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Northern Rock

26 March 2004

Firstly, if you visited this site in the last couple of days and were peppered with pornographic pop-ups, we apologise. Some wanker hacked the server, and my web guru Roger had to take everything off-line and clean up seventy-seven sites. By hand.

Secondly, if you send me e-mail in the next few days, you may not get an answer, because it may never reach me. As of this afternoon, I have received no e-mails at all, not even the test ones I sent to myself. I would right now be pestering said web guru Roger, but as of this afternoon he is in Belgium, and there is nothing I can do. Maybe itís another problem with the server, maybe theyíll get it fixed; maybe itís something else. Messages may be backing up somewhere, to reach me later; they may all be deleted as they arrive; they may be bounced back to sender. I do not know, and have no way of finding out. Well, except that last, I could ask a friend to test that, only itís a bit late to be phoning people now.

You will no doubt be madly relieved to hear that I did write another story, for the Newcastle anthology. Technically I suppose itís a Gateshead story, as it all takes place in the Baltic (formerly a flour mill, now our trendy new modern art factory). Hand-delivered it to the editor - an ex-student of mine, which I think is kinda cool - a couple of days ago. If she likes it, sheíll doubtless send me an e-mail. Sigh. E-mail has changed my life, almost taken over my life; I barely make one phone call a week these days, but I send dozens of messages. Suddenly to lose it is remarkably isolating. I have, I had, a sense of being in the world, being connected; now I have a sense of being cut off. Itís bad.

Also bad, I went to the Northern Rock Writerís Award ceremony last night. This is the big one, in money terms itís the largest literary award in the country, worth £60,000 over three years. I knew I hadnít won it; we all had this letter that effectively said it was a one-horse race, the jury was unanimous, there was one outstanding candidate and the rest of us were also-rans. Not best designed to promote good feeling, but hey. You develop the skin of a rhinoceros, in this trade. So I went to the ceremony, still prepared to be the best of losers - and they didnít give me a chance, because the award went to Tony Harrison. Thatís the famous Tony Harrison, the one whoís had all those plays produced at the National, whoís written libretti for the Met, whoís been a major cultural figure for twenty years or more. I was chided for making assumptions about his income, but - hell, Iím sorry, they are there to be made. I was outraged and I said so, loudly and often, to anyone whoíd listen. Monumentally indiscreet, me, when I mount up on a high horse; probably done myself no good at all, but oh, I was cross. Nor was I the only one; indeed, I only found one person prepared to defend the decision. The general mood showed in the moment of the announcement; when Julia won last year, she got cheers. This year there was a sort of shocked silence, and then a reluctant spatter of applause. Probably just as well that Harrison wasnít actually there to hear it. Being there is actually supposed to be a condition of the award, but I guess if youíre a big enough name theyíll bend the rules. And then in the mÍlťe afterwards I had words with one of the judges, and she told me that it was simply not true that the judges were unanimous; she dissented entirely, which made me feel better, in an odd kind of way.

So then a bunch of us went to the pub and I got very drunk indeed. Nothing much else to be done, really.

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© Chaz Brenchley 2004
Reproduced here by permission of Chaz Brenchley, who asserts his moral right to be identified as the author of this work.