Saturday, 8 August 2015

That itch to write (Part 2): Again about dogs, but also diaries, emotional defecation, the ‘information superhighway’ (what’s that in Chinese?) and why I think dogs should be allowed to roam

When I started this blog five years and seven months ago it was to be some kind of hybrid between a diary, a commonplace book and what I can only describe as an exercise in writing. It had a precedent. From the late 1970s on, although I don’t remember when exactly I started, I kept a written diary, although that, too, was occasionally something of a commonplace book.

The 1970s were, as, of course, everyone reading this - online - a decade in pre-history: there was no internet and so no such blog as this could exist. I have little knowledge of the genesis of the internet and even less interest. It is now so much part of our lives that there not being an internet will be as alien to some - those, I assume of my daughter’s generation who are 19 and younger - as to many of the world’s population as there not being any cars or, to narrow that population down somewhat to the ‘civilised world’, there not being any hot water on tap and flushing lavatories.

But, dear young ones, there was such a time, and although it might seem incredible to you who is apt and accustomed to recording his or her every thought, ‘life event’ and enthusiasm on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instathis and Instathat, there was such a time, and although admittedly it was on occasion a real struggle, we coped. In those days ‘a diary’ was handwritten. I wrote mine in A4 hardback ledgers (which I still have somewhere) and it was a laborious task. I am left-handed and my writing is pretty much illegible, though I must add not in a cramped, spidery, sinister way, but more in a grandiose, attractive way.

From afar my handwriting looks rather nice, artistic even in an undisciplined kind of way; but up close - and we tend to read unclose when we try to read a handwritten document - it is pretty much unintelligible. That doesn’t, of course, matter, because not only has no one else tried to read it, I haven’t even tried to read it. In a sense - scatological alert! - writing a diary is pretty much for most of us like having an emotional dump.

There are, of course, those, to my mind excessively self-important people who keep a diary ‘for posterity’: politicians, theatre directors, snobs, those kind of people. I regard them as excessively self-important because from the off they have persuaded themselves that their future lives will be of such brilliance and of such interest that at some time in the years to come the world and its poodles will be queuing up to by their diaries once published. (Which snob? Try James Lees-Milne.)

To date I have been not a politician, theatre director or, I hope, a snob, and I at my age I am unlikely to go down those paths, so the diaries I kept were personal, nominally ‘for my eyes only’. And there’s the rub: I could and can simply not get my head around the point of recording your thought, feelings and emotions by hand, in my case laboriously, if no budger will ever catch sight of what you have put down on paper. And I still can’t, so when along came the internet (in the very, very early days romantically dubbed ‘the world wide net’ and quite fatuously ‘the information superhighway’ - try telling that to those net users in totalitarian countries where access to the net is strictly controlled), it seemed a godsend: not only could I drivel on about whatever I liked at some length, I could do so in a blog and quite possibly it would be read! Well!

There, however is the second rub: by whom could and would it be read? I know that two friends occasionally drop in to give my blog a read and I know my sister once did regularly, and it is not at all unlikely, given colleague and other friends might happen by, so I would be better advised to be more circumspect in what I recorded in my blog than I had been obliged to be when I was still having that regular emotional dump by hand in several A4 hardback ledgers. And what would it be like if I let rip about this, that and t’other - which was the inspiration for this entry - and my wife happened upon this blog.

That would be pretty unlikely, but less unlikely would be my daughter now 19 - where did the years go?- and my son, 16, finding their way here to find out what Dad does when he’s tapping away. (I must reassure both friends and my sister that there is, in fact, nothing I want to record about them which I would not be quite happy to tell them to their faces. But if there were - well, you see the dilemma.)

. . .

My last entry was partly about our Jack Russell, Russell, and he again, and his position in the Powell household, has brought me to my keyboard again tonight. Here’s a question: who gets a dog and keeps it in a cage in the hall and, when the dog needs a dump, takes him out on a lead?

To put matters into context, we live as much of a rural environment as you could hope for in Britain, possibly even more so. We live in a granite cottage which, although it is not large and was renovated as much by my wife’s own hard work as by builders - a few years before we married - and which would be every Brit’s wet dream. To the front we have a large expanse of green as we do to the back. There is a second expanse of green in what might be called the ‘top garden’ and then there’s a piece of land on which my wife gardens.

