Tacky To Goo

If you spend a bit of time thinking about the matter, it becomes apparent that human ingenuity has created a myriad of pastes. At one end of the spectrum are thick pastes, tacky to the touch, and at the other are pastes so runny that they are akin to goo. There are other ways of thinking about the variety of pastes other than the thick-to-thin or tacky-to-goo spectrum, but they have less appeal. Why is this? Not surprisingly, it is a question to which Dobson once turned his magnificent pamphlet-writing brain.

It has to be said that the resulting fourteen-page essay is one of his less engaging works. Fancying that he might win some kudos with the scientific community, Dobson splattered his text with technical terminology of which he had no grasp whatsoever. It has been reported that up and down the land laboratory cafeterias rang with laughter as boffins digested a Gestetnered draft of the pamphlet which Dobson had circulated ahead of publication. In the event, Tacky To Goo : Some Frightfully Complicated Thoughts On The Consistency Of Manufactured Pastes was only ever issued in this scrappy format, cranked out in the potting shed by Marigold Chew as an act of kindness to the increasingly beleaguered Dobson.

A pauper with a barrow was employed to trundle copies of the pamphlet around various market squares, but he lacked the mouthy bumptiousness required of a true salesman, and returned with the entire print-run intact. Downcast and hopeless, the pauper trudged along the winding lane towards chez Dobson & Chew heaving the pamphlets in a filthy frayed sack. His barrow had been stolen by cutpurses.

A less determined pamphleteer may have thrown in the towel at this point, but, as has often been remarked, there was an edge of steel in Dobson. After taking a turn around the pond, and pelting pebbles at swans, he crashed back into the house and immediately fired off a letter to Rex Tint, the noted mezzotintist. Ordinarily, of course, so celebrated a mezzotintist would have had nothing to do with a pamphleteer on his uppers, but there was between the two men a special bond. It was a bond forged in childhood, in an orchard, in the teeth of a summer thunderstorm, a bond redolent of the hit single Two Little Boys by the bearded Antipodean Renaissance man Rolf Harris. Neither a wooden horse nor, later, trench warfare were involved in the Dobson-Tint Pact, but you get the general idea.

Dobson’s inspiration on this gusty Tuesday was to bind his scientific pamphlet anew, with a really terrific Rex Tint mezzotint on the cover. Sales, he felt sure, would go through the roof, even when handled by the pauper. Shoving the hastily-scribbled letter into a pre-stamped jiffy bag, and enclosing as a memento of the pact a couple of hazelnuts, Dobson roared back out and headed for the postbox at the top of Pang Hill.

There is a long-running quiz show on the BBC called A Question Of Sport. One of the regular features is a round called “What happened next?”, in which the footage of some unusual sporting event is stopped just before the crucial moment. Let us imagine that a phantom cinematographer, taking grainy black and white film of the swans of Pang Hill Pond, turned their camera on the excited pamphleteer, and followed him up the hill. Now, freeze the imaginary film with Dobson just a few paces from his goal. Why did that jiffy bag never plop into the postbox? Something happened to stop the pamphleteer in his tracks, something that meant the letter and the hazelnuts were never sent, that Tacky To Goo was never rebound with a terrific Rex Tint mezzotint cover, that not a single copy of the original Gestetnered pamphlet was ever sold, and that Dobson, in despair, never again tried to worm his way into the core of the big forbidding world o’ science.

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