For months now, there has been a running advert in the jobs pages of the Guardian for a "Writer's Assistant". A successful author, mildly disabled, advertises for an assistant to do household tasks that would otherwise distract her from writing, in order to allow her to get on with her work.
I can understand why this advert has been running weekly for so long now. The truth of the matter is that being a writer's assistant sucks, and the main reason I know this is because I can't afford to get one myself, forcing me into the position of being my own writer's assistant. This means that precious hours are sucked from the writing task in the pursuit of other, less interesting tasks, like making breakfast, putting the washing on, doing the shopping, and so on.
The most recent time-consuming activity which has been foisted upon me - and the one for which I would most like to find somebody to undertake on my behalf - is that of trying to buy a second-hand car. There's little fun about shopping ordinarily: the hours spent dawdling around strip-lit identi-malls while Simon Webbe's album plays over the sound system, when you could be at home in front of your computer, getting actual things done. Buying a used car takes even longer, and one has to factor in the deceit of people attempting to sell cars that are stolen, have been in serious accidents, don't work properly, are on the verge of collapse, and are overpriced.
Take last week's venture to see a five-year old Nissan Micra, described in the Auto Trader as "in mint condition, full service history, only 34000 miles otc, first to see will buy". The seller of this car pulled up at our meeting point in said car, which I noticed straight away had strange undulations and marks all over the bodywork, as though a clumsy man had tried to batter damage out of the panels with a rolling pin. When I got in the driver's side myself, I noticed a different paint colour on the inside of the drivers' side door, as though it had been resprayed.
"The paperwork's all in order," he told me, opening the glove compartment, and several dozen reams of paper spilled out into the footwell.
I managed to grab some of this 'in order' paperwork before he managed to strop me. I found that the car had been originally bought on Hire Purchase and had been repossessed when the girl who bought it hadn't kept up with the repayments. It had originally been a different colour, and she had never once had it serviced. To be polite, I took it for a test drive, only to find that it wouldn't go in gear properly, and the brakes were squeaky. He wanted £3000 for this car, and had written "NO TIMEWASTERS" sternly in the advert. More fool me for not seeing the signs.
There is nothing like the trawling of eBay and Auto Trader, and the traipsing to different corners of Yorkshire for the sort of matchless soul-destroying time-wasting that constitutes the search for the ideal second hand car. I'm now in my third week of this horror, and am on the verge of buying a push-bike.