6:15 am. The children are wailing. Not my favourite way to wake up. Not even my favourite children. My ideal way to greet the new day would be with Dorothy Parker wafting me gently into consciousness with an envelope marked “Booker Prize,” and whispering the two most beautiful words in the English language; “cheque enclosed.”
7:20 am. Waiting for the film crew. Another film featuring zombies, mutants, futuristic cage fighters, militant Martians, dead babies, and more zombies. The crew are the usual over-educated, hyper-talented, super-confident bunch of twenty-somethings. Between them they have the social skills of a hat peg. My impatience with the post-apocalyptic pantomime must be palpable, and I’m not the best person to babysit. They hate me. I retreat to the office while they put on alien make up and construct weaponry out of balsa wood and discarded cable ties.
8:45 am. “Hello. Erm, it’s Charlie . . . film crew . . . erm . . . what room am I in?”
“Room? . . . could you describe it to me?”
“No . . . I mean . . . erm . . . I’m outside . . .”
“Well Charlie, I’m in the office. Outside identifies 99.9999% of the surface area of the habitable universe. Could you be more specific?”
“The room . . . someone told me there was a room . . . with a . . . erm . . . I need to go . . . to the . . .erm . . . what room is it in?”
“Charlie, dear boy, do you need to go pee-pee? Then why didn’t you say . . . ”
“Car park . . . I’m erm . . . cars!”
“Charlie, don’t move. I’ll be there in a second.”
10:30 am. My friend Harvi rings with another circuitous and barely credible tale about his new business partner. Seems there’s been some misunderstanding over the new website, which is launching Friday, and Harvi needs to write the Home Page, About Us, and the Contact section by lunchtime or there’ll be hell to pay. “Won’t take you long will it, darling!” “Harvi, you do know I’m not a copywriter?” I say. He invites me to Starbucks, doesn’t buy me coffee – “concentrating here, sweetheart!” – and says his only requirement for the copy is that it “doesn’t make us sound like a bunch of ******” Seems like some people from the Indian sub-continent have stereotypical attitudes towards the good citizens of certain other countries in the Indian sub-continent. What we Irish call “tuppence ‘alfpenny looking down on tuppence.” I rattle off a dozen or so paragraphs of unobjectionable prose before lunch. Harvi promises to take me for a bottle of wine, “later.”
1:20 pm. Unilaterally decide I shall henceforth demand to be known as the “3R’s” editor of Culture Culture, in charge of reading, writing and reality – just don’t mention the last bit to Ivor Tymchak, I’m trying to keep him away from reality, he just can’t handle more than the odd homeopathic dose. Books is too cramped, constricted, confining a remit. Reality, however . . . well, let’s face it, what more is there? Reality is all mine. I pity the other editors their puny patches.Theatre! pfft, who’d want theatre! I feel smug.
1:57 pm. Answer a call from a Private Number by accident. Confirm my name, date of birth, address, shoe size and state of mental health. “Mr Kirby, you owe £147.28 . . . how do you intend to pay?” I pat my pockets, inspect the contents of my wallet – the only paper in there is an old bus ticket, a receipt for shampoo from the Pound Shop, and my MozFest pass – and check my bank balance. Balance being the wrong word. It’s balanced in the way a see-saw is balanced when it gets hijacked by the school bully, the fattest kid in the upper forms. “Could get you tickets for the opera, maybe dinner at a new restaurant . . . and how’d you fancy Caitlin Moran’s last book? Even a callous-handed son of toil like you would enjoy that, great read!” My generous offer was peremptorily declined. The guy has vocal chords that have spent time grunting in a sweaty gym. Apparently the phone company does not barter. Cold hard cash – or the digital, directly debited equivalent – is king. My argument that a life without culture is a wizened, juiceless, mean sort of affair has about as much impact as a spit-ball against reinforced concrete. I’ll miss my phone.
3:22 pm. pub! At last. Sweltering in here. But I can plug in my laptop and get intermittent internet. I buy some cheap wine and settle in a darkened corner. I intend to emerge with a thousand words. Nobody will interrupt. Two and a half hours of creativity, just me, my imagination, and a bottle of Hardy’s Shiraz.
5:55 pm. Dashing to my next cultural event. Written nothing. Haven’t eaten. Muse a no show.
8:48 pm. Cultural event had wine. Cultural event now a warm, cosy, vermillion hazed glow, as is the journey home . . . consciousness returns sharply as I’m walking down the ginnel, through six inches of mud, in complete darkness, with the sound of an Alsatian growling somewhere close. I grip my laptop bag closer. Bowels worrisome.
9:09 pm. I live with a Sikh family. Sikhs are 24 hour party people. I’m learning the language. One word I know is, “padji.” Means “brother.” Lovely, isn’t it? One thing I do know is that the more frequently Sikh guys call each other padji, the more angry they are. Harvi just called his business partner padji seven times between me opening the door, taking my shoes off, and getting a glass from the kitchen. This means war. I’m desperate to call this an argie-padji but suspect I would be accused of racism times two. I go to bed. Leave Harvi to negotiate.
10:13 pm. I have a post to write. I have paper to bin and a pencil to chew. There’s wine on the window ledge and a bag of nuts on the shelf. I pour a large tumbler. Ponder the nuts. Survey my domain. Domain being ten foot by eight, survey takes all of three seconds and consists mainly of raising my eyes. I should be writing. Something. Yawn.
11:52 pm. jolt awake. Seem to have made a den with the duvet. Pour myself the dregs and try to remember if I cleaned my teeth.
11:58 accept defeat. Another day where culture lost and alcohol won. Culture has to do better.