Island Life by David Slack

Tonight I spend my bread

There's a first time for everything, and there's nothing new under the sun. It can get ugly when clich├ęs collide.

How many times in your life have you picked up a 'Volume One' or 'Issue Number 1' of some chirpy little publication or other, blathering about, oh I don't know, your local gym or the franchise bakery in your mall? Most likely it will have come to your hands unbidden, and will have been compiled by some expensive PR or marketing house.

After you've seen a few hundred examples of these sorry productions, you can't help feeling some sympathy for the deluded souls involved: maybe not so much for the marketing manager who commissioned it, or the shareholder in the company that paid for it - frankly, they should know better; but there will be some hard-pressed writer who sweated out the deathless, vapid prose and your heart aches for them because it is a cheerless, thankless task without honour.

It needs hardly saying that there is never a volume or issue number 2. Take that as a cautionary note; there may never be an issue 2 for what I am about to inaugurate. Good intentions can be swiftly mown down on the road to Ponsonby.

Fridays in the world of the blogs are customarily an occasion for 'fry-ups', funnies, or well-informed drinking advice. It's a party day.

This brings out the contrarian in me. I propose to offer, on Fridays, before I depart for lunch, disappointing revelations.

Let us start with one of my great idols, George Orwell; a man who is rightly lauded for his authenticity, who wrote under a pseudonym.

We read in this fine New Yorker piece of 2003 by Louis Menand
of Orwell's "sort of aesthetic distaste" for Gandhi - "just the sort of sandal-wearing, vegetarian mystic Orwell had always abhorred."

Hitler, however, he could accommodate.

"I have never been able to dislike Hitler," he admitted, in 1940. Hitler, it seems, "grasped the falsity of the hedonistic attitude to life," which Orwell called the attitude of "nearly all Western thought since the last war, certainly all 'progressive' thought."

You will find insightful analysis in the piece, and I unreservedly recommend you go and read every line of it, but we are here for the Dismal Friday Revelation, so let's press on.

His first wife, Eileen, with whom he adopted a son, died in 1945. He proposed to several women thereafter, sometimes suggesting, as an inducement, that he would probably die soon and leave his widow with a valuable estate; but he struck out. Then, in 1949, when he really was on his deathbed, he married Sonia Brownell, a woman whose sex appeal was widely appreciated. Brownell had slept with Orwell once, in 1945, apparently from the mixed motives of pity and the desire to sleep with famous writers, one of her hobbies. The marriage was performed in a hospital room; Orwell died three months later. He ended up selling more books than any other serious writer of the twentieth century-"Animal Farm" and "1984" were together translated into more than sixty languages; in 1973, English-language editions of "1984" were still selling at a rate of 1,340 copies a day-and he left all his royalties to Sonia. She squandered them and died more or less in poverty, in 1980. Today, Orwell's gravesite, in a churchyard in Sutton Courtenay, Oxfordshire, is tended by volunteers.

If this kind of verity about the fallibility of all human flesh appeals to you, then you are probably the sort of viewer that Monkey TV has in mind.

"Are you in the process of contesting a will?," they ask a worldwide Internet audience, for they are making a documentary on the subject for Britain's Channel 4.

I can think of nothing less worthy than scrapping over your rights to someone else's estate, but that doesn't deter a sizeable minority from piling in. An old man who lives nearby told me last week he's leaving everything he has to the SPCA. One or two of the more excessively venal types who have lately come to populate our neighbourhood might not be above cultivating a friendship with him on the strength of that knowledge. I am pleased to see that intelligence passing them by.

If you, or someone you know, has recently been involved in contesting a will or might be about to do so, Monkey TV would like to talk to you by November 4. I wonder if they will hear from anyone with the surname "Blair".