I am indebted to Richard Carter for drawing to my attention this snapshot from the Tweeting account of Andrew Ray (@Some_landscapes). Mr Ray has been reading News from the English Countryside 1750-1850 compiled by Clifford Morsley:
It is rare for an entire fortnight to pass in complete silence here at Hooting Yard, but that is what has happened. It is a sorry state of affairs and I cannot blame it entirely on the aforementioned loss of my mojo. Clearly what is needed is for me to PERK UP. To this end, I have been working my way through a self-help regime entitled PERKING UP. I will not go into the details of what this consists of, as I do not want you lot to be overcome with waves of nausea, spiritual despair, and the withers. Suffice to say that I went to the nearest grocery kiosk and obtained a supply of plums, and on my way home I walked widdershins around the kirk several times. More than that I had best not say, for the time being.
While my PERKING UP begins to take hold, there are a couple of small matters to bring to your attention. First is the dearth of memorable utterances thus far from the commentators at the foopball World Cup. I had hoped to bring you a torrent of inanities, but alas there is little to report. Perhaps worth noting was one pundit’s observation that “He’s a very talented foopballer – he knows where the goal is”. But really the tournament has been something of a disappointed to date, with nothing to match such past gems as “For a moment there, he looked like a baby gazelle who’d just plopped out of the womb”.
Second, I am delighted to draw to your attention this newly-released podcast from Resonance104.4FM. Originally broadcast over two years ago, but none the worse for that.
Meet me at midday at Wellbeloved Gutters, and we can swap dogs and consider the drainage.
Did I want to exchange Rags for Scamp? It did not seem as if I had a choice in the matter. It was not that I had any affection for Rags, he was flea-ridden and sick and dishevelled, but he was my Rags. Lord knows I had little else to call my own, certainly nothing else living and wheezing.
I used to have my own cart, on wheels, but it toppled down a slope and fell to bits at the bottom. I was distracted for a mere moment, by a bittern, or was it a plover?, but a mere moment was enough for me to let go of the handle of the cart and for its subsequent ruination. Then I was a man without a cart. Shortly afterwards, I obtained Rags, by accident, outside a milk bar. The dog attached itself to me. It followed me home, if you can call the wooden pallet in the shelter of the viaduct home.
I called it home, for a month or two, before fate swept me up and plopped me in a hotel. Rags had to stay outside, on a patch of ground near the car park. I fashioned a kennel for him out of bits of hardboard and nails. The patch was in the lee of one of the hotel’s huge forbidding windowless back walls. I know nothing of architecture, but it struck me as an unusually designed building. The innards were somewhere between palatial and gaudy. What a trick fate played to plop me there!
I tried to imagine Scamp – big, bounding, brisk, panting Scamp – sitting half-in, half-out of the kennel, eating from Rags’s bowl, in the shadow of the hotel. I tried and failed. So I went down to the lobby and asked for some notepaper and scribbled a reply.
I will meet you at midday at Wellbeloved Gutters. I am happy to consider the drainage. But a dog-swap is out of the question, for the time being.
I pressed a coin into the mitt of an urchin and sent him off to deliver my message. Then I obtained some bones and jelly and went out the back to feed Rags. His chain had been smashed to pieces, as if by a maniac’s axe. Untethered, Rags had fled. I returned to the lobby, slumped in an armchair next to a palm tree, and bunched my fists.
Later, torrential rain fell on Wellbeloved Gutters. The rain drained away as rapidly as it fell, for they are highly efficient gutters, probably the most efficient gutters in Pointy Town.
The importance of Scroggins lies in its custody. Not one cupboard, but two, are necessary, each fitted with a heavy padlock. The keys should differ from each other in minute yet decisive particulars and be kept secreted at the bottom of the garden, hanging from the branches of a pugton tree, disguised with tinsel or birdlime so that they appear to be organic growths upon the tree. The tree itself ought to be fenced off with railings, railings with spikes, spikes!, sharpened spikes. Only then can Scroggins be said to be held securely. If you wish to allow visiting times, make them at dead of night, in mist or fog, with full documentation. Have a dog, too, one that howls. Ignore the distant beating of drums. Drums are the playthings of toddlers.
Over at The Dabbler you can read my exclusive World Cup 2014 preview, which is uncannily similar to my Euro 2012 Foopball Tournament preview of a couple of years back. I am hoping to bring you the best of the commentators’ startling insights (“How long is it since Ronaldo was marked by an anagram of himself?”) in the coming weeks.
This is probably the most accurate observation of a cat in world literature:
Victor was a blue-point Siamese, a neutered tom-cat now in the third year of his age. He entered, as usual, in vague semi-flight, as from something that was probably not a menace, but which it was as well to be on the safe side about. Becoming aware of me, he approached, again as usual, with an air of uncertainty not so much about who I was as about what I was, and of keeping a very open mind on the range of possible answers. Was I potassium nitrate, or next October twelvemonth, or Christianity, or a chess problem – perhaps involving a variation on the Falkbeer counter-gambit? When he reached me, he gave up the problem and toppled on to my feet like an elephant pierced by a bullet in some vital spot. Victor was, among other things, the reason why no dogs were allowed at the Green Man. The effort of categorizing them might have proved too much for him.
from The Green Man by Kingsley Amis (1969)
And about bloody time, too!, I hear you cry. Multifarious technical gubbins in the bowels of ResonanceFM have been bashed into shape by the trusty – if frustrated – podcast maestro, so here we are, with a new long overdue episode…
I have often said, in recent years, that I do not believe in the concept of “writer’s block”. I think it is used as a fiddlefaddle excuse by the idle and the indigent, or perhaps by those who prefer swanning about and gallivanting to the Johnsonian drudgery of sitting at a keyboard and bashing the stuff out.
And while it is true, I think, that one does just have to sit there and tippy-tap until the cows come home, I am now prepared to admit that it is entirely possible to do so while filling the pages with twaddle. This is what has happened to me of late. The results of my writing routine have been such godawful piffle that you lot should think yourselves fortunate that I have declined to post any of them here.
I would like to think that I have mislaid my mojo, rather than lost it entirely. The dilemma I face is whether to go searching for it, or simply to wait for it to come crawling back, like a surly dog. Speaking of dogs, here is a dog: