A Man About A Blog

Observatory

So far self-isolation has proven, for us and our neighbours at least, a chance to pause and reassess where we stand. In all the time I’ve been writing the blog I’ve hardly ever looked back at it. Now I see there have been twelve years of almost daily articles that I’ve never reassessed. The images alone are peculiar – where did I get this Sarf London Shakespeare shirt? Jumping into one archive strand, Neglected Films, leads me to 10 Great Films About The Theatre and lots of reviews, pieces on forgotten stars and writers, lots on London oddities, strange books, art and music. In June 2011 I managed to post some 65 articles in a month – did I have no other life?

The truth is I’m happiest here, doing a quick stretch on the blog each morning before starting another unproductive day on a novel. I’d like to create more long reads – there are quite a few on the site  and I wish I had marked them all as such – but they take so much time that I’d end up writing no fiction. One of my favourite articles, which I had time to investigate fully, was the odd history of London’s Players Theatre, and there have been quite a few investigative pieces on writers I’ve been pleased with. I don’t remember writing about David Kato, murdered in Uganda after a newspaper witch-hunted him with the help of US evangelical churches, but apparently I did along with pieces on Savage London and racist films and the British Library and Ken Russell, but what on earth drove me to write about Paris Hilton, whoever she was, or the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ sequel ‘Love Never Dies’ (although thankfully the show did)?

The exercise of constant blog writing feels like an endless English exam – take the first subject you feel curious about today, research it and write something about it. It’s a memory exercise too, because I’ll recall associated words and connect them (when I did the piece on Marylebone yesterday I thought of a church, a shoe shop, an old friend). But when I now look back into my own obsessions I see the flaws and blind spots in my writing, the easy answers where more vigorous work was needed. The blog is not just an exercise in writing on the fly, a way of keeping one’s strength up and getting rid of frustrations; it gives everyone a way of arguing back and – as is usually the case here – zooming off onto an entirely irrelevant topic.

My mate Roger and I call it Conversational Free-falling. May you never stop doing it.

If anyone has blogs to recommend, please do so here and we’ll all benefit. And if anyone knows the origin of the phrase I’ve punned in the title of this piece, please let us know!

16 comments on “A Man About A Blog”

  1. John Williams says:

    Keep up the good work. I only discovered your blog recently and it has been a revelation in the current times. The Isolation Tales series have made me chuckle so many times. Like you, I have a plan to overcome my extra time. I’m treating it like a long journey (by sea?) to a new land where most people will be better and that I will be better educated thank to your efforts.

  2. Liz Thompson says:

    I remember as a child hearing ‘seeing a man about a dog’ as being a ‘polite’ way either to indicate you were going to the toilet, or to tell a child to mind their own business. As to how it arose, not a clue!

  3. Lyn Jackson says:

    See a man about a dog was first noted in 1866 . It was in “The Flyin Scud ” by Dion Boucicault.
    Great blog today.

  4. Lyn Jackson says:

    The idiom man about a dog was first noted in the play The Flying Scud by Dion Boucicault .
    Great blog today

  5. Jan says:

    Here Chris cos no e mail have to ask this ? on here.
    (Not that I’d ever fire off on a tangent -Wot ME never….can you imagine such a thing. it’s beyond belief.)

    You know the well you were telling me about in the basement of your flats? Is that in any way connected up with the ice cave /the ice well underneath is it the canal barge museum nearby?
    I’ve been looking at the lay out of the older buildings round the X which still show a most definite alignment to the course of the old River Fleet. Not aligned round the canal.

    Looking back at much older maps this is ever more pronounced obviously. I am just trying to work out whether the canal barge museum – the museum being based in an old canal type warehouse set up – ice cave is something older which was modified to serve the canal there or created shortly after the canal was built.

    Think I have probably mentioned before if you toddle off S from the X down Kings Cross road heading off towards Farringdon the wealthy private housing on the offside the E side of the road going past Percy Circus (where Lenin lived for a time!) Wharton Street, Lloyd Baker Square
    When the wealthy residents decided to modify their gardens or improve their homes around that way on wells turned up with almost frightening regularity. Well frightening for the homeowners at least….

    Bit further down along there is the square containing the dwelling where Chesca Potter had her visions and the well from a Medieval convent turned up.

    The Fleet was called “The River of Wells” for good reason.

    Hope you and Peter are both ok.

  6. Lyn Jackson says:

    Sorry for 2 comments .Thought the first one was lost.

  7. brooke says:

    Blog is like Pepys diary, only public and without odious name dropping, social climbing gossip and descriptions of horrific dinners. Like it.

