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He is a university professor at one of THE universities. Let him, medicine for argument’s sake, treat be a historian (nothing to do with the one I have at home). He lives and breathes his subject and really is extraordinarily clever. He has an eye for tiny detail but a feel for great movements in time.
He is married to his university sweetheart. They met in the late seventies, he reading History, she reading Classics. They have no children, as they have always spent so very many hours of each day reading, writing and teaching, that they have never really had any time for that sort of thing.
In recent years, he has become a bestselling author and a bit of a media star. As well as his consistent turnout of journals and dry tomes that will never go further than the college library and Blackwells, he writes a book every year of popular history, helping to bring history to the public (to him, the “great unwashed”, but on Radio 4 he refrains from using that term). His new found wealth and fame are rather delicious to him and he has discovered a taste for vintage cars and good wine, and just this year bought his first new computer in twenty years. Until now, all his books were written in WordPerfect on an old IBM and printed out on continuous accounts paper — the arrival of his floppy disks causing consternation at the publishers for the last few years.
However, there are plenty of other historians about the country who want his crown (and his cars and wine) and who are writing pretty good books popularizing history and he is getting twitchy.
On the launch of his latest book (Adventures in the Regal Bathroom), he stalks the history departments of Amazon and all the other online booksellers and, using a pseudonym, makes staggeringly rude remarks (“this man’s a buffooon! I know him well” or “this woman is a charlatan… and she is COVERED in warts”) about all the other popular history books, and I mean all of them. He may be very clever, but he really is a clueless baby when it comes to the internet and modern life. He uses the same pseudonym to make fabulously complimentary comments about all his own books.
Not content with the bookselling sites, he finds other bookish places, forums about books, book magazine websites and continues with his remark making, until one day he is outed to the press by someone who noticed his prolific pseudonym (An’Istorian) in some peculiar places, including a thread about reading to one’s unborn baby on MumsyWeb.
He flatly denies it, of course, but, when confronted with his IP address by an intrepid reporter, announces that it was his wife. His wife still hasn’t forgiven him.