It was a strange way to return to the UK. After spending two weeks in Ottawa, I switched on the BBC to find William Shatner not only hosting Have I Got News for You, but singing his own post-structural version of Oh Canada, as a way to spur Ian Hislop, Paul Merton and company to identify a Canadian story that had been in the news. Following a mortifying whoop from some gormless Canuck in the audience, comedian Charlie Brooker cracked something to the effect of, ‘Canadian news story? Isn’t that an oxymoron?’ None of the guests had a clue and likely for good reason – the story was about some artist who had painted a nude portrait of Prime Minister Stephen Harper. I hadn’t heard the story when in Canada – riotous Montreal and Ryder Hjesdal were justifiably garnering (Garmining?) the headlines instead – but it was just the type of idiosyncratic story that would make headlines in the UK about its most awkward colonial offspring. If it’s not some guy beheading someone on a Greyhound in Manitoba or Vancouver rioting over their Stanley Cup failures, it’s the decision of someone at Travel Alberta to sell the idea of visiting Alberta by using pictures of children on a beach in Northumbria (sigh, hadn’t they heard of Lesser Slave Lake?). Maybe someday Canada will have a debt crisis or another charismatic (and hopefully fully clad) prime minister or something, but until then, I suppose we’ll just have to tolerate being slightly bland and occasionally bizarre. A little like Belgium, another one of my favourite places.
It has been an email I have been anticipating for a few weeks now – the one from my publisher asking me to drop everything for the next week or so and index my book. Now I know some people, more established, monied, intelligent (and less parsimonious) do the sensible thing and simply pay some lackey with a computer programme to do their indexing for them. I say they are missing out. Indexing is fab! You get to go through your book page by page identifying the most important morsels of text and get to assign page numbers to where they occur! It’s great! Instead of a dumb-ass computer programme deciding that the word ‘armpit’ should have a prominent place in your index, you can determine for yourself where people too uninterested to actually read your book will be directed in their failed attempts to see if you the keywords you were forced to assign to your beloved baby actually turn up somewhere in the pages. It’s almost a kind of panopticon! Who could ask for anything more?
The sad thing is that I’m not kidding. Indexing is kind of fun, providing you have the time to do it and you’re not so abysmally sick of your book that the mere sight of it makes you want to throw yourself in front of the nearest garbage truck (the Jack Russell I nearly ran over this morning on my bicycle must have penned a monograph recently). Perhaps the fact that I am enjoying the task means that my book ain’t half bad? One can always hope.