    Other blogs–assume you mean literary? Only London Review of Books; otherwise have relinquished hope of finding any worth reading. Otherwise Conversation (UK, Canada, Australia, and Global) and Crooked Timber (occasionally for Sunday photo; otherwise US academics talking to each other). Daily reading of selected economics,science and healthcare blogs that aggregate research and news.

  8. Ian Luck says:

    The euphemism for going to the toilet that always amused me, because of the random nature of it, is:
    “I’m just going to turn my bike round.”
    I always thought that “Going to see a man about a dog”, was a Tyneside expression that you were going to the pub – Newcastle Brown Ale being known in those parts as ‘Dog’ – NEVER as ‘Newkie Brown’. It’s ordered, as any ‘VIZ’ reader will attest, in the following manner:
    “Gis a borrul o’ Dog, pet/mate.”

  9. Martin Tolley says:

    I thought it was rhyming slang.

  10. Cornelia Appleyard says:

    I was amused by the line in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which goes something like

    ‘Martha, will you show her where we keep the, uh, euphemism?’

  11. Peter Dixon says:

    Ian, I was once in a pub called ‘The Market Lane’ in Newcastle when a man came to the bar and simply said ‘Dog’. The barmaid gave him a bottle of Broon and the correct glass, he paid £1.50 – probably the shortest transaction in history.

    Sadly, Newcastle Brown Ale was forced to reduce its alcohol content a quarter of a century ago – not for nothing was it known as ‘Journey Into Space’ or sometimes ‘Wifebeater’ because of its propensity to influence the outcome of domestic disputes after ‘Time’ was called.

    To add to the outrage and general emasculation of the Geordie race, it isn’t even brewed on Tyneside any more but in Tadcaster, which is in bloody Yorkshire for f***s sake.

    As far as I can recall, the phrase meant ‘Mind your own business’ when you asked where an adult was going.

  12. admin says:

    There was a pub in Archway called The Dog, which feels like the bluntest name imaginable for a supposedly cosy hostelry. ‘I’m going up The Dog’ doesn’t have an attractive ring to it.

  13. Peter Dixon says:

    Admin: I agree; you can go up the Arsenal, up the street or round the corner but you should never attempt to go up the dog, You can of course go up the frog and toad.

    I’m glad I live in Tyneside where the language isn’t quite so confusing.

  14. Brian says:

    In the early years of the blog I did wonder if it was you that wrote all of them as sometimes one or two seemed quite different in tone – Guy Adams came to mind. Then further wondered if that was why you always signed in as admin – to allow for anonymous guest writers. (No, I’m not a flat earther or conspiracy theorist, just spent a lifetime having to initially distrust all documents which landed on my desk.)

    Although I do wonder if you have deleted some posts? You had an amusing one attacking the dress sense of male tourists, saying that they dressed like toddlers. Can’t find that one now – using wrong search term perhaps.

  15. Barbara Allan says:

    I love your blog, and it both entertains and informs me.

    Newcastle Brown Ale – as a child, I lived in N/cle where my mother was a GP. She always reckoned that many of the patients in St Nicks (local psychiatric hospital) where there as a result of the potency of Brown Ale.

  16. Wayne Mook says:

    Pretty Sinister Books is a splendid blog, even gave admin a good write up. Crime mainly with a sprinkling of supernatural gubbins.

    Paris Hilton would be famous in anytime as a rich heiress and philanthropist (she is also a successful business woman and reality star.) the society columns would have been full of her.

    You’ll be pleased to know Love Never Dies had a successful your of America and is due in Manchester in October at the Opera House, hang your head in shame Ben Elton so much for political satire, and in part based on The Phantom of Manhattan by Frederick Forsyth, wonder if Lloyd-Webber will make a musical based on Day of the Jackal. It may get cancelled as the Phantom was due to be on at the Palace Theatre here in Manchester.

    Although I’m working from home (my partner is in a high risk category and even though I’m a key worker, I’ve been told take stock and take the safe option.) I had this week off at home, another death in the family (my uncle died of a heart attack while decorating, his birthday was the 4th of January the same as my dad’s who died last year just a month after my father-in-law, in the last 12 months we’ve lost over half a dozen family members and on top of this a number of close friends. A work colleague died of the virus so the building I work in is having an intrusive deep clean, what they will intrude on is anyone’s guess. so I’ve not been able to go to work even if my partner’s health was not at risk.) What I’m trying to say is even when working from home take time off, even if you have to stay in, it’s what I’m doing this bank holiday, and what I did after my uncle died.

    So take care and be safe.

    Wayne.

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