From 'Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge', Jorge Luis Borges.

The list divides all animals into 14 categories:

Those that belong to the emperor [1]
Embalmed ones [2]
Those that are trained
Suckling pigs
Mermaids (or Sirens)
Fabulous ones
Stray dogs [3]
Those that are included in this classification
Those that tremble as if they were mad [4]
Innumerable ones
Those drawn with a very fine camel hair brush
Et cetera
Those that have just broken the flower vase
Those that, at a distance, resemble flies [5]


1. There’s a family that live on the roof across the road from us and we’ve been watching them out the window all summer growing up. I think about family more these days, I find myself referring to them as ‘our seagulls’, and I like them better than other seagulls. On Saturday night, they feasted on a whole bag of prawn crackers from a Chinese takeaway and my heart swelled.

2. The people that know me best know that I kept a magpie in the bottom drawer of the freezer for some time. Those that know me especially well know that it was kept company by a shrew for part of that time. No one but my sister knows it was there for ten whole years, before she buried it in the garden upon moving back in with our parents.

3. Walking across the park, on the way back from the Chinese supermarket, Luke and I invented a classification system to incorporate all dogs: Any dog can be classified as a Hole-punch, Vape or Pint. Pints are subdivided into categories based on drinks that you might buy in the form of a pint in a pub. The categories, unlike conventional dog classification methods, are largely self-explanatory: the sort of dog normally identified as a ‘Black Labrador’ is in fact a Pint of Dark Mild; A ‘Bulldog’ is commonly a Hole-punch; A ‘Scottish Deerhound’ is a Vape. Some dogs are more difficult to classify, and a more nuanced approach is required. An example of this would be a ‘Labradoodle’, a hybridised being, neither obviously Vape nor Pint, although certainly not Hole-punch. In instances such as these, where the substance of the dog does not immediately lead to its labelling, then the aura of the dog must be addressed; some ‘Labradoodles’ are Vapes and some are Pints.

I can’t remember how this system arose and we vowed never to try and explain it to anyone.

4. In a Neutral Milk Hotel song, there’s a line that goes ‘what a beautiful face I have found in this place that is circling all round the sun’. I wrote it out in Esperanto to see if it still felt universal. In Esperanto, ‘around’ is ‘loco’, but when you were trying to translate, vi diris "Mi estis freneza kiam vi trovis min".

5. Could this also be ‘those that, at a distance, resemble raisins, but are actually flies’? On the windowsill in our kitchen, there is a dead bluebottle that has been there for a few weeks now. It’s sort of too far away beyond the sink and some pot plants to reach, dark and plump like a fat raisin. My mum calls Eccles cakes, which consist of a pastry case full of raisins, ‘fly pies’.

Published in Footnotes, a collection of texts compiled by Tate 'n' Lyle, April 2018