I am sitting here by an open fire, dogs, whisky and cigar handy but suffering from abuse by every passing moron who pretends he is capable of reading a book; in this case my exciting new crime novel, Murder In A Cold Climate (“Complex mystery, funny with terrific dialogue,” the Guardian).
I sneer at the abuse; I gaze into the future, like Moses on Pisgah looking out at the distant Promised Land, and I see the BBC’s Antiques Road Show.
A LITTLE OLD LADY ENTERS THE BLOG
“Young man,” she says, “is a Pisgah a Czechoslovakian scooter? What, pray, is this blog supposed to be about?”
“I hope, Madam, that it is light-hearted.”
“Do you want a knee-slapper?” Do you know the one about the Duchess and the housemaid? Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. The Duchess says ‘Do you know anything of the Duke’s whereabouts?’”
“Dear little Old Lady,” I said. “Do we have to have this?”
“Yes, we do, Stanislaus. The housemaid said, ‘They’re at the wash.’ Get it?”
“I wish I didn’t.”
“Then go back, Stanislaus, to the BBC’s Antique Road Show.”
Yes, I see this is the future. A descendent of mine, perhaps my great-great grandson, staggers forward with a massive bundle in this arms.
“I found this in the cellar,” he says. “Do you think they may be worth something?”
“Do you know what it is?” says the smarmy expert.
“How would I know, I’m just a guy with a cellar,” the descendent says.
“I haven’t seen one of these in years,” the expert says. “It is a manuscript.”
“It is a novel written in longhand.”
“Yes, they also had shorthand. It was an exciting time.”
The expert leans over leafing through a number of pages.
“It is a novel of the classic American crime fiction variety, Murder In A Cold Climate. Unheard of now.”
“I can throw it away then?”
“Sir, do not you dare. Take it to a museum. To Yale or Harvard, the University of Texas or Boston University, they will buy it. Boston University once offered to buy a typescript of Michael Frayn’s, saying it would be preserved for all time. He didn’t go for it. John Updike left his manuscripts to Harvard.”
After all, a writer has to think of the future.
My little imagining ends there. It was inspired by my decade spent scribbling with Pure Liquid Ink pens. Would the effort, I wondered, be completely useless?
I used to type, with two fingers, which was better than Evelyn Waugh or his son Bron who could not use typewriters. Someone typed their copy. I looked down on them for that until the electric typewriter entered . For some reason I could not use one. Then those new gadgets, the personal computers, appeared.
I now employ a typist who puts my longhand into a laptop, but, as I said, I do not throw the scribbling away.
THE LITTLE OLD LADY RE-ENTERS
“Young Stanisalus, is that it? What you need is another knee-slapper. Do you know this one? There once was a hermit called Dave. . .”
We unplugged the Little Old Lady.
The rest is silence.