While I continue to doubt my credentials as a ‘writer’, I cannot deny that I have some sort of fetish for language. Over the past weekend alone, I have found myself musing as to whether ‘rusticity’ and ‘vespine’ are words – or just word-like formulations of my own devising (as it transpires, I can lay claim to neither – despite the doubts of both WordPress and Google when it comes to ‘vespine’, Mr Collins is clear that they have existed for quite a while).
One of the many ways in which I indulge my fetish is by listening to The Verb via its podcast. I was introduced to The Verb by its host: not directly, but via his Twitter feed (one of many introductions for which I must thank the blue bird of both happiness and truly hideous abuse). In common with much of Radio 4 – or at least those parts I enjoy via podcast – The Verb is on holiday, but as a sop to those addicts among us is offering selected back-numbers to help us make it through the difficult, dog days of summer.
Usually, I listen to podcasts at home or on a train (or occasionally, a plane) but to celebrate what might have been the last gasp of summer (our canine friends will soon have to cede the temporal stage to another creature – the duck days of autumn?), yesterday I decided to indulge in a little al fresco consumption. So I took my self, iPod, and a pair of headphones up to the Common to enjoy the sunshine and temperatures on the upper cusp of their teens. After a pleasant walk around the Common, the obligatory soft ice cream (which, if I’m honest, was the primary reason for my excursion) and a little light butterfly stalking, I sat down on the grass and started a Verb from distant 2013 (before I became a regular consumer).
I rarely sit on the grass – perhaps an age- and height-related desire to avoid both the long way down and the even longer return journey – and I think I’ve been missing out. The world looks surprisingly beautiful when observed from rather lower than my usual viewpoint – once again, being tall is revealed as massively over-rated. Wearing my cloak of invisibility – OK, mirrored shades and a pair of headphones – I watched the (mostly) young people enjoying the Common in the sunshine. As I people-watched, I couldn’t help feeling that I have had far too little fun with a frisbee in my life (though using one on my own would, I fear, look unutterably sad).
My tristesse was assuaged by the aural cosseting provided via my headphones. The near-perfect line-up included Boo Hewerdine, the Listening Machine (who, with the help of the Britten Sinfonia, turn Twitter into audio gold) and David Sedaris. Hearing Ian McMillan interviewing David Sedaris is almost too much: two such distinctive voices brought together in fascinating dialogue feels almost dangerous – like crossing the streams.
Some might imagine that these musings aspire to achieve the level of style and quality exhibited by Mr Sedaris’ work – but it wasn’t until yesterday that I had even considered making such a comparison (and then very hurriedly reversed away from it). I feel an aspiration should at least have some vague hope of achievement, or at least offer the hope of reaching a destination in broadly the same time zone – and this would not be the case with Mr S. In a similar vein, I recently spotted a competition to find a new comic writer – but this competition was named after P G Wodehouse. Who would feel bold enough to enter a competition with the name of such a master attached? When naming a competition, you need to find someone who has achieved greatness through obvious effort – rather than those blessed with an incondign mastery.
[BTW: Has anyone else noticed that WordPress seems to suffer from a diminishing vocabulary but imposes this with far greater vehemence on the unfortunate writer? It frequently chooses to correct my writing after I’ve completed the proof-reading – which is less than helpful.]
Mr Sedaris was enthralling, with all manner of insights drawn out by Ian McMillan. He keeps a diary in surprising detail (though still less than he finds he wants) and will keep material for years (the number seventeen was mentioned) waiting for other elements to arrive which will combine felicitously to form a ‘story’ (or ‘post’ if translated to my own life). My poor brain can rarely retain an incident for more than a week or two – and so unless it finds a home in that time it is lost forever (or until a heavy night on the red wine which sometimes knocks old ideas loose). This makes me realise that too many posts are rushed to press, when waiting a little (or a lot) longer would create a much improved product: less of a diary entry with mildly amusing asides and more of a proper piece of writing. Still, I’m not convinced that I have the discipline to keep a diary or know what it should include – then again, that which goes unattempted must perforce remain impossible so perhaps I should venture in hope of some future gain.
If only this particular diary entry could properly capture the joy of people and nature watching in a sunny park whilst listening to The Verb – as close to the realm eternal as I am likely to manage in this life (or probably – subject to its existence – the next) – then I would be (temporarily) happy.