Welcome to the Afterliff

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A thing happened yesterday that made me so chuffed I could have auditioned for the part of Thomas the Tank Engine without makeup or costume.

It was an absolutely tiny thing, but at the same time rather large in its own way.

The thing was not, surprisingly (because those who know me will be aware that I have long desired, in common with many others who couldn’t wait for the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson, the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson) the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson. The resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson had nothing to do with it.

That paragraph, by the way, not only makes sense in its own strange way if you read it right, it is also a convoluted and rather rickety example of the kind of writerly clever-arsery of which the late Douglas Adams was the master, although if he’d tried his hand at it you would not now be shouting “Get on with it!” at your computer. And it’s appropriate that I should choose to write it in relation to the thing that happened, because it is with the late Douglas Adams that the thing has to do.


The thing.

I’ve written in this small and irregularly tended corner of cyberspace of my overwhelming love for the aforementioned genius. And I mentioned, for those who have no desire to click on that link, the book that I think I love most of all. It’s a little black book, and it was based on a startlingly simple but original premise.

1. Think of a place name.

2. Think of a situation, experience, feeling or object in life that has no word to describe it.

3. Match 1 with 2.

In the hands of Adams and his writing partner and general all-round comedic good guy John Lloyd, this produced such delightitudes as:

Gretna Green (adj.) – a shade of green which makes you wish you’d painted whatever it was a different colour.

Hull (adj.) – descriptive of the smell of a weekend cottage.

Royston (n.) – the man behind you in church who sings with terrific gusto almost three quarters of a tone off the note.

And many more besides. You get the idea.

As it also had an extremely entertaining index, the rarity value of which cannot be calculated, The Meaning of Liff (for that was the name of said book) was an entirely excellent thing.

The only Little Black Book you'll ever need
The only Little Black Book you’ll ever need

It spawned a sequel, The Deeper Meaning of Liff.

Some years later, but not before producing the really rather wonderful Dirk Gently novels, Douglas Adams, at the ridiculous and unspeakably unfair age of 48, died.

And soon, in his memory, the sequel will have a sequel: Afterliff.

In producing Afterliff, John Lloyd decided to put the Liff franchise out to tender, as it were. He invited people, nearly all of whom, I’ll wager, aren’t called Douglas Adams or John Lloyd, to submit their own Liffs. This, like a proper saddo, I duly did.

And now here’s the thing.

I completely forgot that I had done this.

Then, yesterday, shortly after reading about the resignation of Sir Alex Ferguson, I received a “Congratulations! You may already have won ten thousand pounds!” email. Except that it wasn’t ten thousand pounds, it was the inclusion in Afterliff of two of my submitted Liffs; and, unless it was an elaborate and utterly pointless hoax, it was from a real person not entirely unconnected with the publication of Afterliff.

Look, I know it’s not a six book deal with Random Penguins, but to me it’s a particular form of validation.

I may not be Douglas Adams. I may not even be someone who knew Douglas Adams.

But I am at least someone who will share space in a publication that would have been written by Douglas Adams had he been still alive, although of course had he been still alive there would have been no need to ask other people to contribute to the book, because he would have written it himself, or, rather, he probably wouldn’t have, because he was a little bit notorious for the serial non-writing of books.

But I hope you know what I mean anyway.

As I say, I’m not entirely unchuffed.

Which definitions, you say? Well, you’ll just have to buy the book, won’t you?

Now all I have to do is think of a word for the experience of receiving an acceptance for something you’d forgotten you’d submitted.

Ideas, anyone?

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  1. “Not entirely unchuffed”? Or as we’d say in California, “Oh my God you guys I’m THRILLED!” MidAtlantic that I am, I’ll just say I’m tolerably ecstatic for you. Congratulations. I’m still working on the word.

  2. Are you one of the QI talkboard chaps or someone who submitted to the radio 4 programme? 🙂

      1. I had no idea…I’m one of the QI people (as in I’m a member of the website, I don’t work for them).

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