On Spot


See Spot. See Spot run. Hear Spot yap. Yap yap yap, says Spot. What a din Spot makes! Noisy Spot. See the grump. See the grump throw a pebble at Spot. Hear Spot howl. See Spot run.

See the grump put the kettle on. See the grump look for teabags in the cupboard. Hear the grump moan. See the grump don his coat and hat and boots. See the grump go to the corner shop.

See the corner shop. See Spot outside the door. See dozens of other dogs next to Spot. See the dogs slaver. See their fangs. See the grump approach. See the pack set upon the grump. See blood and sinew.

Hear the ambulance bell clanging. See Spot preen.

See Lars. Lars likes tanks. See Lars at the Communist Party meeting. See Lars listen to a very very very very very long speech. Rant might be better than speech. See Lars clap. See Lars agree with the denunciation of imperialist running dogs. See Lars leave the meeting.

See Spot. See Spot run. See Lars see Spot. See Lars put two and two together. See Lars run. See Lars catch up with Spot. See Lars trap Spot in a net. Hear Spot yap. Yap yap yap, says Spot. Noisy Spot. See Lars shove Spot into the back of a van. See Lars drive off.

See Spot’s pack of pals. See them slaver. See their fangs. See them run after the van. See the van disappear over the horizon. See Spot’s pals pant. See Spot’s pals overcome with hopeless canine despair.

See Lars park the van outside a camp. See the sign on the camp fence. “Political Re-education Camp” says the sign. See Lars drag Spot into the camp. See Spot politically re-educated.


That is one of the stories from a compendium of tales for infants published by the Unreconstructed Stalinist Press. It is packed with splendid stories, well worth reading aloud to your infant, if you have one, or to the wild wind, if not. The tale of Spot is at a rather advanced level, but some of the stories in the book are aimed at even tinier infants. Among them is a very very very very simple, and simple-minded, Life of Eric Hobsbawm. I have not been able to gain permission to reprint it here, though numerous extracts have been splattered across the pages of the Grauniad over the past week.


As readers will know, my annual plan is to bash out a Stakhanovite thousand(ish) words per day, under a heading beginning with the word “On”. One problem with this approach is that certain pieces can outstay their welcome, as I pad them out with needless extra paragraphs just to meet the word-count. I am not going to make that mistake with “On Spot”, which, frankly, has made its point.

Instead, I could witter on about something else, something either significant or insignificant, newsworthy or otherwise. Or, of course, I could just shut up. That might be a blessing, and not a blessing in disguise, merely a blessing.

I recently finished reading Francis Spufford’s new book Unapologetic, with its somewhat unwieldy subtitle Why, despite everything, Christianity can still make surprising emotional sense. In an afterword, Mr Spufford tells us that he wrote most of the book while sitting at a corner table in a Cambridge branch of Costa Coffee. He tells us this for two reasons, one to acknowledge his thanks to the staff, which shows admirable good manners, but also to alert us to the fact that, as he goes on to say, his book is not the product of any research or scholarship, but more a fairly spontaneous outpouring of the thoughts in his head. I have never attempted to write in a public space, in that manner, apart from on very rare occasions. Being a Diogenesian recluse, I always write at home, or home from home. But with the Spufford example before me, I am beginning to wonder if I ought not take my trusty laptop and install myself in a coffee bar or on a park bench, and do my tippy-tapping there.

It further occurs to me that, were I to do so, I could obtain a flat cap as beloved by our beggars, and place it upside down next to me, accompanied by a sign saying something along the lines of “Impoverished Scribbler. Please Give Generously.” Though I suppose a truly impoverished scribbler would not come armed with a laptop. Perhaps I shall have to revert to my practice of the last century, and write by hand, in a mighty ledger. Add a few strands of straw to my hair, and dribble a little, and who knows how many bright coins would be tossed into my cap?

I am still far from my thousand(ish) words goal, but that is quite enough for today. I am going to put the kettle on and make a cup of tea, hoping there are teabags in the cupboard, and I do not have to don coat and hat and boots and go out to the corner shop, there to be set upon by Spot and his slavering pack of pals, and left for dead.

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