ha! ha! said the clown

The house feels very strange now that Ani and Otis have gone to the UK…I myself feel like a ghost haunting its corridors, a spectral presence in an empty shell where the laughter of a woman and a child still echoes in the walls like a siren song… there, I hope that has given you just a little bit of a chill.

I was thinking today about some of my favourite authors when I was a younger chap, and I confess that most of them were of a strangely morbid bent. Edgar Allen Poe – he was a dark soul. H P Lovecraft – so influential they named a (dark and mysterious) sauce after him. William Hope Hodgson (go on, look him up. Read ‘ The House on the Borderland’. Very sinister.), but my all time literary hero award would have to go to… I’ll tell you later.

At lunchtime today the reading matter in the White Room (don’t ask, it’s a man thing) was Edward Lear’s ‘complete book of nonsense’, which I had bought ostensibly to entertain the little O but obviously subconsciously was also to entertain me. It’s wonderful, whimsical, very Victorian and just plain nonsensical. People like Lear and Lewis Carroll were intellectuals who had a deep streak of fractious foolishness coursing the strata of their intelligence, and the sceptred isles have thrown up many other wonderfully eccentric persons of puckish singularity whose work is a joyous celebration of the silly, though often with a soupcon of the sinister to offset the whimsy…

‘There ought to be a monument
erected in the land
to purveyors of fine nonsense
very stately, very grand
perhaps made out of custard, enclosed within a sock
and mounted on a plinth
composed of sugar rock
wherein the silly roll-call
of names would be engraved
of the mighty and the mirthful
whom our lives had better made –
stand up Milligan! Come here Sir,
Carroll, Lear and Cutler too
Messrs Sellers, Bentine, Secombe,
Mr Drake and Clitheroe (who?)
Mr James and Mr Hancock
Form a line around the back
Cleese and Gilliam and Idle,
Palin (leave your haversack),
Mr Stanshall, Mr Innes, yes,
Mr Barrett (with guitar)
Bring us, sir, a bigger rock now
As these names go on so far…’

Those lines above, extracted from an epic by another purveyor of pulchritudinous prose, Mr Skip Cormack, say things much more eloquently than I can. We should never forget the child within us, and the work of the above (and more) still has the unerring power to bring out the
‘ starry-eyed in wonder’ child in me…

… and my literary hero? Well, heroes really. A tie, between Robert Louis Stevenson (who also found time to say some lovely things about Wick) and Ray Bradbury…

‘By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes…’

listening to – White Stripes ‘Icky Thump’
Guided by Voices ‘Under the bushes, Under the stars’
Traffic ‘John Barleycorn Must Die’

Reading – nonsense


  1. Chris · June 21, 2007

    James, when I teach poetry to my Middle School English classes, we always spend some time on Dennis Lee…a little taste of Alligator Pie warms them up for other poetry.

    Hope you are whiling the hours away without too much boredom now that you’re flying solo…think of it as a chance to sample (and review) Ben’s 100GB. 🙂

    • James Sutherland · June 23, 2007

      Thanks for the tip, Chris, I will certainly check out Mr Lee. How are things in Canada? Hope all is well with you both. And yes, I am finding it quite fascinating meandering through Bens generous sonic donation… plenty to listen to (and write about!)
      Take care

  2. Hi James
    I have thoroughly enjoyed all your writing. You are brilliant and have such a good command of the English (Scottish) language. We also miss you very much and are looking forward to seeing you next week. Anita is well and Otis is growing up day by day and they are both looking forward to seeing you.

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