I wish my writing job had yielded even half as much as the $15 an hour I pay both my wonderful Mexican cleaner and my sublime Mexican Spanish teacher. Come to think of it, I would even settle for a quarter. Surely not, I hear you say. A writing job that pays less than $3.75 an hour. Well, I kid you not. I earned either $5 or $6 a page and normally had to work to a 48-hour deadline. I was writing academic essays which required detailed research. I am thorough and find it impossible to rush and/or submit sub-standard work. It took me a month to earn $200. On an hourly basis, I must have earned about a dollar.
And yet, I can honestly say that I loved every minute of it. It was the most exhilarating intellectual challenge I have had in years and my mind felt so much sharper. Instead of seeing myself as an exploited down-at-heel writer I just looked at the whole thing as a wonderful learning curve, as though I had enrolled in a literature or history course. I know it is a cliché but it was very much a case of the glass being half-full as opposed to half-empty.
A YANKEE DESCRIBES CRICKET
A few weeks ago I was having a drink in a bar and I heard something extraordinary. One Yankee (and I use this term affectionately) telling another one about the game of cricket. I could hardly believe my ears. Regardless of anything else, I guess I was surprised, albeit pleasantly, that the game of cricket even registered on their radar.
I cannot remember his exact words but it went something like this: ‘They run up from aways back and chuck this small red ball down a track. The guy receiving has a bat, which is like, shorter and fatter than a baseball bat, and the batter has to stop it from hitting these three wooden pegs and if he can, jack it out the enclosure. And there’s another guy at the other end of the track and the two of them have to run along the track to opposite ends.
Half the time the batter just knocks the ball down gently on to the turf and then stands there without moving. I tell you it’s weird man. They like stand around digging at the turf and practising shots in slow motion. The refs are mostly old and wear these white coats but they don’t move except for when they slowly lift their fingers up to signify that a guy’s gotta walk.
And they have these ‘test’ matches which go on for 5 days and at the end they sometimes there ain’t even a winner. And they’re like suicidal man. You see guy’s from the catching team standing like a meter away from a batter who can hit the darned thing at over a hundred miles an hour. All they got’s a helmet, not even any padding.
Some of the chuckers like lob it up and make it easy for the batter to whack them out of the joint and others bounce it into the turf at top speed so it either flies over the batter’s head or hits him on the chest or the head. …’
WHEN I WAS RIDICULED MERCILESSLY BY NONE OTHER THAN GRAHAM NORTON
Whenever I see the comedian Graham Norton on TV it always reminds me of the time he embarrassed me so much that I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me. It was way back in the 1980’s at a stand- up comedy evening in London. I had started to lose my hair in my early 20’s and was very self-conscious. In those days bandanas were all the rage and I often wore one as it was both fashionable and covered up my male pattern baldness.
On the night in question, not only was I sporting a bandana but I also had on a rather garish stripy blue and white T-shirt. The intimate club was packed and I was sitting at a table with 6 or 7 friends. Norton arrived on stage and sized up the audience. All of a sudden, he pointed at me and shouted out ‘Bandana in the house.’ In his trademark camp, mellifluous tone, he followed up with ‘What’s your name?’ I was mortified. ‘Harvey’ I replied meekly. ‘What’s going on under the banada, come on Harvey, let’s have it off,’ he said, to huge guffaws. What could I do? As I made to take it off he ridiculed me further. ‘Ooh, and look at his little stripy French pirate shirt,’ he said with relish, clearly loving this early opportunity to get into his stride. At least I got a big cheer from the crowd when I pulled the bandana off.
Needless to say, he did not let me off the hook for the whole evening. A few times, when everyone was laughing at one of his jokes, he pointed at me again, saying things like ‘Look, even Harvey’s laughing at that one.’ But I never bore a grudge towards Graham. He was only doing his job and I did rather set myself up. Mind you, I would still like to have the chance to heckle him at one of his gigs and I certainly would not let him go ahead of me in the supermarket queue if he was in a hurry.