The web page of the Albion Beatnik Bookstore, based once in Oxford, then Sibiu, always neo-bankrupt, now closed for business: atavistic and very analogue, its musings and misspells on books and stuff.
Arthur, occasional shop dog, spent another week curating the shop floor, guarding it with the speed of a soft-shelled tortoise in need of a shave on speed. He settled in again well, soon pining at the door whenever he was bereft of me. We took off where we left it – discussion well into the night on a wide range of philosophical subject, especially Wittgenstein. Arthur reckons Wittgenstein’s Blue Book is best as it’s the colour that clashes most with the colour of his lead – and there is a touch of the avant-garde with Arthur. I tried to explain Wittgenstein’s lecture notes are all about language games and meaning, and Arthur said he, too, is very much into this. He ran though a few ideas: quick can mean take your time, here boy means I’ll think about it sunshine, and stop it means up yours, don’t talk to me like that, get me some more grub. Several cans of dog food later, I’m beginning to see the world from his philosophical point of view.
Arthur had taken an interest in the recent political developments, and is never shy voicing an opinion. He was disappointed to learn, however, whilst relaxing with right wing philosopher Roger Scruton’s recent book on the European Union, that Brexit is right wing ideology and not, as he had hoped, a new brand of dog biscuit.
One naughty thing to relate is that Arthur does like a giggle, and will have it even at my expense. I had to apologize on Facebook because the miscreant, rogue friend request sent out in my name one night was not actually from me. It was a cloned account and cloned by bloody Arthur. I had to assure my Facebook friends that all successful insurance sales Arthur had made would be honoured (I instructed that cheques should now be made payable to me instead, and requested a reconsideration of the offer if rejected initially); those who had accepted dinner date requests would now be escorted by me (ladies on Tuesday evenings, gents on Wednesdays); Arthur insisted that offers to grout people’s kitchens were not sincere and all his arrangements made to this effect were scrapped; and if you had subscribed to his forthcoming Donald Trump Fanzine (Is His Bark Worse Then His Bite?), then I promised to keep quiet. I note also that I hadn’t sighted Arthur once during the immediate run-in to the American election. Didn’t think too much of that at the time, but since the various shenanigans involving Putin, hacking and leaking have been exposed (middle class conspiracy theory, David Icke does parquee flooring), it’s not difficult to put this story and Arthur’s skill set together. I have been told that when a puppy Arthur was given as a confirmation present the Complete Works & Correspondence of Edmund Burke instead of The Holy Bible; further he has a poster of Trump on his kennel wall (not for use as a dart board either). Clever chap: cyber canine extraordinaire.
The James Bond like nature of Arthur may not be so apparent in his everyday gait, but it is there; he reckons that he was the model for Jason Bourne of recent film lore. For sure he is as agile as a sleeping cobra, but he is cerebral, too, as dextrous at crosswords and code cracking as he is Stirling Moss-like behind the wheel of a Fiesta (he can be seen often cruising about the city centre). Arthur works out very quickly the essence of a problem. For instance, his intentions to live with me and assume my surname were short-lived but, at the time, heartfelt, though when it came down to it the size of my can opener was an issue. So he had worked hard to see if he could repeal the arcane marriage laws in his favour, to become a latter day Plimsoll or Wilberforce and undertake social crusade. His lengthy correspondence with Lord Falconer and his intense archival research in the House of Lords library had revealed a loophole in Lord Hardwicke’s Marriage Act (1753): we could indeed be together under statutory law as the canine edicts of Hardwicke’s Act had never been applied in our overseas colonies (which of course at the time included America). Moreover Arthur maintained that canine travel across territorial borders is permitted so long as he could prove that he was no longer a minor (most important). So long as we could hold our nerve, also that Arthur’s false beard and wig didn’t slip like they did last time, we reckon that customs at Heathrow would be a piece of cake. The plan was to arrive at Sacramento and then cross the Nevada border (tricky, but we had in place a legal team who would have disputed Clause 16 of the Mann Act if invoked by US Immigration Officials, but Arthur dealt with American officialdom once before on his way to the roulette tables in Salt Lake City – he was confident his birth certificate has jurisdiction there). Shop clipboard attendant Noreen had agreed to meet us at Las Vegas. Her academic research in the States, of course, had been a cover all along: she had not spent a minute researching archives but had been in preparation for her secret and timely ordination into the Church of St Bernard the Elder and she was qualified now to issue marriage license under Nevada State law. Christine, Arthur’s true owner, proved to be the weak link here: she said that she couldn’t find Arthur’s birth certificate, but we knew that she’d hidden it. So one evening last September, once the Brad Pitt film Arthur had been watching was over, the plan was that he would hunt the certificate out (his snout being the best bit to him). Alas he was distracted. His discovery of an opened packet of Jacob’s Cream Crackers was one temptation too many (and he was hungry, bless) and distraction proved calamitous, the packet was part of a multi-pack special offer discovered in the kitchen pantry. The scoffing took some time (the mean average for the number of Jacob’s Cream Crackers that can be consumed cumulatively per hour is very low), and Christine discover him at four in the morning still at it, realised immediately what was going on and nailed his birth certificate under the floorboards. Arthur has many skills, but lifting floorboards with a wrecking bar isn’t as simple as it sounds if on four legs, two of them wrecked by arthritis. Poor Arthur: good intention but not sufficient swing from his midriff. He really needs to have a crane with a boom point and wait until its winding drum sets to with, ideally, a five metre winching tackle and snatch bloc. All I had to offer him was a hammer drill with no lithium ion battery. Story of my life.
Talking of winching tackle, the size of Arthur’s libido has been discussed elsewhere. Clearly there is more than a hint of spring in these winter months, and this no doubt prompted his latest lustful escapades. His arthritis does mean that to get his leg over is a tricky manoeuvre (ideally requires a crane with boom point, etc…), but his attention and gaze, particularly when upon gentlemen dogs, were keen and intense. During this visit Arthur displayed no signs of repression. Here he is with a visitor, Jim, a gentle soul who had been forced to assume the posture of a matador to fend off Arthur’s dishonourable intention.
Could Arthur enter the Guinness Book of Records? I wanted to see how many Jacob’s Cream Crackers he could scoff in one minute. The answer is all the Jacob’s that were proffered. But how many was that? Not saying. Arthur has a public mystique, charisma even, and I wouldn’t want its mythology shattered.
So Arthur has gone again, and all I can say is that his stature and handsomeness grow every time I am fortunate enough to have him as shop guest. Here he is, reclined, relaxed, and having a nibble…
And to return to the beginning, a philosophical concept beyond Arthur’s scope (likewise useless at chasing his tail), here is Wittgenstein being relevant to everyday life, as he is so often, and the passage that turned Arthur’s head to the study of philosophy: