Hi. You’re the editor? You deal with signing up bold new writers? Yeah, my name’s Mike, I’ve come to discuss some of my ideas with you.
Yes, my receptionist said you were unstoppable. What exactly do you want?
I want to rock your world!
And how do you intend to do that? Perhaps you could meet security halfway down the corridor as they come for you – that would certainly serve a purpose.
What about it?
Name me some really good travel-writers.
Bill Bryson. Pico Iyer. Monty Python. Need I go on?
No, you really needn’t.
These guys are the best of the best. Well, I say guys, but let’s not be sexist here: women are capable of travel as well.
Your powers of social observation stagger me.
So when men go travelling (with their women, of course) they need a guide book. Am I right?
Not necessarily – in fact we often encourage people to experience a place free of…
…and that guide book should tell you everything you need to know about a place, yes?
It can show you pictures. It can tell you things. It can even let you hear things, if it was recorded onto cassette.
You didn’t grow up in the Dharma Initiative, by any chance? Big white flash?
But you can’t smell it.
Picture this, or rather, smell-imagine this: a book in which every page refers to a different spot in a city, and has the right smell. Yeah. You’re outside a Paris boulangerie, and there’s the smell of fresh bread. Or you’re on a mountainside in Scotland, and you can smell peat, cooked haggis and the angel’s share. You’re outside a public toilet in Hull, and…..
Yes, I get the picture.
Smell the picture.
Look, as joyfully effervescent as this conversation is…
I know, I know. Don’t say a word more. I can’t believe it hasn’t been done either. But it hasn’t!
And what does that tell you?
That there’s a gap in the market!
Which exists because…?
I know! It seems such an obvious approach when you think about it. But sometimes the simplest ideas are invisible until the right person comes along and thinks them through.
The simplest mind, you could say.
I believe you’re confusing “idiot savant” with “idiot”.
But I’m no one-hit pony! I have other ideas.
Oh God. Really?
Get this: a post-travel book.
Yeah, you’re coming back from your holiday, you’re waiting for 20 hours in some filthy foreign airport, you’ve still got Delhi Belly and you’re in and out of the toilets, dehydrated, you just want it to end…..you want to be rescued. Mentally, I mean.
And how exactly does this miracle occur? No, don’t tell me: a book of nice smells.
Hah! Now you’re getting into the swing! Let’s blue-sky that later.
There will be no later.
My second idea is…..a normal-life guide!
Oh dear. I think I see where you’re going with…..
You’re sick of travel, you want to be home. The last thing you want to read about is more travel! So what do you turn to? A normal-life guide that tells you about life at home. Washing the dishes. Going to work. Putting the bin-bags out on a Thursday. Walking the dog. What’s on telly. Agonising over the bills.
You don’t think it would be a little depressing?
No no no, it’s reassuring. You want to get back to all the things at home, you actually want to be stuck in a traffic jam on a Monday morning, or be given the wrong change. It’s home! We all love a bit of home.
It’s funny you should say that. I’m pining for it right now.
Then as a man of the world, you understand, my friend!
Specifically, the glass case where I keep my hunting rifle.
So where do I sign? When can we light the touchpaper and get the ball rolling? Point the way, Ed!
Well – ah, hello Ross – this is Ross, my…Special Travel Writing Contract Signing Overseer. Yes, both his arms are very big, he signs a lot of contracts. And he’s ambidextrous. So. If you go with him, he’ll set you straight, although I strongly suggest you don’t make any sudden movements on the way. We’ll also need to take your photo, so we recognise you if, I mean when you turn up in future. Goodbye – and I really, really do mean that.