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Friday, 4 November 2011

There’s a big weekend coming up, and this posting is likely to be more about pleasures in store than my action-packed working week, which is just coming to an end.

Somehow I have managed to crank out close to a thousand words a day for the next Mike Pannett book. We’ve never tried to hide the fact that this is a collaborative enterprise. On the other hand, we agreed at the outset that he would be the ‘face’ of the project. After all, the books are about his work as a copper. He enjoys being out there, hustling, promoting, building networks. He’s very good at it, very good indeed. I always say he’s like a dog with a bone. Once he gets his teeth into something you cannot loosen his grip. He’s also very happy meeting the public, signing books and harassing buyers to get them in stock. Our experience after four volumes, with another in the pipeline, is that if you stack our books up in front of people they will pick them up and buy them. I’ll talk again about this at a future date. I think it’s a interesting story, and possibly a unique collaboration, certainly in British publishing.

However, it’s Friday, and I’m about to shut down. I’ve almost produced today’s quota, and it’s been hard going.  A lot of the time I’m working from audio tapes that Mike makes, in which he recounts certain cases he’s had to deal with. I then write them up as stories, choosing a setting with which I am familiar (or going and researching a new one), weaving in dialogue and populating the narrative with the minor characters - or fictional versions of the actual participants. When I’ve done a chapter I send it across to Mike. He and his wife, also a police officer, then go through it line by line and tell me what procedural points need to be added, or altered. And they’ll suggest additional material, all of which I attend to after I’ve got to the end of the book. This week I’ve been working on the story of a particularly horrific day when Mike attended three serious RTAs (road traffic accidents) in a single shift, two of them involving fatalities. Today, however, it’s been light relief. I’ve been working with our minor characters, all based on people he has lived amongst, and heavily flavoured with anecdotes from my own days of living in rural North Yorkshire. I worked, years ago, as a rat-catcher and got to meet some very colourful types. I enjoy writing these gentle, more comical scenes. They provide relief from some of the cases Mike deals with, which can be pretty gruelling.

So, I’ve been anchored at the desk, and will be Monday to Friday until late January. I got out briefly today, to take some garden waste down to the allotment. There I found, to my surprise, that our sweet peas are still blooming heavily. I snapped a few pictures, none of which was very good. Here’s the best of a bad bunch.


I also found a couple of handfuls of late raspberries, which I ate -  to save me the trouble of carrying them home.

Tomorrow I’m off to York for a massively important football game. Well, it’s massive for a team that plays in the fifth tier of English football and is currently in third position. If we lose to the league leaders, who are Welsh, well… I could be rendered speechless. It’s happened before. Either way I’ll be back in Durham in time to attend a public firework display. Yes, November 5th: Gunpowder, Treason and Plot, and old Guy Fawkes gets burned in effigy. Thinking about it, I could have my pre-match beer in the pub where he was born, in the very shadow of York’s Gothic cathedral. But I doubt that I will. They used to do a really good fish-and-chips, but recently they’ve gone all haute cuisine, meaning that the fish comes in dainty wee goujons and the chips are neatly stacked to form a sort of dolls-house sized log-pile on your plate. Very artistic, but nowhere near enough to fill a football fan’s stomach. 

Sunday we’ll be in Gateshead, across the river from Newcastle, for some serious cultural activity. The BBC are putting on a series of free addresses from some of Britain’s brightest thinkers. We’re down for Germaine Greer (yes, she’s Australian) and a couple of others, after which it’s a short walk along the river-front to the Baltic - an art gallery created in the shell of what was once a huge grain warehouse - to see the works which have been chosen as finalists for the prestigious, and controversial, Turner Prize for art. That is going to be challenging, because some of the previous pieces down the years have created some very animated debate about ‘what is art?’ The fact is, not many of could really answer that. So… don’t expect to be dazzled by my take on contemporary art early next week. Prepare instead for a blow-by-blow account of a great football game.

P.S. I did check on Durham's annual rainfall figure, and it came out at around 25 inches. We have 121 days when more than a millmetre of rain is recorded, so my guess as to the number of wet days wasn't at all bad. I under-estimated the sunshine, however: we get 1374 hours per year.