I was embarrassingly gratified the other day to receive an e-mail out of the blue from a complete stranger who had posted, anonymously, an interesting and supportive comment on one of my blog posts (about the Attorney-General’s advice on the legality of the Iraq war). As well as supplying his e-mail address, he mentioned that he had drawn on material in my blog (and also on my son Owen’s blog) in his own blog. Phil (for it was he, as they say in Private Eye) had quoted us in the post in question, well worth a visit in its own right (like everything else in a beautiful blog) but also for me an especially enjoyable read: it’s nice to be quoted. It’s presumably estimable modesty that causes Phil to omit from his separate website any reference or link to his own blog. Both are well worth a visit, for the original material and also for the wealth of links.
But when you visit, leave yourself plenty of time. Each seductive link leads to another blog which turns out to be generously seeded with more and equally seductive links, and so on ad (almost) infinitum, like those fleas with their lesser fleas. By following link after link I happened, for example, on a wonderful resource on civil rights chronicling New Labour’s relentless attack on them. Several other compulsively readable blogs, too.
Another exchange of messages arising out of my blog led me to another interesting blog, Andrew’s, which led in turn to another, ‘The Sharpener’, a joint effort by several contributors (including Andrew), all politically and linguistically literate to an unusual degree, and all splendidly stimulating (polite word for ‘sometimes extremely irritating’). And this in turn has led me to quote with warm approval a Sharpener entry by Andrew in a new post of my own, part of my mini-campaign against the suddenly fashionable fad for proportional representation, lightly disguised as ‘electoral reform’.
And so it goes. There’s a huge amount of profitable reading on all these blogs, and it requires real self-discipline eventually to call a halt to the paper-chase through the links, each leading to dozens more, giving new resonance to the concept of exponentiality. Meanwhile there are unpaid bills and unanswered letters and e-mails piling up and the shopping to do and the bicycle in the garage a standing reproach, and (worst of all) the packed shelf of unread books and back numbers of the LRB still in their cling-film wrappers…
And I used to think that retirement would be an island of leisure and idleness.
 So, naturalists observe, a flea
Hath smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller fleas to bite ’em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.
Thus every poet, in his kind,
Is bit by him that comes behind.
– Jonathan Swift, On Poetry (1733) l. 3