through the streets of Spitalfields. But first, I have something extraordinary planned to commemorate this auspicious moment and I must leave you here while I run off to do it. Naturally, you will read an account, as the first post opening the third year of stories on Monday 5th September.

And thus, with all these thoughts in mind, I come to the end of this second year of Spitalfields Life.

I am your loyal servant

The Gentle Author

You may also like to read the First Annual Report

61 Responses leave one →
  1. August 26, 2011

    A HUGE massive grand congratulations on your two year anniversary. While I don’t read every day, I do read all your posts and silently thank whoever for allowing you to indulge your interests and share them with us. You are truly amazing and we are so lucky.

  2. Paula permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Just a short note from the Rocky Mountains of Colorado USA on your anniversary to let you know how much I enjoy reading your writings. Everyday people, just living their everyday lives, are always the most interesting.

  3. Gene Martin permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Thanks for writing this blog. It is one of the first things I read everyday.

  4. Steve permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Read your blog every day. Enjoy the morning email. Thanks a lot for all your time and effort putting this together.

  5. August 26, 2011

    One of the things you have learned then, is the art of the cliff-hanger!

    I too am coming up (in November) to my second anniversary of blogging, though with the significant difference that I post between three and five times a week. (Sometimes more, occasionally less. I have no rule other than to keep the posts coming.) However I recognise that I have the same constant imperative as you’ve described here, which is to conjure the next post, often out of nowhere. All this I can see has made me a better writer, and a faster one too, just as Spitalfields Life has done for you. For my own part I suspected as much at the outset of my blogging and indeed it was all a part of the plan, because while producing the Artlog I was also producing a substantial autobiographical contribution toward the Lund Humphries monograph published about my work this summer, the anticipation of which task filled me with anxiety right up to the moment it went to press.

    Another difference between your blog and mine, is that you keep your identity an intriguing secret. (Though consummate writer that you have become, you seed clues for us readers to pick up and ferret away for later examination and dissection!) I must tell you that I long to know who you are. In May Paul Bommer and Nick Appletone came to Wales to attend my Retrospective Exhibition at the National Library of Wales, and try though I did to winkle information from Paul… who of course knows you… his resolve not to ‘tell’ remained unbreakable. (Had I had him here longer I think I could have made him crack, but luckily for you he got away!)

    I subscribed to Spitalfields Life when I came upon it, and have not regretted doing so. You continue to entertain and inform. Congratulations on your second anniversary. Bravo, Gentle Author, bravo!

  6. August 26, 2011

    Enjoy your holiday, every bit.

  7. August 26, 2011

    Congratulations to you and Spitalfields Life on your second anniversary. I write slowly as well, so am in simpatico. Thank you for your most enjoyable writings! Wishing you a lovely holiday.

  8. August 26, 2011

    Coffee, toast and of course Spitalfields Life – best way to start the day. Keep going and thanks for all your efforts. Annette

  9. August 26, 2011

    Hurrah dear Gentle Author! Although your commitments will not allow you to rest upon your laurels, be assured that they are vast and lush and commodius! Thank you dear friend.

  10. August 26, 2011

    Still not quite sure how you do it, despite the explanation! Many congrats on a second year of fascinating posts, celebrating the extraordinary in the every day…

  11. Annie permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Congratulations on your second anniversary and a very big thank you for embarking on the project. I really look forward to reading your posts, they are so interesting and informative – thank you!!

  12. August 26, 2011

    Wishing you a hearty Mazel Tov on this momentous day!

  13. aubrey permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author,

    I read your blog every day – well – almost every day. I really think it’s a …. well I don’t know what: your writing about ordinary daily stuff is just amazing!

    Congratulations on this anniversary.

  14. August 26, 2011

    Am I the only person who got a shock from the title pic because she thought Mr. Pussy had died?
    I still have wet eyes. Well, don’t do that again 😉

    But apart from that, I absolutely love your blog and my husband an me read it every day (we’re in Germany). We will definitely visit Spitalfields when we come to London. Thank you very very much for your wonderful work, it is deeply appreciated!

    Kind regards from your German readers
    Nicole & Norbert

  15. August 26, 2011

    Congratulations on your second Spitalfields Life anniversary.

    I am so grateful to be able to read this each day – a fascinating insight into life around you and this post has been an equally fascinating insight into how you go about providing us with such a delight each day.

    Thank you for what you do.

