12th March 1999 at 00:00
Arnold Evans is back with his quill hitched to another bandwagon

Nobody can possibly enjoy writing. That is why those of us who do it for a living will go to inordinate lengths to delay the dreadful moment when we have to start. We are, therefore, unanimously agreed that new technology is a godsend.

You only have to watch Shakespeare in Love to realise how hard-pressed the professional writer was in those dire days BC (Before Computers). Once the Bard of Avon had inked-up his quill, he had no serious distractions to save him from the torment of writing - other than Gwyneth Paltrow, that is. And charming though she undoubtedly was, no one could pretend that Ms Paltrow could hold a man's undivided attention for quite as long as a Pentium II 350 MHz with all the trimmings.

There's always a word processor that could do with a tweak, a hard disk that requires tidying, a few fonts that should be shuffled, a spell-checker that must be customised, and an ink-jet printer that needs to be seriously poked with a straightened paper clip. And if that wasn't enough, there is the Internet.

You can feel pretty certain that if Shakespeare had enjoyed the privilege of being online, his complete works would have amounted to no more than a voluminous email correspondence with a loony from Wisconsin he met in a newsgroup, a few desultory contributions to sundry chat rooms, and a personal website, permanently under construction.

My morning routine is a case in point. I need music while I work - and while I don't. So my first port of call is Live Radio On The Internet. Here you can click on any of the world's leading radio stations and - hey presto - your multimedia PC is miraculously transformed into a tinny trannie.

What more cosmopolitan way to start the day than listening to the news headlines in Finnish, or tapping your foot youthfully to the latest line-dance medley courtesy of Country 105, Abilene, Texas?

The wonderful thing is that once you've made your choice, the broadcast continues in the background as you hop skip and jump around the Web.

I have to leave myself enough time to read my email. One of the nightmares of being online is the inevitable avalanche of unsolicited, unwanted and sometimes downright rude email one inevitably receives. Most of mine is sent by desperate editors begging me for copy. They whinge, whine, cajole. I make a point of never replying - it only encourages them. I concentrate instead on the serious correspondence - or "spam" as we techies call it.

These are messages - sometimes dozens a day - from total strangers who write out of the kindness of their heart and rarely ask for anything in return - other than the number on your Visa card. For example, this morning I received a particularly intriguing email entitled simply: "Hey, weren't we in the same class at high school?" The sender - her name was Fifi-Jo - assured me that she was the chick every hot-blooded hunk wanted to take to the Prom.

To be honest, I don't recall her, or indeed ever having gone to a Prom - whatever that is. In fact, the only place I remember going to with my class was Aberystwyth - in a charabanc - when Farty Thomas was sick in the hood of Miss Bartlett's windcheater.

Thoughtfully, Fifi-Jo had included several digitised photographs of herself to help jog my memory. All I can say is that if we really were contemporaries at school, the years have been far kinder to her than to me - she looks hardly a day over 24. Perhaps it's down to clean living or to the fact that all she ever seems to wear is a G-string.

Apparently, she has lots of chums of a similar disposition who are eager to videoconference with me. Fifi-Jo neglected to say if these friends are also ex-class mates of ours.

I'd love to chat to old Farty again. He owes me half a crown. Indeed, for a moment I felt a compelling urge to reply to Fifi-Jo's email. But that would entail having to do some writing. And if you are a writer who uses the Internet, there simply isn't time for so frivolous a pursuit.

Live Radio on the Internet is at: http:www.frodo.u-net.comradio.htm If, for some unfathomable reason, you want to do something about the amount of junk email coming your way, try Fight Spam on the Internet at: If you want to get in touch with me, try But, please, no photographs.

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