Battening Down The Hatches
Last week’s post attracted the most traffic ever to this blog, and certainly generated the biggest response in terms of comments, feedback on Twitter, etc. The moral of the story seems to be that saying vaguely rude things about David Starkey and/or Michael Gove strikes a big chord with perusers of this particular dark recess of the Interweb, and it would have been easy for me to carry on in the same vein this week, just as many of the numbers in Saturday’s Eurovision song contest were basically clones of the previous year’s winner. (As ever, far and away the best music of the night was Charpentier’s Prelude to a Te Deum, aka the Eurovision theme. Maybe next year the UK should enter Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending? Let’s face it, it couldn’t do much worse than Bonnie Tyler, Engelbert Humperdinck or the Romanian castrato vampire…)
So, for example, this week I could have chosen to major on the fact that thanks to the intrepid Freedom of Information requests put in by a retired teacher, some of Mr Gove’s more sweeping assertions about schoolchildren’s alleged ignorance of History are based on rigorous in-depth research by such authoritative organisations as, umm, Premier Inn. But I don’t want to flog a career-dead politician, so then I thought of commenting on the appearance last week of the new seminal literary work by master wordsmith Dan Brown – but Michael Deacon’s brilliant send-up renders superfluous all further comment about said renowned author.
No – this week marks a battening down of the hatches. In the last couple of months, I’ve lost a huge amount of writing time to meetings, trips, filming, transporting elderly mother from Wales to Bedfordshire and entertaining her for a week (she particularly likes my stand-up routine and my rendition of the greatest hits of Max Bygraves), transporting her back again, etc. So it’s time to shut myself away for five or six weeks, during which time I hope to finish off ‘Quinton 5’, The Battle of All The Ages, and work on various other projects too. Embarking on such an intensive period of writing means I need to be fully prepared for all the potential pitfalls lying in the way, which from past experience are:
- People – They phone you up; some of them even have the audacity not to offer you vast amounts of money for mis-sold PPI. They come to the door wanting you to sign for a package from Amazon that you ordered in advance six months ago and had totally forgotten about. They suggest it’s about time you went for a drink with them in the pub. One of them even lives with you. Solution: Hide. The only viable alternative, namely carrying out limited genocide among your circle of contacts, is not recommended.
- Grass – It grows. Constantly. From time to time, the person who lives with you will suggest that it’s time you went out and lost an hour’s writing by mowing it. Solution: Let it grow. By the end of the summer you’ll have a small jungle, aka a wild habitat which is much better for the environment.
- Shopping – In the beginning was the list. And the list had one item on it, and all was good. Then, suddenly, the list expanded until it contained the entire inventory of a small United Nations relief convoy. And the person who lives with you will suggest that it’s time you went out and lost an hour’s writing by getting every item. Solution: Unfortunately, there isn’t one, unless you can survive a six-week writing blitz on one tin of corned beef, a packet of cornflakes and a tea bag. (NB going out shopping also involves the author in contact with People; see above. Generally, such encounters do not end well. You’ll either end up at the checkout manned by the trainee who doesn’t know how to input the discount on Chilean Merlot, or else you’ll be behind the granny who insists on paying for her unfeasible number of tins of cat food with several dozen money-off coupons and a purse full of small denomination coins that were legal tender in the reign of William IV.)
- The Internet – Get thee behind me, Twitter, for you are far too interesting and I would much rather spend ages staring at you to learn that all my fellow authors and historians are being distracted from their writing by doing exactly the same thing. Then there are everybody else’s blogs and all those hilarious animal videos on YouTube, not to mention the fun that can be had from the reader comment forums on the Guardian and Telegraph websites (oh to lock both sets of contributors in one large room and watch the consequences). Solution: Remember that you are a relic of the PI (= Pre-Internet) era; thus you are one of those fortunate souls who will know just what to do when the whole thing crashes, as it surely will one day, and all the young people start bumping into each other like headless chickens, screaming that they can’t live without their iPhone apps and Angry Birds. When that glorious day dawns, you will smile knowingly, for you will remember how to use a manual typewriter and carbon paper; you will be one of the few who will know how to write a letter longhand – yes, and how to post it too; above all, you will know how to look up information, not on Wikipedia, but in books in libraries. So deploy your secret weapon, ageing author, and disconnect from your wi-fi network. You can do it. You know you can. You really, really can.
- The British Summer – Endless sunny days when you can’t concentrate on writing because of all the distractions – the chance to sit in the garden and work on the tan, the opportunity to go out for nice walks, the wall-to-wall Test Match cricket… Solution: This summer? This very marginally warmer reboot of winter? We’re still switching on the central heating in the evenings, for heaven’s sake. Absolutely perfect writing weather. Sorted.
So as part of my focus on writing, I’ll be scaling back the amount of time I put into this blog for the next few weeks, for example by taking the opportunity to publish material that takes a bit less creative thought, namely some pictures and documents of naval and/or seventeenth century and/or general interest. But if the likes of Messrs Starkey or Gove stick their heads above the parapet again, be sure that I’ll return to the fray and will have a trusty demi-culverin or two primed, loaded, and ready to point in their directions.