I was interested to see that Diamond Geezer, one of the best bloggers to have ever blogged, celebrated his twentieth blogiversary the other day. Despite me reading more of his work than any other author I can think of in terms of word count at least, I really don’t have a clue who he is.
This apex predator of Blogspot publishes around 1,100 words per day, up from around 600 a day in the early years. Generally, it’s one post, going up at 7am. These are not stream of consciousness ramblings - they’re tightly structured and edited, filled with facts, based on primary research, and are on a topic that interests the author: often a tour of an unpromising area in London, public transport news, or a list of something esoteric.
Despite his awesome, relentless output and tight focus on his own personal interests, Diamond Geezer, DG for short, is extremely grudging with personal information. So much so that, with my own obsessive and categorising nature, I began to note down all the odd pieces of personal info he let drop, reading his daily post via appropriately old school RSS with my morning coffee. Building a short list, month by month; a list that formed the basis of this DG tribute post. But, spoiler alert, this personal information doesn’t amount to much.
For aficionados, DG’s style is immediately recognisable in its mix of erudition and deep nerdiness, varnished with self mockery. Only DG could begin a blogpost with: “Back on some quiet afternoon in the 1980s, long before the internet and other distractions, I amused myself by trying to find all the two-digit A roads in a UK road atlas.”
It’s all there in that line, really; a light-touch but upfront reflection on being an obsessive, with extra transport infrastructure. Along with the nostalgia comes a deep resistance to change: DG last tweaked his blog’s template - switching the background colour from green to grey - in 2003. But his blogging voice is always open-minded, receptive, mostly non-judgmental, despite the extreme toughness of the restraints in which he works.
DG lives on the Bow Road, near the roundabout and the flyover - a few minutes walk from my own flat, which I guess has made me a bigger fan, considering his most fine-grained attention is trained on his local area. He frequently blogs about his closest bus stop, Bus Stop M. He moved there in 2001, and paid the deposit by cheque. He seems passionately glad to have escaped his previous home in an unnamed small village in Suffolk, and very unlikely to move again by choice.
I wouldn’t recognise DG in a crowd. In fact, I had the opportunity to do so recently, as we were in the very same tour group, taking a peek at some local gas holders. (And how’s that for nerdy?) I didn’t have a hope of recognising him though, there aren’t any photos of him online.
Nevertheless, even the most elusive and self-effacing blogger can’t help but reveal the odd fact about themselves along the way. Readers might have spotted, then, that DG is afraid of dogs: it’s one of his most commonly-mentioned bits of personal information. Along with his love of Beck’s beer, which is increasingly hard to find behind the bar in London these days.
What else? Well, we know he’s 5’10’’, in his mid-50s, prefers tea to coffee and doesn’t enjoy eating eggs. He went to Oxford, but also spent a year at university at Hull. He takes a daily bath, there being no shower in his flat (at least there wasn’t when he mentioned this fact in 2011, a decade after he moved).
His favourite Kim Wilde single is ‘Water on Glass’. He prefers Garfunkel’s to Japanese cuisine. Despite extensively blogging about the run up to and legacy of the 2012 Olympic Games, he doesn’t get sport and actively dislikes rugby. And to be fair, most of the Olympic blogging was due to his proximity to the Olympic Park, just over the A12 in Stratford.
These unbreakable routines even extend to the bedroom - DG wants us to believe that his sex life is totally arid. He tells us his last exchange of Valentine’s cards occurred around the turn of the millennium. There were evidently some romantic ructions in the months before that: having been dumped at 12:03 on November 3rd 1999, on the first day of the new millennium, he set up a rebound shag over the phone. He does claim to recall a dodgy lightbulb in the urinals at The Block, a gay fetish club that was briefly in Bromley-by-Bow in the early aughts, or more likely he’s just teasing us. Since then, he teases us with an annual blogged ‘Mystery Count’ which has stayed at zero for every year of the 21st century and which, in my prurient mind at least, is surely sex-related.
More certainly, DG loves counting things in general. I have to admit the posts in which he counts things aren’t my favourites, though they’re always good for a gasp at extreme acts of nerdiness. His obsession - that word again - with numberplates is one example. If it involves a number, DG wants to track it, with his years-long habit of noting down the temperature in a spreadsheet every day.
DG, as a creature of habit, hews towards the traditional way of doing things to a frankly self-harming degree. He’s not a big shopper: his favourite shirt was bought with the assistance of a ‘wardrobe mentor’ in 2001, in Covent Garden, and lasted him just over 10 years. He bought his printer in the same year - it still works. He still buys a newspaper every morning. In 2021, he sent 25 Christmas cards. (What, paper ones?)
