When you write a column for a newspaper, people are forever making the mistake of telling you what you should be writing about.
They forget, of course, that I am a world expert on everything and therefore always know exactly what I should write about, even though I don’t actually do so very often.
Sometimes I write a not-so-brilliant column just to make the other columnists feel better about themselves – in addition to being an expert on everything, I’m also an extraordinary humanitarian (although I don’t like to talk about it).
Anyway, if I had a pound for every mind-numbingly dull tale which has ended with “…put that in your column!” I would have about £392.
And had someone actually paid me that £392, I might have been slightly more cheerful about being told to highlight someone else’s problem with their plumber/hip operation/neighbours/corns/demonic possession on my page.
As it is, I have developed an impressive ability to switch off while nodding – a bit like your work colleagues do when you show them your holiday photographs – because I figure that it’s hard enough to have my own opinions, let alone someone else’s.
People release their venom about the builder, the buses, young people today, old people today, MPs’ expenses, interest rates, Iraq, men, women, children, animals, humanity as a whole or the fact that BA lost their baggage on a flight back from Ibiza and so forth, then step back slightly, look at you expectantly and boom: “Well? What do you think to THAT?”
There are three answers to such a question.
The first is the answer the person wants you to give them. “WHAT? You mean to say the builder expected you to PAY for that driveway? Despite the uneven bit near the garage? If you’ll excuse me for a moment, Sir, I must call our presses immediately and stop the front page.”
Or you can try a stalling technique: “I will definitely bear that in mind.”
And finally there is the truth. “Sir, I am standing in the frozen food section of Sainsbury’s. My children were last seen scaling the shelves in the crisp aisle three hours ago. Although I hear what you are saying, I cannot pretend to give a monkey’s chuff about your piffling problems.”
I never try the truth.
Anyway, I lumbered out of the dentist’s the other day, a few hundred pounds lighter (sadly only in monetary terms, which is a shame, because hiring that winch to get me in and out of the bath is proving to be costly) and was innocently waiting for a bus when I felt a jab in the ribs.
“You want to write about that (jabbing man gesticulated with his head towards a new development of flats at the site of a former furniture shop called Courts in Norwich) in your column. Bloody ridiculous. What do we need more luxury flats for?” said the man queuing next to me.
Although anaesthetised to a point where my head felt like a balloon only loosely tethered to my shoulders, I still had enough mental and physical fortitude to pretend I hadn’t heard anything. Not that this ever stops anyone.
“Eh? Them flats. Ridiculous.”
I have to admit, I am not aware of a huge gap in the market for luxury loft-style apartments in Norwich, even if they have got scenic views of a roundabout, an office block, a travel lodge and a funeral director’s.
Practically every disused building in the city has been converted into a luxury apartment – I’m surprised someone hasn’t put plate glass windows and some laminate floors in the disused, haunted toilets at the bottom of a hill near my house and marketed them as a low-rise luxury studio flat. With lots of en suites.
And since when has “loft-style” been luxury? Aren’t they just unfinished beige warehouses with nice taps?
I’m always concerned about the history of the places where I have lived and to this end have never bought a property on the site of an old abattoir, in a converted warehouse, next door to a concentration camp, in an old nuclear power station or on top of what used to be a Native American burial ground.
Thankfully this has been fairly easy to do in Norwich, although the housing development at the old Norfolk and Norwich Hospital sailed pretty close to the wind on several counts.
With this in mind, might not the spirit of Courts be lurking in the very fabric of these new flats? Might you find yourself looking for minimalist furniture for your aircraft hangar only to find yourself drawn to the mahoghany-look TV and video cabinets, the stained-glass effect spice racks and the nests of wicker tables?
Anyway, there you go, Sir, I did bear your suggestion in mind and I did write about them bloody flats.
Although I have to say, you were pushing it when you asked me to try and settle that problem you’re having with the milkman (maybe he didn’t GET the note about the orange juice – did you think about that?).
**** Apologies for my absence, again. All I do is apologise to you, like a pathetic partner who has been unfaithful – or hit you – yet again. In my defence, I’ve been working on the mother of all freelance projects which has not only eaten my time, but also a vast proportion of my soul. So blame Satan and his tempting freelance jobs, that’s all I can say. Don’t tell me what you’d like me to write a column about. I’m not listening, even though I’m nodding ****