The decline in this blog’s readership continues apace. Barely had the letter of complaint from the Tunisian High Commissioner crossed my desk than Judy informed me that a man had arrived to turn off our internet supply.
‘We’ve paid our bills, haven’t we?’ I asked the leisurely end of a pair of overalls sticking out from the cupboard beneath the stairs where the cable modem is hidden.
‘Don’t much matter,’ said the man. ‘We’re trying to reduce the overheads on our system by removing the low users. We’re beginning with the lowest and then working our way up to the moderates.’
‘Disconnecting many are you?’ I asked.
‘Don’t know,’ he replied. ‘You’re the first I’ve done. It means you must be the lowest user of the internet in the whole of the South East. Quite a feat. You mustn’t do much downloading.’
‘That might be true but I can’t be a low user,’ I said. ‘I write a blog!’
He appeared from the doorway. A thin moustache, gaunt face, sallow eyes, hair in black enamel. Think John Waters in overalls. ‘A blog?’ he asked.
‘The Richard Madeley Appreciation Society,’ I explained. ‘It’s big with the homeless and African polygamists.’
‘Oh, I’ve heard of you,’ he smiled, his cracked teeth appearing darker their tobacco stained cavity. ‘They were talking about you back at head office. You’re the big star of TV who can’t buy readership.’
‘Really?’ asked Judy. I hadn’t noticed her standing at the back of the room, otherwise I wouldn’t have mentioned my blog. She doesn’t know about the trouble I’ve been having. ‘You told me that there were thousands reading you,’ she said. ‘I thought you were bigger than Big Iain Dale or Devilish Kitchen Cabinet.’
‘Thousands?’ laughed the engineer. ‘From what I hear, he can’t get dozens. What was it yesterday? Twenty six? Twenty seven? ’
I shrugged. ‘It was actually twenty eight,’ I said. ‘But three of those were by the same person looking for information on Trevor Macdonald and the Jehovah Witnesses.’
Before any of you complain, I know I shouldn’t have been so blasé about the Witnesses. Nor should I have been so blasé when Judy fainted.
‘Don’t worry,’ I said to the engineer. ‘She always does that.’
‘Tits,’ said the man with a wink.
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘You need more tits.’
I looked down at my chest, a little confused.
‘Breasts,’ he said when it was apparent I didn’t follow his meaning. ‘Ladies with no clothes on? You need nubile young wenches with a preference for flimsy t-shirts, washing cars, and bad nozzles on hosepipes. Oh, Lor! Look what’s happened! You can see through my shirt. So you can. That sort of thing.’
He stroked his thin moustache and perched himself next to the vacuum cleaner. It was a seedy look, as if he had plans for poor little Henry’s dust bag. ‘If you want the hits, you need the tits,’ he smiled.
‘Are you saying that in order to become popular, I need to post…’
‘Pornography,’ he nodded. ‘Works for all the big blogs.’
‘I’m sure that’s not true.’
He crawled out from under the staircase. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘I’m leaving you with a connection so you can look into this. And if you don’t want to post porn, then post pictures of traffic accidents, or people falling over. But if you’re asking me, the solution to all of your problems lies with tits.’
I couldn’t ask any more because that’s when Judy started to come around. I also thought I’d better move her away from where she’d fallen in the fireplace. She started to come round as I extinguished the smoke coming from her right ear, otherwise she was only slightly singed.
The subject of tits did worry me, though. Later in the day, I thought I’d expore the engineer’s advice. I rang up my old friend Peter Stringfellow, who knows everything you need to know about that sort of thing. The poor man only looks so old because he spends so much of his time worrying about the well being of so many young ladies.
‘Look, Pete, I need some buxom young ladies for my blog,’ I said.
‘When do you need them?’
I looked at my watch. ‘How about eight o’clock tonight? Judy’s off to the cinema to watch something French. I’ll have the house to myself.’
Stringfellow’s hearing aid whined as he turned up the interrogation. ‘What you going to do with them?’ he asked.
‘I thought I’d photograph them in the nude, get them to fill in questionnaires, and then stick them in a taxi with the fare home.’
‘And Judy knows nothing about this?’
I then explained about the need for material for my blog and my pitifully low readership.
‘Twenty eight people?’ He laughs like partially stunned roadkill. ‘You must work hard to drive them away. But whatever you’re doing, I’m not lending you any of my girls. They’ll come back stinking of failure.’
Later that night, as we lay in bed, I put down my copy of Anne Enright’s The Gathering and I turned to Judy who is still trying to get through last year’s book club selection.
‘Do you remember than incident at that awards ceremony when you had your little accident with your top and I helped to tuck you away?’
Judy went pale.
‘Only, I was wondering if you have any pictures that I could post on my…’
I slept the rest of the night in the tool shed with a copy of ‘Salmon Fishing In The Yemen’ lodged nine inches beneath me. Later today, I’m going to see if Dr. Raj can remove it, but it’s from the shed that I’m writing this report.
Which explains today’s top tool shed facts. Did you know that the contents of the Madeley shed include one lawnmower, three spades, a fork, fertilizer, weed killer, a bucket (with hole), a bucket (without hole), a bucket with a brown liquid in the bottom, a bucket with a charity sticker on the side? Conclusion: we are a family of many buckets. In fact, more buckets than I have readers. Which remains, I think you agree, a perilous state of affairs.