Diaries Of The Dead

I would like to pin a medal on the person who first realised that the blog format was a perfect way to republish notable diaries of the dead. Now we can read Samuel Pepys, Gilbert White, and George Orwell, among many others, day by day, often with annotations. I know it is entirely possible to do this with a paper edition, but the experience is not quite the same. Somehow, reading a long ago diary as a contemporary blog gives it new life. (Incidentally, in a related move, an admirable maniac is currently posting Moby-Dick; or, The Whale line by line, hour by hour, on Twitter.)

One dead diary yet to appear online is the journal of Dobson, the out of print pamphleteer who bestrode the twentieth century like a colossus. As one of the most indefatigable Dobsonists of the day, I have often been approached by people asking if I will undertake such a project. Sometimes these pleas come in the form of polite emails, sometimes as mad screeds scrivened in blood over dozens of tatty pages, and once I was set upon by men wielding cudgels as I sat upon a picnic rug at a Mendips picnic spot eating a picnic. No sooner had I popped a sausagette into my mouth than a group of Dobson-fixated fanatics hove into view from atop a Mendip hill and bore down upon me, screaming their heads off and demanding that I transcribe the Journals and post them on a dedicated website on a daily basis. In view of such continued entreaties, let me explain why I have neglected to do so.

On the face of it, the pamphleteer’s mostly unpublished journal would be a magnificent addition to the interweb. When you consider the seething mass of clotted twaddle that does appear online, the absence of Dobson seems somehow insane. And just how hard would it be for me, or for anybody, to type up a few lines of Dobsonia every day and to share them with the world? However, as I said to the cudgel-wielding nutcases at my Mendips picnic spot, as they rained blows upon my thankfully well-cushioned balaclava, things are not as simple as that.

The great attraction of the dead-diary-as-blog is what I could dub calendrical integrity. So, what X scribbled in his diary on September 3rd 1847 is posted online on September 3rd 2008. We are always aware that we are reading a snapshot of X’s life on precisely this day many years ago. There is no express requirement for it to be this way, but that is how it is, and how we want it to be. Of course, few transcribers will take account of anomalies such as the change, in Britain, from the Julian to the Gregorian calendar in 1752, when September 2nd was followed immediately by September 14th. Unfortunately, the anomalies thrown up by Dobson’s journal are far more complicated.

Dobson, you see, used neither the Julian nor the Gregorian calendar, but one of his own devising. This in itself would not be problematic were the calendar itself not ludicrous, absurd, and senseless. Even the pointyheads at the Pointy Town School Of Dobson Studies Dobson Calendar Study Group have thus far been defeated in their exhausting efforts to elucidate it. Indeed, the leader of the Study Group, a ferociously intelligent bluestocking with a brain the size of several planets, has been seen wandering the hills around Pointy Town, drooling and mumbling, glassy-eyed and chewing on sticks, and will soon be carted off to a House of Befuddlement far away. Those of her team who remain working at their benches, deploying their slide rules and astrolabes and weird tungsten algebraic rolling pins, are fast losing their wits.

It is worth looking at Dobson’s calendar very briefly, to see what has driven these pour souls to the brink of mental ruin. To begin with, the Dobson “year” is divided either into fifteen or sixteen months, and those months have a variable number of weeks, from three to twenty, and the weeks themselves may be of seven, seventeen, or forty days. The names of the months and weeks and days follow no identifiable pattern, and one wag has even suggested that Dobson was making the whole thing up at whim. For example, in the “year” he insisted was 1967, in the month of Topple, there were three weeks, named Barn Owl Biscuits, Potting Shed and Ray Milland. The latter was a week of seven days, Lamont, Pepinster, Hopton, Baxter, Preen, Flap, and Tentacle. Quite how one is meant to correlate this farrago of drivel to the standard calendar is a mystery, which, I suppose, was Dobson’s point. It would appear that he did not want later readers to know on which particular day he clumped along the canal towpath in his ill-fitting Ivory Coast Postal Service boots on his way to an ice cream kiosk, stopping along the way to pluck a petunia for his buttonhole, nor did he wish history to know the exact date on which he inadvertently dropped a handful of pebbles on to the head of the infant Sarah Palin during that mysterious day trip to Alaska he wrote about in his pamphlet My Mysterious Day Trip To Alaska And What I Did With A Handful Of Pebbles While I Was There (out of print).

