Monday, August 25, 2008

Cat's Tales

Occasionally, if this blogger has nothing better to do with his time (and that's more often than he cares to admit these days, dear blog reader), he does a bit of 'net surfing and has a gander at the blog sites of some other professional writers. Which can be fascinating and revealing. See, for example, the blogs of some of yer actual Keith Telly Topping's scribbler chums - James Moran, Paul Cornell, Danny Blythe, Jim Swallow, Ian Abrahams or Martin Day, for instance. All of which you can visit via the links section below. Tell 'em all I sent you. They'll probably deny knowing me. They're always doing that.

But other writers' blogs can be very different and - all too often, I feel - they don't actually tell you anything you really want to know about the writer in question. Essentially, I think it's fair to say that the reason most people visits any writers' blogs in the first place is, probably, because they've read (or watched) - and enjoyed - the blogger-in-question's work and want to tell them that. That is - at least I like to think - why you, dear blog reader, are here, reading this nonsense. Unless, of course, you've stumbled in here by accident whilst looking for, you know, porn. In which case, hey, that's cool too. I'm not here to judge. If you find any, let me know ...

What, therefore, I imagine the average blog visitor want to see on the average blog of the writer that they're checking out are, perhaps some samples of his or her work. Or, possibly, they want to gain some insight into how the writer ticks; how, for instance, he or she structures their day; where their ideas come from; how they combat periods of inspirational aridity; what advice they would give to fledging writers about to step out on the road to publishing; how they go about getting their material commissioned; what experiences they've had with editors ... And so on.

Sadly - and, this is something that both my friend Jim Swallow and I have a particular chip on our shoulders about - is that more often than not you don't get those things or anything even remotely like them. Often you don't even get a selection of the writer's general, free-form and barely literate 'thoughts about some stuff I wanna talk about' - a method of blogging which keith Telly Topping admires greatly and which he has tried to use in this particular blog since it began. Because, basically, it's a grandiose example of towering, tool-stiffening egomania. And, since it's my blog, I like the fact that I can say whatever the hell I bleeding well like, about anyone or anything, (within, of course, the boundaries of the law as it currently stands) and nobody can stop me.

But some writers' blogs don't go down that route. Instead, what you actually get (and, this would appear to be especially true of a certain type of American author, usually - though by no means exclusively - female) is ... well, let's be honest about this, shrines to their cats.
Nothing wrong with that, of course. Indeed, I thought that it was high time yer actual Keith Telly Topping his very self got a piece of that action.

Sadly, my own family pussy died in 1984. I haven't even got all that many photos of her. But, here is one of the few that I do have.
Err... she's the small tortoiseshell one; the larger one in a pink dress is my mother. Who is, actually, not a cat. Believe me, I have checked. Now, tragically, at this point in the story I have to tell you her name (the cat this is, not my mother ... still with me so far?) It was Kaboobie. Yes, I fully realise that is, indeed, a bloody stupid name for a cat. Don't blame me, pal, I didn't name her. My brother was actually responsible for that piece of rank numskull-esque behaviour (Kaboobie was, technically, his cat). He named her after 'a magical flying camel' - also called Kaboobie, obviously - which was a character in a popular US children's TV cartoon made by the well-known Hanna/Barbara company in 1967 and shown in the UK circa 1969 to 1970. It was called Shazzan.

Yes, I am aware that was an era when the streets of Great Britain were positively awash with lots of illegal and mindbending substances but I don't, honestly, believe that was an influence on the final cat-naming decision. It is, however, important for me to tell you at this point in the story that my brother, Terry Telly Topping, wasn't six or seven years of age at the time (though I was). He was, in fact, in his mid-twenties, married and a member of the RAF. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this was a man to whom our government had entrusted a machine gun and, during 'The Summer of Love', sent to Aden to shoot at some Arabs. And he still called the poor creature Kaboobie.

It was Goddamn embarrassing, so it was. Every time we had a visitor round the house who'd never been there before and they'd asked, innocently, what our pretty little cat was called, we had to go into this lengthy, rambling explanation about some cartoon TV show from years ago that even we could barely remember. And, bear in mind, our Kaboobie lived until she was well into her teens meaning that, by the last few years of her life almost nobody had the faintest, foggiest idea what on Earth we were talking about. So, for anybody who ever visited the Topping drum and got one of the several versions of this apologetic tale during the 1970s or 1980s, this is the real Kaboobie. It is the one with the wings. The other two are called Chuck and Nancy. I don't know if they ever had cats named after them by anyone. I wouldn't be surprised if they did, frankly Shazzan was quite popular on obth sides of the Atlantic as I remember. There was, after all, some funny stuff going in the tea in them days.

Anyway, today being a Bank Holiday, this blogger decided to do what most British people do on such occasions and waste half his day taking my mother to the seaside. It was her idea, honest. Fortunately in this area we do have one of the great undiscovered treasures of the modern world - The Long Sands at Tynemouth, one of the most perfect half-mile stretches of firm, golden, 'great to play cricket and/or football on' sands you'll find this side of the Gold Coast of Australia.
Seriously, all hyperbole aside, it truly is a great bit of beach - if you're ever up this way do check it out. Although I should warn you that The North Sea can be a bit nippy at times - even during the height of summer - although some would argue that merely adds to the fun.

