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A Very Special Blog Post, Who is Bert the Lep?

When I first started to do internet radio broadcasting, I needed someone I could interact with. I wasn't living with anyone who I could ask to work with me on a promotional item for a show or a radio jingle, so I had to invent someone. That person came to be Bert the leprechaun, affectionately known as "the lep". Little did I know then that this little guy would grow from a cartoon-like character into a rounded individual with a real life, a family and lots of friends. I didn't know he would have a respectable Twitter following and that his journal would be read by over 1200 people at the time of writing! When you start thinking about those numbers in terms of unique visitors to an area of a website, that's quite good for a little lep!

People who have read his journal will know that today is his 33rd bbirthday (he was born in 1979). Because it is his special day, and given he has this large following), there are things we wanted to do to celebrate it. We wanted to make it easier for people to find journal entries, to listen to his continuing audio adventures, to learn about how he was created and to be able to see him. We have done all of these things in a lot more!

When you step into the newly named Bert's Place on our website, you are immersing yourself in his fictional world. As well as being able to read about Bert and listen to his audio adventures as has been the case for some months, we have included a number of other improvements.

You can visit Bert's Who's Who page. Even if you have been following the journal day by day, you could easily be forgiven for not being able to keep up with all the members of Bert's large family! We've now included a quick guide to get you up to speed.

We've given details of Bert's Twitter and (brand new) Facebook account if you would like to follow him or become his friend. He would be glad if you did!

We've included a link to Bert's newly designed Journal pages. Previously, all the journal entries were contained in a list of links by date. But as the entries were being written almost daily in some cases this was becoming impractical. So the journal has been designed as a calendar. As you enter the journal, you will see a menu of calendar months. Activate one of the months, such as "April 2012", and you will see all the journal entries for the period. You then have a choice. You can either systematically read the journal entry by entry, or, on each page, you can see all the dates for the month without having to keep going back to the journal main index. It's a much nicer way of being able to reference specific entries!

There are now 24 audio episodes in the "Bert's Audio Adventure" series. Previously, they could all be downloaded from the "Bert's Place" page of the website. Now, these are all available as a podcast. All new recordings, (such as the three being released today), will also be added to the podcast feed. In "Bert's Place", we've given you a direct link to the RSS feed, which you can also copy and paste into your Podcatcher if you wish. However, we are pleased to say that you can also search for "Bert's Place" within the iTunes Store! From the Store, you can preview podcast episodes or subscribe. Alternatively, you will also find us in the "Drama/Arts" category.

You may think that all of the above has taken a lot of work to set up, and you would be right. But we now come to the remaining much bigger projects.

Some people just want to enjoy Bert's adventures and read the journal, enjoying the make-believe which is Bert's character. But some people want to know a little more about how he was created, how his character has evolved over time and, above all, what he looks like.

First, we were very pleased to work with Paul Hopkins from the UK. Paul is a gifted interviewer and natural broadcaster who enjoys making podcasts on various topics. He kindly agreed to talk to both L and I about Bert, and you can hear the results in a 45 minute Audio Introduction to him, to be found of course in "Bert's Place". In addition to finding out "how Bert ticks", you will learn a lot about how the journal came to be written, together with the technical challenges and limitations we faced in our own personal lives when preparing items such as "The Dream Sequence". You will also hear audio extracts from Bert himself! We would particularly like to thank Paul for all his hard work in helping us produce this introduction to Bert.

But for some people, hearing and reading about Bert may not be enough. We wanted to bring him to life through visual imagery. We wanted to commission a talented artist to produce not only an initial picture of Bert but also to be imaginative and design more images on an ongoing basis. Such a person would not only need to be an expert in his field but would also have to bring to the table imagination and the power to clearly describe images to us both as we cannot see them. The artist would also need to be aware of Bert's character and the different situations in which he finds himself, so would need for example to take the time to read the journal so as to fully understand him.

We were extremely lucky to find someone very close to home who met all these requirements. Scott Clark has a tremendous amount of experience in the areas of painting and photography. His professional career spans over a decade. His client list is diverse - from fine oil portraits for private clients to large abstract paintings for prestigious showrooms and boardrooms, from emotional figurative pieces that make a bold statement to book and album cover designs, from interior design for restaurants to providing photography for TV programmes. In short, we were extremely lucky that Scott had the time and availability to do this work for us.

In the picture, Bert is sitting on the floor in a relaxed huddle. His ankles are crossed, one knee is up under his chin, his arms are loosly around his legs. He looks as if he has been rushing about, and has just flopped down on the floor to rest for a few minutes.

His face is slightly in profile, but turned toward us. It is a cute, rounded face with a slightly upturned nose, big green eyes, and a cute mouth in a half smile. He has curly sandy blonde hair. He is trendily dressed in khaki chenos and a tee-shirt in warm, muted colours, with a red white and blue target on the front. He is wearing white trainers, also sporting a matching bull's eye target on them. they have very long laces which are dangling on the floor.

Bert looks, at first glance, like someone's very trendy toddler. It is only when you look closely that you see something different. On either side of his head, almost hidden by his hair, you see what you at first think is just a wayward curl. And then you see it is his ears, just a little elongated and slightly pointed, they, and the maturity in his eyes are what make you see that he is not a toddler, but Bert, our lep.

Of course we would like to thank Scott Clarke for undertaking this project for us at very short notice and for giving it the fine attention to detail we were wanting. In particular, he listened to (and took on board) all of L's ideas concerning how she wanted Bert to look and these were transferred to the final picture. L's parents also provided essential visual assistance for which we are very grateful.

So, Bert should be a very happy little lep on his 33rd birthday. Oh, and I nearly forgot. There are two special audio adventures that have been produced to mark the occasion, both of which have required hours of production and editing! We do hope people will enjoy the new audio and all the other features we have added to the website. Happy birthday Bert!

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