Thursday, 19 November 2009

Not a girl called Bill

After a third rush across town at the behest of my heavily pregnant sister, who has made several claims to be about to be in the throes of labour, she finally has given birth. Despite my niece telling me, most confidently, that the baby would be a girl called Fermalicia, or Bill, the baby turns out to be a boy, called Thomas.

That’s five children my brother and sister have produced in the time it’s taken me to turn out a book.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Famous People

I get a call from Trevor, my publisher, this morning. He invites me into the office so I can pick up the proof copies and discuss to whom we should send them.

I’d imagined the proofs to be ring-bound A4 folders, like the ones I used to use in my past corporate life when I wanted to divert attention from the fact that there was no substance to a presentation I was making.

As Trevor guides me to a leather sofa in Preface’s schmoozing room, he hands me a paperback book, only this one has a familiar cover: The Mango Orchard. It’s not quite the finished article, a point conceded by the disclaimer at the bottom of the front cover: “Uncorrected proof. Not for resale.” The opening pages are blank, they have lines of text that say “Maps to come” and “dedication to come”. But that, and a few typographical errors aside, here it is. My book.

The purpose of having these proof copies is to ‘create a buzz’. We want to send them to notable people – writers, broadcasters and journalists – in the hope that they will read it and say how life-changingly brilliant the book is. Trevor already has a Who’s Who type list of people who I can’t help thinking will be far too busy to look at my book. I rack my brain for any famous people I could add to the list. I once met Paul McCartney at a party and asked for his autograph. Probably not. I used to live next door-but-three to Sebastian Coe (me and my friend Patrick Edwards used to spit in his drive – not because we didn’t like him, we had just learned how to spit and that’s kind of important when you’re three). No, not Seb either. Then I remember my neighbour Ian had given me the address of a friend of his, both a famous actress and author. Trevor claps his hands together “Perfect!” he says.

I arrive home and write her a letter. Because of the postal strikes, and because it is a nice day, I decide to deliver the proof copy to her house myself. I cycle across North London and manage to track down her house. I am disappointed. This beautiful, classy woman who has worked with the Hollywood elite lives in what looks like a squat. The house number is written on the gate post in magic marker, there are no curtains and the only furniture I can see is a guitar. The paint is peeling off the house walls and the garden fence has been completely covered by car hubcaps. I check the address I had written on the envelope. It’s right: No. 25. I force the envelope through the letter box and cycle home.

Back at my desk, I begin to write this blog. I look at the post-it note with the address of the famous actress and author written on it and I wonder how I’m going to tell my neighbour that his friend lives in a house that looks like the set for Withnail and I. No.23. No. 23??

I had delivered the proof to the famous actress and author’s neighbour. Funnily enough, as a cycled away, I remember thinking what a nice house No.23 was.