  16. August 26, 2011

    Congratulations! You are doing such a wonderful job. Reading your morning e-mail is one of the first things I do every day, a blissful moment of peace and musing about other people’s lives before my own life starts calling for attention.

    For the past five weeks I have been living in London to work on my new novel, which is set in London. I have been wandering all over Spitalfiels, seeing the things you wrote about, and knowing the stories behind them gave depth to the experience of walking these streets and made me feel quite at home. Many thanks, and enjoy your holiday!

  17. MzTallulah permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Congratulations and a heartfelt thank you for many interesting and moving posts. Following your blog has been a great delight and I hope you continue to write for a long time. Spitalfields Life has made me wish many times I could move to London right now, or that I had the time and inclination (most of the time, I am too shy to just strike up a conversation or ask a straightforward question from a stranger) to find out more about my own community.

  18. August 26, 2011

    Thank you – I always look forward to reading your blog and may you write many more!

  19. Stella permalink
    August 26, 2011

    I have only been reading your blog for a few weeks but I find it so interesting and am recommending it to friends. You really have given yourself a monumental task, so thank you for your efforts and enjoy your break.

  20. August 26, 2011

    I can only add my own congratulations. I’ve come to think of this blog as something of a quiet harbor amid the noisy, rat-a-tat world of the Internet.

    Enjoy the holiday!

  21. August 26, 2011

    Congratulations on your second anniversary, and thank you for posting so faithfully every day for so long! I rarely (if ever!) comment on your posts, but I do read them every day and they bring me much pleasure. Enjoy your break and I look forward to another year of fascinating posts! Keep them coming! You write so beautifully.

  22. Sally Baldwin permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Congratulations on two years of living your heart’s dream! And a generous heart it is.

    I love it that you’ve been asking people about themselves since you were little. I’m so happy that you share your stories with us, and that it has expanded your life in return.

    Life is good! Have a lovely break. Oh, and doesn’t Mr. Pussy look different from a year ago!

  23. Denise Hoffman permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author, many congratulations on a wonderful job well done!! I discovered your writings, purely by chance, early into your 2nd year. So of course, I had to go back to the very beginning to catch up:) As I said, I found you late one night as I was researching Spitalfields. I am a very keen genealogist and my family, mostly weavers, spinners, shoe makers, were all born and lived in Spitalfields. They actually lived on Fournier Street. I myself was born in Hackney, but of course, in my younger days, I had no interest in family history whatsoever. I now live on my husband’s old family farm (early 1700’s), in Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of Amish country. Another wonderful group of people and so fascinating! I get back home whenever I can, but some days when I am feeling a little more homesick that others, it is your daily writings that I so look forward too and read over and over again. I have always been a “people watcher”, and have found people and their lives so fascinating. I am sure you also must be a fascinating person,
    to find the time and the energy to embark on such an adventure. But I am so pleased that you have!! Thank you again, thank you so very much!!

  24. Susan Lendroth permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Congratulations indeed, Gentle Author. You’ve been my guide through your corner of London for such a long time it is difficult to remember a time when I could not walk with you via Spitalfields Life. In fact, you have made so many of us “Lifers,” that I imagine us one day having gatherings, a community of wanderers who join to physically walk the neighborhoods through which you have guided us from afar for so long.

    I was just quoting Samuel Johnson the other day when my daughter and I looked at his portrait in a local museum, and indeed, as the jug by Mr. Pussy states, I can’t imagine ever being tired of London or of Spitalfields Life.

    Enjoy your week long respite and know that we are anxious for your return.


  25. Mary Walton permalink
    August 26, 2011

    As a writer myself I can only say how absolutely remarkable you are – thanks for sharing.

  26. JimiHutch permalink
    August 26, 2011

    September 5th is my birthday. I look forward to your gift.
    Thanks for all of the fantastic profiles.


  27. andrea murphy permalink
    August 26, 2011

    May I chime in to the chorus of thanks and congratulations? Your site is a real treasure.

  28. August 26, 2011

    Your writing gives me such pleasure. London is my favorite city, and it has now been eight years since my last visit. Yet through your writing Iam there almost daily, exploring the streets and the history I love. Thank you very much.

  29. Sue permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Have a very well deserved break – and thank you for all the hard work you put in every day keeping us entertained, educated, amazed, fascinated, astonished, saddened, heartened and above all included in the real and vibrant world of good old Spitalfields. Where would my life be without you?!

