I won't pretend to you it's all gravy, this business of wrenching myself away from the teet of withering hatred that is the Daily Mail. Not at all. There are times when it almost seems that my meandering mission - if you can call it that - to extricate myself from the barbed tiger-cage isn't going so well. Without my muse (you could see it as more of an anti-muse) it's become a little surreal at times.
I put that down to my imagination beginning to think about things a little more creative than millions of spongeing asylum seekers waiting at Calais to come over here and siphon off our hard-earned taxes, or hooded children looking at bad things on the internet and then bludgeoning formerly-hard-working-pensioners around the face with big sticks covered in knives and acid. Now my imagination can take flight with new ideas.
Turning into Lewis Collins in the Professionals, as I did the other day when confronted with the ominous crinkle of a Daily Mail page in the office, was only the beginning, it seems.
Now, I am beginning to develop what I can only call a form of cabin fever, and I've started to speak to my flask of weak blackcurrant squash as if it's a living thing. All of a sudden - and I don't know how to explain how this has happened, other than to say it simply has - I have taken to running ideas past it to see what it has to say. It's as if I'm telling these stories to the flask - it has become Padma to my Saleem, if you like - in the hope I can explain things better. But, worse than that, the Flask seems to have more of a grip on reality than I do.
"That's all very well," says Flask, sternly, not moving from its vantage point next to the monitor but still giving me what I can only describe as a despairing glance from its shiny surface, "but I'm beginning to get the feeling that people are tiring of your MacGuffin and your Dave Gorman-style capers. This isn't a fucking Edinburgh show, you know; you don't need a theme, or a peg upon which to hang things."
I look back coldly at Flask. What he has said has hurt me, of course, and I know that in a sense he is right. Sometimes, it takes a friend to tell you when you know things aren't going well, but it's almost as if I am not ready to face that truth on this one. "Look Flask," I growl, returning to my typing, "I am aware that you have my best interests at heart, but this is very much something that I have to do, for now. You wouldn't understand how much my life has improved since I started giving up that horrible thing."
"Oh, but look at you," he sighs, continuing to keep the blackcurrant squash cool all the while (never let it be said he is not a multi-tasker), "You're talking to a ruddy flask. Look at me! Look at you. Look at us both. Is this helping anyone? Why don't you just look at a front page or something and satisfy your curiosity?"
"Well, I suppose I..." I begin, but then I'm struck by something. "Wait a moment. Why would you want me to start looking at the Mail again? I knew that blackcurrant squash tasted a bit evil..."
We struggle on the dusty carpet, exchanging blows and vicious kicks. Bruised and grazed but still able to fight for my life, I take his plastic lid in my hands, and with a mighty effort, rip it off, unmasking him.
"So it's you," I wheeze, looking at Paul Dacre's bloodied face. An impeccable disguise, but luckily I had kept my wits about me, even during a low point.
"You may have unmasked me," cries Dacre, divesting himself of his flask costume and diving through the window, "But I live to fight again! Hahahahaha! I'll get you!"
That was a close one. You keep your friends close, but your enemies closer, they say. I just hadn't realised how close.
(Honestly, I'm all right. Don't walk away backwards smiling and nodding, reaching for your mobile phone to call the authorities. Everything is tickety-boo)
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