The Five in Five Days Project – Part One.


October 2001.

On my second day of blogging, I “out” a nascent super-chef as a mardy, aggressive git, pushing my fledgling blog into the Google Top 10 for his smart Ludlow restaurant for several years to come. Indeed, I am still in the Google Top 10 for the chef in question. The story subsequently went all around town, as we were amused to discover. Sorry, Claude – but you were unacceptably rude to my partner in public, while remaining perfectly happy to take his money. Revenge is, indeed, a dish best served cold.

November 2001.

Following an e-mail from a “concerned” friend about my new venture (“Are you having a mid-life crisis?”), I adopt his withering summary (“Dermot O’Leary does the South Bank Show”) as my first strapline.

Receive my first external link from a total stranger. Feel curiously validated.

December 2001.

Receive my first ever search engine referrals: for “biker gaydar”, and (hah!) “cute bum”.

After decades of self-repression, come out as a fan of prog-rock, following this admission with an ecstatic gig review of my favourite prog-rockers. The experience feels like coming in from the cold…

Coin the medical terms “The Fist”, “The Screwdriver” and “The Spasm”.


First appearance of my future avatar: James Gillray’s “A Voluptuary under the horrors of Digestion“. One of these days, I might get around to telling you more about our Gillray collection, which has been strangely under-represented over the years.

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The first photo of myself appears (caught in the act of winning 200 quid on a Channel 4 game show), swiftly followed by the first of the legendary Christmas photos.

January 2002.

Discover, with some measure of dismay, the existence of blogging awards and the concept of “A-list bloggers”.

Forty days shy of my fortieth birthday, embark on the autobiographical 40 In 40 Days Project.

Stop buying the NME, after 28 years as a loyal weekly reader. Discover, with some measure of surprise, that it is still possible to “keep up” without it.

Begin a period of involuntary work-related exile, stuck in a wind-lashed Portakabin in the middle of a car park in the industrial North East. The Project From Hell has commenced…

February 2002.


Attend my first blogmeet: a gathering of London gay bloggers, down at Pop Quiz night at the Retro Bar.

Clean up my act, and stop hot-linking to other people’s images. (NAUGHTY! DON’T DO IT!) Start receiving over 100 visitors a day, and have a bit of a “Sally Field moment” about it (success being something of a novelty, after decades of mediocre underachievement).

After making one lengthy autobiographical posting every day, without fail, for forty days, I reach the end of the 40 In 40 Days Project. The next day, I turn 40. A party is held.


Abandon the basic Blogger template design (see above), in favour of the mauve-flavoured template which persists to this day. Farewell, fat opera singer in red dress!


March 2002.

A crude early prototype of the Which Decade Is Tops For Pops project makes its debut – without MP3s, and without reader participation. Actually, it’s all rather half-baked and crap. But a milestone, none the less.

The underscore changes to a hyphen, as moves to

A good eighteen months away from the birth of MP3 blogging as we now know it, the Troubled Diva Old Curiosity Box is opened for the first time, with a posting of Cristina’s “Is That All There Is?” Over the next eighteen months or so, around 140 rare MP3s are posted, generally on a weekly basis.

“Electroclash” is suddenly all the rage, and I’m quick to jump on board the bandwagon.

My multiple personalities are introduced: Country Mike, Office Mike, Gay Mike, Rockin’ Mike, Stylish Mike and Web Mike. Posh Mike, Scary Mike and Baby Mike are unaccountably absent from the list, Sporty Mike and Ginger Mike more understandably so.

April 2002.

nn_button2Chapter Three of Peter’s collaborative fiction project, The Naked Novel. To this day, this remains the only fiction I have written since adolescence. To this day, I’m still rather proud of it. Hmm, there’s a message in there somewhere.

Home broadband arrives in Nottingham. Goodbye, 56k dial-up! I only have to suffer you at weekends now!

My first international business trip takes me to Amsterdam for the night. Within a couple of hours of landing, my (straight) clients have unwittingly dragged me off to what turns out be a gay bar. Coming out at work was never easier.

Spend most of the rest of the month in the wind-lashed Portakabin, growing progressively more over-worked, miserable and lonely. The “Portakabin Diary” becomes a regular weekly feature for a while, as Troubled Diva briefly flirts with angst-blogging.

An unfairly bitchy early post is discovered by a friend of the people that I was unfairly bitching about, and is quickly removed. The blushes remain for the rest of the month, as an important lesson is learnt the hard way.

Make my first of many visits to the one-time spiritual home of the London gay blogger: Sundays at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern, where The Dame Edna Experience ruled (and still rules) supreme.

