Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Now the pressure is on

One of the advantages of advanced age is that you are liberated from most of the commitments which make the prime of life so stressful—earning money, bringing up children, playing a role in the community, being nice to people and so on. You still get out of bed most mornings but it isn't absolutely necessary, and in other ways you can do anything you like and, more importantly, fail to do things you don't like.

Five years ago I decided to make a commitment; self-imposed ones are little danger to one's mental well-being because no-one is disappointed—in fact no-one need know—if one drops them because they have proved difficult, or just boring, to fulfil. I resolved that I would write something every second day and post it on the internet, allowing myself some latitude in execution by defining "something" very loosely: I would not aim at consistency of theme or focus and the pieces I wrote could be of any length, in any style and on any topic. In summing up the whole publication, the phrase "dog's dinner" springs to mind.

This, I thought, would make the project a doddle, and so it has proved. Later I realised that on days when no words at all came to mind I could just shove in some kind of picture instead. This made the task even easier, and it has not been much of a strain.

Now that has all changed. Last week an English polymath ex-lawyer with the net name of Froog, resident in Beijing, posted in his urbane and witty blog a compliment—nay, an encomium—nay, a panegyric—directed at Other Men's Flowers. I was feeling a bit low when I read it and it lifted my spirits: you might call that complimentary medicine. Incidentally, his praise was not fulsome, for that means disgusting by excess and I was not at all disgusted.

Actually I was very pleased, for after stealing other men's flowers since 2004 it was gratifying to be given a bouquet for oneself. However, the sad truth is that the good fellow has done me a great disservice: no longer can I sit at the keyboard light-heartedly tapping out a load of old codswallop just for my own amusement, not caring whether anyone appreciates it or even reads it. I would really hate to disappoint such a kind and generous reader, and now as I sweat through the 48 hours gestation of each post I shall always have at the back of my mind a nagging question: Is Froog going to like this one?

This means keeping up some kind of standard, something quite foreign to my experience and inclination. I cannot say yet whether the constant worry will inhibit me or even cause a writer's block or some other kind of breakdown. Time will tell.

[Modesty restrains me from reproducing here what Froog actually wrote, but someone with IT skills may be able to work out a way of locating it.]


Froog said...

Well, thank you for the equally warm, though of course not fulsome (though probably undeserved) praise.

You put me in an awkward position here. If I allowed my mischievous streak off the leash, I might start giving you a mark out of 10, for both Technical Merit and Artistic Expression, on each new post.

But I do worry that you might be at least partly in earnest about the onerousness of trying to live up to my expectations of you.

Let me say this to try to allay your worries. I started off by noodling around in your back catalogue, and have recently set myself the challenge of going through your entire oeuvre, chronologically from Post 1. It will probably take me 2 or 3 years to catch up to your contemporary stuff again. And if I don't leave you any more comments, you'll have forgotten about me by then.

Then again, I could just say, Keep up the mediocre work! You know that I have absolutely nothing else to do with my time, and am thus very easily entertained.

Tony said...

And I have nothing to do with my time so I'm steaming through Froogville. I keep finding corners I hadn't seen so it will take me quite a while; meanwhile I am taking your Atom feed so I can keep up with your further work and I will let you know if the quality declines.
Only fair to tell you that I have eight other blogs, but I won't give you the links because their main purpose is to enable me under different personas to harass or insult the ungodly, and I don't wish to be publicly identified with such behaviour.

clairette said...

My dear Tony,

Eventhough your English is so accurate I have some problems to understand all your words, it's a real pleasure to read you; it's almost like I were in Hastings, yeras ago, and I was listening to you (yes, I was listening to you!!).
Congratulations for your writing job; you're doing very well.
All my love to you and Anne.
Claire from France

Tony said...

My dear Claire

Lovely to hear from you and very gratifying to know that you still read my drivel (balivernes, but I expect you knew that).

All well with us. Anne runs 15 km before breakfast but I do not.

Clairette is not very exciting at the moment. Will it develop?

Love from us both.