Forget the silly season, I have one all year round

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The Independent Online
Ever had the kind of week when anything inappropriate that you can think of to say pops irretrievably from your mouth, and every manhole seems to open specially for you to fall into? The type of week when you find yourself discussing your fat bum with complete strangers, and leaving magnificent tips for waiters who've dribbled olive oil on you. You badmouth several people, for no particularly urgent reasons and then realise they may have been within earshot. So unnecessary, you begin to think you must be mad! Or you're walking down the street, believing yourself to be quite alone and therefore free to fart in peace, and within 10 seconds a person passes you who was obviously right behind you all along and getting ahead of you is his only hope. That's the sort of week I've had. That's the sort of life I've had.

But at least I didn't get hit in the mouth by a golf ball while riding in a car, like one poor girl in West Sussex (they weren't even anywhere near a golf course!), and I'm glad not to be the cyclist who was swept up in a road-sweeping machine, in which he remained for 40 minutes. Nor have I sunk to the depths described by Di's former PR aide Jane Atkinson, who's astonished by the suggestion that Di was jealous of her. Speaking in PR Week magazine, Atkinson said: "What has she got to be jealous about? She is one of the most influential and powerful women in the world. I'm 49, mortgaged to the hilt and wear Marks & Spencer suits." That would be the end!

Contact with fellow human beings is essentially unwise; from it stems almost every form of ruin (other than that caused by falling into molten lava or miscalculating the landing of a hot-air balloon). I make enemies just by stepping outside my front door, or even hiding behind it.

The literary world is notoriously full of enmity, all fuelled so well by book reviews, prizes, Arts Council grants and lists of the young and the best novelists. I was surprised that Salman Rushdie participated in the 1993 list of Best of Young British Novelists - you'd think he had enough enemies already. The selectors of the Best of Young American Novelists have no doubt made more enemies than friends. According to David Lodge in the New York Review of Books, the work of the newly lauded and applauded Americans is rather tame, and bears all the hallmarks of the much ridiculed Creative Writing Course. Many of the winners have MAs in Creative Writing - about as meaningful as an A-level in Art (a sore point, since I failed mine for not using enough colour).

In the form of escalating negatives, Lodge more or less offers a recipe for sprightlier stuff: "Apart from the occasional dream or fantasy [in Granta's excerpts from the Best Young American novels] ... there is no surrealism, no magic realism, no mythic subtext, no overt intertextuality, no meta- fictional frame-breaking, no word games, no abrupt switches of style or ... discourse, no parody, no radical deviation from well-formed syntax, no unconventional layout and typography." He ought to know what he's talking about. Changing Places and Small World are little masterpieces. Give me some of that meta-fictional frame-breaking quick.

My own gripe with one of the judges, Anne Tyler, connects with my generally doomed week. I tried frying some chicken according to instructions fairly clearly laid out near the end of her novel Breathing Lessons, and after an hour the pan was caked with burnt batter and the chicken was still raw. Time for pistols at dawn, I think.

I was one of five judges on the Irish Times/Aer Lingus prize a few years ago, which involved a lot of plane trips to Dublin, a few meetings and dinners, and about 50 books. Unbearable. I made the requisite number of enemies, particularly at the Irish Times, but liked my fellow judges.

One was Josephine Hart, author of books which apparently came into her head by themselves, which cuts a few awkward corners in the writing process. She was great to talk to but would keep mentioning someone named Maurice. I never knew who this Maurice was. Now everyone knows who he is: her husband, the M of M and C Saatchi. I think they need more colour in their ads myself.

Queen: Come along, children. As it's raining, we might as well hold the AGM of our Way Ahead Group. We want to stay way ahead of our critics, after all. Anyway, I feel like discussing the monarchy.

Charles: Oh, must we? I'm in the middle of a Monopoly game here, and I've just got hold of Pall Mall.

Edward: It'd be a lot more fun if Di hadn't stolen all the houses and hotels.

Queen: Where's your brother, the big one?

Edward: Andrew? Either upstairs in bed, longing for Koo, or out shooting big helpless birds.

Queen: I won't have it. This was meant to be a family holiday!

Charles: Don't you think we might all be getting a little old for these family get-togethers, Mummy?

Queen: But our get-togethers are hard work, Charles. Difficult, important work.

Anne: Yes, we can't all spend our time planting flower meadows and objecting to the odd building being built. Sometimes one is called upon to make a real contribution to society.

Charles: I'll have you know I've been bestowing very good ginger biscuits on our subjects for years now.

Philip: (waking from a nap) kummmkmnbaaghhhh ... Let them eat cake, that's what I say.

Queen: Oh, I do wish he wouldn't snore so. But what can one expect from a ... foreigner?

Anne: I'm sorry, but I'm not coming to the meeting unless I get to be Chairman this time. I'm sick of writing the bloody Minutes.

Queen: Yes, we must get a better role for you, Anne. Now come along, everyone. And do put some clothes on, Edward. There are no paparazzi here.

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