Bus Drivers and Volunteer Tour Guides

The ongoing “bloggers v critics” debate has, as you may well have noticed, kicked off again this week.

I tend to keep my head down at times like this – I always have been averse to arguments – and let others, more articulate than I, thrash things out.

But this afternoon an idea began to percolate in my head.

It was inspired by a book I read a few years ago: ‘Letters to Alice on First Reading Jane Austen’ by Fay Weldon.

In her first letter to her niece Aunt Fay enthused about the joy of reading and books. And she built a City of Invention, where books were buildings, writers were architects and characters made up the population.

It was a lovely idea. And it was one particular point that came back to me today:

“Personally, I see critics as bus drivers. They ferry the visitors round the City of Invention …”

Those bus drivers provide a very valuable service. They show off the civic buildings, the historical gems, the award winning architecture, the homes of the great and the good …

But not everything.

Book bloggers, on the other hand, volunteer as tour guides simply because we love the city.

We can show you the sights too, and we can take you to whatever part of the town you would like to see. Whatever your taste in architecture, wherever you want to go, there will be a volunteer tour guide ready to point you towards the buildings they love, steer you away from the buildings they don’t, and discuss them for as long as you’ve got time to talk.

Of course, we’re not regulated and tied to a timetable like the drivers who work for the bus company.

We can chat about other things too.

Our families. What we’re knitting. Our dogs. Where we went on holiday. What we’re going to cook tonight. So many things to talk about…

Some of us approach things in the same way as the bus drivers and some of us are different. But what’s important is that we’ve all spent time looking round our favourite parts of the city and we all want to share our feelings.

We don’t all agree, we have different ideas about what our city should be, but by and large we all get on pretty well.

Choice is important. Some visitors will be happy to stick with the tour. Some will want to walk the streets, mix with the locals. And some will want to do both.

The choice is yours. We’re not going to tell you what to do, but you should know that we’ll be around if you ever want to talk.

We  accept that the bus drivers do a valuable job, that they have to work within a certain frameworks, and that they do care about the city.

Some of them do what we do too, when they’re not working.

But we wish that all of the bus drivers would understand that we love the city, that we want to show it off. We do what we do because we love our city, we want to show it off, we want it to prosper.

And we’re sure that if we all, workers and volunteers, could work together, our city would flourish.

And isn’t that the most important thing of all?

14 responses

  1. Well said. I am neither a critic nor a blogger but a lover of books. All views are valid. It takes a discerning eye to pick out the best reviews whatever the role of the reviewer but it is the readers choice.

  2. I try to keep my head low too, Jane, during another flare-up of bloggers being criticised. But I really like your analogy, and there is a place for all of us, isn’t there? Let the readers choose their own “tour” and not dictate what they should see.

  3. Thank you, all. What I’d really like is for everyone to accept that different people look for different things from book and not to judge. Doesn’t seem too much to ask, does it?

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