I hope you’re following this. Mel set me some questions and now I’m answering them.
1) Why did you start blogging?
Hubris. I’ve used message boards for ten years, and found myself thinking, Wouldn’t it be nice to have a corner of the internet to call my own. What fanciful schemes I entertained in those days, imagining a new audience hanging on my every word. Sheer folly. If this blog hasn’t been a failure in every respect, I can’t pretend it’s not stagnating, this sudden spurt of daily posts notwithstanding. Of course, now I have other creative outlets. Look at World of Brine, still crawling along after a year and a bit. Really, look at it; nobody else does.
2) You’re going on an once-in-a-lifetime expedition to a far flung part of the planet. Where would you go? And what would be the one luxury item you would pack in your rucksack?
My own Wanderlust, such as it is, is vaguely approximate to that of a snail. Sometimes I feel daring enough to venture as far as the bottom of the garden, but all things considered I’d rather stay in my shell, and have you considered the likelihood of dog attack? But if there is a far-flung place I would like to visit, it is probably Japan. I’ve fallen in love with aspects of Japanese culture from watching the films of people like Yasujiro Ozu and Hirokazu Kore-eda, and I like drinking sake. I’d have to bring something appropriately Japanese with me. A book by Mishima? Too depressing. A shamisen? No, I can pick one up when I’m there. But it occurs to me that my generic MP3 player was probably assembled there, or at least made from Japanese components, and it would certainly keep me company during the journey.
3) If you lived in the same parallel universe as Lyra in Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, what animal would your daemon be? Or, put another way, what settled form would you hope it would adopt, and why?
I think I’m as close to a hedgehog as one can get without actually being one. That said, I was born in the Chinese Year of the Pig – the Water Pig, to be precise. Wikipedia:
Being its natural element, those born in the year of the Water Pig are said to show the extremes of being a Pig. They can be very emotional, deep, nurturing, sympathetic, empathetic, imaginative and intuitive; however, they can also be cold, moody, jealous, sentimental, sensitive, escapistic and irrational.
So everything, then.
4) If you had the chance to step into a painting, and to spend a magical hour wandering its world, which painting would you choose? Maybe it would be Constable’s Hay Wain? Van Gogh’s Starry Night? Or, perhaps you’d like to join in with Edvard Munch’s Scream?? Or – much more light-heartedly – maybe you’d prefer to go trip-trapping over Monet’s bridge? The possibilities are endless. It’s your choice…
I haven’t thought about it in depth, but the first thing that springs to mind is Pieter Bruegel’s ‘Hunters in the Snow’. I hope that’s not too much of a cliché, but I’m sure it must be. I don’t even like snow that much, so don’t ask me to rationalise my choice.
5) The Doctor has invited you to time travel with him on board the Tardis. Which period in history would you most like to visit and why?
I think turn-of-the-century London. I’d hang out around Baker Street hoping for a glimpse of the great man.
6) If Jane Austen, Charles Dickens and Will Shakespeare were alive today and were regular tweeters, I’d definitely be persuaded to join Twitter! Is there anyone from pre-internet days who, if they were alive today, you would love to see dazzle us daily with tweets of sheer brilliance and delight? Or are you glad they never had to suffer the tyranny of 140 characters?
I love Twitter, for what it is, but for anyone with an ambition to write proper sentences it’s hard not to see it as a corset. I suppose Hemingway would cope OK, but I doubt I’d follow him.
7) Which three books and three pieces of music would you take with you to a desert island?
Books – Middlemarch, Bleak House and Pale Fire. A good mix there. Do I get the Bible and Shakespeare too? I’d like them there. As for music, I’ve assembled annual Desert Island Discs lists meticulously for the past five years, incorrigibly pathetic specimen of humanity that I am, and the choice is impossibly difficult. But let’s choose three incontrovertible masterpieces: Purcell’s Fantasia, Z731 (I’d have the version by the David Munrow Recorder Consort), Brahms’ 3rd Symphony, and, in case I wanted to jump about a bit, this pair of jigs from James Morrison and John McKenna, recorded in New York in February 1929:
8) Out of all the species of wild animals or birds you have yet to see, which one would you most like to encounter?
A bittern (not a stuffed one).
9) Which of the following would most closely correspond to your natural habitat?
a) Out on the moors with Heathcliff.
b) In the Forest with Robin Hood.
c) Out at sea with Long John Silver.
d) Cosy by the fireside with a Pickwickian gathering of genial folk, sharing a bottle of your favourite tipple.
e) The bookish calm of a country house study – in mutual retreat with Mr Bennet.
f) Striding across the meadows with Elizabeth Bennet, a healthy glow in your cheeks and mud caking your boots.
g) In the Attic with Jo from Little Women, scribbling stories and dreaming of adventure.
h) Absorbed in the life of the city streets – in the company of a fictional detective of your choice.
i) Roaming Manderley – and the windswept Cornish cliffs – with the second Mrs de Winter.
j) Wandering alongside William and Dorothy Wordsworth, pacing out poetical rhythms on the Cumbrian fells, and waxing lyrical about wild daffodils.
k) In a cave with Gollum.
l) Hey, Mel – I’m an incredibly complicated human being – a mix of all the above holds true. It depends on my mood…
m) I wouldn’t be seen dead with any of them – Bah! Humbug!
Of that lot I’d fit in best with Mr Bennet, if he could bear my company. I’d quite like the clothes too.
10) Where would you rather live and why:
Little House on the Prairie
221B Baker Street
Well, Toad Hall excepted, the only one I really know anything about is Baker Street. Throw in the Hundred Acre Wood and we’d be in business.
11) If you had to go on a long journey with a fictional character, who would you choose? And what form of transport would you take – ship, hot air balloon, train, canal boat, motorbike, bicycle, gondola, skateboard, horse drawn gypsy caravan? Space ship?
Always the train. I’m not a trainspotter, but I love travelling by train. So a long train journey taking in lots of rural stations off the beaten track in all corners of the UK, in the company of, well, whom? There are lots of literary characters I love – Hanno Buddenbrook, Sergeant George, Charlie Brown, Piglet, Bertie Wooster – but I don’t know if they’d be good travelling companions. Racking my brains for people who are like me, I’m afraid the closest I have come is Adrian Mole. Perhaps that’s just because we both inhabit modern Britain. I desperately hope so.