Deborah Ross: Our woman in Crouch End

I've had a brilliant and original idea for a Christmas bestseller, but I need your help
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The Independent Online

Damn. Damn, damn, damn, damn, damn, damn. I meant to bring out a little must-have book for Christmas of the best-selling kind but then I clean forgot. I think these sort of books have to be put together some time in the preceding May, and while I can't say for certain what I was doing last May, it was obviously something extremely important that had nothing to do with watching excessive amounts of daytime television which, in any case, has never been the same since the demise of Watercolour Challenge.

True enough, there is now Brush Strokes with Carol Smillie but I'm led to believe, by those who keep up with this sort of thing, who might be people of a lazy nature, pensioners, and especially pensioners of a lazy nature, that she is no replacement for the lovely Hannah Gordon and her sensible cardigan. That is what I've been told and I have no reason to doubt it, even though I've never watched the programme myself and so can't comment on the fact that the winner only receives a small paintbrush which, to some, may seem something of a paltry reward for a great deal of effort and a lot of squinting at stately homes.

Rave reviews

Still, all is not lost, I hope, because having had a brilliant and original idea for a book long after someone else has had it I have managed to come up with Why Do Some People Take Forever At The Cashpoint?, a compilation of puzzling enquiries and informed answers made up by me on the spot just now. Although it has yet to be published, it has already received rave reviews on Amazon as follows:

0 out of 0 people found this review helpful but you have to accept you cannot please all of the people all of the time and many of them are dumb.

HHHHH

Reviewer: a reader who is no relation to author aside from being the very same.

I love this book which is now my favourite book ever. I've still got no idea why some people take forever at the cashpoint - what are they doing, with their shoulders all hunched up like that, and why is it taking them all day? - but I think it's a question well worth asking. I would heartily recommend this book to anyone who will pay royally upfront for something that has yet to come out and is based on a brilliant and original idea had by someone else.

Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought: Water Colour Challenge, The Glory Years (The Lazy Pensioner Press); Hannah And Her Cardigans (Low-Profile Publishing). The movie of Hannah And Her Cardigans is also available on DVD and stars Hannah and her cardigans.

Puzzling queries

The following is an extract from the book, which may lead to a puzzling query in itself: where are the informed answers? Well, I am hoping you will respond with the informed answers because then, in effect, you can write the book while I cash in. I would like, at this point, to thank my family who have been no support whatsoever and never have been, but that is the cross I have to bear. Here goes:

Why do people who work in health food shops always look so sickly?

Why do I always want to punch that Rachel Elnaugh from Dragon's Den in the face? *

If I could somehow time travel back to the big bang and moment of creation, would I have anywhere to watch it from?

If you put a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the same room and left them to fight it out, which would win?

What is a "lifestyle" and where can I buy one?

While it is not uncommon to hear someone coughing in their sleep, how come I've never heard anybody sneeze?

Why does bottled water have a "best by" date on it?

Why are men who carry their change in little coin purses always so spooky and impossible to take seriously?

Does everyone have a jar of some mad chutney bought on a whim at the back of at least one kitchen cupboard?

Why do two little white lines appear in the corner of a television programme just before the ad break?

If you can't teach an old dog new tricks, how come Woofie, our lovely, ancient Labrador, recently worked his way though Marvyn's First Magic Box and put on a wonderful show?

Why do poor people on benefits always have such big televisions?

As a dog has a very developed sense of smell, and smell is linked to taste, does a dog also have a very developed sense of taste? (And, if so, does it think "Oh no, not the same bloody stuff from a tin again" at every meal?)

Why, after Hannah and her Cardigans, did the Cardigans never make another movie?

Can lactose ever be people-intolerant?

How do you plant seedless grapes?

Why does the Inland Revenue pursue people even when they live by the seaside?

What distinguishes a satsuma from a clementine, a clementine from a mandarin, a mandarin from a tangerine and which is the best?

What's it all about, pussy-cat?

If you know the answer to any of these questions please, please let me know because then I've got next week's column written without having to lift a finger.

(* This may be because of the way she looks down her nose at everybody. If she had two noses, I'm minded to think that she'd even use one nose to look down on the other one).

d.ross@independent.co.uk

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