He doesn’t use Amazon as he’s “not really a home delivery person”, which proved a problem in lockdown. He last bought something from Amazon in October 2007. He has only seen 89 bands/artistes live in his life - a fact he found out by the ostentatiously labour-intensive method of manually going through thousands of pages of 40 years of diaries. A hefty proportion of the list came from his attendance at the 2004 Trevor Horn concert for the Prince’s Trust and the 2012 Paralympic Closing Ceremony. Then again, if he’s not a fan of live music and spends his evenings blogging himself, who am I to judge?
OK, I’m going to judge anyway: sometimes, the self-abnegation is just strange. For example, when he blogged about his brother and sister-in-law sending him a pack of eight “chocolatey treats” for Christmas, which he made last until August 20th the next year. “Roll on next Christmas,” he added, making sure he knew the reader knew he was in on the joke, the joke being, what a very odd person he is.
Sometimes I find the traditionalism and self-denial sad. He gets no financial recompense from the blog, and is scathing about the PR guff he gets sent by hopeful marketeers. I also can’t imagine him opening a Patreon to help support the blog, to which I’d contribute in a heartbeat. The self-denial’s part of the point, but I can’t help but wish for his sake that he’d grab a freebie or two.
Even the process of writing the blog seems unnecessarily arduous. He hand-codes each entry in HTML. He had not learned to touch type in 2002, when the current blog began. I doubt he’s learned since. In a rare concession to making things easier for himself, he took on a proof reader around a decade ago. She owns a cat - that’s all we know.
Even more unbelievably, considering how productive he was and is, DG started the blog while working full time, sometimes recording 12 hour shifts, though the nature of the job itself was always left mysterious. He never, ever used or even looked at the blog in the office. DG’s early retirement - he must surely be retired, given the time constraints imposed by blogging daily, and his extensive travelling around the city - went unmentioned. Or maybe I missed that post.
Photos of DG’s lair on the Bow Road are extremely rare, but I think it must be a hoarder’s paradise. He owns an “extensive collection of millennium ephemera”, after all (I wonder if he kept any momentos of the rebound shag?).
He keeps all his daily diaries, dating back a half decade, close to hand. He still buys CDs. He retained the boarding pass (flight BA619, seat 7E), baggage labels (B460514) and a copy of the menu (smoked Scotch salmon, braised Angus steak in red wine sauce, fruit salad with cream) from a flight he took in 1976. Did he really have all that to hand in his flat?
Despite his devotion to palaeolithic-era blogging technology, DG’s not averse to other social networks. In 2021 alone, he took over 20,000 photos on his ageing smartphone, and put many of them on a scrupulously-updated Flickr account. He also Tweets, unrevealingly.
Travelling too far outside of his beloved city, beyond the odd day trip, seems to bring out a moroseness in DG, who had a very disappointing solar eclipse experience in the summer of 1999, including the booking of a highly overpriced Cornish hotel room. Travel in general seems an unwanted distraction from routine: as of 2021, DG hadn’t flown in a plane for 15 years.
His occasional flights of fancy, outside of the humdrum daily walks around unpromising areas of the city, traditionalist moans about misleading signs, and another bloody numberplate post, are thrilling. One of my favourites was from 2005: a chillingly prescient riff on the H5N1 bird flu scare in which DG predicted an abandoned east London where people wore a “dustmask” outside. When COVID and lockdown hit, 15 years later, he seemed rather pleased with life - he had the nearby Olympic Park to console him, after all.
DG said once: “This blog is an old-school smorgasbord of personal stuff, local reportage, data-bashing, trips to the Olympic Park and rather too much transport-related content.” Scrupulous yet modest, as ever. Summed up concisely. And almost entirely unrevealing.
Even this small collection of personal facts, gleaned from years of my own obsessive reading, don’t amount to much, falling far short of adequately describing someone who’s so clearly such a gloriously odd human being. I can’t think of a higher tribute to DG as a blogger than that: he’s always looking outwards, so rarely inwards; for the new thing to count; for the new part of London to explore; for the next TfL press release to have a cathartic moan about.
What about those inner reflections, the really juicy personal stuff…? He must save it for the daily diary, which I’m sure he still keeps. And which is none of anyone else’s business, especially not nosy rubberneckers like me. I should mind my own, and wait patiently for the next post at 7am sharp tomorrow.