Saturday, 5 September 2009

My Neighbour Nick: Part 1, Samuel Johnson's Cat

My neighbour Nick is a walking Wikipedia. He sounds exactly like Stephen Fry, has lived in something crazy like 60 countries and has the most fascinating mind I have ever come across. I've never been in his flat but I imagine it is like stepping in to a library. A messy one. "Why is a Dalek called a Dalek?" - This question followed a story about a newspaper ad he had seen selling the entire Encyclopedia Britannica set for £5. It had not become redundant to its owner because of the internet, but because 'her husband already knew everything'.

This morning over coffee I told him about the MA I am starting in September. He fished a picture book out of his flat which belonged to his mother's eldest sister, who if she was alive, would now be around 100. He talked about the Bologna Children's book fair and a man he met there who described to him how children's picture books are are like a game of peek-a-boo and likened it to the existentialist theory of if we can not see it, does it still exist?

We also discussed Whitstable (one of my favourite places on earth), and he told me the story of Samuel Johnson's cat, Hodge, that dined on Whitstable Oysters. How decadent that would be today, but in the 18th century, oysters were cheap and widely eaten by the poor. So as not to degrade his servant, Johnson would personally buy the food for Hodge.

'I never shall forget the indulgence with which he treated Hodge, his cat: for whom he himself used to go out and buy oysters, lest the servants having that trouble should take a dislike to the poor creature.' (James Boswell's 'Life of Johnson').

Anyway, that's just a little insight in to my Saturday morning conversation with Nick. And like he said, what is the point of knowledge if not to impart a little.

1 comment:

  1. You are not allowed to keep to yourself people who are of Stephen Fry quality.