On I, Alfred Pigtosser

Before we can begin to address today’s topic, there is a matter of potential brain-numbing confusion which I think it best to clear up. If I neglect to do so, there is a risk that at least some of you lot will become bewildered, and that is in nobody’s interest. As I hope you realise, I strive to make things as clear as I can. In spite of my weakness for passages of purple prose, or for using dozens of words where a handful would do, or indeed for making up words entirely, I am always mindful of the need for clarity. So, yes, my prose could be plainer, but I want you to appreciate that I am never deliberately obfuscatory. Well, rarely. And it could be argued that from time to time you lot need to have your brains jangled about, and who better to jangle them than Mr Key? Answer me that, if you dare.

But today is not a jangly type of day. It is a day for crystal clarity, the sort one might see through a recently wiped window, especially if one remembered to put one’s specs on. I always remember my specs, I jam them on when waking and remove them when I retire. Without them I would be stumbling about in a haze. But we are not here to discuss my opia. Sorry, I mean my myopia. Our subject today is the bestselling autobiography I, Alfred Pigtosser.

Straight away, you see, the source of potential confusion whacks us in the face. At least, it does for those of you who read Hooting Yard diligently and daily. Yesterday, you will recall, we made mention of one I. Alfred Pigtosser, the possibly pseudonymous writer of letters to Miss Blossom Partridge’s Weekly Digest. That Pigtosser, whomsoever he may be, is no relation to the Alfred Pigtosser who wrote I, Alfred Pigtosser. You can spot the difference because the autobiographer’s first name is Alfred, whereas the mad letter-writer’s first name is something beginning with I. What it might be we do not know. Isambard or Ignatz, perhaps. But let us not dwell upon it, for we would soon be embroiled in a Rumpelstiltskinny situation, never a happy prospect.

I think I have now made it plain, as plain as the peas on my fork, that I. Alfred Pigtosser and Alfred Pigtosser are two different persons. That is the task I set out to accomplish in my opening paragraph, and I think we can all agree that I have succeeded brilliantly. If there remains, among you lot, anybody who is still confused, I would suggest the fault lies with you rather than with me. You might want to go and get your head examined by some sort of specialist in dimwits.

Let me take the rest of you by the arm and guide you into the world of Alfred Pigtosser, or at least the world as revealed to us in his autobiography. It has been a rather surprising bestseller, particularly when one considers the photograph of the author staring out at us from the front cover. Seldom have I seen a less charming countenance. Ears askew, eyes of differing sizes, boxer’s nose, hairstyle frankly unspeakable. Stupid pointy cap. It is a small mercy that the photograph is a black and white one, for I dare not guess at the complexion of his skin. I suspect if you met Alfred Pigtosser in a dark alley at night you would run screaming.

Appearances can of course be deceptive, and it is no doubt remiss of me to judge him on superficialities. But then we open the book, and begin to read, and what do we find?

Chapter One

I am Alfred Pigtosser and this is my autobiography. My ears are askew, my eyes are of differing sizes, I have a boxer’s nose, and my hairstyle is frankly unspeakable. I like to sport a stupid pointy cap. My complexion is that of contaminated curd.

It’s not promising, is it? Yet the book has sold by the million. And this in spite of the fact that as far as I am aware nobody had ever heard of Alfred Pigtosser before. I’ve done my research, as always. That is why you come to Hooting Yard, because you know you can trust me to have done all that background reading and poring over reference materials and almanacs that you don’t have time for. In any case, you need not take my word for it. Here is how the autobiography continues:

Nobody has ever heard of me. That includes even my immediate family, for shortly after my birth I was abandoned in an orchard, where I was raised by squirrels. I lived in the orchard with the squirrels, wholly isolated from humankind, until my fortieth birthday. That day, I wended my way along a lane and across an extensive car parking area towards a hotel, where I registered under the name Flossie Partridge and took a room with a sea view. I do not think the receptionist believed I was really a Flossie, but I gazed at her in the way the squirrels taught me and she was duly hypnotised and reduced to an automaton.

In the hotel room, in between staring out of the window at the sea, I pounded the keys of a typewriter, bashing into shape this, my autobiography. I cannot claim it is packed with incident. One orchard- or squirrel-related anecdote drifts into another, samey samey. But when I have finished writing it, I know that all I need do is captivate people with the squirrel-gaze, and they will purchase as many copies as I command them to. I will have a bestseller on my hands, and untold millions in the bank, and then I will summon the squirrels from the orchard. How we then deal with the human population of the earth I have not yet decided, but I plan to write about it in a second volume of autobiography, tentatively entitled I, Alfred Pigtosser, And My Terrifying Army Of Squirrels.

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