When Maria Amelia Lopez reached her 95th birthday in 2007, her nephew gave her a rather unusual present: her own weblog.
The Spanish great-grandmother went on to charm large swathes of the internet, writing about the Civil War and life under Franco.
A year later, Deutsche Welle – Germany’s equivalent to the BBC’s World Service – gave her an award for best Spanish-language blog, and Spain’s Prime Minister José Zapatero then paid her a visit. ‘It took 20 years off my life,’ she wrote of the reaction to her writing. ‘I did not know that there was so much goodness in the world.’
How to set up your own blog
Anyone can blog
Before the arrival of easy-to-master online publishing software in the late Nineties, most personal websites were the preserve of only the most tech-savvy.
One of those, Jorn Barger, is often credited with coining the phrase ‘weblog’ to describe his site, a collection of links discovered while browsing the web, links he felt worthy of sharing with a wider audience. Each day, his most recent discoveries appeared at the top of his homepage, and the format quickly caught on.
By the turn of the millennium, a small number of bloggers had taken up the baton, helped by the launch of blogger.com, which made it easy for the non-technical to start their own sites.
By February 2011, market research company Nielson estimated there were 156 million actively maintained blogs on the web. The intervening decade had seen Blogger purchased by Google (its founder, Evan Williams, left the company to set up the micro-blogging service Twitter) and the launch of other popular publishing tools such as Wordpress and Movable Type.
Even Facebook is based on the blogging template, allowing its users to tell their friends what they’re up to, their thoughts displayed in reverse-chronological order, just like Barger’s early site.
While some might find Twitter’s format too restrictive (each post is limited to a mobile-friendly 140 characters), and Facebook’s focus on networks of friends too confining, blogging offers the opportunity for people to write at length on an unlimited range of subjects, and to make that material available to anyone who might be interested.
There are blogs on all kinds of subject
Pick a subject – any subject you can imagine – and you’re sure to find huge numbers of sites devoted to exploring every nook and nuance. It’s tempting to think that people writing without the guidance of a professional editor will produce unprofessional prose, but poorly written sites remain unpopular, unread, and are largely invisible as a result.
At the other end of the spectrum, blogging has produced its own stars. Salam Abdulmunem’s widely read reports from Baghdad during the Gulf War led to regular columns in The Guardian (as Salam Pax) and appearances on Newsnight.
Across the Atlantic, Julie Powell documented her attempts to cook a dish a day from Julia Child’s influential Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a project that gained a huge following and was subsequently turned into a Hollywood movie starring Meryl Streep.
And Scottish schoolgirl Martha Payne’s NeverSeconds blog about her ghastly school lunches – it was banned by her local council – led to a campaign that raised a fortune to improve school food not only at home but in Malawi, too.
In 2000, most of the UK blogging community were able to assemble, almost unnoticed, in the back room of a London pub. Cut to the present day, and there are thousands of UK bloggers, covering everything from life on a narrowboat to politics via amateur golf and Britain’s best gardens.
Starting your own is easier than ever – simply sign up at blogger.com or wordpress.com, and start writing. Persevere, and don’t get disheartened if feedback is slow to follow. Cream always rises, and the web tends to do a very good job of separating wheat from chaff. And who knows? One day the Prime Minister might pay you a visit.
