I was sitting quietly in the corner of an entirely fictional pub the other day and overheard the following conversation at the bar:
‘I’ll tell you something, You never hear of the idiot and the dog these days.’
‘Not these days, no.’
‘I wonder what happened.’
‘The usual I expect.’
[They contemplate The Usual]
‘Well, no great hole, and I’m sure and I’ll survive.’
Fired by this burst of public enthusiasm, but aware that there was nothing to be done about what they had quite correctly identified as The Usual (horrific, mundane, inescapable), I felt I could at least make some half-hearted attempt to keep the ashes warm…
In fact, I thought, as I munched on my entirely notional bag of dry-roasted peanuts, the act of writing seemed very like the act of trying to light, maintain, and stay warm by, a peat fire. You have a little kindling, which will give the initial flame, and a large amount of damp, old, cheap compressed earth, which will form the substance of the fire. You also have yesterday’s paper, the crossword a scant third completed, and a barely flammable box of matches. By means of these, plus a fuckload of artificial firelighters (placeholder for drink and drugs let’s say), you eventually light the kindling, the flames giving an initial burst of optimism. Once you have got this burning nicely, you put on a large piece of peat, which immediately stifles the flames and creates a deal of smoke. You find more quickly-burning material to throw on it, and through a mixture of cosseting, extreme care and a fuckload more firelighters, eventually get the underside of the peat to start glowing, though it’s clear the outcome of the entire time-consuming enterprise is never anything less than dubious.
If you are lucky, lucky mind, the peat will reach a critical temperature and start, well burning would be too much, smouldering in a way that suggests it is not imminently going to stop. Success. You may place on more peat.
The fire itself will of course never give off any heat, unless you hold your hands very very close to it, – ie can be considered no sort of success in and of itself – and will require almost constant care and attention merely to keep the semblance of it going. Nevertheless it may offer some private pride and a little local warmth.
You have read stories about how families kept the thing going perpetually, the slow-burning nature of peat allowing the fire to lie in abeyance overnight, only to be revived the next morning with the addition of more peat and a little careful blowing. Thus the fire never goes out, and provides a constant source of much-needed warmth and sustenance for the entire household.
Naturally, what you see the next morning is little sustenance and a load of ashes, still somewhat warm yes, but clearly very far from being of any use to anyone or anything, even yourself with your very low threshold of success.
You rake out the grate, make a cup of tea, put on your heaviest jumper and two pairs of socks, and fetch the duvet from the bedroom, before settling to today’s crossword.
Of course, if The Usual is anything, it is an acknowledgement that flames do not burn forever.
So, rather than even attempt anything of worth, I’m going to set the bar low and use this place as a weekly record of Things I Have Liked Or Found Mildly Diverting. Basically youtube embeds and a couple of quotes.
As a USP it might need some polishing. Crowds or even small mildly diverted groups I do not expect.