Idle Eye 175 : The Hawker

Been off for a while now. And whilst I’d love to tell you I’ve been lording it up in the Seychelles or chatting to itinerant builders about a snooker room in my recently excavated basement, the absolute truth is considerably less exciting: I’ve been on the road, and not in a Jack Kerouac stylee – as you might expect from a dynamic new author with a sexy book out and a lust for life that would give Iggy a run for his money. No, I’ve been taking the train to far-flung portals of London with a Pay As You Go Oyster card, seeking out small independent bookshops that might be prepared to take a punt on a dynamic new author with a sexy book out etc… And guess what? There’s almost none.

Perhaps it’s the way I do it. I tend to rock up at these places (still smarting from the stealth tax TfL exact on those who don’t use their wretched system every day), a little sheepish and clutching a cardboard box with the printer’s sticker visible at the front. It contains about eight books, a roll of parcel tape, a clipboard, a biro and some flyers from the launch. As I enter the premises, I realise I have but a few seconds to weigh up the level of resistance I will encounter from staff members well versed in the dismissal of self-published authors who don’t yet know the ropes:

Me:  Good afternoon!

SM:  Hi there, what can I do for you?

Me:  Is…er…Julian around?

SM:  You’ve just missed him. He’s out on lunch. I’d give it a couple of hours.

Me:  Not a problem. Perhaps you could help, though. I’ve just made my first book (SM begins to glaze over) and I wondered if it’s the kind of thing you guys would be interested in stocking?

SM:  Er…yeah yeah, cool! Could you leave a copy with us until Julian gets back?

Me:  Of course!

SM:  (rapidly flicking through)  Cool! I’ll get him to take a look as soon as he’s in.

Me:  Thanks. I really appreciate it.

SM:  I’d give it at least a couple of hours.

At this point, I trawl the nearby tragimarts for an entry level cheese sandwich. You know, one of those sad sack, wafer-thin triangles with a green label that retails at about £1.79. Because you do not have to be Nostradamus to figure out what’s around the corner, and any source of nourishment for the struggle should adequately reflect this. Next, I traverse the neighbourhood until I cannot bear it any longer and/or my feet are begging for mercy:

Me:  Hello again! Is Julian back, by any chance?

SM:  (pulling up book from behind desk) Yeah yeah, he was in about 20 minutes ago. Sorry, not really the kind of thing we’re after. Good luck with it, though. Looks great.

‘Looks great.’ Well, at least that’s something. Maybe next time I’ll concentrate on the words…

Idle Eye 148 : The Eisenhower Matrix

It’s harder than you think, being your own boss. Try it sometime and see for yourselves. Traditionally I have been pathetic at organising my day, which is why I usually get other people to do it for me and hopefully throw in a few quid at the same time. But right now, I’m out of the plane without a chute and unless I sort something out pretty quick, I’ll be land pizza before you know it. There are, however, little tricks you can employ to create the illusion of structure, some of which I shall outline below for anyone in the same predicament:

1)  The old ‘leaving the flat’ ruse is a bit of fun – Get dressed in a hurry, swig down a mouthful of instant coffee (leaving the rest) and, if you’re feeling bold, give yourself a quick peck on the cheek. Then walk around the block a couple of times and come back in, panting and complaining bitterly about the inefficiency of whichever rail network you weren’t on.

2)  Create a few formal breaks. These will prevent you from atrophying at the computer and provide the added bonus of allowing you to catch up with all the latest gossip. It’s important to stay in the loop.

3)  The Reward System, albeit rather primitive, is a great incentiviser. That call you made to Virgin Media Customer Services took a while, right? Have a sweetie. Made it through thirty emails about erectile dysfunction and/or PPI? Have another sweetie. Anything whatsoever to do with the Inland Revenue or TfL? Crack open a bottle of single vineyard Central Otago Pinot Noir. Actually, make that two.

4)  Stay focused. Tempting though it may be to stray with another episode of Inside Health and discover you’ve probably got shingles/leg ulcers/something irritable going on with your bowel, you’ll only spend the rest of the day on the med sites and give yourself PTSD to boot.

5)  Draw the curtains. Because the people you can see outside are almost certainly having more fun than you, will be rich in Vitamin D and couldn’t give a monkey’s that your delete key has packed up again. For them, life is one big picnic. For you, it’s an eternal game of chess. Against Magnus Carlsen.

6)  Nothing of interest will come through your letterbox and no-one of interest will ring the doorbell. Ever. Hold your nerve.

7)  Facebook and Twitter are not your friends. They are the Trojan horses of the internet, willingly invited into the workplace where they bed in and beckon, stealing your time and reason. Like Mata Hari. With cats and babies.

After these, you’ll need an endpoint. Something to neurotransmit a strong signal to the brain, telling it to pack in the chores and loosen up a little. Sex, recreational drugs, alcohol and repetitive pop tunes have always been popular with the young, but if, like me, you find yourself in your twilight years, The Archers seems to work okay. In conjunction with the above.