Our pick of the top over-50s bloggers
Victoria Twead moved to Andalucia in 2004. Now she’s written a series of memoirs, and updates her blog with tales of killer caterpillars, garlic prawns and nasty cockroaches. victoriatwead.com/category/old-fools-blog
A Hebridean in New Zealand
Following the sun, Graham Barry Edwards spends the British summer in the Outer Hebrides, before flying
south as winter strikes. He blogs from both locations. rotowhenua2.blogspot.co.uk
While my trombone gently weeps
Never let it be said that the ‘blogosphere’ doesn’t feature a varied cast: here’s a corner of the internet belonging to a trombone-playing civil servant who’s retired to France. brucegunia.blogspot.fr
Rough seas in the Med
Reports from the frontline of life in Gibraltar and Spain from a journalist, her partner and their dog. roughseasinthemed.wordpress.com
The world from my window
Dealing with a change of location – Dorset to Corfu – and learning to live a new life away from home on a grown-up gap year. maddiegrigg.com
A foot in two campos
In July 2012, Tamara bought a casita in Málaga province. A year on, she’s still adjusting to life there and writing about the experience. tamaraessexspanishblog.wordpress.com
Perpetually in transit
In which a former librarian and retired parish priest blogs about what appears to be a fairly hectic retirement schedule, with a life divided between three countries. perpetually-in-transit.blogspot.co.uk
Tales of Welsh lore and legend, beautifully written by 85-year-old Welshman Emrys Jones. emryscambrensis.com
David Hepworth’s notebook
Occasionally contrary, always original. Popular culture dismantled by broadcaster, publisher and journalist David Hepworth. whatsheonaboutnow.blogspot.co.uk
In which the comedian mocks actor Karl Pilkington and promotes himself tirelessly. Which is precisely what his fans want. rickygervais.com/thissideofthetruth.php
Even monkeys fall out of trees
An interest in modern music isn’t something one is required to discard as youth is abandoned. John Medd’s blog also reviews the occasional restaurant and reveals the origins of the Venn diagram. johnmedd.blogspot.com
Contemporary classical composer Robert Hugill reviews things, previews other things and has a lot to say on everything else. Genuinely fascinating. planethugill.com
British classical music
John France’s specialist subject is British music from the 19th century onwards. Smart, well-written and knowledgeable. landofllostcontent.blogspot.co.uk
If you’re bored with betting on football or the horses, why not give politics a try? Turns out you can even bet on the number of interruptions during Prime Minister’s Questions. Run by former journalist and politician Mike Smithson, so he probably knows his stuff. politicalbetting.com
Wall-to-wall Westminster from publisher, broadcaster and former Conservative politician Iain Dale. Nominated for a Guardian Political Blog of the Year Award in 2005. iaindale.com
Neville describes his blog as being at ‘the intersection of business, communication and technology. And shiny new objects.’ As that final sentence suggests, all this is explained in terms we regular folk can understand. nevillehobson.com
Not pure politics but… Britain’s leading wearer of colourful ties and socks, Channel 4 newscaster Jon Snow, provides a ‘ringside seat’ for the news. blogs.channel4.com/snowblog
Surrey-born Andrew Sullivan is one of the most successful (and controversial) political bloggers on the planet. Winner of a Best Weblog Award at the 2008 Bloggies, he charges a $20 annual full-access fee to read The Dish, his latest venture.
Game old girl
A forthright, topical and witty commentary on how the media handles politics, written by a retired senior Times executive who now styles herself ‘gameoldgirl’. She asks awkward questions, looks at the politics and ethics of the news industry and comes up with some uncomfortable home truths. subscraft.blogspot.co.uk
Food and drink
Brett, the wine maestro
With 40 years’ experience in the trade, we can forgive Brett Jones for calling himself the Wine Maestro – he’s almost certainly earned it. Brett also organises tastings. thewinemaestro.co.uk
Lavender and lovage
Based in North Yorkshire and southwest France, Karen S Burns Booth runs a cookery school and writes one of the UK’s most influential food blogs. Check out the links to other sites on her ‘blog roll’. lavenderandlovage.com
Style and fashion
That’s not my age
Funny, informed and uplifting blog about style at any age from a former magazine fashion editor. Great mix of inspirational older women, lovely clothes ‘spotted’and a witty diary about her fashiony – but not scarily so – life. thatsnotmyage.blogspot.co.uk
A style blog for the over-50s male, written by an over-50s male. The Fox (David Evans) is a former lawyer with no experience in the fashion industry, but can now also be found blogging at The Guardian.greyfoxblog.com
Chic at any age
Proving that advancing years are no barrier to looking stylish, Josephine’s blog is ‘for women who want to get more out of life, have fun and look chic at any age’. chicat50plus.blogspot.co.uk
Down on the allotment
‘Matron’ was born 20 yards from her allotment and is passionate about vegetables. She also takes rather fetching photographs of tomatoes. veggies-only.blogspot.co.uk
The enduring gardener
Be guided around spectacular gardens by Stephanie Donaldson, co-author of The Elements of Organic Gardening, the Prince of Wales’s bestseller. blog.theenduringgardener.com
Arts & crafts
Great balls of wool
Craft blogs are increasingly popular. In hers, Una writes about knitting for charity, learning to crochet and her adventures constructing an entrelac baby blanket. bagsofwool.blogspot.co.uk/
Linda’s crafty corner
An extremely colourful blog featuring pictures of wool, pictures of flowers and – best of both worlds – pictures of flowers made of wool. lindacraftycorner.blogspot.co.uk
The golfing hacker
Peter Corrigan was a sports columnist for The Observer and Independent on Sunday. These days he chronicles his forlorn attempts to break 100 on his blog. Compulsory reading for all less-gifted golfers. thegolfinghacker.com
Blogging about Arsenal since 2006, following the team for more than 50 years. Like many club-specific bloggers, his writing contains no small amount of joy, tempered by an equal amount of hurt. goonerholic.com
The old batsman
Music journalist Jon Hotten also writes beautifully about cricket. One recent piece, juxtaposing Ashton Agar’s test debut and Ricky Ponting’s final innings, is effortlessly poetic. theoldbatsman.blogspot.co.uk
The diary of Samuel Pepys
If Samuel Pepys were still with us, he’d be 380 years old, and it seems only fair to include England’s most famous diarist in our list. This online version benefits from hyperlink technology not available to Pepys.pepysdiary.com
WW1: experiences of an English soldier
Harry Lamin was born in 1887. The letters posted on his website appear exactly 90 years after he first sent
them from Flanders and northern Italy, during First World War action with the 9th Battalion of the York & Lancaster Regiment.
