‘How do you spend your day?’ People always ask this question with eager anticipation, and I know what they’re thinking. Up at 5AM, straight to the desk, write till the family emerges at 7, poached eggs on crumpets, a brisk walk on the Heath with the dogs, back to work by 9:30, book nearly finished by the time child is home from school.
Here’s how my week has actually gone so far. Phonecall on Friday asks if I can do twenty minutes live on Radio 3 with two others about Mark Twain. “Well, um, I’m not exactly a Twain expert…” (Understatement of the century.) “Oh, I’m sure you’ll be fine,” coo my PR and the producer of the show in unison. Off to London Book Fair for masterclass on Saturday, then to work. Can I read Twain’s entire oeuvre in 48 hours? Do I need to?
Have completely forgotten my own 20th wedding anniversary on Monday. Oops. Buy husband cashmere sweater in flying visit to John Lewis for new computer (old one wheezing badly) on Sunday. Monday, both computers down while trying to transfer data. Eight AM walk on the Heath. Ten hours reading Mark Twain.
Arrive at Broadcasting House having developed Missouri accent at 9PM Monday. Could probably have swotted up for twenty minutes and done fine. But no, Phil Dodd is razor sharp and doesn’t pause for breath between questions. Am matched with John Freeman (editor of Granta, eek!) and Pete Messent (very eek!), professor of American literature at Nottingham.Neither seems remotely fazed by huge philosophical questions posed at breakneck speed. We emerge twenty minutes later, sweating and giggly, like survivors stumbling out of a trench. (Here’s the link...)
Home by 10:30PM. On a train this morning at 9AM from Liverpool Street to somewhere near Diss in Norfolk, to launch a sale of deck chair paintings to raise money for St Elizabeth’s Hospice in Suffolk, of which I’m a patron. Small speech, quoting extensively from Yeats’ Sailing to Byzantium (if you haven’t read it lately, do so now). Also, do bid on a deck chair (I have my eye on David McKee’s). It’s a great cause. Home by six. Tomorrow it’s another early train — to Tonbridge Library. By the time I’m back from Tonbridge it’ll be Thursday.
OK, the life of a writer isn’t dull.
But where does the writing come in?