Thursday, 20 December 2012

A wager on the future

Glancing anxiously over my shoulder at the last few years and wondering where they went, I realise this blog is stuttering (with more long silences than in previous years) towards its fourth Christmas. I’m writing this in the deserted main office of the building where I’ve worked for years. This is our last year in the building, which, even though we are only moving down the road, is making me feel a little bit like John Clare in ‘The Flitting’: ‘the summer like a stranger comes / … the sun een seems to lose its way / Nor knows the quarter it is in’. I am, as usual, the last person left sitting in the building except for a few people coming in briefly to pick up their Christmas essays to mark. There is an empty tin of Quality Street on the office desktop with just a few wrappers inside. There are slithers of tinsel wrapped round PC monitors, with no one now to enjoy them before Christmas except me and the screensavers. There is an unopened bottle of Jacob’s Creek and a half empty carton of apple juice, the leavings of an office drinks party last night. The last post lies unsorted, wrapped in a rubber band, including what look like Christmas cards that will not now arrive in pigeonholes until January. Only the remnants of other lives remain.

I don't know who, if anyone reads, this blog, and in a way it doesn’t matter. ‘Before becoming a text, the private diary is a practice,’ writes the French theorist of diarists, Philippe Lejeune. ‘The text itself is a mere by-product, a residue. Keeping a journal is first and foremost a way of life, whose result is often obscure ... it is a wager on the future ... we are writing a text whose ultimate logic escapes us; we agree to collaborate with an unpredictable and uncontrollable future.’ For Lejeune, the diary ‘protects us from the idea of the end’, being one of those illusions ‘that gives us the courage, day after day, to live out the rest of our lives’. I always liked the idea of the Mass Observation diarists posting their entries from around the country to the MO offices – first, to Grote's Buildings, Blackheath, SE 3, and then to 21 Bloomsbury Street, London, WCI – never to see them ever again. In a way, they were posting their diary entries into the future and an unknown reader, like writing a message in a bottle and throwing it not into an actual ocean but an ocean of time. In the absence of much feedback, I think of this blog as a bit like that: I am posting it into the future just to see what happens. But if anyone does happen to be reading it now, I wish you a merry Christmas and bid farewell to 2012 with a couple of snowy poems:

‘Morning at last: there in the snow’

Morning at last: there in the snow
Your small blunt footprints come and go.
Night has left no more to show,
Not the candle, half-drunk wine,
Or touching joy; only this sign
Of your life walking into mine.

But when they vanish with the rain
What morning woke to will remain,
Whether as happiness or pain.

First Sight

Lambs that learn to walk in snow
When their bleating clouds the air
Meet a vast unwelcome, know
Nothing but a sunless glare.
Newly stumbling to and fro
All they find, outside the fold,
Is a wretched width of cold.

As they wait beside the ewe,
Her fleeces wetly caked, there lies
Hidden round them, waiting too,
Earth's immeasurable surprise.
They could not grasp it if they knew,
What so soon will wake and grow
Utterly unlike the snow.

Philip Larkin


  1. I'm reading it, but then I use Google Reader which happily collects postings from hundreds of blogs and lets me read them as and when. You're not alone - most of us are finding it harder and harder to keep up the blogging. It's the other things that have come along to suck out our available texts. Personally I think the blog is a lot more interesting than publications because it is never closed, never finished, always waiting for the next entry. Every text is an intertext,

  2. Keep going - I have to have a bit of a Joe Moran fix to keep me going between the publication of your books.... :)

  3. I too read your blog, also via Google Reader. Each new post is eagerly anticipated.

  4. Merry Christmas! just to prove that readers exist!

  5. I regularly read and look forward to your posts.

    I have a blogs folder and yours is top of the list.

  6. Be assured that your blogs (horrid word) have gladdened the present for many. May they have a long future. Happy Chtistmas.

  7. If only to reiterate that above: Joe, your observations on the quotidian - and the books you recommend in their reading - make this a regular haunt for myself. One of the best word mills in the web world,



  8. I'm reading too... on a damp Christmas Day in Cumbria...

  9. I’m also reading, just never passing comment, until now of course.

  10. wonderful Philippe Lejeune quotes. Good post. do keep posting. I always read and enjoy.

  11. Oh, thank you all - I wasn't fishing or anything ...

  12. Happy Xmas Joe from the future.


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