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Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A graduation ceremony - and a meeting with my old friend Andrew Wille in the Princess Louise, a beautiful London pub

Back into orbit after three days in the south-east and, as ever, I am finding the  business of getting down to writing for money a massive challenge. Still, it’s only one o’clock, and I have until about nine tonight to crank up the machine and produce the thousand words.  I am already congratulating myself on resisting the temptation, on a quiet, sunny day, to go down the road to Sedgefield races and terrorise the bookies there.

Instead, I shall reflect upon the weekend. When I went on the Net to book accommodation I was confronted by several ‘offers’ from hotels in central London, most of which would have cost me £200 for two nights. I ended up in Hertfordshire, a 30-minute train journey from town, plus a ten-minute cab ride. That was the down-side. The up-side was that I got the two nights for £78.  Even with the added fares I was £50-60 better off, and the surroundings were rather splendid. The first morning I strolled around the grounds after breakfast and felt a little like Bertie Wooster taking the air at Blandings Castle or some such retreat.

I’ll get around to my daughter’s art show, and her graduation ceremony, another time, but right now I’d like to talk about an old friend I met up with for the first time in fifteen years. Andrew Wille did the same degree as I did, in the mid-1980s. He was a year ahead of me. We crossed paths in New Mexico when he was coming to the end of his year abroad and I was embarking upon mine, with a wife and two small children. After graduation he found his way into publishing, with Little Brown & Co. He  was there when Alan Samson promised to get my novel Son of a Gun published - although that all went belly-up some months later, and the novel has cowered in a drawer ever since. Andrew and I have always got along. I think we share similar backgrounds: council estate, success at school, oddball parents, a sense of outsidership, a taste for acid wit.

We met up in a rather splendid pub in Holborn, the Princess Louise.

It’s one of the few in London owned by Yorkshire brewer Samuel Smith, founded by the brother of John Smith. Price is the great attraction of Sam Smith’s product. It always retails at a pound or so less, per pint, than other brews. And it’s drinkable, whereas brother John’s is not - at any price.

Andrew and I covered a lot of ground in two and a half hours. We find that we have experienced our fair share of deaths, divorces, emigrations, removals, master’s degrees, triumphs and rejections since we last met. He has remained very much an editor and mentor, and as such  had a few bits of advice for me regarding marketing and other opportunities, as well as tips on blogging. He feels that shorter postings at regular intervals are more effective than longer ones. He’s also emailed me a few suggestions for reading. I was telling him about the book I’d like to write, the one about the 40 or so jobs I had before I became a writer, but which I struggle to complete because I have yet to find the right voice in which to tell my stories. He feels that Alan Bennett might help me; not the man in person, rather his work. Perhaps so. I shall ponder that late; right now I must crack on with today’s target.

One final thing: York won 7-0 on Saturday - yes, that’s SEVEN - and have a chance to get three more points tonight, away at Telford.

More anon.

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