Nervously I ring the bell in the porch beneath the sign "Arbeit Macht Frei", a language with which I am not, sadly, familiar although I suspect it may be Spanish. Mr Pundy answers in person. I can see at once that the signs do not look propitious. Mr Pundy, to be frank, looks like seven miles of rough road. He is unshaven. His hair is tousled. His eyes are bloodshot. He is dressed in stained and crumpled pajamas held up by string. Neither does he smell too good. Although it is only eleven in the morning he appears to be unsteady on his feet. Nervously I invite myself in. The interview begins in the kitchen, after Mr Pundy has cleared away most of the empty beer and wine bottles to allow me to place my tape recorder between us.
Me: Good morning. Mr Pundy - may I call you that? - many critics have detected a strong religious element running through much of your writing. In particular, you seem to be preoccupied with the state of your characters' souls. Do you yourself believe in God?
Pundy (looking bemused): Which one?
Me: Er, any one. You were brought up a Catholic I believe?
Pundy: Is God a Catholic? The Pope is, I know that (Ha ha). By and large me old cock I don't believe in anything.
Me: You're an atheist?
Pundy: No, I don't believe in that neither.
Me: All those references to the soul? Surely if you believe a man has a soul...
Pundy: It's a metaphor, innit, mate. A figure of speech. Something like that anyway. I had mumps when they did figures of speech at school.
Me: But if the soul lives on after death... Perhaps your philosophy at least encompasses the concept of the afterlife?
Pundy: I bleedin' hope not. This one's been bad enough as it is. Besides, there's a lot of people I wouldn't want to meet second time around. You for example.
Me: Perhaps we should move on. May I ask where you get your ideas from? Do you, as I suspect, work out the plot first, creating, so to speak, the skelton from which you can hang your wonderful themes of good combating evil?
Pundy: I never know how it's going to work out to tell you the truth, squire. Mostly I start with a character - which is obviously me and since I don't have a fucking clue what I'm doing now never mind when I become fictitious. I'm a bleedin' mystery I am and that's a fact. I ain't got the foggiest how it's going to turn out, no word of a lie. Wif any luck the characters start to take on a life of their own and Bob's your uncle. All I got to do is write it down as it happens in me 'ead, if it happens that is and I ain't rat-arsed which is more than likely. That's where I'm at with Mummy's Boy, ain't I - the characters are just about to shoot off on their own, God knows where, dragging me with them, the cheeky little bleeders.
Me: That sounds thrilling.
Pundy: Nah. It's more scary than exciting. They're just as likely to run up a blind alley as do something interesting. There's no knowing with characters. If I had my way I'd do without 'em altogether and write science books. Except I don't know nuffink about science neither. 'Ere, want a drink? (Pundy reaches for the half empty bottle of Laphroaig and pours himself a tumbler full). Christ, I've got a mouth like the inside of a Turkish wrestler's jockstrap. Not that I've ever tasted a Turkish wrestler's jockstrap, you understand. It's another one of them figures of speech innit. Interesting things, figures of speech. Must find out more about 'em sometime.
Me: The joys of education.
Pundy: Don't talk to me about education. All it ever did for me was teach me to want things I couldn't have. Gave me ideas above my station, didn't it. I tell yer I sometimes wish I was thick I do. Like most of me mates. Don't know no better and happy with their lot. Lucky bleeders. Nah, don't talk to me about education, mate. Ere' what about that drink? Yes or no?
Me: No thanks, it's a bit early for me. Tell me about blogging. Are the same processes involved in the production of your ethereal bon mots or is it perhaps more cerebral as you develop each idea to its logical, and sometimes surprising, conclusion?
Pundy: Blogging? What about it? It's just words flying around the ether innit. Most of them...er, how would you say....most of them.....
Pundy: Shit. Flying shit. Shit hitting the fan. Shit flying off a shovel. Shit.....
At this point, as darkness descends and gloom grows all around I make my excuses and leave, deeply troubled by the spectacle I am leaving behind, the erstwhile literary Colossus once spoken of in the same breath as Hardy and Georgette Heyer reduced to the role of a mumbling idiot. I can still hear the great man muttering away to himself as I pull shut the huge door to Pundy Mansions behind me, a crumbling, gothic pile haunted by broken dreams and unfulfilled expectations.
I fear this may be my last visit. The experience is simply too painful.