  30. antonia Dosik permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Congratulations Gentle Author! Your blog is one of the most interesting I have ever read. It is unique and beautifully conceived and written. I love it and read it every day. Looking forward to year 3.

  31. David Snow permalink
    August 26, 2011

    In May 2010 I wandered into Old School in Holt in Norfolk and ended up chatting with those lovely folks for a bit. Near the end of our conversation they asked me if I knew of your blog. Since then I’ve come to it daily to discover the little treasures you leave here. You inspired me to try to write one myself, but after a week I was overwhelmed and intimidated by the pressure and gave it up. The experience, humbling as it was, made me all the more impressed at your always excellent and original, and steady, output.

    So hurrah for you! And thank you for your always interesting look at your world. Lucky us.

  32. August 26, 2011

    I look forward to the next year, and the year after that and after that, and so on and so on. Keep the words and photos flowing. I live and work in NYC and just can’t wait to read about the wonderful people that are a part of your life past and present each morning before I start my working day. I’m positive in the near future there will be a book published!!!!

    Thank You,

  33. August 26, 2011

    As one who knows what an onerous task it can be to maintain a simple Blog I bow to the master.

    Spitalfields Life is simply a masterpiece.

    Long may it & the Gentle Author reign !

    Ron Goldstein

  34. Opal permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Congrats on your 2nd Annual Report! Kudos to you for keeping it going. I live very far away and I love England, and I like to look into Spitalfields Life now and again to see what’s going on, the history, etc. Thanks for great human interest stories!

  35. August 26, 2011

    Love your blog. It is something that really appeals to me as I love hearing everyone’s stories…Thank you for providing me with a connection to the real people in London.

    Hope you keep it up. Congrats on two years. That is a significant milestone in the world of blogs.
    liz in texas

  36. Virginia permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Many congratulations and thanks for this remarkable blog. Don’t know how you do it – but I’m so glad you do!

  37. Joan permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Just thank you.

    Best wishes,


  38. M.M. Kennedy permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Dear Gentle Author,

    Thank you for this wonderful site and congratulations on your two year anniversary. I read your posts everyday, and indeed, begin my morning with your stories. London is very special to me and I try to visit as often as I can. Please know that I will be giving the link to my Visual Communications students this coming semester–your combination of text, image, ads in a web format is an excellent example of how elegant a website can be. And the content is superb! I have learned much from my daily readings. I, too, second a suggestion for a book at some point!
    You have many fans here in Chicago.



  39. August 26, 2011

    Thank you for bringing London into my home the other side of the world down under in Auckland new Zealand. I log onto you each morning to view yet another fascinating story usually of other peoples’ lives and sometimes about buildings. I have noted down special places you have reported on and hope to visit them when in London next year.

    I was born in Edmonton, moved to Ilford where I left in 1960 to come to New Zealand.

    A good place for you to visit is the Allpress Coffee Roastery in Redchurch Street and enjoy good coffee. The business was opened last year by an expanding co. from here. Please enjoy.

    Keep up the writing, always so interesting and thank you for the pleasure your stories give.

    Regards Thelma Plillips

  40. Jill the lollipop lady permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Happy 2nd birthday, Gentle Author and thankyou for this calm oasis that I visit every day. I worry that you work too hard though…

  41. lesley manousos permalink
    August 26, 2011

    Many congratulations! As a Londoner now living abroad, I thoroughly enjoy your daily posts, and although they sometimes make me a little homesick, I’m happy to read about the London I love. Hope you have a fabulous celebration, and I look forward to future insights into Spitalfields life.

  42. Jill permalink
    August 26, 2011

    I’d like to add my name to the long list of wellwishers. Breakfast wouldn’t be breakfast without your blog. When all around seems to be doom and gloom and people continue to kill and hurt each other, your blog is a place of sanity. I think you’ve created a real community – so thank you. Of course, the addition of a black cat is the icing on the cake for me. Very best wishes from rural Suffolk.

    Jill and Bertie (the black cat)

  43. Gary permalink
    August 27, 2011

    Congratulations and thanks for this second year of interesting people and places.
    As I read of your desire to talk to everybody and that everybody should also do so, a part of Gerard Hoffnungs talk to the Oxford Union came into my head “When entering a railway carriage shake hands with everyone present”
    Enjoy your break and come back refreshed and ready for year three
    With appreciation

  44. Robson Cezar permalink
    August 27, 2011

    I can get tired of London but never of Sptalfields life – we must celebrate life in Sptalfields every single day.

