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January 2009 - Decide Before Publication

If I remember rightly, in view of the fact that it now seems to have been a little while ago, we discussed in some detail, during last month's edition, the problems associated with the writing of Nick Harvey's Comment over the Christmas and New Year period.

The two basic options, you see, appear to be either to put fingers to keyboard extremely early and not have the faintest idea of the situation in the world by the time you good people get to read the results; or to do so at the latest possible opportunity and, therefore, manage to be extremely topical in the writing.

The problem, however, with the second of those options, is the state of mild panic one gets into on the last day of the month, when one realises that the necessary Comment writing time has not previously been put aside and the publication deadline is just on the other side of that drinks party which one is in the process of going out of the front door to attend.

The drinks party problem is always far worse in the case of the January edition, due to this strange habit we all seem to have for arranging little get-togethers on the evening of December 31st.

Indeed, our propensity for allowing drinks parties on December 31st to drag on past the bewitching hour tends to make the problem even worse, in that you can't rush home, pretending to be a bit tired, at about ten o'clock, then bash out a quick few words to satisfy you good viewers before needing to crank up the old publishing machine at midnight.

That lengthy preamble will probably have given you a tiny hint, dear viewer, that this month's exciting edition is actually being written far nearer to November than January, so I'm going to have to be a bit careful with my topical references this time round.

I suppose I could either avoid any such thing and omit topicality from the piece altogether; guess at a few items, like Rupert Murdoch buying Woolworths as a going concern, or the pound now being worth five dollars, then simply hope that I turn out to be correct by publication day; or leave a few topical gems to be quickly edited in just before publication, so the thing, at least, looks recent.

Sitting here, blank look on face and blank page on screen, reminds me of Christmases past and recording radio programmes early in December to be broadcast on Boxing Day afternoon.  Oh, the Nick Harvey Boxing Day Bonanzas; will the world ever forget those spectaculars?

Should you mention the weather?  If so, what can you say about it?  If you don't say anything at all, then you can bet your bottom dollar that Christmas Day saw the heaviest snowfall in a hundred years.  If you mention it, in a tone that sounds mildly surprised, then it'll have been grimly grey, awfully overcast and enormously normal for the whole of the previous week.

You simply can't win, so there's probably little point in trying to.  You can't win at pre-recording your Boxing Day radio programme and you can't win at writing your New Year Comment well in advance.

Actually, this December has turned out to be much busier than a normal one, for some strange reason.  'Er Indoors and I have been rushing about this month like the proverbial blue bottomed flies.

As well as the, fairly predictable, Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year's Eve, after which it is reasonable to expect a more 'February lengthed' December in which to write an edition of Comment, we have also had one Twenty-First, one Christening and one Ruby Wedding to fit in around the incredibly important task of keyboard bashing.

I should explain by the way, dear viewers, that none of these additional events were our own; indeed they not only belonged to others, but they happen to have belonged to others who are scattered to the four corners of our fair country.

We have been, however, required to attend all of these functions, so a certain amount of rushing around the country in the rapid racer has been required, even though the petrol has, so far, only got down to (don't forget to edit this bit in just before publication) pence per litre.

So anyway, enough of the introductory time wasting, it's the point, I suppose, to welcome you all along and wish you a very happy New Year.  Here's to 2009 and all it may bring us.

I trust you all had a very good Christmas and lots of excellent presents which you're really happy with.  On the off chance that you were given that lovely jumper, but it was just one size too small, then be grateful that they bought it from (don't forget to edit in the name of the only High Street store that hasn't gone bankrupt yet), so at least you'll still be able to go and change it.

I had some lovely presents this Christmas.  I had an (edit in), some big (edit in) and a really nice (edit in) to use in the (edit in).  You'll be elated, I know, to hear that I'm really, really pleased with all of them.

Now, it's at about this point in the proceedings that I ought to let you know what the subject is for in-depth analysis in this first edition of Nick Harvey's Comment for 2009.  I ought to let you know, but I'm afraid that, at this point in time, I can't.

