The Turn Of The Year

It seems to be the done thing on various blogs to mark the end of the year by pointing readers to highlights of the twelvemonth we are about to leave behind. But quite frankly, I can’t be bothered to trawl back through the 495 postages (before this one) which I tippy-tapped out in 2011. Dutiful readers will of course spend the final hours of the year as they usually do, rereading the entire Hooting Yard archive while making notes with a pencil in a jotter. And then, at the stroke of midnight, you can put on your pointy hat and raise a glass of aerated lettucewater in celebration, for a minute or two, before returning to your reading.

I will be setting a series of tests early in 2012, to make sure you have been paying attention. Meanwhile, I wish you all a very happy new year, and thank you for your enthusiasm and support.

Dabbling Through The Year

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In the dying days of the twelvemonth, you can barely open a newspaper or magazine, watch the television or listen to the radio without being confronted by yet another “Review Of The Year” or “Round-Up Of The Key Events Of 2011”. Blather blather blather. The thing about these space-fillers is that they tend to be cobbled together on the hoof, with little thought, and – understandably, I suppose – lack any proper historical perspective. What seems important to hacks as the year takes its last gasps may, in fifty or a hundred years’ time, be quite forgotten, and 2011 may be remembered for other events entirely, ones which, to us who lived through them, seem trivial and unworthy of remark.

So when I was commissioned by the editors of The Dabbler to write my own review of 2011, I put on my futurologist’s cap (satin and wool, tassles, earflaps) and, with the aid of Dr Baxter’s Invigorating Brain Syrup, I looked at the year through the eyes of a Man Of The Future. What would a penniless out of print scribbler of 2111 pick out as the crucial events of 2011? My report is here.

Meanwhile, having got quite a taste for the wearing of the cap and the glugging of the syrup, I am heading further into the future. I have set the controls for 2525, the year of Zager & Evans’ imperishable chart-topper, and will let you know how I get on.

140 Pamphlets (Out Of Print)

It is traditional, at the turning of the year, for reader Mike Jennings to update his exhaustive bibliography of out of print pamphlets by Dobson. “It’s all a matter of diligent rummaging,” writes Mr Jennings from the pompous land of his banishment. Since we last heard from him, yesterday, he has managed to track down a further title, and he is yet again to be commended for his thoroughness, not least in assigning that pesky, but lovely, Blötzmann Number to the pamphlet he has unearthed. One day we might be able to work out its significance.

Please note that the listed title is currently out of print.

140. Library Clown Traumas – What They Are & How To Shake Them Out Of Your Head Good And Proper Using Bleach & A Dog Whistle

139 Pamphlets (Out Of Print)

It is traditional, at the turning of the year, for reader Mike Jennings to update his exhaustive bibliography of out of print pamphlets by Dobson. “It seems that 2011 has been a lean year indeed for Dobsonian scholarship,” writes Mr Jennings from the pompous land of his banishment. Nevertheless, he has managed to track down eleven, or rather twelve, previously unidentified titles, and he is once again to be commended for his thoroughness, not least in assigning those pesky, but lovely, Blötzmann Numbers to the pamphlets he has unearthed. One day we might be able to work out their significance.

There are earlier listings for pamphlets numbered 1 to 104, and pamphlets numbered 105 to 128. Please note that, unless stated otherwise, all titles are out of print.

129. The Dredging Of The Canal At Gaarg On The Eve Of The Batcake-Akido Conference.

130. Ducks And Criminals And Well-Maintained Reservoirs.

131. Eleven Essays On Reservoir Maintenance, By One Who Knows.

132. Things Beginning With B.

133. On The Inadvisability Of Taking Daytime Naps During The Unfolding Of Cataclysmic World Events.

134. How I Witnessed The Sight Of A Wild And Bearded Mobile Librarian In Hand To Hand Combat With A Snarling Gaggle Of Brain-Bejangled Peasants.

135. How Many Cormorants Are There In The Bible?

136. Omni-Encyclopaedia Dobsonia.

137. How To Fill Your Brain With Arcane Legal Precepts Through Simple Will-Power And Osmosis.

138. The Case Of Prince Fulgencio.

139, 139a. The Funnel, Volumes 1 and 2.

