Beware of the Leopard

There are words and phrases that my mind (and maybe yours too) just sucks up and stores in a special place for future use. That special place might be in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’ (Douglas Adams), but it’s there, nevertheless.

From time to time, and possibly at the most inappropriate moments, your mind might automagically dip into that special place, as mine does, and regurgitate those words and phrases, with no thought of context, for your annoyance and/or entertainment.

I was innocuously chatting to someone in the street, as invariably happens on dogwalks, when the phrase ‘Vogon poetry’ (also Douglas Adams) sprang to mind with such energy that I felt compelled to speak the words aloud. Fortunately I resisted, but what the heck is that about? Last week I was strolling down the main lane through the village (accompanied by two spaniels, obviously), when the words ‘If you tolerate this, then your children will be next’ (Manic Street Preachers) sprang across my consciousness. Not the song that those words are part of. Not the tune in isolation. Just the words. Large and bannerlike, in huge letters across the forefront of my consciousness.

The oddest of them all was the (very early) morning after an intense day of writing book three (currently 95k words and I’m aiming for a finished target of 98k words, thank you for asking), I woke up with these words imprinted across the inside of my head: ‘two sworn enemies standing waist deep in gasoline; one with three matches, the other with five’ (Carl Sagan on the nuclear arms race).

I genuinely feel the cause for these mental outbursts is the writing, but I don’t know why. Last summer I read a letter from Anaïs Nin to one of her husbands, in which she said (paraphrasing) her heart expands and contracts with love as her mind does with words. At first sight the heart words are quite sweet, but as she was carrying on an affair with Henry Miller (whom I cite as an early influence) I can’t help feeling the ‘contraction’ theme had a much darker meaning than at first reading.

It’s like that bloody song ‘Jerusalem’ which too frequently gets promoted as a candidate for the English National Anthem (what’s wrong with Land of Hope and Glory anyway?). Nobody understands the words to Jerusalem. Actually, that’s wrong. There are many people who understand the words to Jerusalem, they just don’t happen to be the people who promote it as a possible English National Anthem. And that reminds me, I still haven’t looked out that essay I wrote on Jerusalem. I need to do that before something unfortunate happens to me. I said as much to my sister yesterday, about other things.


This morning I learned how to build a portable EMP device. Yes, very feasible. And then, after a few hours of study, I discarded the notion. I decided it wasn’t an appropriate direction for the story to take. And then the song (not just the lyrics) Dead End Street (The Kinks) got stuck in my mind so I had to listen to some Olivia Rodrigo to clean my musical palate (or my consciousness, or both).

I wonder if all this stuff is the product of an overactive imagination, or is it the product of an imagination that isn’t active enough? The dogs don’t answer my questions; I have asked them all a couple of times already today. They’re not much cop for questions that aren’t ‘Would you like a treat?’ and ‘Shall we go for a walk?’

3 thoughts on “Beware of the Leopard

  1. “Prostetnic Vogon Jeltz” has a habit of popping into my head for no reason.
    Not the character, not the poetry, just those three words.
    Adams has a lot to answer for.

    1. Douglas Adams has a lot to answer for, clearly. I must try and look out the scriptwork he did for Dr Who. That might be an interesting read.

  2. Douglas Adams and Richard Curtis/Ben Elton are responsible for many, many such outbursts in my mind, and often out of my mouth. Sausage?! Adams is dearly beloved to me for his fantastic twists; on the English language — “He expanded his chest to make it totally clear that here was the sort of man you only dared to cross if you had a team of Sherpas with you”; on our physical world — “The giant spaceships hung in the air in much the same way as bricks don’t”; on humanity — “I think that fish is nice, but then I think rain is wet, so who am I to judge”.

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