Some readers of this blog will be familiar with the work of J.M. Coetzee, and will know that in his novels and essays there is much food for thought on the ethical treatment (or more to the point, the unethical treatment) of animals. The vegetarian Coetzee is known for his literary variations on the theme of human cruelty, and his most straightforward and least complex writing is to do with cruelty to animals and all that that implies.
So as I sat down at the keyboard this morning and was poised to bash out the first word of the last draft of a review of his most recent novel (late, and if my editor is reading this, you are being very nice about it -- the not-being-badgered thing will have its reward when you get this copy later today), wholly concentrating on the keyboard, on the screen, and on the syntax and diction of my opening sentence, the phone began to ring.
And it was nice old Alan from the RSPCA, asking which of their fund-raising lines of merchandise I'd like to buy this time. I don't know why I don't just give them money and tax deduct it, but, for whatever reason, I have amassed an extensive collection of teatowels and chopping boards with wombats and toucans on them. I ordered the 2008 calendars -- Australian Birds and All Creatures Great and Small -- and trudged back to the study.
Begin again from Square One, for the nascent sentence has atomised and blown away. Start from scratch, if I could find it. Ah yes, I was going to say this, and put it together with that, and then I was going to segue to ...
Tortoiseshell leaps into lap, kisses my ear, and settles down with her front paws across my right forearm, a position not known for its typing comfort.
Sentence shatters and blows away a second time.
Coetzee would enjoy this scenario, I think, but it's not getting the work done. I'm not game to start again a third time quite yet; I might invoke an elephant, coming trumpeting into this not very big room.