  45. August 27, 2011

    I’ll add my thanks as well to this long list, for Spitalfields Life has become my one and only daily read. You have a beautiful writing style and lovely, quiet wit. Not to mention a sensitive attention to detail. I delight in your posts and wish you many years of storytelling to come!

  46. Kamala permalink
    August 27, 2011

    Oh, Gentle Author. Thank you so very much.

  47. A Small Finn permalink
    August 27, 2011

    Not only has your blog made me see London with new, more curious eyes, but also my own city now seems a bit more interesting and I walk around wondering what stories are behind these buildings and the people I meet. Thank you so much for your writings this far!

  48. sarah ainslie permalink
    August 27, 2011

    Congratulations and happy anniversary today, it is such a wonderful and exciting journey and look forward to the coming year of adventures. Sarah

  49. jeannette permalink
    August 28, 2011

    you’ve also changed my life, with your unfailing and unblinking curiousity and kindness and enterprise. the night walk at christmas, perhaps, — well i can’t begin to name favorites. to swear to do it for 27 years is a tonic in itself, and i think of that as a real vote for hope in london and the life itself london represents of which no one can ever tire.

    here’s lookin’ at you, kid.

  50. jeannette permalink
    August 28, 2011

    oh and don’t forget congrats and a nice dish of plaice fillets for your faithful feline companion on this amazing odyssey.

  51. August 28, 2011

    Reading your blog is such a good way to start the day. I’m in awe of your curiosity and the riches you have found in this community. Thank you

  52. Rhianwen Guthrie permalink
    August 28, 2011

    Life in London is all the richer knowing you’re out there doing what you do.
    Congratulations, may you achieve your goal and keep enjoying what you do as much as we enjoy you doing it.

    Rhianwen x

  53. TokyoDon permalink
    August 29, 2011

    Three cheers for the Gentle Author! There are a lot of us out here who really appreciate this blog. It’s where we go for a taste of home, a taste of history or just a place to while away a few happy minutes each day.

    Good luck and please keep on writing!

    Tokyo Don

  54. melbournegirl permalink
    August 30, 2011

    Many thanks, Gentle Author, for all the joy your work brings.

  55. August 30, 2011

    Thank-you for your extraordinary site. Having once lived in Mansell Street, your writings make me homesick to return.

  56. Chris F permalink
    August 30, 2011

    People more erudite and articulate than me have said what needs to be said. Keep up the good work. I have had so much pleasure following up some of your posts. I’ve blown up the photos so that I can see the names on posters and shop fronts and then searched them out on the Web. You are a modern day ‘Samuel Pepys’. You are setting down the lives of ordinary people who under normal circumstances wouldn’t have a voice. You let us get to know people who we may never get to meet in the flesh and you let us see into buildings where we may never get an invite. In years to come people will study your blog and make a pilgrimage to view the ‘Blue Plaque’ that says ‘Here lived the Gentle Author’ recorder of Spitalfields Life.

  57. August 30, 2011

    You have a beautiful blog and a wonderful way with words. I discovered your site earlier this year, browsing in on a curious whim, and started reading. And that’s pretty much where I stayed. ‘Favourite that!’ I thought, and that’s exactly what I did. Every post is delight, it really is, and to read that you think of yourself as a ‘slow writer’ makes me hang my head in writerly shame and vow to try harder. Thank you! Here’s to you, and the next year of stories.

  58. Anne Forster permalink
    November 14, 2011

    Happy anniversary Gentle Author, having followed your writings since nearly the beginning I can only agree with all your other followers. I may not manage every day but always catch up and occasionally reply. You have made all of our lives a little richer.

  59. July 29, 2012

    Just wanted to say thanks for writing such a fantastic book. I’m on my last few stories and will miss it when the last page is turned.

    The book writing, illustrations, paper, binding, typography and layout is fantastic. I’m always showing it to people like some rare artefact.

    Thanks again for your wonderful work!

  60. Libby Hall permalink
    August 18, 2012

    Wanting to read again the second annual report, this time I read the comments.

    A blog in themselves of love and gratitude.

    Most sweet to read.

  61. Shawdian permalink
    December 14, 2015

    Congratulations once again 🙂

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