Overdue Boxing Day Project

Astute readers, with their wits about them, will have noticed that the Hooting Yard Boxing Day Project failed to appear yesterday. I do apologise. What wit one thing and anutter, as my Belgian mother used to say, I simply didn’t get round to it. Still, the Yuletide season would be a puny and curdled affair without a Hooting Yard project to keep you occupied, so – better late than never – here it is.

You will now have your complete Hooting Yard Advent Calendar, a large sheet of cardboard to which you have pasted, with glue, pictures of a drainage ditch and a wooden bobsleigh and cows struck by lightning and a blanket bog and a bat god and painted wooden decoy buffleheads and celery compound and the Hobbs End tube station demon from Quatermass And The Pit and a bowl of pap ‘n’ slops and pigs in a pig sty and Our Lady Of The Arctic Wastes and Aguirre, The Wrath Of God with a Capuchin monkey and a postage stamp depicting a trio of ne’er-do-wells with whisks and celery and Little Severin The Mystic Badger and undersea adventurers pursued by giant jellyfish and a Norbiton allotment shed and imaginary history in the London Library and crackpots brandishing placards and a graveyard of ships from The Lost Continent and Plovdiv and ectoplasm and a mandrake-root homunculus and statuettes of saints and martyrs and bishops and BVMs and cardboard signage and Jesus directing traffic.

Go and get a second sheet of cardboard of roughly the same size and, using a pair of sharp scissors, cut it into twenty-five rectangular bits. If you are doing things properly, you should find yourself with twenty-five bits of cardboard each of which is a little bigger than its corresponding picture pasted to the original sheet of cardboard.

The next step is to place the bits of cardboard over the pictures, thus blocking them from sight. You can now fix the bits of cardboard in place by sticking a length of sticky tape – cut from a roll using the sharp pair of scissors – along the top edge of each rectangle, so that you create a set of twenty-five cardboard flaps on the original sheet of cardboard. With a thick black marker pen, randomly number the flaps from one to twenty-five, using Roman numerals. Then shove the beflapped sheet of cardboard into a cubby or cupboard or indoor storage facility and forget about it.

And lo! When the first of December 2012 rolls around, eleven months hence, you can retrieve it from its hidey-hole and prop it up on your mantelpiece, if you have a mantelpiece, and then, day by day, from the first of December until Christmas Day, tear the appropriately numbered cardboard flap off the main sheet, carefully disposing of it in a wastepaper bin. Each day, therefore, you will reveal one of the pictures which, by this time next year, you will have completely forgotten about.

And thus, through craft and cleverness, you are already in possession of your Hooting Yard Advent Calendar for 2012!

The Twelve Days : Day One

Researchers working in the submerged lead-lined silo containing the extant papers of Bobnit Tivol recently fossicked from it a listing of the gifts given to the fictional athlete by his coach, the all too real Old Halob, during one festive season. We will be posting this list – written by fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol himself – in instalments over the coming days. It is recommended that you commit each part to memory, and then you will be delighted to discover that you can sing the complete list to the tune of a well-known Christmas carol. So without further ado, let’s get cracking:

On the first day of Christmas, Old Halob gave to me

A viper, a shrew, and a bee.

The Bells!

I greatly admire those who devote time and energy to the study of extremely arcane, obscure, or specialised subjects. Such as Robert Killick-Kendrick, whose obituary appears in today’s Grauniad. Though he was “a man of many interests, which included guitar playing, choral singing, hiking and photographing the numerous butterflies that visited his garden”- and possibly sharing his wife’s major preoccupation (she is “an expert on sand flies”) – our hero is particularly to be acclaimed for this:

He also made a study of domestic animals’ bells, ranging from elephants in India to hunting dogs in southern France, which resulted in a scholarly, but sadly uncompleted book, illustrated mainly with his own photographs.

Incidentally, elsewhere in the Grauniad today, in the Weekend magazine, there is a photograph of what must surely be the most coveted Christmas gift of the year – of any year! – an Alain De Botton action figure. Curiously, there is no trace of the photo, nor indeed of the accompanying article, on the website.