I have a friend who gives a grade to each of her days. (Her birthday=A+, getting stuck at work = B- etc). I’m not great with numbers (and the thought of getting anything less than a A fills my over-achieving heart with panic), but I like the concept. I have decided to define my days with two words. (Unexpected windfall=bloody fantastic, running out of toilet paper=the worst). Here’s yesterday.
I started very productively. I’ve still not replaced my phone (there was an incident, and now I don’t have a phone, and I have many feelings about this but the key take-away is that it’s not my fault), and so instead of an alarm clock I simply sleep in a feverish panic that I will oversleep, and bolt awake at 6am.
I pottered about for a bit, hurling instructions to my little sister about our dinner plans, scolding her for wiping her face on my towel, asking what she thought of Lord Carlile’s defense of Rennard. (I’m not usually awake at 6am. I have no real idea what the social etiquette is). At 8am, our cleaner arrived, and sent me off to buy unpronounceable and mysterious cleaning products. (It was not until I arrived in Waitrose that I was entirely convinced she wasn’t playing an elaborate practical joke on me, making me ask for naughty things in Bulgarian).
Fuelled by early-morning smugness, I did a little run, and went to my opticians appointment. (It is, I have recently found, quite possible to fill an entire working day with errands. Wait til I tell you about the new self-service machines at the Post Office).
After fixing myself a little snack (I used the sharp knife, reassured by my recent encounter with the optician, although as usual I ended our time together looking for a plaster), I sat down to write. ‘There’s something wrong with this,’ I thought. I looked back over what I had written with an expanding feeling of panic. There’s a very good book by David Lodge (I can’t remember the title, but most of his books are excellent, so happy reading!) in which one of the characters is an author who, having published his first two books to great acclaim, never writes again. Another character goes to see him. ‘Why don’t you write anymore?’ one character asks the other. (Re-telling this, I understand why characters in books are given names, but bear with me). The other character explains that there’s this program which tells you what words and syntax you use most. He ran it on his first books, and now he can’t write anything without being taunted by ‘grey, dreary, grey’, which is what the program synopsized his style as.
As I looked over my own work, two words thundered around my skull: pithy laughter. All of my characters are pithy, (at least in their own eyes) and all anyone does is laugh. I’d written the literary equivalent of Bring it On. Quickly, I messaged a friend, replacing ‘pithy laughter’ with another two words: help me. Which she did, immediately and generously. At which point, I wrote happily for the rest of the afternoon, until my little sister came home with popcorn and a movie, when I realised that the definition for my day was ‘thank you’.