• Day 110: 2013 and my friend Leo gives me tough love.

    Jan 5th
    photo-1

    Now you don’t see me…

    now you do!. Moose gets his eyebrows cut - but is this really a good story of compassion, Martin?

    now you do! Moose gets his eyebrows cut – but is this really a good story of compassion Martin?

     

    Apologies for the absence.

    Happy New Year.

    I have only just emerged from a stomach virus and, to be honest, from an all too familiar January-sinking-feeling. I didn’t want to bore you with that.

    Although it is wonderful to be back in the house, with Ann of course, with the doggies naturally, with duvets and with the Queen, I can’t help but suffer from an emotional slump. A little bit of depression pokes its head out like the dried poop from the back-end of a constipated donkey. I feel shit.

    Moose and Bug are back in my life.

    This morning Bug had been thoughful enough to leave me a present – he’d vomited on the floor. It was someone else’s vomit that he had picked up in London Field’s last night which was in itself a curry from teh night before that – I recognised the carrots.

    I guess we are all interconnected.

    My compassion extended to cutting Moose’s overgrown brows. Schnauzer purists would call me cruel. I argue it’s better to let him pee on lamp-posts then bump into them.

    My friend Leo gives tough love

    Yesterday I met with my very good friend Leo, a long time mate and journalist for the BBC. I asked him about the blog.

    ‘You need to improve the blog’ he said. ‘ I liked what you wrote about India but there’s still no catch, no compelling reason to what you are doing. Following your heart and saving a few animals is NOT ENOUGH OF A STORY. I don’t want to be harsh but this blog won’t be a book if it’s like this.’

    Leo writes articles that get hundreds of thousands of hits and I hate to say it but he knows his onions. And onions make me cry. ‘I normally love reading your writing, Martin, and I’m interested in you as a friend and yet much of your stuff about animals – I’m just not compelled. Why would I pick this book up in a shop? I wouldn’t’

    Leo Kelion of the BBC

    Leo Kelion of the BBC

    I slumped in my chair. He may be right. It’s important to me that not only I help animals during this year but I get the message out. I’m also an egotistical bastard and I like the idea of having a book with my name on it.

    ‘If you want to see how many animals you help in a year then you’ve got to get extreme’ he said. ‘I want you coming back to me with a blue whale next month’.

    I looked around the cafe we were in. The doors were fairly small.  ‘I don’t think I can… do that’

    ‘Then dive under the ice and save penguins’

    ‘I’m too cold’

    ‘At least risk your life. Go research criminal dog-fighting gangs in Japan. End up dead in a ditch – that will be a story’

    ‘It’ll stop me eating meat’

    ‘VEGETARIAN IS FED TO WILD DOGS. It’s a good story ‘

    ‘I don’t think I want to do that. I’m not that brave’

    Leo drank a sip of his mild peppermint tea.  ‘Well then you got to at least go visit more people like Avis – see other people doing extreme things. You could call the book ‘EXTREME COMPASSION’ and find the craziest people out there. Like Louis Theroux. If you rescue any more snails in the UK you come across as a middle-class naval gazer. ‘

    ‘But …I just want to follow my heart… and see where it gets me’

    ‘No story, Martin, no story’

     

    7967244-dead-fly-on-a-white-background

    Dead fly

    That evening as Ann and I went to bed a small fly buzzed around the room. It seemed to move in sync with my wild thoughts.

    What should I do next? Buzzzz. Was leo right? Buzz buzzzz.  Am I too boring? Buzzz-fucking-buzzzz

    ‘Can you kill it please’ asked Ann,

    It landed on my hand. YES I FUCKING COULD. I lifted my other hand up to slap it and then I stopped myself ‘I can’t!’ I said ‘flies have a life too’.

    Ann sighed and rolled over. ‘Well get it out of the room at least. Rescue it.’

    The fly took off across the room.  I picked up an empty glass and followed it, proceeding to dance around naked like a mad person trying to make music with a glass a lots of empty air. Eventually I slumped back to bed. Its just a stupid fly, no need to rescue it

    The next morning, after cleaning up Bug’s christmas present I lay back in bed, turned to my side and then saw the fly on my bedside table, upside down, dead.

    Shit…had it died because I hadn’t bothered to let it out? Had my lack of compassion changed the universe in an ever so tiny way?  I was strangely moved in the way Leo would not have been.

    I examined its black form. However small this fly was, I was still looking at DEATH in all its grandeur. Endings aren’t measured in size – they are the point at which something turns to nothing. Their importance depends only on how much emotion you care to breath into them.

    I let out a long breath.

    I am at a cross-roads now. I will soon finish my work with dogs and move onto other things. I don’t know what that is and on a cold rudderless January that feels confusing. I don’t want to dive under ice, get a pet blue-whale or go to meet people that are insane. I want to follow my heart.

    That is the best story I can tell I’m afraid and you’ll have to bear with me.