You see, due to proximity of the writing of these wondrous words to the writing of the previous set of wondrous words, there hasn't yet been time to think up a subject to be popped under Nick Harvey's Acme microscope on this particular occasion.

That, together with the numerous and aforementioned events and appointments which have been taking up most of my planning time, is the reason that the preparation for this particular epic has been something short of epic.

So it looks like it's going to be another one of your all-time favourite editions, one of those without a specific subject, where I just randomly ramble all the way down to those funny little orange boxes at the bottom of the page.

No, no, madam, I think you're getting a little confused.  I don't mean orange boxes in the sense of citrus fruit containers, delivery for the use of.  I mean orange boxes in the sense of World Wide Web, routing to other pages for the use of.

It's when I get down as far as those, you see, that I know it's about time to stop banging away at the poor old keyboard and go off and do something else.  Haven't you ever wondered why, every single month, I always stop my wittering immediately before I get to the orange boxes?

It's an acquired art, you know.  It's the same art which, back in the days of Comment on viewdata, used to allow me to always produce exactly two paragraphs per page.  It really is, and always was, a case of 'never mind the quality, feel the length'.

At this point, I was about to add something like 'but I digress', but then I realised that as no subject has been defined in the first place, then I can't possibly have digressed away from it, can I?

Perhaps that ought to be the New Year resolution for 2009?  If I never again define a specific subject for any edition of Comment, then I can never be accused of wandering off it.  Sounds like a damn fine plan!

Actually I did intend to mention a road sign to you good people this month.  Hardly a matter of such huge importance that it warrants a whole edition of its own, but, perhaps worthy of a tiny mention in passing, a little like a digression, but not so, as I ramble my way towards the orange boxes this month.

If you proceed in a south-easterly direction on the A342 from Devizes towards Upavon, I think the highway authority are trying out a bit of dog training on the side.  Well, that's the only explanation Nick Harvey can come up with, anyway.

As you approach that infamous public house of numerous names, currently going under the title of The Charlton Cat once again, then providing you arrange that the rapid racer is travelling close to the maximum legal speed at that point, sixty miles per hour, then this electronic sign suddenly flashes up at the side of the road, with a message on it for your four legged friend.

'Down' it flashes, presumably as an instruction to said hound to lie flat on the rear seat and avoid being thrown sideways on the impending bend.  Just above the word 'Down', however, there's a huge blank space on the sign, so perhaps the other option is for it to flash 'Sit', yet I've never, thus far, seen it actually do that.

Somebody suggested to me that the other option for the blank space is the word 'Slow', but I must say that I've never heard of anyone training a dog to follow the command 'Slow' in my life.  Perhaps 'Slow' is one of those obscure commands that only shepherds use, to avoid worrying the sheep when his dog is taking them home at the end of a long day.

I reckon the top half of this sign is broken, personally.  I've only ever seen it say 'Down' for months and months, so I think the highway authority ought to get themselves off their proverbial rear ends and come out with a bulb or three and get the 'Sit' half of the sign working again.

After all, Twelfth Night will be with us in a couple of days, will it not?  So they're going to have lots of those coloured bulbs spare till they need them for the next festive season aren't they?  There you are; problem solved!  Another great solution to one of the world's problems from the ever-helpful Nick Harvey.

Hey, could that be the orange boxes I see looming up at me from the bottom of the screen?  Well, I seem to have achieved my goal of wandering subject-less, like a cloud, all the way down to the bottom of January 2009.

I wonder if anyone noticed how far in advance this load of old cobblers was actually written?  No, I reckon I'll have got away with it by adding in all the topical references at the last minute and making it look terribly recent.

At least I have a few less appointments next month, so much more time in which to put wonderful thoughts to blank page in the February edition.  I trust you'll all be back to read that, promptly on the first of the month.

In the meantime, it must be about time for another lovely, post Christmas stroll over the hills, through the (don't forget to edit in the type of weather for the last-but-one day of December).  Right, I'm off, where's me turkey sandwich?

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