The continuing adventures of a newbie, as e-mailed to a friend
Friday 16 Feb 1996 22.15.07

Newsgroups: alt.exercise.machines

Can anybody help me. I have just taken delivery of a brand-new SkiFit Pro 9000 deluxe Nordic skiing machine. Unfortunately, the accompanying information video neglects to advise the user about how to balance while skiiing. I mount the beast, clip my feet to the skis, lean forward to rest my torso against the waist restraint, grasp the strings in either hand, move my feet and - invariably - topple over and fall off into the laundry basket. Is there a knack?

Sig Dig

Friday 16 Feb 1996 22.19.41

Newsgroups: alt.authors.novels

Hello. I am an Englishman planning to write a novel set in the western United States some time between 1900 and 1960. If you have read The Horse Whisperer, by Nicholas Evans (also an Englishman), you will see the sort of thing I have in mind: rugged men, beautiful and wild country, freedom, guns, stallions, etc.

My problem is that living in the Crouch End area of London, I am a little remote from first-hand sources of information about burros, Colt 45s and canyons. But perhaps you are an American wanting to write a great novel set in London, but cannot get over here? I would swap Tales of the Smoke for Ballads of the Mesa. We could exchange information by e-mail to our mutual benefit.

Here's hoping. Digby Ponder. Londoner

Friday 16 Feb 1996 22.52.28

Rudy, old mate. All those hours of altering winsock over the phone are paying off. If I hear "now go into your autoexec.bat" from an exhausted helpdesk ever again, I'm off to Alaska.

What news? Great achievement of the week was a late-night session of soccer game PremierManager 2, culminating in a five-nil win for Barnet over Arsenal, who had three men sent off. You have to live here to appreciate the drama. Must admit, as I climbed the stairs to join Nadine in the land of Nod (she'd drunk a couple of barley wines in front of some arty French movie and was out of it), I did catch myself wondering what a man of 30 was doing spending Saturday night shouting "Yessss!" at pixellated footballers. Perhaps N is right, and having a kid would force the adult in me to emerge. Or, if it's a boy, me and the kid could play Euroleaguemanager 8 together.

I've stepped up my campaign to beat the flab. Resolved to have only one curry and one delivery pizza per week, and to do more exercise. Ruled out jogging, because of worrying level of local street crime (they hide behind trees and leap out to steal your personal stereos, and even peel off your cycle shorts at knife-point). So I have sent off a coupon from some outfit called the Fitness Factory and became the owner of a home Nordic Skier. It'll be great when I master it. Nadine, who has taken to averting her eyes when I undress, has said that if it helps me to lose 30lbs, it could breathe new life into our Sunday afternoons. Having some balance problems right now, but will let you know how I progress towards owning godlike physique.

Write me.

Sig your own, Dig

Saturday 17 Feb 1996 09.45.07

Dear Arnold from Maine, thank you for the offer of your account of life on the Great Cattle Trail from Nantucket to Martha's Vineyard. It is exactly the kind of thing I had in mind. Please include useful details, such as what you all wore, did you eat beans, etc.

Although it may be embarrassing, I quite see why a novel such as yours might require graphic description of certain acts. I should be ready to reveal all in a week or two's time. Yes, I am heterosexual.

Sig Dig

Saturday 17 Feb 1996 10.04.32

Dear Ski-master. Not quite sure that moving the laundry basket would help, since all it does at the moment is break the fall. And wouldn't nailing the skis down rather defeat the object of the exercise? Sure, so I wouldn't fall - in fact, I wouldn't move at all. Rather a slow way of getting fit, I'd say. Thanks all the same.

Sig Dig

Saturday 17 Feb 1996 10.05.58

Dear GrandPhoenix, I'm grateful for any assistance and ideas, but am puzzled as to how and why exactly it should be in the interests of the World Jewish Conspiracy to have fat white blokes drop off their fitness machines. Nordic sounds a bit more like your lot. And no, I don't want to know any more about the World Order of the Heirs of Charlemagne.

PS. Some of my best friends are Jewish. And black.

Saturday 17 Feb 1996 21.00.12

Arnold from Maine. Hoho. Good joke. Unfortunately, I do have an atlas and could check on the journey of those marine steers of yours. Nantucket to Martha's Vineyard - 15 miles - under water. Write your own dirty stuff.

Don't you have anything better to do than send stupid messages on the Net? Some of us are serious, you know.

Digby Ponder