Tuesday 16 September 2008

In an uncontrolled downward spiral, trying to look up

14st 4lb, despite zero alcohol yesterday; 1,238; Glanton.

I woke early and decided to JFDI, as I know I should, yet failed to make it to my desk to write the incisive and hilarious business column I had planned. Somehow hilarity seemed inappropriate from the moment when I switched on the Today programme and heard the first reports of the plunge in Far Eastern markets, which had been closed for a Help Old People Across The Road holiday yesterday, or something of the sort. Having gained some notoriety by insisting on cracking on with drafting a profit warning on the afternoon of 11 September 2001, while all my then colleagues were glued to the TV coverage from the World Trade Center, I decided that today I would stay in touch with history in the making. Morbidly fascinating it was, too, and at least I had got three weeks’ worth of accumulated ironing done by the time Today finished, and the aptly-named Michael Buerk was granted half an hour of airtime to interviewing some bloke whose mother had devoted her life to concealing his Jewish ancestry from him, and who had paid her back by becoming a rabbi. I could just about hear him above the background noise of a barrel being scraped in the producer’s office at The Choice.

When I finally reached my desk, the first thing I did was to open a rather disheartening e-mail asking what I meant by a “non-stick frying man” in my column in today’s paper. I was even more disheartened when I checked and discovered that the mistake was mine rather than theirs. One of the few things on which I rated myself highly was my skill as a proof-reader. Now plainly I have lost even that. I replied rather icily that it should have been obvious to anyone of the meanest intelligence that I meant a non-stick frying pan. And later in the morning someone with a greater lateral thinking capacity than mine (not that that is saying much) helpfully pointed out that I could turn this error to my advantage by using it as the launch-pad for a new Geordie super-hero, Non-Stick Frying Man. With his faithful assistant Jumbo Battered Sausage Girl and their politically correct, ethnically diverse and more intelligent mentor, Curry Sauce. I thought about writing a first adventure in which they took on Mike Ashley, but did not fancy Jumbo Battered Sausage Girl’s chances of surviving the encounter, so instead wasted a couple of hours faffing around with my new MacBook. No, in fact, what I was doing was not faffing around but making a sensible investment for the future which will pay huge dividends over time. A bit like Network Rail’s apparently endless upgrade of the West Coast Main Line.

By lunchtime I was so depressed that I could think of nothing more likely to cheer me up then going to what passes for my local. So I winkled an old friend out of his caravan [sic] and walked across to the pub, where my hopes of a hot lunch were dashed by the fact that our friendly local electrical power company had turned off its supply for the day, while they dealt with some of the after-effects of the recent flooding. The barmaid plainly hoped that we would turn around and go somewhere else, but my friend and I were made of sterner stuff than that. And so we sat there in the gloom and the cold, with our overcoats on, drinking pints of hand-pumped beer and challenging our crowns and fillings with pork scratchings. It surely says much about the depths to which my morale had sunk before I entered the pub when I say that I was definitely more cheerful when I came out. Though maybe it was a bit like hitting your head against a brick wall: lovely when it stops.

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