A Day In The Shire
28 October 2020 16:35
The day starts at 4:45am with my daughter texting from the hallway asking if I can give her a lift to work. This began as an occasional offer on my part, but mission creep has set in. It’s a seven-minute walk, but some of that walk is down an unlit alleyway, and I worry about that, as parents do. My daughter is 22, but has limited crushing-a-man-to-death abilities.
I get home and go back to bed. The alarm goes at 6:25am, meaning I’ll have been asleep for some time between sixty and eighty minutes. Sleep experts will note this is a terrible amount of time to sleep for. The alarm drags me from the very depths. I feel awful.
I get on the exercise bike for thirty minutes. I listen to the music I feel like listening to, rather than exercise music. This week, the new Springsteen. It is the essence of Bruce, like fifty years worth of career distilled into one new album. It’s wonderful. I will tell him this the next time we have dinner.
So far, Bruce Springsteen and I have never had dinner.
After half an hour I pass the bike baton over to my wife, Kathryn. We mumble tiredly at each other. I go downstairs and assemble breakfast. Oats, organic wheat flakes, powdered bran, seeds, milled flaxseed, almonds, Brazil nuts, prunes, apricots, apple, grapes, homemade berry compote, yogurt. We eat the same carefully prepared virtue-breakfast every day, and are mocked by our offspring for this.
I used to split morning radio between Radio 3 and Radio 4, but too often when listening to the Today programme I would find myself throwing the radio out of the window, shouting Fuck off, Hancock, you smug, lying, suppurating cuntweasel. I would shout this at the news, even when Matt Hancock wasn’t on. Now I just listen to Radio 3 and nothing else. Listening to the Radio 3 breakfast show is like injecting a warm summer meadow into your brain. When the news comes on at 8 o’clock, I either switch the kettle on or throw the radio out the window.
From nine until twelve I write. Today I’m writing this. Sometimes I write books, or other related frippery. This week sees the release of In My Time Of Dying, which is my twenty-fourth novel. After this length of time, and that amount of novels, I probably ought to know what I’m doing, but there may be some evidence to the contrary.
I make lunch for two, three or four of us, depending on how many of the offspring are at home. (Max 2, ideal 0) Since they gained any semblance of control over their lives, neither kid has ever invited one of their friends to eat with us. One can only assume they are both innately embarrassed by their parents, so at least we’re doing something right.
Between one-thirty and five I do more of what I did between nine and twelve. I currently have thirty-nine titles – novels, novellas, essay collections, short story collections – available on Amazon. Thirty-three of these I self-publish; the three Westphall novels are published by Hodder; the two Pereira & Bain books are published by Bastei Lübbe, a German supergiant; and From #Indyref To Eternity, the book that ended my career as a political satirist, is published by Luath Press.
Every one of those books was going to be the one that got me the breakthrough to the mainstream, though turns out none of them were. My twenty-fifth novel, These Are The Stories We Tell, will be released in January next year. Scientists predict that will be the breakthrough novel.
At five o’clock we go for a walk around the local fields, commenting on the farmers’ work, like we know more about it than them. For example, if it was me, I would have harvested the cornfield outside our window a couple of weeks ago, but no one asked.
One of us makes dinner. Usually me. We are currently eating a lot of vegetables, as Kathryn recently ordered a weekly, locally sourced, organic veg box. She did this without even having watched David Attenborough’s Netflix show. We try not to drink alcohol during the week, but sometimes you just have to.
After dinner we retreat to the sofas and the TV with a cup of tea and one piece of chocolate. I’m too old to eat an entire chocolate bar in the evening without the entire chocolate bar converting instantly to stomach fat. We spend an hour searching through Netflix, two hours if both kids are in the room. Once every second or third year we will find something that more than one of us wants to watch, although the last time this happened has now fallen out of human memory, like the One Ring when it falls off Isildur’s finger and lies at the bottom of the river.
We go to bed. I do Killer Sudoku puzzles or read a book, currently Love In The Time Of Cholera. I try not to read crime novels, partly because I don’t want to discover just how much better other writers are at doing it than I am, and partly because I don’t like crime novels. They can be very depressing. I’m on safe ground with Márquez, because I never intend writing medical-romantic literary Colombian fiction.
I read or do a puzzle until I’m dropping off to sleep, then put the light out.
The phone pings at 4:45am.