Dabbler Diary: Greyhound on a String

Nige’s book review the other day reminded me of an anecdote from Gerhardie’s childhood, recounted in his Memoirs of a Polyglot:

My father, conceiving the idea that, in proportion to the collapse of his body, his mind had developed to the highest degree of mental acuteness, declared one day that he had solved the riddle of how to make a fortune at roulette. He grew more and more insistent till I, knowing nothing of gambling, wrote to Gamage’s for a roulette, after which my father and I spent many weeks in testing his system. The initial results were favourable. My father immediately began to make extravagant plans as to our future…

Remarkably, the young Gerhardie makes his way to Monte Carlo, with as much of the family money as could be gathered, checks into a hotel and makes his way to the casino:

As I took my seat to try out my father’s “system”, which, on the whole, had shown such promise in Bolton…

But then you know what happened.

I have a soft spot for stories like this: father and son, fantasy versus reality. Another favourite is recounted by Richard Burton here, leading on from how Welsh miners love their greyhound racing:

The old man didn’t turn up for a week, and then two weeks and then three weeks and everybody was fairly in despair. After all there were, in those days, eleven children. And suddenly the kitchen door – we all lived in the kitchen – burst open, and standing there was my father with the most effulgent smile on his face. He stared with his stupendously stoned eyes at the assembled and stricken family. He had a piece of orange rope: this was the lead for a dog which was a greyhound, which was at least twenty-four years old. It had no teeth. And, as one of my brothers said, if you took it for a walk it panted. He looked at his stricken family and he patted this mangy dog very fondly on the back and said: “Boys, our troubles are over!”.

The distance between fantasy and reality is obviously funny, and, in particular, the distance between what one is sure the child would like to think and what he’s certainly going to think. Disillusionment is underway. In fact, isn’t this sort of story as emblematic as any of the dispelling of childhood illusions?

However, I’ve realised that now I’m a father of a couple of small boys my perspective has subtly shifted. Having two pairs of big eyes looking up at you, expectantly and trustingly, can’t help create a vague uneasiness. I think we fathers all secretly know that it’s only a matter of time before we too arrive home with our own toothless greyhound on a string.


The local cinema has a mother and baby showing of the new Anna Karenina film. Imagine the thoughts that will be flying around in the dark there. Russian cavalry officers beware.


All those bits of digital info you want to keep a hard copy of but can’t because there’s no printer handy – frustrating isn’t it? I have a new project: Pncl. It’s a device for reproducing any text you choose: tweets, phone numbers, email addresses, to-do lists, Dabbler comments. It’s controlled remotely via a proprietary system, compatible with any readable format, which I’m calling the BrainCloud. It doesn’t require ink, you just need a bit of paper about you (it’s compatible with any size or shape but I’m thinking of producing a dedicated, easy-to-carry accessory, working title FagPacket). Whilst Pncl does require occasional recharging, this can be done in a matter of seconds using its own portable dock which you simply plug it in to before twisting it around a couple of times.

It may be the beginning of something revolutionary.

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.
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4 thoughts on “Dabbler Diary: Greyhound on a String

  1. Worm
    September 7, 2012 at 17:47

    The pncl idea is very Berg London..

  2. info@shopcurious.com'
    September 7, 2012 at 18:48

    Just recharging pncl to scribble a reminder on the back of an envelope:

    1) order copy of Burton book
    2) re-read Anna Karenina
    3) See AK film
    4) buy large box tissues.

    Lovely post, Gaw x

  3. andrewnixon@blueyonder.co.uk'
    September 7, 2012 at 20:02

    I’ve a horrible feeling that The Dabbler is my greyhound on a string.

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