Old pictures and stories from Teesside, North Yorkshire and north Durham from newspaper archivist Paul Delplanque. rememberwhen.gazettelive.co.uk
Grumpy old Ken
The truth about Ken is that he really isn’t that grumpy, and copes with all that life throws at him with determination and no little enthusiasm. grumpyoldken.blogspot.co.uk
Bloke in the north
Curmudgeonly serial quitter takes to blogging to celebrate solitude. His plans are rudely interrupted by unexpected romance. blokeinthenorth.com
Kathryn Brown runs a farm, writes novels and publishes a blog adorned by a rather attractive picture of some sheep.
Views from the bike shed
‘The musings of a middle- class, middle-aged bloke with an eye for what’s interesting and what might be relevant in a wider sense’. Also includes badgers. viewsfromthebikeshed.blogspot.co.uk
Commentary on life during retirement from a widely travelled former driver with the Royal Army Service Corps. You’ll also find reflections on the passenger transport industry, an extensive collection of model vehicles and a personal record of British nuclear testing in the South Pacific. omnibusologist.com/blogs
Retired and crazy
Ann Cordner might not actually be crazy, but she’s extraordinarily well-travelled – her blog includes reports from her epic, 92-day journey from London to New York, via Europe and Asia. retiredandcrazy.com
Stumbling and mumbling
Chris Dillow says of blogging, ‘I’m arrogant enough to think I’ve got something worth saying, and stupid enough to think anyone cares.’He’s not alone in that, but he is worth reading. stumblingandmumbling.typepad.com
A retired head teacher with an obvious sense of fun, Julia describes her place on the web as being for ‘retired folk who are
not ready to be retired who want to share their adventures’. Which seems perfectly reasonable to us. jfb57.wordpress.com
Retirement with no problem
Vic and Sue have been continually cruising Britain’s canals for over a decade, accompanied only by their two border collies, Meg and Penny. No Problem is the name of their narrowboat. noproblem.org.uk/blog
Life of a fifty-something Yorkshireman
From the school of ‘does what it says on the tin’ blog-titling, LOAFSY documents the slow and often uncomfortable
descent towards grumpy old manhood. rarelesserspotted.blogspot.co.uk
News from nowhere
Alan Burnett actually blogs from Huddersfield, which is nowhere near nowhere, but we’ll let it slide, not least because his blog features an excellent choice of photos, both old and new. newsfromnowhere1948.blogspot.co.uk
View from the high peak
Thoughtful, well-written ruminations on getting older, families, and life as a ‘southern softie’ relocated to the wet northwest. viewfromthehighpeak.blogspot.co.uk
Midmarsh John roams the wilds of Lincolnshire armed with his trusty Canon, taking rather lovely photographs of flora, fauna and whatever takes his fancy. He also owns a hedgehog house equipped with video cameras. midmarsh.blogspot.co.uk
Amusing, lightly philosophical musings on everything from miracle goldfish to the shortcomings of German spoon design. tomstephenson.blogspot.co.uk
Here’s an idea for retirement: take over an established website, learn some web skills and bring daily joy to the internet via the medium of cute little kittens.That’s just what Roger Smale has done. dailykitten.com
One for punctuation pedants (aren’t we all?): a blog devoted entirely to the ‘misuse’ of ‘quotation marks’. unnecessaryquotes.com
Plus our pick...
No 51: Captains’ blogs
No, not from the USS Enterprise, but the ocean-bound captains from each of Saga’s three cruise ships – Sapphire, Ruby
and Quest for Adventure, as they report almost daily from somewhere gorgeous across the globe. Watch out especially for the amusingly sardonic tones of Cap’n Philip Rentell… saga.co.uk/captains
Find your perfect Saga ocean cruise
Have we missed your favourite over-50 blogger? We’d love to know…
Please email us the link and a brief description to firstname.lastname@example.org