We don’t live in a city, a town, a small town, a village or even a small village. There is a road nearby but it is not busy. So all that makes it my instinct to ‘let the dog out’. OK, he will roam, but why shouldn’t he. I mentioned as much to my son earlier today and he, the nominal ‘owner’ of the dog - my ever-so-slightly left-wing side, though admirably kept in check by my ever-so-slightly right-wing side, balks at the notion of animals being ‘owned’ and I hope you get my meaning - commented that Russell ‘could be run over’.

Well, yes, he could. But then so could I, so could he and so could the rest of the household. I have often, probably too often, commented to my wife that given her attitude to Russell, she should get herself a zoo if she enjoys, as she apparently does, seeing animals caged up. I don’t. When, as now (’cos I smoke cigars and have to do so outside) I am sitting outside (at present composing this latest entry to my blog), I want young Russell to be enjoying himself in the fresh air, sniffing this and sniffing that. And I know he shares my point of view: every time the front door is opened, he is out like a shot. What is a man to do? For the purpose of illuminating the spaces where young Russell might be able to roam were he allowed by others, here are a few photos.

These are the ‘top’ garden and the ‘back’ garden’. The ‘front’ garden picture was somehow to green, as in bloody awful viridian green, to use. Since taking these, it has occurred to me that 1) some folk might think that I am ‘showing off’; and 2) I am bloody well showing off. That second charge would be far more serious, so let me try to put things into context. Yes, I live in a very nice part of Britain, but it was a sheer stroke of luck which brought me what I regard as my good fortune (of which by far the main element it two children.)

Until I was 45, I was knocking around from newspaper to newspaper, growing older, growing more lined and getting more and more fed up. Then fate - and details of which might follow, or might not - took me into matrimony with a woman from North Cornwall whose family run a beef farm and, pertinently, was given this cottage by her father. It was until she renovated it - and did a great deal of the physical work herself - a ruin. It had not been inhabited for nigh-on 50 years and then most recently by cows. It was used as a cow shed.

That she took a fancy to me was a matter of sheer luck (though I suspect that fancy as rather dimmed over the years - again details, possibly, to follow. Whether they do depends upon whether this blog can revert in part to being ‘a diary’ and, crucially, whether I can be assure not she nor my children ever get to read what must under the circumstances be reasonably candid comments and thoughts. We’ll see. . . .

PS Most of what my wife tells me these days begins with ‘Don’t...’ Sorry to be cynical, but my advice to all young men in the throes of love is: get over it. They way that most women take after their mothers. In my wife’s case that isn’t true. Her mother, my mother-in-law, now dead and who I knew but briefly before illness rather curtailed her life was a darling and as open to the world as my wife is closed. Sadly (he says, risking his daughter happening upon this blog) I suspect it is true of her and my wife. Oh well. As for sons taking after fathers, it’s also partly true. And my son - what a charmer! (Elsie, dear heart, you do know my tongue is invariably in my cheek.) . . .

PPS On the CD notes of many recordings are listed the various and different piece of kit use by the recorded band. Capital idea, and in that spirit might I record that this blog was composed on a Macbook Pro (silver old school) using the very good Bean word processor and uploaded on Firefox.

More pertinently it this entry was facilitated by several tall glasses of Lidl Mojito cocktail (£3.99 for 70cl, bloody good value by anyone’s standard’s, and the Tesco and Asda equivalents are 51p more expensive) and latterly my third La Paz Wilde Cigarros. Think I’ve got more money than sense to be smoking those (admittedly only 13.99 euros if you buy them online rather than pay the cynically exorbitant prices demanded for the very same cigars in Britain).

If you want to have a reasonable whack to be spraying around to afford Lidl Mojito and La Pax cigars, my advice is to find yourself a job in the bullshit industry. If, as I have you can survive 41 years before the mast talking and writing bollocks, the pay ain’t half bad, even if, like me, you are still a casual amazed you have made it thus far.

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