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Danny Wallace on how to deal with distractions

Colin’s in my office again, and as he stares at his computer he suddenly exhales through his nostrils to denote amusement at something he must be reading.

I don’t look up because I’m busy reading about the life cycle of bees.

Did you know the bee is the only insect that produces food that people eat?

A few moments later, Colin must have got to the end of whatever he’s reading, because he makes the same sort of reverse-sniff noise again, but louder.

I don’t look up because I’m busy reading about bees.

Did you know that in its whole life, the average worker bee only makes about a twelfth of a teaspoon of honey? Hardly seems worth the bother.

Maybe half a minute more passes and then Colin does a little titter.

Whatever it is he’s looking at must be very amusing – and I’m pleased for him – but I’m reading about bees so I don’t look up.

“Haha!” he says.

I don’t look up.

“HAHAHAHA!”

Now I know what he’s doing. He’s waiting for me to ask him what he’s laughing at. Well, the joke’s on him, because I’m not going to.

“Deary deary me,” he says, and I can tell just from my peripheral vision that he’s shaking his head.

I ignore him and read another few bee facts.

“Oh my gosh,” he half-whispers, though he may have used slightly stronger language. “Would you believe it?”

I keep reading.

Did you know that bees communicate with each other through a kind of dancing? Thank God we don’t have to do that.
I’m not sure I could.

“WOW!” says Colin.

It’d be a nightmare. Imagine having to go to the council office to complain in the strongest possible terms about parking vouchers and having to do it through dance.

“Good LORD!” he says, chuckling.

FINE.

Fine, what are you laughing at?” I say, and he pretends to be surprised – as if this whole little performance wasn’t entirely for my benefit.

He makes his eyes all big like he didn’t know exactly what he was doing, and soon that expression melts into one of great offence.

“Nothing,” he says. “Don’t worry about it.”

“No, come on,” I say. “Tell me.”

“No,” he says. “It was nothing.”

“It didn’t sound like nothing,” I say. “You were all wows and good lords a second ago.”

“Forget it,” he says, putting both hands up. “Just pretend I’m not here.”

Now I really want to know what Colin was laughing at.

He senses that. He knows the power is in his pretending to be offended. Now he can use the silence to make little offended noises.

Colin is nothing if not an arch manipulator. I make a mental note never to marry him.

I carry on reading about bees.

Did you know it’s estimated it would take 1,100 bee stings to be fatal? Did you know that on an average trip, a bee will visit 50 to 100 flowers?

“GOODNESS!” says Colin, and I’m jolted out of my thoughts.

“Right, what is it?” I say.

“NOTHING!” he replies.

“Then WHY do you keep TITTERING and saying words like ‘goodness!’?” I demand. “I’m trying to work!”

“You’re just reading about bees!” he says, pointing at my screen.

“And what are you reading about, Einstein?” I say, and this is genius, because now I have challenged him on the importance of whatever he’s doing versus the importance of reading about bees and he will have to tell me!

“I’m not reading about anything,” he says, very calmly, and he swivels his screen round.

It’s completely blank.

“Then… then why do you keep making those little noises?” I say. “All those little impressed sounds?”

“I make one every time you make one,” he says. “I was trying to highlight your very frustrating behaviour, you bee-lover!”

I must have been making little impressed noises because of bees!

“Well then what were you laughing at in the first place?”

“YOU!” he says. “I knew what you were up to. I knew you were just trying to get me to ask you what you were reading about!”

I make my eyes all big and let my expression melt into one of great offence.

“So what was it?” he says.

“Nothing!” I say.

“No, go on – what was it?”

“FORGET IT,” I say. “Pretend I’m not here.”

“Please!” he says, and I relent and find a new fact.

It would take one ounce of honey to fuel a bee’s flight around the world,” I read out.

“Oooh!” we both say, impressed.


Telling porkies

Danny 1

Chris James’s body is a temple. It’s all free range, hand-reared, Fair Trade, organic with that guy. He even has his milk semi-skimmed! But even Chris was shocked to see that if they really are raising pork pies by hand these days, things have gone too far.


Because too much congratulation would be boring

Danny2

Chris Cain was in a shop on London’s Great Portland Street looking for a very specific type of card indeed.

Thankfully, he saw there was one left.

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