“I’d give it at least a couple of hours.” This is what I’m up against, I kid you not. Featuring Louise Yates, totally nailing it as my nemesis.
In order to combat the insomnia I’ve covered previously, for the last few weeks I’ve taken to power marching the boundaries of a small park behind my flat. It’s called the Rec, short for recreation ground, but the obvious homonym is far more apposite. For every day, I encounter troubled souls doing something similar, usually alone and lost absolutely in thought. As I myself have discovered, there is comfort to be had in movement, but more particularly in the routine of it. So it comes as no surprise to see now familiar faces in now familiar spots at very specific times.
If I set out at 9.30am, I know that at approximately 9.40am I will see an elderly jogger under one of the horse chestnut trees, his face distorted, eyes dead. He does not acknowledge me, nor I him, but we both know. Similarly, if I leave twenty minutes later, I’ll twice pass a woman dressed rather more formally than is required for a walk. She moves at a crawl, her head tilted in reflection. Every time I pound past them, trying desperately to get to a place where the body becomes exhausted enough to allow the brain to function, I can’t help but wonder what it is that brings them here. Tragedy? Loss? Loneliness? Or is it perhaps something altogether more banal? Whichever, I have found myself actively anticipating these fleeting moments and building them into my own routine.
The dog walkers are a little different, for they have a companion and are more inclined to offer up pleasantries as I approach them. This induces mild panic, as I will momentarily be forced to leave the safe haven of contemplation in favour of an appropriate response, usually preceded by an active engagement with the pet itself. It is enormously disruptive, so if I see one looming on the horizon I tend to adopt the requisite speed to avoid them entirely. Sadly this isn’t always possible, and it takes a good lap of resentment to get things back on the level.
There is one character I haven’t quite yet figured out. He wears green municipal fluoros and carries a large bag, presumably for collecting leaves. Invariably he stands inside one of the hard tennis courts, clutching the wire mesh with his free hand and staring out at something in the far distance. He hardly moves as I circumnavigate, and the only times I haven’t seen him is when the court is occupied. Which isn’t all that often. It is a magnificently solitary pose, akin to John Fowles’ French Lieutenant’s Woman but lacking the insider knowledge as to why this is so. In all probability he’s just on the skive, but where’s the romance in that?
When the book campaign ends this Sunday, I’m going to knock it on the head. I’ll have stacks to do and it’s all too easy to become yet another ghost. But I hope they’ll notice I’ve gone.
There was a time I thought it impossibly cool to be able survive on little or no sleep. That I could glide, ghostlike, into the dark portals of my home over the small hours, content in the knowledge that lightweight recumbents lacking the requisite stamina could not manage the same. In much the same way as an ASBO, it was a badge of pride which would almost certainly be the envy of the idle. So at the beginning of this book campaign, when I was riding high on nervous energy, I welcomed it in. Brilliant, I thought, I’ll coast through the jobs and come out ahead of the game. I could not have been more wrong. You know something’s up when the crying starts:
- Postman delivers wine stain remover? Howl like a baby.
- Blurry online photo of Cecil the Lion? Howl like a baby.
- Builders below stop using circular saw for twenty seconds? Howl like a baby.
And that’s just the beginning. Next up comes the attention deficit, always handy when you’re multitasking:
Boil kettle / half complete to-do list / prepare for shower / remember kettle / make coffee half-dressed / ditto three lines of email / have shower / call someone / walk around park to clear head / remember email / check Facebook / quick cry / more coffee / check to-do list again / remember food / forget food / remember email / quick cry / go to bed.
The cruellest twist of the knife is that last bit. When you finally head up the hill, exhausted beyond language from your day of not quite achieving anything and discovering twenty different ways that sleep deprivation will see you off, you collapse into the welcoming tundra of the bedroom. But it is a Trojan Horse. Come stupid’o’clock (usually ten to something ridiculous like two or three), you find yourself bolt upright and worrying about that bloody email. So now there’s fat chance of getting back to Nod, yet somehow you have to fill up your time until the whole wretched shooting match starts all over again. And that’s when the chatting starts:
Me: Not sure how much more of this I can take.
Me: Me neither. It’s brutal.
Me: Sure is. What shall we do?
Me: Think anyone’s on Messenger?
Me: Doubt it. How about a bit of Facebook stalking?
Me: Yeah, why not?
(Two minutes later)
Me: Sod this. Let’s go for a walk.
Me: Too knackered.
Me: Book then?
Me: We’ll just end up reading the same sentence again and again. Like last night.
Me: Like that’s going to help.
Me: Well what do you suggest then, smartarse?
Me: How about trying to sleep?
Me: We’ve talked about this. But give it a try if you want. I’m off.
Me: Where to?
Me: Anywhere but here. You’re doing my head in, man.
Yes, it’s true. I’m doing my own head in. And there’ll be fisticuffs at dawn unless I sort something pretty soon. Just not sure which horse to back if I don’t.
Harnessing Dad’s old ruse.
OK, action stations! Everything I’ve worked towards for the last four years is about to kick off big time on Friday. No room for funnies now, just need to know that you’re all on board. It’s been a mad week, what with the computer playing up, the launch party, being sick as a panda and losing my voice just as we were shooting the straight-to-camera stuff, but at last the whole shebang is going to pitch and it’s in the lap of the Gods what happens after.
At this stage of the game you need a bit of TLC, because most of your time is taken up with being wired on adrenalin, not sleeping, eating shit food, drinking shedloads of quality alcohol, smoking for Britain, swearing and crying. Oh, and doing the work. And for the most part, people have been pretty good. I even brought some campaign postcards into my local café yesterday, and the Italian girl who I usually get served by took one look at me and said “Guess it’s started then!” Bless her. The family have finally accepted that I mean business, I’ve got four more followers on the Twitter and some bloke at the party said my stuff was worthy of Ed Reardon. High praise indeed.
But never mind that. What matters more than anything right now is that I reach the funding goal. Although I’ve been trying to imagine what to do if this doesn’t happen. Those bloody letters to the artists, oh God!
Thanks for your interest and involvement with the Idle Eye project. I regret to inform you that, to date, it hasn’t received the anticipated volume of public support and consequently I would suggest that you to persevere with your chosen profession as before. This is in no way indicative of the quality of your work. We are living through austere times and there is only so much gold in the pot. Sadly, this time it isn’t yours.
I shall, of course, keep your details on file and if anything suitable arises in the fullness of time, I’ll be in touch. And if you need an assistant, I am but an email away. They say my coffee is excellent and I am quick at washing up.
Then there would be that climbdown in front of those I’ve bigged it up to for months, followed by the inevitable mockery as I re-entered the world of gainful employment. Fortunately, such a ghastly, apocalyptic projection has been the spur for me to soldier on regardless. Failure is so not an option it’s not even a hologram. And if that elusive target proves to be exactly that, I’ll have a chat with my nine chums of Hatton Garden notoriety and furnish myself with a few tips. Because who would expect a half-cut, wan blogger to be capable of anything more than a few shoddy words of whimsy every week?