Hooting Yard has now been a presence on what Tony Blair and I like to call the Information Superhighway for more than a decade. It is an arresting thought that the site has existed for a longer period of time than that required by a Jesuit to completely brainwash a child. This startling fact prompts two further thoughts, today. First, I am minded to add a slogan to that red rectangle at the top, saying “Dispensing prose to hoi polloi since 2003”. Second, that on a day such as this, when my brain is empty, I can hark back ten years and repost something from so long ago that it is unlikely any of you lot will remember it. I certainly don’t. Exactly ten years ago, on 11 January 2005, this piece appeared under the unwieldy title First Spruce, Now Rusty And Squalid. For this reappearance I have taken the opportunity to insert a few paragraph breaks to make for easier reading. I am sure you can think of a way to show your gratitude for such thoughtfulness.
Consider that fall. One day, you are spry, preening and spruce. Then, knocked sideways, cast down, become rusty and squalid. How does it happen? Is there a moment, a split second, when jauntiness turns to sackcloth and ashes? What would your journal read?
Eleven a.m. : o! such bliss and splendour! How blessed am I to be among the animate and quick.
Eleven o one a.m.: Ach! Does earth harbour a wretch as miserable as I, one who crumbles in despair and is fit only to slither in the muck with the worms?
How are we to make sense of such a catastrophic change? Crystal balls may help seers and soothsayers see into the future, but is it true, as some say, that we can make sense of the present by staring long and intently with our eyes wide open at the surface of a muddy pond over by Bodger’s Spinney? And not any of the ponds there, just one, the most brackish of the ponds, the one which is inky black and fathomless. What will we see on the surface of that pond if we stare at it long enough?
I will tell you. Ignore the flies and mosquitoes and the mutant tadpoles that occasionally disturb the water, and sooner or later, you will be able to discern, dimly at first, but with increasing clarity, the incredible face of the Psychopond Dweller, shimmering, gaunt, bewitched and bewitching, and its expression will reveal to you the meaning of neither past nor future but of the present moment, radical, decisive and, like the cockles and mussels in the old song, alive, alive-oh.