One looks in vain, in the journals, for mention of any newsworthy events which may help us identify specific dates. In any case, such a find would be of limited use, as the journal’s millions of words were scrawled by Dobson with a blunt pencil on the backs of cardboard sheets torn savagely from cartons of Kellogg’s cornflakes. These sheets were stuffed higgledy-piggledy into filthy greaseproof paper bags and the bags themselves tossed into a series of sheds and outbuildings. The idea that it is possible ever to arrange the extant sheets into any kind of coherent order is preposterous.

An intriguing addendum to the whole sorry business recently came to light. In a tape-recorded interview with a reporter from the Bodger’s Spinney Pest & Bugle given shortly before her death, Marigold Chew denied emphatically that Dobson had ever kept a journal. Every word he ever wrote, she insisted, was destined for his pamphlets. If that is indeed the case, who wrote the oodles and oodles of words on those torn cereal packets in those teeming thousands of bags that are stored now in a temperature-controlled sanctum in the lead-lined cellar of a monstrous building in the very heart of Pointy Town?

10 thoughts on “Diaries Of The Dead

  1. I’m forced to wonder if these writings of unverified Dobsonity could in fact have been composed by the great out-of-print pamphleteer during the incident in which Dobson’s brain was stolen. Were Cargpan with us now and privy to this development he might well have got to the bottom of it all.

    Still, suppose, just suppose that, despite being innocent of a body, Dobson were somehow able to compose this maddening stuff? To what purpose would he do such a thing? The irregular dating system (to say nothing of the all-cornflake diet that circumstances had forced upon him) would almost certainly have upset the fragile balance of his mind.

  2. Stan : I shall embark upon a Dobson family tree when I have finished the large-scale hand-drawn map of Pointy Town & environs which has been occupying me for some years.

  3. It’s all quite simple really. On a day that is denoted twice in the Dobsonian calendar you work twice as hard as usual, unless one of those Dobsonian days is a holiday – in that case you are simply expected to enjoy your work. On days of the year missing from the Dobsonian calendar you stay at home with the blinds drawn. If you wake up on a Dobosnian day that does not correspond to any day of the year then your brain is in a bottle. It’s all quite simple, and it worked for Dobson. If you need to know more I’ll be walking the hills.

  4. Frank – This article made me think of your earlier essay on “Blogettian Farming” which explained his wonderful four-month calendar. In hindsight Blodgett’s calendrical re-calibration does not seem so far-fetched!

  5. Messrs Wellington and Webster – perhaps we should be grateful, then, that no evidence has come to light concerning any calendaric collusion between Blodgett and Dobson. I doubt the world could have borne it.

  6. Not so, I believe Mister Key described the Antikythera Mechanism of the Dobsonian/Blogettian (or “Non-Blötzmann”) Calendrical System back in February of 2004, in his piece “How to Think of Things Other than Juggling”:

    “…the intricately-wired snares snap shut and entrap the oiled plasticine clumps, thus momentarily halting the recurrent biting movements of the cogs on the discus, throwing shards of todge into the motor around which you will have placed canvas bags packed with candles in order to steady the persistent rattling of the ticker on the back of the iron sledge underneath the trolley carrying the double battery-powered hammer which serves to agitate the drum containing the four-inch blades detached from the rusted bowl of the compass…” &c.

  7. You have hit upon one of the most controversial topics in the history of Hooting Yard. Mr Key does not apparently know the purpose of the contraption which you describe the above. It may indeed be a means of purging all thoughts of juggling from one’s mind, however in a 2004 radio lecture Mr. Key suggested that this device would also help it’s maker forget about the Pope. In a pamphlet he published years earlier, this was presented as a factual description of some apparatus intended to divine the meaning of certain crop-circles.

    Surely these contradictions are sufficient evidence for us to call shenanigans on Mr. Key.

    T. Wellington

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