What’s he messing about at now?

28th November 2021 |

It’s quite hard to explain to others why I persist in wasting my time doing things that other people could do much more efficiently. Take this book I’m publishing as an example. I’ve spent hours wavering between different types of envelope to send the book out in. Should it be bubble wrap? But then the corners might get damaged. Or cardboard? More expensive, but safer, perhaps. There must be a reason Amazon uses them. I bought small samples of each and decided to spend the money on cardboard. I get the envelopes a hundred at a time from some guy called Kurt in Germany. The Amazon man brought the first lot to my door cursing because the village Mayor has torn the road up, and he has to back out down a very narrow crooked street, and it’s raining.

I need a system that will work on the day the books arrive at my door, because they will come, if all goes well, just nine days before Christmas. They’ve all got to go out immediately so that people like you, dear reader, have time to send them on as gifts. And I’ve got to sign them all and write stuff in them. I’ve already got a list of three hundred and I hope it will be closer to four hundred, because that’s the break-even point.

Obviously the answer is to have all the envelopes ready, addressed and stamped in advance. So I’ve been typing out hundreds of addresses on my Mac, and with most of them a note about dedicating the book “To my dear old Auntie Gussie “ or “Keep the rubber side down, Chuck.” And then I transfer the addresses to shipping label templates, and then I run the Avery labels off the printer and stick them on the envelopes, with a Post-it note about Aunt Gussie or Chuck.

All this took a couple of days – there are three hundred envelopes to date – and on the third day I notice that the labels are beginning to unstick themselves. A nightmarish vision of labels flying free in the post office and attaching themselves to other people’s packages of Viagra causes me to spend another day taping the labels down on the envelopes – how inefficient is that? Then someone says, “What about return labels?” Oh. Yes. Another few hours with Avery and the printer, and 300 envelopes. By now the names are getting really familiar; remarkable how many of them are good old Anglo-Saxon names. Where’s the diversity?

Anyway, the idea is that on D-Day I sit at a table, pen in hand while one acolyte to my right holds the book open for my precious inscriptions and the other to my left slips it into an envelope and seals it.

I have yet to find out what happens at the post office when I arrive with three or four hundred small packages. I hope to have them stamped before I get there but I can’t yet figure out how to print the right stamps at home. And what will my credit card say about a sudden 7,000 euro item?

People say: “Why doesn’t he just stick to writing, which he’s quite good at, instead of messing about with things he doesn’t understand?” I don’t have a very good answer. It could be a kind of laziness. I find it a bit boring to do what’s expected of me, but I do enjoy trying things for the first time and understanding them. That’s why I built my own house, and why I started an organic vegetable farm forty years ago, and why I rode a motorcycle round the world before everyone was doing it. I could have hired experts but where’s the fun in that. And anyway, what would I have to write about?

So remember, when the book comes to your door, I’m not just the bloke who wrote it, I’m also the one who stuck on the labels and the stamps. It’s all very personal.

Don't Boil The Canary