In last week’s diary ZMKC accused me of being happy. Well, happiness comes and goes.  Happiness can of course be found in one’s sprogs, but then so can worry. The real problem with happiness is that it is elusive in the present, which is why we have page-turning novels, epic movies, recreational sex, loud music, jokes and alcohol, all proven obliterators of the self. In the future tense, happiness is readily found in fantastic plans; in the past as nostalgia. A day out with the kids on Bristol Harbourside, for example, consists of two-thirds whingeing, queuing, driving, irritation at other people, expense, looking for toilets, being cold etc; and one-third fun. Luckily the process of editing the non-fun bits from one’s memory begins almost immediately. So I might be happy, but I’m certainly good at Instant Nostalgia.

***

I was amused at how the BBC worded the proposed change to the royal succession rules which would allow a daughter of Will and Kate to ascend to the throne even if she had a younger brother: “All Commonwealth realms have agreed to press ahead with a bill ending discrimination against women in the succession to the British throne.” So that’s why the royal succession arrangements been in place for so many centuries: to discriminate against ‘women’!  Have you noticed, we are nearly all of us grossly discriminated against when it comes to getting a shot at being the next monarch, and for no other reason than that we’re not the eldest child of the current one! Outrageous.

Anyway, surely the real reason for this rule change is that our best monarchs have all been women: two Elizabeths and a Victoria. Men are rubbish at being kings.

***

John Lennon thought that happiness was a warm gun.

Donovan, on the other hand, claimed that happiness runs. Specifically that it runs in a circular motion. Also that thought is like a little boat upon the sea, that everybody is a part of everything anyway, and that you can have everything if you let yourself be.

I have yet to find any evidence to support either theory, however.

***

Deadly ice sheets have formed on the lane that descends sharply from my place of work. The other evening I drove slightly too fast and did an exciting double skid, a sort of slalom from one side of the road to the other, narrowly avoiding both hedges before regaining control. That expression ‘heart in mouth’ accurately describes the lurching-stomach sensation one gets on finding oneself in a car that’s ignoring one’s will. Nothing much flashed through my mind. My colleague came off his bicycle in the same spot, and told me that his first thought, as he sailed through the air, was for the safety of a pot of yoghurt that was in his backpack and in danger of being splatted. So much for famous last words, he told me. No man wants to be remembered for crying “My yoghurt!” with his last breath.

***

In the comments appending Rita’s latest post on the fossils of the Chesapeake, Banished to a Pompous Land makes reference to the ‘official state fossil’ of Virginia, (the chesapecten jeffersonius).

I’m a big fan of the official things of American states. Maryland has a particular mania for them, boasting an official state dinosaur (the Astrodon johnstoni), an official state dance (the square dance) and piously endorsing milk as its approved beverage.

Maryland is also one of only three states to have an official crustacean (the blue crab). The others are Louisiana (the crawfish) and Oregon, which adopted the Dungeness crab as recently as April 2009.

The Dungeness crab was ratified as the official state crustacean by the 75th Oregon Legislative Assembly with this magnificent Resolution:

Whereas the Dungeness crab fishery is the most valuable single-species fishery in Oregon, making Dungeness crab an important part of Oregon’s economy; and
Whereas the Dungeness crab is an iconic Oregon symbol; and
Whereas the Dungeness crab is the most delicious of the crab species; and
Whereas the Dungeness crab annual harvest begins each year on December 1, when Dungeness crabs are hard-shelled, full of meat and in their prime; and
Whereas the Dungeness crab harvest ends on August 14 to minimize handling, so that post-molt, soft-shelled crabs can fill out undisturbed; and
Whereas this management method has served the resource well for decades and ensures that the Dungeness crab fishery is truly sustainable; now, therefore,
Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon:

That the Dungeness crab is the official crustacean of the State of Oregon.

Worthy stuff indeed, but we have to wonder what the hell the other 47 states have been doing. Pull your fingers out, Nevada, Florida and Vermont, to name but three! There are 52,000 unclaimed species of crustacean out there…. Get recognising!

***

At the start of an old episode of Further Abroad in Britain called Get High, Jonathan Meades claims that the basic human appetites are: hunger, thirst, shelter and sex (provided it’s tasteful and in the context of the script). And after that?

Intoxication.

