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Friday, 8 February 2013

Meat-balls, castration and the price of corn

Absent for eight, ten days, I see… Well, I’ve been distracted. It’s money, as ever. Ran short and asked for some more manuscrip-reading work to tide me over until the Public Lending Right income arrives in a couple of weeks. And so I’ve spent a jolly few days reading a 250-page account of a young man travelling in New Zealand and, yesterday and today, a great, fat 600-pager. Yes six hundred pages. In 11-point type.

Subject? Well, whatever the guy said it was it turned out to be a perambulation through the social and economic history of a remote corner of rural Norfolk from roughly the end of the Roman occupation (call it 450 A.D.) to the mid-Georgian period (the early 19th century). My head is now full of the Poor Laws, the Plague (and Black Death), the debasement of the currency, the religious conflicts of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the ghastliness of man towards man back in those unenlightened times. You know the sort of thing: Henry I accosting some folk he suspected of debasing his currency or abstracting his duties – and casually sentencing a hundred or so to have their right arms cut off, and while you're at it, boys, their testicles. (They won’t try that again….) Oh yes, and the price of corn – which was generally so high that the poor buggers who tilled the fields couldn’t afford to buy it, and ate peas or turnips instead.

I’ll rest over the weekend and write a report Monday. Then, with luck and a following wind, I shall return to More Jobs Than Birthdays, with the hope of completing that over the next three weeks or so.

This detour – it’s not my first, and it won’t be my last – makes me wonder how the hell anybody every writes anything of consequence. Wealth, I suppose, or patronage. (And as soon as I type the word I am reminded of an editor at the Sunday Times who once said to me, ‘Alan, if I were rich, I’d be your patron. Meanwhile can you please target your delightful travel articles at the market-place.’ Yes, that would be it: money or backing. Or a precious early success, an established reputation. And, yes, I admit that there are times, when I read a reviewer saying that such-and-such a writer has written a brave or a bold or an adventurous book, that I’m wont to scream and pound my fists on the floor and say, ‘Yes, but… they have security, stature, profile. They can afford to be bold, inventive, risky.Me? Too bloody busy studying the market!’

Well, I had quite a list of things to write about this evening. There was a computer disaster that wiped out two days; a visit from Chainsaw that effected a temporary solution; a stony silence from my Asian contact; and a spectacular success with the meat-balls I made with the remnants of last weekend’s roast lamb.

However, time is tight. I shall put those items on hold and come back to them over the weekend, my mood perhaps improved by a rare York City victory.