The return from Wigtown, via the infinitely melancholy Lockerbie Station, was meandering and the office was waylaid by 20 sacks of unopened books. But I’m now back on the hillside, having woken at five thirty by the keening of a fox in the back garden.
This week’s reading has included Philip Roth’s Nemesis, Charles Yu’s How To Live Safely In A Science Fictional Universe, Peter Watson’s The German Genius, The Verso Book of Dissent, the first and last page of Susan Boyle’s The Person I Was Born To Be and a stack of graphic novels – Unwritten Volume II, which is quite the best thing I’ve read in ages, more of Brightest Day and the confusing and unsatisfactory Fall of the Hulks. We had the pleasure of a visit from Rob Shearman – I don’t know what I admire him for more, the fact he has a personal library of 17,000 volumes or the fact he wrote “Dalek”. (His book, Love Songs For The Shy And Cynical is a gem, by the way). I even, shock horror, managed to write an article – the first non-reviewing finger to keyboard since we arrived in Heriot.
I’ve also taken up my new hobby of chopping logs. There is a very strangely lovely satisfaction to be had from the arc of an axe and its sheering into wood.
But, to the point, bad words. Some people are being very bad with words at the moment. I don’t mean wandering apostrophes or split infinitives: some people are making words to the exact opposite of their normal function. I’ve been collecting examples and slowly stewing in anger at the political backdrop to it. For example – “citizen journalist”. Anyone in the UK that calls themselves a citizen journalist is frankly a moron. They’re not a citizen – we are all, unfortunately, subjects of the crown. And they’re not a journalist: they don’t fact check, research, quantify or qualify. They just pass on something they’ve heard. The proper term is not “citizen journalist” but “craven tatler”. Another one is the much vaunted Big Society (like the Big Read or the Big Coffee Morning, that matey adjective is infuriating). Under the Big Society, I’m volunteering as a brain surgeon – might take a few false starts, but my heart’s in the right place, even if your corpus callosum won’t be by the end of it. Big Society is fork-tongue for Small State. And the State isn’t the monolithic, 1984-style entity – the Big Society will still monitor, survey and infringe liberties with gleeful abandon. It’s the State as education, health, child benefit, road maintenance, rubbish collection, social care, playground attendants and all the rest. One final gripe – reality television. Like lush desert, dry ocean, flat mountain, dark light. If, as Confucius said, the first business of the wise ruler is the regulation of names, The X Factor would be renamed The Schadenfreude Show.