I have always considered this little potpourri (lit. ‘bowl of dried-up, odourless husks’) of mine to be a particularly British affair in subject matter, points of reference and use of language, particularly colloquialisms (try saying that with a face full of Mars Bar – or spelling it with a head full of cotton wool) and idioms. It has therefore always come as something of a surprise to me to find that my resident English readers are far from dominant. Australia, New Zealand and Canada I kind of understand – old colonial ties and extended families could mean that my turns of phrase might be slightly more familiar to the ear; that my use of extended metaphor might not sound quite so much like a message from Alpha Centauri – and to some extent I get (and am certainly very grateful for) the welcoming hands across the ocean from USA: we are separated by a common language, but I think we get one another most of the time. (With the exception of almost every word ever uttered by Donald Trump or Mickey Rourke, I can personally understand almost 90% of the American version of my language – most of which appears to involve dropping perfectly good letters from words and turning trollies into jockeys – providing it is not spoken by Joey out of Friends.) In India, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Kenya, Madagascar and South Africa a very satisfactory number of people manage to make a little space in the day to spend a moment of time with me. I am thrilled to find that I have readers all over the world, although I cannot help but wonder what some of you make of it all – please let me know – and am particularly bemused by my popularity in Romania, where, I think I might be becoming a bit of a cult (although I am not quite certain that I have translated that correctly). To my one reader in the Philippines, I would just like you to know that I have my suitcase packed – please send the address. I appear to have lost my Russian and Chinese readers recently and I am really sorry about that – we all need to talk to understand – and I presume that my single French reader peruses my weekly output with an ironic Gallic glint in the eye and the kind of shrug of the shoulders that assures me, however low my opinion of myself, I am completely right to hold it.
Now, I am sure that you are wondering what has brought this to the fleeting attention of my restless and febrile brain. Well, for as long as I can remember – depending on whether I have just entered, or left the room – I have toyed with the idea of writing a detective yarn with, should anybody have the slightest recollection of it, just the faintest hint of Adam Adamant* about it, (No! Not Adam Ant. That would just be silly.) although I’m not 100% certain I don’t mean Hadleigh*. The concept is not a difficult one – if you haven’t done so before, I can only recommend that you read Conan Doyle’s ‘Sherlock Holmes’ books** to enjoy the sly, and very clever humour that runs through them – my problem is that for as long as I have been mulling over this particular enterprise, I have had but a single name in mind for my hero: Armitage Shanks. It makes me smile every time I think of it, and then I wonder, would you get the joke wherever you may live? Would I have to employ a translator simply to work on a nation-by-nation version of the hero’s name? It worried me for a long time. It stopped me properly setting my mind to the task, but now I realise, that if my very good friends from Poland, Ecuador and Taiwan can get their heads around this little junket, then a man named after a toilet should be a doddle for them.
*Come on, you’re educated people, I’m sure you can always Google it.
**Gerald Harper himself, by the way, would have made a particularly fine Holmes.