When you go wandering through the bogs, in your boots, make sure you do not confuse the elder bog with the younger bogs. It is an easy mistake to make. To the untrained eye, the appearance of the bogs is much of a muchness, one bog looks much like another, and though you might be able to hold in your memory that there is one bog pretty with swamp parsley, and another bog not, still you will probably come away with a picture in your head of general bogdom rather than of this bog and that bog clear and discrete.
There is an old countryside saying, in this countryside anyway, that â€œevery bog was once a puddleâ€. If that is true, and reason tells us it probably is, then the puddle that became the elder bog was there long, long ago, before you were born. Imagine that. I expect when you were tiny your parents, or your guardian, warned you never to stray near the bogs, and particularly not the elder bog. But now you are grown you can roam at will. You can, if you wish, spend days on end among the bogs, and I have no doubt that you do so. I know I would, if I still had the means, but the bus to the bogs was rerouted a couple of years ago, and now it goes to the tents and statues and nowhere near the bogs. I was told, when I asked, that the bus company decided to bypass the bogs because so few passengers ever wanted to go there, that in fact I was the only person who ever alighted at the bogs. I found that hard to believe, but they showed me paperwork to support their case. I flipped. The bus company person took me down with a pop from his security prod, and I began to spasm. I havenâ€™t stopped spasming, actually, although nowadays the spasms only come once or twice a week. But I can no longer get safely to the bogs, so now I try at least to hold them in my head. You are luckier, you can go to the bogs and stay there for as long as you like.
Did you know that all the younger bogs have names? There are no signposts, nor placards. The names of the bogs are a bit like that countryside saying, known to the countryside persons but to no one else. The bogs are called Lamont, Baxter, Oriflamme, Shambeko!, Cuddy, Gooboohoo, Coldplay, Mocker, Pippy and Hudibidas. At least thatâ€™s what I was told, once, by a country person. He may have been pulling the wool over my eyes, of course, for reasons of his own. But I am minded to believe what he told me, because we were standing on a panel of pewter, and pewter encourages the truth, apparently. The pewter panel was embedded in the muck close by a barn. It had been placed there as a sort of â€œtruth platformâ€ during the witch trials, another thing that happened before you were born. The elder bog and the pewter panel were both there, part of the world into which you dropped from your motherâ€™s womb. And most of the younger bogs were already there too, except for Baxter and Cuddy, both so new that even the puddles they grew from were not yet there on your birthday. I know that because I questioned your ma or your pa or your guardian, and they confirmed as much. You will want to know which of them it was I spoke to, but I am keeping that under my hat, as is my prerogative, and do not for one moment think you can have it otherwise. I shall guide you through the bogs, and my price is silence, at least upon the matter of your ma or pa or guardian and what pearls they let fall when speaking to me of you as a tiny.
I said to you that you must learn to tell the elder bog from the younger ones, and you will want to know why. The reason is very simple. The elder bog is the only one that has been painted, by skilled painters and geniuses, and when you roam around it in your boots I want you to be aware that you are stepping through great paintings, not just through any old bog among bogs. Bog At Dawn, Bog At Dusk, and Shimmerings: A Bog are among the masterpieces of art in this country, they hang in the Imperial Gallery and each day thousands file past to gaze upon them with due awe. So when you stomp about in your big boots be aware of what you are stomping through. No artist of repute ever thought it worth painting Lamont or Baxter or Mocker, or any of the other younger bogs, but time and again the elder bog has drawn to it dazzling masters of paint and watercolour and crayon. I am not sure it is true that, as a tourist brochure states, it is the bog most often painted in this land, for I think there may be a bog elsewhere more popular with our painters, as, for example, the bog at Hoobin, but only the elder bog has attracted those artists whose names will resound down the ages, long after you and I are dead. I, with my spasms, will probably die before you do, and you of course have the advantage of being able to hang around the bogs as long as you like. But do not think you will discover an elixir of life in one of the bogs. I thought that, back in the days when the bus still took me there. That is why I kept on going back to the bogs, because of what I had read, in some out of print pamphlet. That is why I flipped when told the bus would no longer take me there. It felt like a death sentence. I can only envy you, skipping along through the bogs, putting up your tent and camping out there for weeks on end, but I pity you too if you think for one minute that you will find the elixir somewhere among Lamont and Baxter and Oriflamme and Shambeko! and Cuddy and Gooboohoo and Coldplay and Mocker and Pippy and Hudibidas and the elder bog. They are all just bogs and hold no key to eternal life. It grieves me to say that, for I used to think I might discover in one of those bogs something transforming and transfixing. That is why I daily took the bus there for years and years, until the bus stopped going to the bogs and instead went to the tents and statues. Even if I had not been beset by spasms, I would have shunned the tents and statues, for what could I learn from them? Everything I know I learned by roaming the bogs. So you would do well to keep alert as you wander in your boots among those bogs, while you still can, young and feisty and brimming with joie de bogs.
Not only will you not find an elixir in a bog, but you may even be led astray to greater disappointment. Glipsing a glimmer far off, partially obscured by mist, you may run towards it, thinking it is perhaps a holy grail brimful of elixir, but it is, in fact, a will-o-the-wisp or ignis fatuus – gasses that emanate from decomposing vegetable matter that have a faint luminescence. Also a cartoon narrated by the late Kenneth Williams.