Without e-mail how would I have an inner life?

Bill Eke, Dr Kimi and his many counterparts are my imaginary friends; voices who talk only to me and whom no one else knows about
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The Independent Online

An e-mail arrives, addressed to me personally. It comes, it tells me proudly, "from the desk of Dr James Gorii" and begins: "It is with my profound dignity that I write you this very important and highly confidential letter." Dr Gorii, it seems, is looking for a business partner, and has alighted upon me.

An e-mail arrives, addressed to me personally. It comes, it tells me proudly, "from the desk of Dr James Gorii" and begins: "It is with my profound dignity that I write you this very important and highly confidential letter." Dr Gorii, it seems, is looking for a business partner, and has alighted upon me.

The idea is that if I give him full details of my bank account, then he will pay into it several million dollars belonging to a Nigerian state company. These millions will subsequently be transferred who knows where, leaving a hefty commission sitting there waiting for me. What better way could there be for the Nigerian government to conduct its financial affairs, than through the standard bank account of a London journalist, where $31,000,000 going in and out in a single week would never be noticed?

This is a well-known scam, and I am now receiving one or two such e-mails every single day. I turn on the computer each morning, wondering in exactly what words the inventive African con-men will frame today's improbable offer. Will it be "Mr William (Bill) Eke, Bank Manager of International Merchant Bank of Nigeria, Lagos Branch" (Lagos branch! Lagos is bigger than London, for God's sake!) reassuring me of his good intentions? Or perhaps "Dr Babagana Kimi", member of a contract review panel ("CRP") appointed by the President of Nigeria, will repeat his offer of "taking liberty anchored on a strong desire to solicit assistance" in an amazing "risk-free and mutually beneficial" transaction.

Whoever it is, Bill Eke, Dr Kimi and their many counterparts are becoming an important part of my most private life. They are my imaginary friends; voices who talk only to me and who no one else knows about. Together they constitute a parallel existence, which I have partly brought into existence, but which is also partly the consequence of chance.

When I was a bumptious, argumentative youth of 16 or so, a couple of friends and their Buddhist parents gave me a lift from Derbyshire to London in a VW hippy microbus. They all took their mild revenge on me by getting me to play the "yes, no, maybe" game. This is how you play. First you need a sap who doesn't know either the rules or the name of the game, while the rest of you do. Then you tell him that everyone in the room – but he – knows a true story that involves a mutual friend. He has to guess what the story is by asking questions; questions that can only elicit one of three responses – yes, no or maybe.

Actually there is no story. The answers are triggered by the last letter of the last word of each question. A vowel gets a "yes", a consonant earns a "no", and a "y" leads to "maybe". But in the meantime (and this can be for as long as you like) the guesser manufactures his own story, guided by the most capricious gods imaginable. If it's a filthy tale then it's his own fault – that's what was lying around in his own mental junk-room.

So when alien archaeologists from the Outworld come searching for the lost civilisation of Man, and find only the inbox from my e-mail server, what will they make of my life?

Well, after noting my many friends in high places in Nigeria, they will decide that I was also impotent, poorly endowed and American. Why else should I have solicited so many offers of Viagra, so many invitations to try out penis enlargement ("add up to 4 inches") and so many telephone numbers for Californian sex clinics? Above all, why did I receive a whole tranche of e-mails promising me that, upon embarking on a course of herbal pills, I would be able to increase the volume of my ejaculation by 581 per cent?

The – by now alarmed – aliens may also wonder whether I ever played Quacko Lotto, took out an American mortgage or bought a subscription to the Teenage Vixens website. What they won't know is that all these communications came to me simply because my e-mail address has appeared in public, that they are purely random elements in my electronic private life.

Others are less accidental. Many arrive because I am a journalist and have put my e-mail address below my articles. Some want to tell me something important about themselves, as in the succinct: "Greetings from Scientist Doctor Salim Issa Abdelrahim Abusamid. Undoubtedly I am the founder of the Intranet."

I find myself corresponding with Americans who have never seen an Independent in their lives, but whose search engines have thrown up old articles of mine. A few are like Stepp from Texas who wrote to me to say that he wasn't at all surprised that I liked the Queen since the monarchy "were the ones that LET your kind (ie Jews) take over most of British society, when the people wanted you all out". When (for reasons that I can't explain) I replied, pointing our that the regicide Cromwell was actually the man who readmitted the Jews to Britain, Stepp was unfazed.

"Oh I know very much," he said, "that it was Cromwell let you back in, after all the Dutch Jews paid for his war." He then provided me with information showing that the royals were all originally Crimean Tartars. Jewish Crimean Tartars.

Mr Ivor Catt (honestly) is angry with me. So are his friends. They are having a conversation about what a bad journalist I am, and sending me copies of everything they say to each other. It is all because of the piece I wrote about Patricia Amos, the mother who was jailed for keeping her children out of school. I think that children should be educated, so I am trying to usher in a "global totalitarian socialist gynarchia", whatever that is. "When it is all over," apparently, "all of our children will be in the care, custody and control of the State". I notice that one of their number is an ally of the historian and racist, David Irving. No answer needed.

Stuff pours in from organisations. There are good things from the Fabian Society and the think-tank the IPPR, but an almost daily incontinent torrent of tendentious rubbish from a Mr George Eustice, campaign director of the anti-euro campaign. You think the referendum campaign will be fun? Think again. Millions of words of propaganda arrive from pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian organisations, passing each other angrily in the cyber-night. And then there are the media studies students who want help with their essays and write e-mails requesting that I pen a page or so on, say, "nationalism in the press" by return.

Thank God, then, for the e-mails from real readers of the paper (and my apologies to those I have never replied to), from my changing band of regulars, from old, lost friends who have found me on the Net – especially to Dougie in Australia. These – together with the updates from Tottenham Hotspur, the Everyman Cinema and The New York Times, are the bits of the story that I feel have most to do with me.

One day (I fantasise) I will host a party, and all of my correspondents will be there. Bill Eke will shoot the breeze with a Viagra salesman, the true inventor of the intranet will dance all night with Ivor Catt. And George Eustice will be shown how to decrease the volume of his emissions by a lot more than 581 per cent.

David.Aaronovitch@btinternet.com

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