In Praise Of Nisbet Spotting

Reading a couple of blog postages today led me to cast my mind back to the heyday of nisbet spotting in the early nineteen-seventies. In The Dabbler, ZMKC fondly recalls an absurd and pointless exchange of correspondence with a schoolfriend, while BlackberryJuniper And Sherbet apologises (unnecessarily) that she is “thinking aloud about nothing in particular”.

Absurdity, pointlessness and “nothing in particular” as one’s subject matter all dovetail neatly into the theory and practice of nisbet spotting. I earlier gave some account of this exciting activity here. To recap, aged around ten or eleven, I created a newspaper or magazine which purported to be the Official Journal of the Nisbet Spotting Society. Written by hand, illustrated with drawings and collages, the pages carefully stapled together – though not with fairy staples – the contents of the Journal chronicled the failure of the Society’s members ever to spot a nisbet. Indeed, I made it a conscious point never to explain what a nisbet was. I suppose it was my version of the Snark or the Boojum, though I don’t think I had read Carroll’s “Agony In Eight Fits” at the time.

Did the nisbet even exist, or were those seeking to spot one on a futile quest? We shall never know, for before I faced up to deciding one way or another, I abandoned the Journal after five or six issues and discovered other enthusiasms. I continued to write, though I don’t remember what. Then soon enough I entered the dread world of teendom, and became very serious and earnest, as teenpersons will do, and my writing suffered accordingly. I had an important message for the world, if only it would listen. It did not.

It took about ten years for me to regain my mojo, and to realise that the absurdity and pointlessness and “nothing” of nisbet spotting showed the way forward. To a large extent, everything I have written over the past quarter of a century, since the first Malice Aforethought Press booklet in 1986, has been a sort of hommage to those hapless enthusiasts of the Nisbet Spotting Society.

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