I’m supposed to clean out our greywater filter (a bunch of straw stuffed down an old bog pedestal) every Sunday, but the amount of sludge gathered therein reminds me of some strange Law of Nature whereby it’s always a fortnight, not a week, that has gone by. A similar distortion of time seems to have been at play as I began this blog: “This week saw…..” Actually it should have been “Last week saw….”, or even (I’m not quite sure) “The week before last saw…”
Anyway, what did it (or they) see? They saw the launch of “The Story of Mouse”, a small (but perfectly formed) story hot off Ben’s press (well, hot of his book-binding machine, the pages have to be hung up to dry after the actual printing). Written by me, a very long time ago it seems now, illustrated by Rachel this year and, as I say, given physical form in this world of ours by Ben. The launch happened at the Huntly book festival (“everyone seems to have a book festival these days,” my dear stepma dourly remarks), which chuffed me a lot because of Huntly’s George Macdonald connection, though it was interesting, in a seen-it-all-before kind of way, to watch the blank looks spreading across the faces of the S1 contingent from the Huntly school at the mention of that esteemed son of the city as I gave my little launching-speech.
Anyway, I’m not going to tell you anything about the Story of Mouse – apart from the fact that it’s not about a mouse (it’s not even called, as the Huntly Express would have it, “The Story of a Mouse”) – because you can now purchase it, and a very pretty little volume it is – and you can thereby help to defray some of Ben’s expenses! I will say something about the slightly quirky format (mainly Ben’s idea, this) which has a little text (a conversation, in fact) on the front cover, this text being taken up inside but not being part of the actual story. It comes indeed from proper grown-up novel within which Mouse is embedded, “The Stickman”, which I wrote some years back and which went through about twelve versions before grinding to a halt due to my not being able to enthuse anyone with the idea of it as a published work. I am intending to dig it up again and post it on this blog and eventually make an e-book out of it, but am running through it first, making a version 13 of it, I suppose.
The Stickman is about self-knowledge, particularly in relation to sex and sexual behaviour – by which I don’t mean ‘discovering what it is you like/want/turns you on’ or any such claptrap: the sex bit of it is relevant only so far as sexual behaviour is one of the most obvious examples of the difficulty of self-knowledge, in as far as it’s an area where we’re pushed along or motivated by forces which are, at basis, beyond our reach to influence. They say that the first casualty of war is truth, and the same thing goes for sex: reasons are made up, justifications are given, accusations are hurled, and most of it is lies, or at best gobbledegook. The premise of The Stickman is that the only thing that gives any hope of control over such forces (and sex is in fact only one, obvious, example of a whole range of human activity in which we tend to fall into patterns of behaviour) is a measure of acknowledgment of how they work, self-knowledge in a word.
I think I would probably agree with Carl Jung over fifty years ago that self-knowledge is (still) the biggest issue confronting the human race, bigger than global warming, starvation, overpopulation, war, though probably underlying all these things. This is something that occurs to me a lot in these days of set-’em-up, knock-’em-down celebrities. Rounding up a bunch of old men who in their foolish youth espoused the then ubiquitous notion of sexual freedom and helped themselves to some of the goodies that seemed to be on offer – that seems a great way of taking up valuable police time and wasting public money, but what it achieves, apart from amusing the press and those whose prurience keeps it afloat, I really don’t know. Giving victims closure or peace of mind is something I can pretty well guarantee it will not do, though I suspect there’s a bit of money to be made here and there, so maybe that’s a justification (surely anything goes if it has a economic application….). Not sure about old Jimmy S in all this, and it’s quite a neat idea to hound a dead man for his wickedness seeing it’s in some senses a cheaper option than “live” court cases, and just as amusing for the public. Never did like the man anyway, though I admit that may be due to his having exacerbated a severe hangover one morning back in ’75. And can I say, to all adherents of Prog Rock, that that word prog was, as far as I recall, an irritating Savilleism before it ever became fully decided upon for that tasteful musical genre.
Anyway, we live in a time when people seem to have extraordinary difficulty (perhaps wilful difficulty) in disentangling consensual from non-consensual behaviour, and a warped idea of childhood to make it even more of a tangle. So we have, amongst other lunacies, a judge unable to operate any more because he had the temerity to suggest that the behaviour of a thirteen-year old girl was “predatory”. (Well, duh. Since when has Dame Nature been anything else? Or do we imagine a girl’s behaviour is “unnatural” if she gets drawn into taking her part in the grand task of Evolution before reaching the age society lays down for it?)
Don’t get me wrong. I believe in self-control, and I consider sexual continence a virtue. Having said that, I doubt if there’s any vice more vicious than self-righteousness, which I daresay is the polar opposite of self-knowledge. You want to really see self-righteousness at work, just switch a moment from sex to war (Venus and Mars being old-time buddies) and listen to that tired guff over the great “just” war, the second World War: people conveniently forget that in the 1930s practically every country in the Northern Hemisphere was on the brink of going Nazi, which makes it likely that the real reason for the war against Germany was that that new imperial upstart was simply considered due for another pummelling by the more established imperial powers.
Enough of this. My intention had been to get onto the issue of self-knowledge vis-a-vis our upcoming Referendum, but sex really does have a way of waylaying you, doesn’t it, not to mention war. Ne’mind, the Referendum can wait. I also still haven’t described our gig in Banff (even longer ago than the book launch) when Rachel, Charlie R, Annie and I actually got up and performed together some songs of Rachel’s (plus a couple of covers). Practising for this terrifying event was something that dominated our entire summer, and I even suspect it might have been responsible for the fact that the building schedule for the house has advanced not one step in the past year; but I think we all felt pretty good about the performance, justifiably or not I can’t really say, as we had generous support from some devoted audience-members. However since that event we haven’t played a note together, and now suspicion and paranoia creep like a low mist through the Coldhome households. But that, my dears, is the way of the Performer, and we’ll get over it.
Now the autumn has come, the crop of potatoes gets scratched up day by day, bucket by bucket (those who subscribe to the notion that potatoes are a dry-weather crop take note – dry is maybe all right, but not that dry, not dust); and now the struggle for light that will dominate our electrical thinking for the next three months has begun again. The struggle for heat hasn’t yet hit us, not so much because of the delightful mildness but because we’re still working our way through a three-year-old stockpile of firewood, and the effects of the latest biomass Nonsense haven’t yet hit us. It seems that the local biomass unit is buying up heaps of wet material (draff from the distilleries, newly-cut timber etc) which works out hugely inefficient as fuel but whose inefficiencies are covered by (“green”) subsidies – from the taxpayers, of course – to the extent that the price of firewood locally has soared by well over 50%. I think before long I’m going to be standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the Daily Mail (don’t worry, I’ll wear protective clothing) in denouncing Green Madness, or whatever their current term of abuse is. But one way or another there’s plenty of outdoor work to do in winter, and in this of course we will sorely miss our Abi, who has now gone off to organise the dudes at Talamh in Lanarkshire, having given up on that particular struggle with her dad, but having at least a half-organised workshop, not to mention a new bedroom for Maddy, to show for her summer here….