Add a Tag Board to the site, for a short while. Does anyone still remember Tag Boards? Oh, they were quite the rage.

May 2002.

On May 4th, Troubled Diva welcomes its 10,000th visitor.

Ohmigod Kylie at the NEC YOU GO GIRL.

To Tallinn, where I attend the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. To the horror of some of my more cultured regular readers, Eurovision-related content dominates the blog for a good couple of weeks – and not for the last time, either.

June 2002.

Install the YACCS commenting system – which remains in place to this day, with all 17,000+ comments still archived and available. Peter of Naked Blog is the first reader to leave a comment.

At the Royal Concert Hall, Brian Wilson delivers one of the most touching and memorable concerts that I have ever attended, including a complete run-through of the Pet Sounds album.

Portakabin-related angst reaches fever pitch – and then is no more, as I am finally released from the Project From Hell. In its place, a lengthy period of professional inactivity commences. With little else to do, blogging takes centre stage, as Troubled Diva enters what I have long considered to be its twelve-month Golden Age.

This gives me time to research and post the first ever list of the UK’s most linked weblogs. Surprisingly, only four blogs from that first list (Plastic Bag, Blogjam, Rather Good and Interconnected) are still present in the most recently published Top 50.

July 2002.

The month starts with great excitement, as a technical fault with the then all-powerful Blogdex sees me sitting at Number Two on its listings for a day or so, earning myself my first major traffic spike. (Well, as major as traffic spikes ever got in those dim and distant pioneering days.) Oh, it was all about the Blogdex and the Daypop back then. Technorati? Wassthatthen?

(Traffic spikes? Popularity charts? How soon was that early innocence corrupted?)

The Stations Of The Diva series starts: another set of autobiographical posts, based around the various addresses I have lived in. Who knows, perhaps I’ll finish it one of these days?

To London, to watch Madonna upon the West End stage… followed by a chance encounter which ushers in a most unexpected temporary return to London hedonism, mid-1990s style.

The Guardian’s “Best British Weblog” competition is launched, with a deafening crash which splits the UK blogosphere in half. Honestly, you wouldn’t believe the kerfuffle which this caused – indeed, it was all that anyone could talk about for a few weeks. Myself included. Oh dear. I still blush a bit over that one.

Over at the Nottingham Arena, Neil Diamond rocks my world. Of all the gig reviews that I have written over the years, this one is probably still my favourite.

Daddy, what’s sex?

August 2002.

THAT London weekend. The one where I… where we… where they… nope, still can’t blog about it. Maybe I’ll blog about it in another five years’ time.


The following weekend, K and I spend a disillusioning night in a past-it “boutique” hotel (OK, it was the Hempel, and here’s my hatchet job), before heading off to Vietnam for two amazing, incredible, best-holiday-ever weeks. Troubled Diva duly takes its first hiatus, before returning with a detailed day-by-day diary of the Vietnamese experience.


The day before we depart, a chance meeting at a cricket match inspires K to start his next business venture. Nevertheless, it will still be over a year before he is in a position to make his move…

Post titles are introduced, in dinky little title boxes, thus bringing to an end the quickfire, hit-and-run, linky-love, one-or-two-line posts which used to be such a major feature of this, and of so many other blogs. The tide, it was a-turning…

The site acquires its first RSS feed, making it a relative early adopter – and the Mozilla browser is tinkered with for the first time (we hadn’t yet started calling it Firefox).

September 2002.

The long-defunct Isabella’s Teddy blog points out my alarming facial similarity to… erm, yes.

Oh God, Stylistic Tic Eradication Week. The era of the scary-bonkers blog stunt had just commenced…

The mammoth 100 things about 100 bloggers which also apply to this blogger series gets underway.

In the name of experimentation, I write a lengthy gig review whilst four pints the worse for wear. It turns out to be really rather articulate.


The Guardian “Best British Weblog” competition conspicuously fails to shower me with glory.

October 2002.

The infamous – and bafflingly popular, considering a) how much it makes me cringe to this day and b) how often people still refer to it, in strangely wistful “ah, them were the days” tones – Shirt Off My Back Project gets underway…


(I’m wearing this one today, as it happens.)
…and as if this wasn’t enough, the Nottingham, My Nottingham series is launched. Wow, I really did have a LOT of spare time on my hands back then…

First mobile phone purchase, unwillingly made. Four years later, and I’m still using the same handset. Well, if it works, right?


My first full year of blogging ends with a wild, wild, wild (but also rather upsetting) weekend in London. In the midst of the maelstrom, I sneak off for a couple of hours’ relative normality, at Sashinka’s party

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