With some money in my pocket, I’m like a sailor on shore leave

Last week's plea for cash results in a flood of polite refusals from readers, but once again my great friend Toby steps up to the plate and the last few days of September pass without my having to sit outside Baker Street Station with a sign saying "will write for food".

(Incidentally, for those of you who are distressed by such American turns of phrase as "step up to the plate", you may be pleased to hear that the traffic is two-way and there are now plenty of Americans having conniption fits about "run-up", as in "the run-up to the war in Iraq", and I bet if they knew it was a cricketing term - a neat symmetry, given that "stepping up to the plate" is from baseball - the fits would be even severer.)

And now the Guardian has paid me - they are absolute baa-lambs when it comes to prompt payment, even if certain other publications, naming no names, steer rather closer to black sheep territory - so there is money in the bank, relatively speaking, and I feel like a sailor on shore leave.

Splash out

If I were [name of cabinet minister redacted on legal advice] what I'd be doing now is oiling up the gimp suit, ordering an ounce of first-class blow and booking a night with the girls at Madame Fifi's, but instead I am toying with the idea of buying myself an item of clothing from a charity shop. Also, the weather is amazing. Despite only five hours' sleep the previous night - this down to the evening's discovery that every episode of The Prisoner is available on YouTube - I wake full of purpose, and am in the kitchen at eight enjoying a hearty breakfast of strong tea and Sugar Puffs, ready to take on the world.

First on the list of Things To Do Which I Have Hitherto Been Too Diffident to Engage With is to yell at Vodafone for charging me 700 per cent of my monthly payment plan, a surcharge that would make sense only if I'd been calling the moon.

They give me some flimflam I don't quite understand but do knock fifty quid off the bill, which is some kind of result, I suppose, and the man at the other end actually sounds like a human being, so I let it go.

More intractable, funnily enough, is the business of the TLS website. I adore the Times Literary Supplement, have subscribed for years, and sometimes, when someone rails against Rupert Murdoch, I murmur that whatever his crimes are, one thing he's done is allow the TLS to carry on in more or less the same way it always has. (If anything, it's actually better than it was. Beckett, who initially suffered at its hands, has Molloy wrapping himself in it in winter; "even farts made no impression on it".)

Even its website was rather charming: for the past three years, a note at the top has said "This website is under construction", but everything in it was accessible - every review and letter in it from the 1990s onward at your fingertips. Well, now it's been constructed. As anyone who has ever had anything to do with computers knows, tinkering with them invariably brings disaster, and the TLS is no exception. A search for the article I need brings up a neat, blank page. I try again. This time there are no results for my search. This is odd. I try again. Searches in the archives for the names "Smith", "Adolf Hitler" and "Lezard" all result in my being told that never, in the history of the supplement from the mid-1990s to the present day, has any of those names ever appeared.

This is crazy - I know I wrote a few reviews for them in the late 1990s.

Holding pattern

There then follows an increasingly fraught and bitter series of calls to News International to try to find out what the hell is going on. No one there seems to give a damn. I'd never thought highly of Vodafone's business practices, but they look like Santa's elves compared to customer services at NI.

There is nothing, I find, quite like a long spell of suspension in a telephonic holding pattern listening to, of all genres, honky-tonk jazz, while both seething with rage and paying through the nose for the privilege, to make the day turn sour before one's eyes.

I also start wondering whether I am the last person on earth who cares that the TLS archives have disappeared, as if they had never been. If I go to the British Library and spool through the microfiches will they, too, have been erased? Well, probably not, but these days if something doesn't exist online, people tend to think it doesn't exist at all.

In the end I give up and think, sod this for a game of soldiers, I'm off to Madame Fifi's. But you know what? Some bloody cabinet minister has booked the whole place up.

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 10 October 2011 issue of the New Statesman, The next great depression