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Friday, 31 May 2013

Edinburgh. Sunshine. Two words that have never escaped my mouth in a single sentence - until now.




 
There we were, standing in line for a coffee and looking for a snack, when I spotted this. Never seen one before in my entire life, but then I’d never been to watch the closing stages of the Edinburgh Marathon either. We swooped like vultures.

We spent an enjoyable weekend in the Scottish capital, posing as a support party for A’s son, who was participating in the event for the first time. To entice us, he had scouted around and come up with the most luxurious city-centre residence I’ve ever stayed in. It was… spacious. Here’s the entrance-hall:

 

And here’s the dining room

 
 
In fact, if I had one complaint it was that the walk to the kitchen took so long that by the time you got there you’d generally forgotten what it was you wanted. Still, you could always pause and admire the view from one of the windows:

 
This was the first time I’d ever been to Edinburgh and seen the sun. It was almost as if Auld Reekie, as it used to be known before the Clean Air Act swept away those smoky old chimneys and gave us a new set of see-through pollutants, was keen to make up for its past misdemeanours. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, the May light quite breath-taking, the trees and flowers dazzling.

 



After Edinburgh, back to a grey, wet Durham and a week spent almost exclusively indoors, at my desk.  I have been playing catch-up, and have, as far as is possible, emerged triumphant – albeit at the expense of several days’ growth of beard, a pair of very weary eyes, and a general physical staleness. I have dispatched a finished, polished and rather exciting sample chapter for the proposed book about black-market oil trading in the Niger Delta, a chapter which ends with our hero in a dingy Nigerian prison cell with a gun stuffed down his underpants (I am not making this up, neither is my informant) and the weight of the Drugs Enforcement Agency, Interpol and US Customs about to land on his back. I have also completed what I hope will be a final version of the text for Mike Pannett’s Yorkshire, and written reports on two manuscripts from TLC. And, late last night, I washed up a four-day accumulation of dirty dishes.  That leaves the horizon clear for me to draft a chapter-by-chapter outline of the ‘oil’ book before we set off for France in slightly less than a couple of  weeks. When I return from there I become a sci-fi writer for some months.

This ‘jobbing writer’ lark is many things, but it is never boring. When I read my completed sample chapter the other day, and after our agent had given it a big thumbs up, it occurred to me that this was my first ever attempt to write an action-thriller and hey, it wasn’t half bad. Fingers crossed, I can do the same for the Chinaman. Confused? You need to read my previous posting. If I add all this experience to the time I ghosted a cricketing autobiography, my several corporate histories, the TV soaps, the radio drama – and why not throw in those comic routines I wrote for the sky-diving Elvis impersonator - I have probably covered more ground than many a more celebrated exponent of the writing craft.

Today I depart for Edinburgh once more. I’ll be taking a bus out to Lauder – and I have to admit that I have no idea where that is – to meet A, who has been hiking the Southern Upland Way. I’ll be joining her for the last two days. This time, thank goodness, we’re cheating: we’ve hired a baggage carrier to shift our camping gear while we skip along with nothing but day-packs. Bliss.