For thirty years I dreamed of a life as a professional writer. Here's how it is for me, after twenty-three years. There's plenty about work in progress, a whole lot more about the things that feed my creative process.
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.
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 ofweeks. 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.