***

Driving home at midnight on Wednesday, following an epic Autumn Statement-based workstorm, I found myself trailing – at some distance – a police car. After a while it pulled over, then when I passed the flashing lights came on. As I stopped and wound down the window I ran through a paranoid checklist: suspiciously erratic driving? No, and I had no alcohol in my body. Something wrong with my car? Nothing I was aware of. Talking on my phone? Nope. The officer loomed in my wing mirror and, poking his head through the window, demanded to see my driving license. “What’s the problem?” I said, handing it over. “No problem,” he replied. He looked at the license for a while, then handed it back. It became apparent that he had kept me from my nice warm bed and caused me some stress because he was bored. “Off you go, young man,” he said, even though he was about my age.

I know we all complain about the police until we need them. But still, I can’t help it, I’m a freeborn Englishman…..That goddamned pig.

***

Dustin Hoffman is one of those people I always vaguely suspected might be a bit of a plonker in real life, but on Desert Island Discs he came across as a thoughtful and likeable depressive. Happiness has clearly eluded him but one of his musical choices was purest joy. I later realised I had encountered Slim Gaillard before, and on The Dabbler itself – in Patrick Kurp’s post about mad musical glee Enjoyment. Dustin’s choice was the original version of Gaillard’s big hit, Cement Mixer. If this doesn’t make you at least momentarily happy, then, as Bing Crosby always sings at this time of year to anyone who hasn’t got a friendly cat or half a mug of cider, God bless you.

Dabbler Diary is brought to you by Glengoyne single malt whisky – the Dabbler’s choice.

Tags:


  1. Peter on Monday 10, 2012

    The late Robertson Davies once counselled the graduating class of a girl’s school that if they wanted to find true happiness, they should fill up their lives with loud music, alcohol and recreational sex.

    Actually, he didn’t say that. He warned them that happiness was a feline condition and that it would run away from you if you chased it, but if you ignored it, it might cuddle up beside you and start purring.

    • Brit on Monday 10, 2012

      Sounds like the sort of thing that could get you arrested under Operation Yewtree.

  2. Banished To A Pompous Land on Monday 10, 2012

    And yet Brit so many States opt for the same bird/flower/cuddly small mammal. I haven’t the time to count the number of States who opted for the Cardinal as their bird as we did in Virginia. But I think all this should be on a ‘first come first served’ basis. It would give, hoping not to sound sexist, some of the ugly birds a chance.

    • Brit on Monday 10, 2012

      But what is it all for, I wonder? There’s something a bit “My favourite colour” about the whole thing.

  3. zmkc on Monday 10, 2012

    I just listened to Amos Oz on Radio 3 and it struck me that what he says about dreams is not unlike what you say about happiness. That is, they are both best at some point other than the actual moment of experience:

    “Israel is a dream come true and, as a dream come true, it is disappointing. This is not about the nature of Israel; it is about the nature of dreams. The only way to keep a dream rosy and perfect and intact is never to live it out. This is true of everything. It’s true of writing a novel. It’s true of building a country. It’s true of living out a sexual fantasy. The only way to keep it perfect is never to live it out.”

    (And, if a dream must be lived out, the advice I take from your column today is edit, edit, edit, so that you’ll at least have a nice memory after the event [but, of course, in the immortal words of the cartoonist Calman, 'Nostalgia ain't what it used to be']

    • Brit on Monday 10, 2012

      Amos is right about dreams, Z, thanks for that. But I’d hate to think I’m dishing out advice in these diaries…

  4. George on Monday 10, 2012

    The cardinal is also the state bird of Ohio, among several other states. Maryland’s is the Baltimore oriole, though I’ve read that these have so interbred with other orioles as to be no longer distinguishable. Of the rest, I remember only Colorado’s (the lark bunting).

    If you see a Maryland license plate beginning EEE, that is an affinity plate for the state’s square dancing association.

    Flann O’Brien’s formula I recall as “food, drink, and a chance for scoring off [one's] enemies. Give a man that and you won’t hear much chat out of him.”

    • Brit on Monday 10, 2012

      A pioneer Blogman, clearly.

  5. Hey Skipper on Monday 10, 2012

    Jonathan Meades claims that the basic human appetites are: hunger, thirst, shelter and sex (provided it’s tasteful and in the context of the script). And after that?

    Intoxication.

    That is quite wrong. Ahead of intoxication there are power tools, fast cars, and explosives. As soon as I sober up, I’ll be able to remember in which order.

    Alaska State Bird: Willow Ptarmigan, and none of you can have it, on account of you aint got any.

    • Recusant on Monday 10, 2012

      Willow Ptarmigan? Isn’t that just a sub-species of our Red Grouse?

      • Brit on Monday 10, 2012

        An inferior subspecies too, I’ll be bound.

      • Hey Skipper on Monday 10, 2012

        Heck, I dunno. (Plainspeak description of an internet expert.)