You've probably gathered by now that the book you're reading isn't the book I was supposed to write. This isn't a novel. This isn't a work of fiction; this is a true story. This is the story of what happened to me while I was supposed to be writing a novel. What can I say? We don't always get what we want in life, it's as simple as that. My parents always wanted a girl.
I started off with good intentions. I stared at the blank screen for at least 40 minutes before putting the kettle on, but making coffee was only the simplest form of displacement activity in which I indulged. It wasn't long before my CD collection was alphabetised, my wardrobe colour co-ordinated and my fridge defrosted but the worst distraction of all, was the computer.
Jake had said it would be just me, my imagination and my computer. He was wrong. My computer is connected to the internet and the internet contains everything in the whole wide world ever. I don't know about you, but I sometimes find everything in the whole wide world ever to be a bit distracting. Surely it's the curse of the modern world that so many people now work at a computer while the computer also provides the biggest distraction from work ever devised by man.
Even when I sat down at my desk with the best of intentions I would find myself thinking: I'll crack on with chapter one of the novel ... just as soon as I've checked my e-mails. Well, that's a day wiped out right there. After three weeks I had written one page. It read as follows:
Having written one whole page I reckoned I'd earned myself a proper break, so I thought I'd have a cup of coffee and quickly check my e-mails. For the seventh time that day. Amongst the mail from strangers offering me pornography, human growth hormones, generic viagra, cheap ink-jet cartridges, get-rich-quick schemes, get-rich-even-quicker schemes and get-rich-really-quick-no-honestly-we-mean-it schemes, there was one particular e-mail that caught may attention and pricked my curiosity.
The subject of the e-mail was 'Googlewhack', which meant nothing to me but seemed a curious enough word. The sender was a stranger but his e-mail address revealed that he was called Steven. I'm guessing that Steven is Australian. I don't know this for sure because obviously he didn't start his e-mail by saying Hello, I'm Australian, but he might as well have:
You see what I mean? It does have a certain antipodean flavour to it, doesn't it? It went on:
Did you know that you're a googlewhack?
Hmmm? Now, like I say, I'd never heard the term 'googlewhack' before and I didn't know who Stevo was. But it seemed to me there was a distinct possibility he was sending me some kind of Australian insult. After all, there is only one part of my anatomy I can imagine the folk down under calling a 'google' and Stevo seemed to be accusing me of whacking mine.
Well I don't know if you've ever tried writing a novel when you suspect a stranger on the other side of the world is sending you a random insult but let me tell you it just isn't possible. My mind just couldn't focus on anything else. Until I knew what a googlewhack was, there was simply no way my mind could concentrate elsewhere. So I hit the 'reply' button and fired off an e-mail to Stevo:
What the hell is a googlewhack?
That seemed to be more than enough work for one day. Besides, I'm sure I'd read somewhere that it was unwise to write on an empty stomach, and I was certain it was foolhardy to write a on an empty head. Right now, I had to fill my belly and my mind. I told myself that I would begin work, proper, the next morning and like a fool I believed me. Right now there was a restaurant to visit, friends to meet, food to eat, drink to drink and some thoughts to think.
I'd arranged to meet three mates, Goeff, Chris and Chris in a little restaurant tucked away on a Soho side street. It's a simple little place that serves simple food. They serve cheap plonk too but they didn't mind if you bring your own wine so we'd brought a couple of bottles of even cheaper plonk.
The conversation meandered, as good conversation so often does, but it returned time and again, to the possible meaning of 'googlewhack'. No-one at the table was at all sure, but most had a theory. Most of the theories agreed that it was probably some kind of Australian slang but no-one had a convincing explanation as to what it could mean.
'Maybe he's calling you a nutter? A headcase? Whacko?' offered one of the Chris's present.
'Or maybe he means you're ugly?' suggested the other Chris, 'Maybe looking at you is like being whacked in the goggles?'
'That would make me a gogglewhack,' I said, 'and according to Stevo I'm a googlewhack.'
'I reckon you were probably right first time. He's calling you a wanker,' said our waiter, Trevor who had joined the conversation and clearly wasn't overly concerned with tips.
'You're clearly not overly concerned with tips are you Trevor?'
'All right!,' he said, full of mock offence, 'No need to be such a googlewhack about it!'
It seemed that everyone who heard the phrase wanted to know what it meant. No-one was able to shrug it off and move the conversation on, so perhaps it's not surprising that when I got up the next morning and turned my computer on, ready to get to work (honest, Guv) the first thing I did was check my e-mails in the hope that Stevo had provided the answer. I wasn't disappointed.