It was Sunday and I was deep in that zone where all my best writing gets done; ears closed off to the world, eyes wide, nose flared with excitement as I hammered my fingers at the keyboard. The only discomfort was a slight rawness between my thighs caused by the friction of my constant swaying as I typed. Chapter 11 of my autobiography was turning out to be the most challenging yet; detailing, as it does, the struggles we faced establishing ‘This Morning’ as the UK’s premium show for bored housewives, melancholic students and the mentally impaired. My work frenzy was all the more intense because Judy had promised to stay away for most of the day. She was overseeing the installation of new baize at her Snooker and Pool Association’s clubhouse. I wanted to make the most of the time by taking my 30,000 words up to the wonderful milestone of 40,000. AKA: the Half Way Point.
After a couple of hours of typing, I finally sank back in my chair and stared at the latest paragraph of memoir. There on the page sat the following fifty three gloriously flowing words, hewn from the tree of memory, rich with the scent of happier days and the knowledge that my children and my children’s children would one day read these words and perhaps pay me tribute in the form of a tear or two.
"We were living in rented accommodation out on the Wirral while all this was happening. We were settling down to married life, coping with each other’s peculiarities. Judy had a terrible habit of leaving the toilet seat up. She, in turn, accused me of leaving my spare toupees soaking in the kitchen sink."
I was about to put fingers to keyboard and produce more of the same when the phone rang. I would have ignored it but for the recognisable tune I have it programmed to play whenever a call comes in from Stephen Fry. Since Stephen has come back from America, he’s also come back into my life and I always feel immensely comforted by that thought.
‘Heads up, Richard,’ said Stephen. ‘’Tis I, Fry, with troubling news involving the misappliance of science.’
‘You’re interrupting the writing of an autobiography that’s sure to establish my name in the world of literature,’ I said, not wanting to sound rude but irritated nonetheless. ‘It better be trouble. What is it this time? I’ve warned you about smoking your pipe in bed? Set fire to your cape again, haven't you?’
‘Nothing so minor,’ he answered. ‘I fear, Dick, that you are about to be overrun by a most virulent pest.’
‘Not mice again!’ I cried. ‘The last time I had mice, I got into the most awful trouble with my blog’s readers when I confessed to giving the mice mind-altering drugs and then sticking them down the garbage disposal.’
‘Were I a man with better news I might indeed utter the word “mice”,’ said Stephen. ‘However, ’tis I, Fry, uttering the phrase: “cloned versions of that famous TV psychiatrist, Professor Raj Persaud”.’
‘I beg your pardon?’
‘You are about to overrun by many cloned Dr. Rajs, if that is indeed the correct plural.’
‘Is there no end to this madness?’ I sobbed. ‘How much more of this tired joke do I have to take? You do realise that he’s launched his own blog in which he is basically copying all my best material.’
‘Perhaps he’s making a point about intertextuality within a postmodern culture,’ suggested Stephen.
‘Are you sure he’s that bright?’
‘Oh, I’m quite sure of it. Were you a more gifted writer, Dick, you too could play postmodern games with the notion of fame and the integrity of the first person narrative.’
‘I think he’s gone bonkers,’ I said, though quietly quite pleased to hear Stephen on such good form. Now do you see what I mean about it being good to have him back? It’s just quality advice at a level far higher than anything you get from the likes of Bill Oddie or that man Clarkson.
‘I can only pass on what I’ve heard,’ carried on Stephen and his voice dropped to a whisper. ‘I have it from friends in high places that there has been a sudden increase in the number of people claiming to be Dr. Raj Persaud. Bandwagons are being jumped, Dick. Bandwagons are being jumped. Mercy me!’
‘But why would people do such a thing?’
‘Why indeed except to create what we computer experts call “a denial of service attack” on your blog. I will write about it on a future “Dork Talk” but a précis of that piece would be the warning that in the coming day, many people will post comments in which they claim to be Dr. Raj. You have been told, Dick. End of communication. Fry out. Heavens!’
Could any sensible man ignore such a warning? I couldn’t work after news like that. What is the world coming to when people are hiding behind a psychiatrist in order to play some foolish charade? This, in my opinion, is the biggest problem with the Internet. Given that there are no rules or mechanisms in play to verify a person’s your identity, we have all kind of lunatics running around under pseudonyms like ‘ElephantBoy’ or ‘GrimReaper’. Even now, there are at least six ‘Richard Madeley’s on Facebook and only one of them is me. Then there’s
‘The Twitch’, ‘Elberry’, ‘Lola’, ‘Bertas’, ‘Nige’, ‘Okbye’: all of you are pseudonyms and don’t really exist. The only ones out there with real knees I could touch are ‘Richard Havers’ and ‘Selena Dreamy’. I’m liable to do something about this in the near future and might use my remaining shows on Channel 4 to demand that the government moves to outlaw this kind of behaviour.
These were all the thoughts going through my mind after Stephen’s phone call yesterday afternoon. After I had calmed myself down with a stiff drink, I returned to my desk armed for an onslaught and closed my autobiography for another day, the milestone still not reached. Literature would suffer because of these fools. Literature would suffer...