Today, bloggers, is the first day of my annual leave, and I want to wish each of you, even Adam, a happy Christmas-New Year. Thank you all for being such scintillating company during the year, for being the characters that you are, and for sharing part of your life. I’ve written in the Herald today about the blog, and I’ll copy and paste that here. Tomorrow in the Herald, by the way, I tell how I’m going to become a better person in 2012, and hopefully that process will be underway by the time of my return on Tuesday, February 14. Cheers, and thank you again. Hey, I think I’m going to miss you! Jeff.
Nanjing Night Net

AS a young teenager I was fascinated by the British soapie Coronation Street, and while I was never sure why, I think now it was that the characters were not only credible but that I’d encountered them in my short life.

I’d seen a number of perpetually disapproving women just like Ena Sharples, nervous mousy women like Minnie, stern and sneering Marthas and monosyllabic men in overalls, real characters rather than the impossibly melodramatic characters of American and Australian soap.

And that’s why I sometimes have a sense of Coronation Street when I’m on my blog.

The blog, like Coronation Street, has its own life, a life, like that of a company, that is more than the sum of the individuals who create it. But more importantly in the association with the British series, the blog has credible characters.

Not only are they credible, they’re real, because while blog contributors can disguise their identity they invariably disclose their personality and character over a series of posts. We come to know whether Honeypie is a cranky, intolerant bastard or a kindly person accustomed to being the victim, and that’s despite his best efforts to reinvent himself. Yes, attempts at gender reassignment fail too.

The day’s blog article, a shorter version of the day’s column in the Herald, provides the hook for the day, but running in parallel to the debate or mere discussion are what I like to think of as committee proceedings, perhaps blog respondents immersed in their own argument or exploring an issue that appeals to them both.

Sometimes these parallel proceedings are not as friendly as I’d like – there is no love lost, for example, between Directeur Sportif and The Real Tough Titties. They’ve quarrelled about road rules for cyclists, Newcastle street names, famous Hunter athletes and local history, and next year I’m planning to provoke an argument about the origins of lilly pilly jam.

These combatants have, also, a friendlier life on the blog. We have, for example, been part of the admiring circle as Directeur Sportif became a father for the first time and as The Real Tough Titties married. And Directeur Sportif gives us uncommonly lucid explanations of matters of medicine and science.

This life beneath the surface of the blog has, like life itself, joys and sadnesses, and one heart-wrenching episode was the struggle against cancer and death of the teenage son of the blog’s chaff and oats, who at that time and since has parted the curtains on the life of a parent involved in such an emotional challenge.

We’ve been privy to the highs and lows of life in China of a Coalfields man teaching English at a Yancheng university, of a Newcastle woman’s efforts to balance her roles as a vet and as a single mother, of a first-time Newcastle councillor’s struggle with the realities of politics.

We have a retired policeman who gives a sharp account of why we have so much antisocial behaviour, a divorced mother of adult children who rises at 4am to work a number of jobs to pay for her modest home, an artist who is revelling in being a mother for the first time, an investor and investment advisor who has given us a fascinating insight into his descent into depression and, I’m pleased to say, his recovery, a teetotal doorman at a Newcastle club who does not sing the benefits of alcohol.

There are many more characters on the blog, some who make an appearance in most blog topics, some who come and go, and some who rush across the stage unloading as they go.

Not all like me, and even more disagree with me, which is a relief, but many are ready to spring to my defence, as they did this week against Adam, who wrote: ‘‘You are the epitome of lack of intelligence, understanding, reason, wit and sense. I would love to have a conversation with you. I didn’t bother reading the dribble that is above. I’m sure you have not failed to uphold to the low standard of your usual written slop.’’

I hope we hear more of Adam, and indeed you, in 2012.

Please, everyone, stay safe.