     

     

     

     

    Now I’m at a cross roads. I was due to fly out to the Phillipines to work on a rescue operation seizing dogs that had been stolen and bound for the dog-meat trade but its been pushed back a few months.  I still hope to do that and if you can I want you to come with me on that journey. I don’t expect it to be easy but I expect it to be ….what can I say? Meaningful. But in the meantime I have to start looking at what comes next.

    The plan has always been to divide the year into three. I want to try and help :

    PART 1) Domestic animals

    PART 2) Wild animals

    PART 3) Farm animals

    Dogs, I suppose fall under the first section, loosely, as I suppose many stray dogs exist only on the fringes of domestication. So next I want to look at wild animals.

     

     



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    5 Responses to “Day 110: 2013 and my friend Leo gives me tough love.”

    1. Glad you’re better and very pleased to see Moose (got his book for Christmas).

      I get where your mate Leo is coming from and suppose his idea of a good book would be a riveting read for some people. But I think the appeal in your likely book is that is would be funny, whilst trying to get the message across, and that you’re doing something that a lot of us average, middle class, animal-loving sorts would like to do but haven’t got the guts or knowhow to do. Also, there’s the contradiction of loving animals and still eating them, which I’m sure many struggle with. Maybe a middle class readership is not enough of an audience to reach? But then the middle classes are often the ones who can lead the drive to institute change.

      It’s a tough one but following your heart seems to work for me (and don’t underestimate the power of images and cute dogs).

    2. I think that the original thing about your blog is that it’s personal, funny and something that people can identify with as well as aspire to (I for one would like to take out time to do what you’re doing). May be big that side up of it a bit rather than replicating the sort of stuff that’s already out there now. When I read Leo’s comments I felt irritated in the way that I did when a professional CV writer rewrote my CV and made it very corporate-speak ( a definite no-no!) I’m not saying that’s what Leo meant because I don’t really know and I would be making assumptions. Obviously you and your passions make the blog so do we need to understand you, or do you need to feature in a bigger way so that readers can empathise with you and your adventures?

    3. Hi Martin,

      I can see the dilemma, but you’re not trying to beat Jeffrey Archer and get a best seller are you? You come across as genuine to me because you’re getting on with things that are meaningful to you. You’re not trying to do the glossy PR gesture stuff that Greenpeace etc specialise in.

      Of course, what you’re doing has some resonance with me personally so I connect with it and try and follow it. I’d probably be in the market for your eventual book because I instinctively distrust easy answers and sentimental happy endings. I doubt that you’re going to get to that at the end of your year and in my view any book that comes out of it will be all the better for it.

      I wasn’t expecting something that could be filmed starring George Clooney and a cute mutt that saves his marriage, a drowning child and cures cancer. For me, your story is interesting because it doesn’t have the fake tan polemic of a campaign group. It’s a bloke trying to do his bit and dealing with the moral complexities that we face everyday.

      Your friend Leo’s got a real point about the newsworthiness about what you’re doing, but that’s not the only way to wrap the project. I’m sure there’s a market for something more complex, even if you don’t get to be played by Clooney on the big screen.

      For what it’s worth, I’d plough on with the project as you intended, dealing with all the contradictions on the way, be honest about how it’s affecting you and then discuss it with some publishers.

      and then hope that the market is bigger than just me 🙂

      Cheers,

      shane

    4. Cute haircut!

      Sorry to hear you’ve been feeling in a bit of a slump, Martin.

      I guess I will have to respectfully disagree with Leo. I love animals and ‘books about animals’ will always get my attention above all else, especially when it’s about someone’s own personal experience. The topics on animals don’t need to be on a grand scale to get my attention either. I enjoy your honest style of writing and your sense of humour.

      I do believe the dog meat trade is a big issue that needs all the attention it can get. It’s sickening how, in places like China, they torture the dogs before killing them because they believe it makes the meat more tender.

      Re. wildlife – You may want to check out Sumatra (Indonesia and Malaysia) where Orangutans are literally in danger of becoming extinct within just ten years because of deforestation to make way for palm oil plantations. It’s a horrendous situation and they need all the help they can get not to mention the devastating effect it is causing to the environment.

      Factory farming is another area where animals suffer greatly.

      All in all, many animals in this world meet a terrible fate at human hands and writing your own personal experience of helping where you can is drawing attention to it and that’s what is needed. The public at large either aren’t aware or they choose to plead ignorance.

      It’s up to you whether you choose to alter your personal quest to a grander scale or not but don’t forget the smaller areas are just as important. Your original idea is what drew me to your blog in the first place.

    5. Thanks everyone!!! some really helpful, clear replies and I am touched by your honesty and sympathy.

      But I also take Leo’s point of view seriously however but I tend to agree that my own voice is the most important. This doesn’t mean I can’t look for more colourful stories whilst maintaining the intergrity of my approach. Thanks for reading. Will update you with next steps very soon
      best
      Martin

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