It was with some bemusement that I logged in to my weblog recently to discover that I had an invitation to become somebody’s weblog friend. As regular readers of this column (of whom there are none) will know, there are no regular readers of this column, and now one of my non-existent readers was apparently so enthused by what she couldn’t have been reading that she wanted some sort of formal acknowledgement of this. (I’m having trouble conceptualising the Venn diagram which would illustrate a non-existent member of a non-existent set. Which in turn makes me wonder about Mr Venn. I presume he did something else with his life other than invent Venn diagrams, but that is his lot – to be remembered as the Venn diagram bloke. What a fantastic contribution to society. Can any of us truthfully say that we can get through a week without using a Venn diagram? I bet not one of you (and I’m on safe ground with that bet since there are none of you) can even tell me his first name. John, it turns out. I discover this on a website page which begins with the phrase “Venn diagrams were invented by a guy named John Venn (no kidding; that really was his name)”. Good job they added those parentheses! Otherwise I would have thought it a truly hilarious jape. Venn was an Englishman (hoorah!). He studied and then taught at Cambridge in the mid-19th century, lecturing in Moral Science, logic and probability theory. He wrote ‘Logic of Chance’ in 1866 which Keynes said was “strikingly original and considerably influenced the development of the theory of statistics”. Later in life Venn changed direction and wrote several history books, and also invented a machine for bowling cricket balls which clean bowled one of the visiting Australians in 1909 four times. He had a rich and varied life. But nearly a century on, he’s just the diagram bloke. Better than nothing I suppose.)
Anyway, I checked and it turns out that my invite came from someone who had actually read my weblog and who thus qualifies as My First Bona Fide Reader. Congratulations Madam! You win nothing whatsoever.
I presume the form in these situations is to accept the invitation, but I’m hesitant for a number of reasons. In the first place there’s the old Groucho Marx “not wanting to be a member of any club which would have me as a member” line, a sentiment I thoroughly endorse. It’s all well and good being the person spouting this piffle, but choosing to read it is something else entirely. I’m not sure about the frame of mind of anybody who thinks this stuff is actually worth reading. In the second place, what am I getting into if I accept someone as my cyberfriend? Am I making a commitment which I may later regret? Am I going to find myself invited to cyberevenings where I have to play up to my carefully cultivated miserable scrote cybercharacter? I haven’t very consciously avoided making any friends since Margaret Thatcher was in power only to blow it now.
What the hell, let’s do it. Whoever ends up reading this thing can’t be any stranger than the conglomeration of Level 42 fans which has constituted my online readership to this point.
If I had a time machine I would go back and follow John Venn around until he got lost somewhere. Sensing this I would approach and ask if he needed directions, and when he asked if I knew the way to somewhere or other I would say “Yes, why don’t I draw you a diagram?” (I would be sure to take someone else with me to give him the actual directions as I spent five minutes doubled over in juvenile hysteria.)