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BRITAIN'S BEST-LOVED REPLACEMENT COLUMNIST

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HI AGAIN. Here I am, back for week number two, and if I do say so myself, I thought last week's column went extremely well. The response for the most part has been overwhelmingly positive - at least in the sense that no news is good news. I seem to have the tacit approval of just about everybody, although that has not stopped the usual cranks from the shires sending me ideas for things to write about, for example, "something, anything" - Mrs J Randall, Bucks. (Italics hers.)

My only complaint - and I realise this is perhaps not the time or place to voice it - is the way the picture came out. Granted the photo, taken by my girlfriend on the deck of a ferry coming back from a romantic day trip to Calais, was backlit and underexposed to begin with, but it prints as an almost complete silhouette!

Like it or not - and believe me I don't like it at all - the picture byline is now an important facet of a columnist's standing and reputation. In my experience, unless they recognise both the "name" and the "face" at places like the Met Bar and Soho House, they tend simply to go by whether your "name" is on the guest list.

Although I'm not at all aggressive or even much of a club-goer, it was just such a misunderstanding that led to my one and only fist-fight since leaving school, with Julie Burchill in the Groucho in 1989. I still maintain that it wasn't really about whether I was "invited" or not, and had more to do with me spending the change from the twenty she gave me to go and get her some fags. In any case, it was a long time ago. I'm sure that it was not the first literary feud rooted in something as trifling as pounds 17.85.

Speaking of people called Julie, my girlfriend Julie (not her real name) and I are still in the tortuous process of, for want of a better term, "breaking up". I know that I am partly to blame for the time it has taken for both of us to adjust to the change, but I would also maintain that her persistent refusal to return my calls or e-mails has hampered the important ritual of "talking it through".

In the seven and a half months since she first moved out, the level of communication has dropped to a point where I'm not sure if she knows that her boss has banned me from the book shop. Perhaps my mistake was accepting the break-up with dignity and equanimity at the time, hoping she would reconsider when she saw how maturely I was handling it. I wasn't prepared for the fact that her absence would lay waste to my life, leaving me desolate, unable to laugh, or cry, or even to dream.

By the way, am I the only one who likes the new pounds 2 coin? I predict it will be a tremendous hit in the end. People are always resistant to new currency designs, as I pointed out many years ago in an article called "Am I The Only One Who Likes The New 5p Coin?" Perhaps, as a coin collector, I'm more open to change, but in my opinion the new "2 Pounder", as I have taken to calling it, is a truly original design, exactly like the 10 franc coin or the Italian whatsit. It possesses both a two-toned Euro- look and a quintessential Britishness, so it should appeal to single currency enthusiasts (like me) and sceptics (myself included) alike. Roll on, new 20p bit! Or how about a 25p bit? A "Quarter Pounder"!

While we are on the subject of Europe, I should say that I'll be on holiday next week, staying with my brother at his house in Umbria. A holiday replacement columnist on holiday - how much more post-modern can you get?

Trust me "to boldly go" (as the infinitive-splitting new OED would allow me to boldly put it) where no columnist has gone before! Of course, it won't be a real holiday because I'll be taking my laptop so I can continue to boldly bash out my column while sitting drunk by the pool, and because, technically, my brother and his wife are paying me to look after the kids. But believe me, you still have every reason to boldly be jealous.

Incidentally, I will be able to boldly send and receive e-mail while I'm out there, in case anyone would like to boldly get in touch and talk about where things stand with us. Julie (not Burchill), this means you.

Wallace Arnold is away.

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