Having nothing to say is not uncommon

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The Independent Culture
THE MOST extraordinary thing just happened to me. I went into the kitchen of my lovely home - stove, sink, table, cupboard for food, everything, really, you get the picture - to make a cup of coffee. Using the kettle. Electric. Cordless. See? I like a cup of coffee around this time of day - I call it my "cup of coffee time" and it's just my time, do you see, just me and that "Mmmmm - coffee" sensation - and guess what happened?

Go on. Guess.

Well ... the telephone rang. It's a Philips Elegance model, digital answering machine, Cuckoo Mode to tell you whether you have messages (which I do. Oh yes. I have messages all right) and a Menu Function and everything, so I go to answer it and I have this, like, talk with the other person, the person who rang me up on my telephone, and then I go back to the kitchen with its actual floor and everything, lino, and I put milk in my coffee which I have made out of the kettle.

And then - then - it happens. I suddenly notice I've put milk in my coffee already so, well, I'm just, you know, stunned. I'm like, Hey, I put milk in my coffee twice now!

So anyway, right, I bring the coffee back to my desk - it's a great desk, you'd love it, made of real wood and it's got my things on it, my pipe, which I smoke, and my fan, and my actual computer, the actual one this very column is written on, and it's got my unpaid bills and threats and writs and summonses and this really cool mug with my, like, pens in it, and my ashtray, and my manly telescope just in case I see something invisible to the naked eye and need to have a look at it. That's what my desk is like, which I am sitting at as I write these very words which you are now reading in your lovely home - and I sit down and I start typing and ...

Not your problem. Not your problem that I have six marbled Florentine notebooks with nothing written in them at all because they seem too special to be written in. There are the loose-leaf notebooks that I can't use because the binding-rings get in the way of writing, and the Wiro-bound ones that I buy and make one note in and then lose. There are the big ones that are too big, and the fat ones that are too fat, and yellow quadrille French ones from Paper Chase, and craft-paper ones from Muji, and little black weatherproof-covered ones which make me self-conscious, here's the famous columnist writing in his little black book.

Then there are the Systems. I have invented more Systems than you could shake a stick at, if you were the sort of person who thought it was clever or interesting to go around shaking sticks at systems. The current system is that Things To Do go on the left-hand page of my Muji week-planner, while miscellaneous notes go in my equally Muji aluminium B5 ring-binder and rough notes go in my Pukka Pad Rough Book, and already we're in trouble because distinguishing between a Miscellaneous Note and a Rough Note would tax even the most meticulous intelligence, which mine is not. Mine is the sort that bursts if it gets within a hundred yards of anything resembling a sensible, workable system of self-organisation.

Which is why I have nothing to write about. I do have pages and pages of notes about an imaginary civilisation, and a whole notebook devoted to a bug movie, and half a one devoted to Speak Italian In Three Months (and I wonder why nobody has ever written Italian For Football Fans? At The Bar: "Speak English, you greasy wop b******d.")

Which, in turn, has reminded me what I wanted to write about.


I know I wrote about football the other week but it's come back again. I was on a radio programme and they were all talking about football and I said I hate football and they said why do you hate football and I said because it lacks elegance, it is nasty, it has no depth or resonance, blah blah Wagner blah Foucault blah blah Diaghilev yadda yadda, like a nancy boy, and it only occurred to me afterwards that I was a coward, too cowardly to say I do not like football because football is COMMON.

Which it is, of course, but we aren't allowed to say so any more. Which is odd, because I spent much of my early childhood being taught that you didn't do things because they were common and now nobody says it any more, as though the whole concept of Common has vanished mysteriously, like a conspiracy, and I would like to put my finger on exactly when we stopped mentioning it, and why.

And don't pretend you don't know what I am talking about. Holding your knife like a pen is common, and dropping your aitches, and licking your plate. It's common to cut your roll with your knife and to wear a ready- made bow tie and say "pardon" and scratch your balls and eat in the street and watch television and shout and drink beer in pubs and talk about Ladies and show emotion and get excited and laugh aloud and enjoy things. Mohammed Fayed is common and Jeffrey Archer is common and Oasis are common but Boyzone aren't. It's common to like Tretchikoff and Mantovani and Brookside (but not common to like EastEnders).

Time to man the barricades and put an end to the confusion. I myself am terribly well brought-up, as you can tell from my well-worn tweed coat and vague, louche air, but on the other hand I self-confessedly write things down in a notebook and, when at a loss, bang on endlessly about my lovely home. Which makes me common. And you know what? I'm relieved. EN-gland! EN-gland! Wot YOU lookin a'? Punch inna FROTE! !