WHEN I WAS a newspaper columnist, the boss used to commission a reader survey every year. He wanted to know not only what kind of people read the paper but also what parts of the paper they read. Naturally, I was always petrified he’d find out that nobody was reading my column and I’d be fired.
That fear has left me now because I am my own boss and I have no intention of firing myself. Furthermore, I have a pretty good idea of what kind of people read this column. They’re nice gentle, intelligent, civilized people who like sailboats. Well, mostly.
I know this because I was taking a flitter through Twitter the other day, digesting old Tweets, when my eye was arrested by one that said “Ohmygosh, my hero, John Vigor, has a blog!!!” It was written by LaureenH, who, I believe, lives on a sailboat in California.
I went straight away into deep blush mode, of course. I have never regarded myself as a hero, and with good reason. Heroes are out of my league. A good hero is truly hard to find. Whether he’s a James Bond hero, an action hero, or a tragic hero (my favorite) he should be a person others can look up to. And besides, he must be strong, clever, and goodlooking. That kinda lets me out on several counts.
Luckily, LaureenH has not given me a swollen head. She might have, but another Californian stuck his oar in before the swelling could commence. I just happened to be taking a flitter through the Flicka Blog when I saw a thread entitled “John Vigor is an idiot.”
The Flicka is a 20-foot sailboat, of course, one I chose to review for my book Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere. Some Flicka owners, I have found since, are quite twitchy. On the Flicka Blog, Bill Hogan, who, I believe is an architect living in Southern California, wrote: “So ... I made the mistake of getting drunk last night and reading John Vigor’s review of my boat. Now I’m going to get drunk and write a rebuttal.”
So there you are. I don’t need a readership survey. I already have my snapshot. I'm one woman’s hero. I'm one drunk’s idiot. It all evens out in the end.
The real hero is always a hero by mistake; he dreams of being an honest coward like everybody else.
— Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyper Reality
Boaters’ Rules of Thumb, #34
True circumnavigation. The rule of thumb is that the route of a true circumnavigation of the Earth must touch each of two points opposite each other on the surface of the globe. These are points that could a joined by an imaginary straight line passing through the center of the earth. Because circumnavigation means a voyage “around” the Earth, it’s not permissible simply to go from one point to the other and back the same way. The Earth must be girdled.
The wife of the professor of English opened the door of his study to find a comely blond student seated on his knees.
“Robert!” she exclaimed reproachfully, “I AM surprised!”
“Not at all,” said the professor. “WE are surprised. You, my dear, are astonished.”