I was first told about dogging in 2002, when I was visiting Josephine in Rome, where she was living at the time. One of her archaeologist colleagues there — someone who has also, as it happens, told a lie to the Queen — explained the phenomenon to me. But I didn’t fully absorb what I was being told, so for quite a while afterwards I mistakenly thought that dogging was something that Italians did in autostrada lay-bys, even though dogging is, when you think about it, clearly a deeply, deeply English activity.
(So no good for Gordon Brown’s Britishness crusade. On the other hand, I see that googling “dogging Scotland” gets me 200,000 hits, and “dogging Wales” gets me 150,000, so perhaps a case could be made for “British values” teaching in schools to include a how-to module on dogging. I’d have thought it was far too cold and wet in Scotland and Wales. “Dogging Northern Ireland” nets you a mere 37,000 pages, so perhaps it never really took hold over there, or perhaps the internet hasn’t yet reached Ulster, or something.)
Anyway, for reasons I never began to understand, by about 2003 the Virtual Stoa had made it onto at least one list of “UK dogging websites”, and a surprising number of people would show up in the stats as coming to the Stoa in search of “dogging in Bedfordshire” and the like. (Also puzzling, since the VS isn’t known for its coverage of Life in Bedfordshire, but there we go.) And, over the years, I’ve kept half an eye on dogging in our national life, although I think the only sustained discussion we’ve had here at the Stoa was this one last year.
Fast forward now to 2008, and in February I was surprised to see in the site referral stats that someone had visited the Stoa looking for “daniel davies dogging”. (Back then it was the fourth hit; now it’s dropped to sixteenth.) I dropped blogland’s Daniel Davies (aka dsquared) a note to tell him that someone was onto him, and he said that he thought it might be something to do with this guy, “or at least I profoundly hope that’s what they were looking for”. And, yes, it turns out that another chap called Daniel Davies has written a state-of-the-nation novel about dogging, hence the title, The Isle of Dogs, which was published not so long ago. (And just as the person who came to the Stoa was presumably looking for the novelist but found the blogger, so over here there’s someone down in the comments who’s looking for the blogger on a page about the novelist.)
Anyway: I read The Isle of Dogs the other day, being generally in favour of the idea that people are writing novels about dogging, but unfortunately it was crap. (This bloke liked it, though. Where I thought it was a largely predictable string of clichés, he thought it was ” a near-flawless analysis of British society”. De gustibus, et cetera.)