There is, in fact, a great story - probably apocryphal but, hell I so hope it isn't - that Newcastle United used to bring the players down to Tynemouth for a run along the sands each year during pre-season training. One day in the mid-1990s, they told the newly arrived French international David Ginola that, tomorrow, they were 'going to the beach' and he, as you might expect of a man from San Tropez, turned up wearing speedos and not much else. It might've been mid-July but it was still ruddy cold. When they got there and started running at the edge of the breakers in front of a handful of well-wrapped-up hardy souls taking their dogs for a walk, David allegedly dipped his big toe in the water, squealed like a little girl and then came sprinting back up the beach to where Terry McDermott and Kevin Keegan were standing admiring the ferries sailing into North Shields harbour. 'When you said we would be running in the sea,' he is alleged to have told them, 'I did not realise you meant The Arctic Sea!'
Ah, Bank Holidays! Tynemouth! Ice cream! Fish and chips with loads of batter! The bus home! Just like the seventies. Only less bri-nylon, Star Jumpers and Hai Karate aftershave.
And, lastly, dear blog reader, here is a lengthy list of some of the books that this blogger has been reading recently (well, Keith Telly Topping says 'recently', over the last three or fourth months, anyway) - many of them for a second (and one, for the third) time. 
Keith Telly Topping would particularly like to thank those lovely people at Seprant's Tail for very kindly sending him David Peace's complete Red Riding Quartet. There's, genuinely, nowt like a bit of Apserger's-like behaviour and 'making up a list' to round off a good week:-
Ian Botham - Head On: The Autobiography (Ebury Press)
Guy Walters - Berlin Games: How Hitler Stole The Olympic Dream (John Murray Publishing)
Alan Bennett - The Uncommon Reader (Faber & Faber)
Stephen Fry - Moab Is My Washpot (Arrow Books)
David Peace - Nineteen Seventy Four (Serpent's Tail)
Michael Simkins - Fatty Batter: How Cricket Saved My Life (Then Ruined It) (Ebury Press)
Peter Clarke - The Last Thousand Days Of The British Empire (Allen Lane)
Janie Hampton - The Austerity Olympics: When The Games Came To London In 1948 (Aurum Press)
Sid Waddell - Bellies and Bullseyes: The Outrageous True Story Of Darts (Ebury Press)
Barry Davies - Interesting, Very Interesting: The Voice Of British Sport Tells His Own Story (Headline Publishing)
Jonathan Powell - Great Hatred, Little Room: Making Peace In Northern Ireland (The Bodley Head)
David Peace - Nineteen Seventy Seven (Serpent's Tail)
Charlotte Mosley (Ed.) - The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters (Fourth Estate)
Ronnie Wood - Ronnie (MacMillan)
Travis Elborough - The Long Player Goodbye: The Album From Vinyl To iPod & Back Again (Spectre)
Martyn Hindley - Crash! Bang! Wallop!: Twenty/20 A History Of The Brief Game (Know the Score Publishing)
Trevor Baker - Richard Ashcroft: The Verve, Burning Money & The Human Condition (Independent Music Press)
Eric Clapton (with Christopher Simon Sykes) - The Autobiography (Century)
Michael Seth Starr - Hiding In Plain Sight: The Secret Life Of Raymond Burr (Applause Theatre & Cimena Books)
Sanra Koa Wing (Ed.) - Our Longest Days: A People's History of the Second World War By The Writers Of Mass Observation (Profile Books)
David Peace - Nineteen Eighty (Serpent's Tail)
Brett Callwood - The Stooges: A Journey Through The Michigan Underworld (Independent Music Press)
Annalia Coppolaro-Nowell - How To Live Like An Italian: A Users' Guide to La Dolce Vita (Portico Books)
Cameron Stewart (Ed.) - A Very Unimportant Officer: Life and Death on the Somme and at Passchendaele (Hooder & Stoughton)
Simon Reeve - One Day In September: The Full Story Of The 1972 Munich Olympics Massacre & The Isreali Revenge, Operation 'Wrath Of God' (Faber and Faber Ltd)
James Montague - When Friday Comes: Football in the War Zone (Mainstream Publishing)
Lawrence Booth - Cricket, Lovely Cricket?: An Addict's Guide to the World's Most Exasperating Game (Yellow Jersey Press)
Richard Moore - Heores, Villains & Velodromes: Chris Hoy and Britain's Track Cycling Revolution (HarperSport)
Mary Beard - Pompeii: The Life Of A Roman Town (Profile Books)
Alistair Moffat - The Wall: Rome's Greatest Frontier (Birlinn Books)
David Peace - Nineteen Eighty Three (Serpent's Tail)


deborah said...

I have no room to talk about cat names having both a cat called Numfar and a blog in which posts about Numfar garner alarming amounts of comments .

I'll get me coat

Nice updates by the way .

Robin said...

I have rather turned my flickr account into a paean to my cat, though to balance it out I have a rather pompous blog.

Fatty batter is one of the best books I've read on cricket, it's actually inspired me to start a blog for our cricket club, though we must think of a funny name/slogan for it first.

The team in Rain Men and Penguins Stopped Play's motto was semper tristes - always sad - which I think will take some bettering.