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Home > Culture and Society

Web Celeb: Wandering Scribe

3 June 2006

Here's a fairytale for the Internet generation: this week a woman who was homeless and living in her car, and who detailed her experiences in a blog, won a book deal with publisher Harper Collins. As a result, Anya Peters is now housed, and the blog itself has been nominated for a media award run by New Statesman magazine. 'It still feels like a dream - it's completely turned around,' she said.

Aw. Bless. However, not everyone shares this view:

'I followed the Wandering Scribe blog for a while, and frankly, this deal makes me sick. Anya chose not to take advantage of the numerous support services offered her and instead spent her days wandering through fields and among trees. To think she's being rewarded for such senseless and banal behaviour is truly appalling. I, for one, will not be buying her book.'

So says ''John' of London on the BBC's ever-barking Have Your Say. It's a little harsh, especially considering the story behind Anya's Wandering Scribe blog. After a series of problems in her life Anya found herself living in her car for nine months. The problems aren't wholly clear from the blog - financial problems and redundancy seem to be the root cause, but problems with a relationship and a miserable childhood seem to play a part. (To be honest we couldn't be bothered to read the whole blog to find out.) What she *is* clear about is that she suffered some sort of mental breakdown that compounded her basic problem of having nowhere to live.

Whatever people like John may think, Anya has unquestionably had a tough time, and the blog certainly doesn't appear to be some media stunt like Belle De Jour (remember that crap?). But after all the coverage and the hype, what is the blog actually like? Well, some of it is pretty good. It's not exactly Orwell, but there are times when Anya's daily struggles shed some light on the human condition. Try this:

'I tidied myself up in the car, put some coins in the meter and ran across to the Brighton Hotel on the corner with my wash bag to wash and brush my teeth in their toilets. Like most women I spend as much time as is available to me in the bathroom in the morning, half an hour is not unusual, and though I've never worn much make-up, hate being seen before I've creamed and lotioned myself into a more human form. So being able to run across the road and through the lobby of a hotel in the clothes I had slept in, and after only running a brush through my hair was very surprising. And the freedom that gave me was exhilarating. My first night of homelessness and I was almost on a high as I ran across to the food hut on the beach for breakfast. I treated myself to a bacon sandwich with my cup of tea, which I ate at a picnic table on the sand smiling out at the sparks of light across a bright blue sea.'

But although it's pretty churlish to knock the writings of someone living out of a car who's suffered a nervous breakdown, a good 25 per cent of Wandering Scribe is stuff like this:

'Young, young feelings, trying to lead me back to the time when the feelings were there first, the time before words and the names of things, the time when there were just lumps of pain inside that noone told me the name of or what to do with - perhaps because nobody knew themselves -- sometimes there isn't anyone to blame, there's just a chain of damaged, weak and frightened people, that it is left to you to be the one to step out of -- to finally break the chain, before it breaks you.'

We feel your pain, Anya, but, um, could you be a bit more specific?

And then there are the trees. Most people like trees. Trees are pretty, in a tree-ish sort of way. More importantly they symbolise nature, and who doesn't like
a bit of nature, certainly in contrast to the concrete rat-runs and endless street furniture of urban areas? Trees, we can conclude, are good. However, it's possible to have too many trees. And sky. Both of which are oppressively abundant in Wandering Scribe:

'I'll miss trees so much; feel so guarded by them these past months......allies and guardians. I'll miss the sky too. That is my new love. Recently have been utterly dazzled by sky, and the beauty of light. Even at its dullest the sky is mesmerizing...'

There is a hell of a lot more in this vein, and Wandering Scribe actually becomes quite exhausting to read after a bit, because of all the wonderment and beauty and deep thoughts. And prose that's straight out of the Self Help section of Waterstones: 'I feel like I have been found and hoisted up and out of this laneway by angels. Silently, continuously, one after the other after the
other of them coming into the darkness this past few weeks and lifting me further out of the laneway.'

So there you go. We feel like utter bastards for criticising a blog by a homeless person, and now we're going go and burn ourselves with cigarettes as punishment. Wandering Scribe isn't really this contributor's cup of tea, but we wish Anya the best with it, and with a sufficiently ruthless editor, who knows that the book version will be like?

What's obvious is that there clearly *is* an audience for Wandering Scribe, because of the online comments the blog has attracted. Sadly, even if you're a fairly sympathetic person, reading this glurge starts to turn you into Norman Tebbit. Here are a few examples:

'WS...... What an exciting time... enjoy the sunshine.... have a lovely wonderful day and make sure the bounce in your step does not take you too high otherwise we may just know who you are when you bounding down the road :) as always ((( HUGS )))'
'If you need a verbal hug or anything, you know where to find me.'
'This [the book deal] is the most fantastic news ever. This is what we've all been waiting for, and we all knew you'd make it here. Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.'

All of which makes us think the book will be a roaring success - certainly amongst people who can only relate to the world through vague, solipsistic emotional rambling, online support networks, crap New Age poetry and self-help platitudes. Which is a shame, because Wandering Scribe deserves slightly better.

Slightly.



Comment on this article: letters@thefridaything.co.uk

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