“And twenty Camel Lights please. Thanks.” Me, Friday.
“Twenty Camel Lights. Please. Thanks.” Me, Saturday.
“Yes, and ten Camel Lights. Thanks.” Me, earlier today.
Seventeen words, all spoken to the same garage attendant and the only words I’ve spoken all weekend. I don’t want to speak to anyone and have turned my phone off. The only person I want to speak to for the time being is the garage attendant, and if I’m being honest I’d rather not have to speak to him. I’d prefer to just point and grunt.
Sexy, aren’t I? I’ve made other sounds; sobbing sounds mainly. You should see – you should hear – me sobbing. Oh you’d like it, I’m an excellent sobber. I’ve got sobbing nailed. Me and sobbing are pals. Why sob? Why not? It’s been a long time coming. Prior to this weekend I don’t think I’d properly addressed the breakdown of my marriage. I tried once when I was living in Clapton. My attempt involved spending most of the morning in the (mirrored) shower drinking Pernod out of the bottle and masturbating. Sexy, isn’t it? Occasionally I’d take a break and chainsmoke but my heart wasn’t really in the whole endeavour and at the end of my grieving session I didn’t really feel like I’d addressed much at all really. In fact, looking back, I wonder what on earth I was playing at.
I’m still not drinking by the way. I’d love to not be still not drinking, but I’m still not drinking. It’s tough, and made tougher by this borrowed flat I’m in being crammed with booze. Most of it hangs out in a locked cabinet. I unlock the locked cabinet, take out the bottles and then line up the bottles on my desk as I write and (in my head) swear at them. Fuck you Remy Martin XO, I think. Fuck you 10 year old Glenmorangie. Fuck you – really, fuck you – Bells. Fuck you Teachers – and you White Satin gin. Wow, I think, this is more like it, I’m doing brilliantly; I should do more of this, I should get in more.
But it doesn’t stop there, it never does. I take my friends back to their cabinet and lock it. Periodically, I open it and (in my head) swear at them. Good, isn’t it? All this? Haven’t I turned out well? Going mad in a flat in East Horsley. I was always going to go mad in a flat in East Horsley – it was so obvious.
But what better time to test out the whole madness versus creativity debate? More specifically, what better time to try and pitch Leisure Painter? Unfortunately Leisure Painter (‘Instructional articles on painting and fine art. Payment: £75 per 1000 words’) doesn’t have an email contact so they won’t be getting the benefit of my banana-sharp mind this evening. But Executive PA – they might. I flick to the Executive PA entry. ‘Business to business for working senior secretaries’, it reads, ‘Payment: £140 per 1000 words.’
And I begin to crumble. But mid-crumble it hits me. It feels as if God comes down to my borrowed flat in East Horsley and puts his hand on my shoulder and I say my eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth words of the weekend. “Fuck”, I say, “Of course.” Of course it’s going to drive me mad and of course I should be sobbing: it’s impossible. Trying to pitch 642 magazines that I don’t care about in an industry where Caitlin Moran can win Columnist of the Year is not only impossible, it’s stupid. And I’ve spent 16 months doing it. And I’m living in a borrowed flat and I owe pretty much everyone in the world money and I have a job in Mayfair as a professional writer which I need to concentrate on and just what in the hell am I doing trying to pitch the world. I should, I realise with a sigh and an entirely welcome loosening of the shoulders, just give up.
And so I do.
But not for long. Just as I’m closing the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook for what I hope is the last time I notice The Erotic Review entry, a few up from Executive PA. It reads: ‘Up-market literary magazine for sensualists and libertines. Length: 1000 words (articles and features), 1000-2000 (short stories).’
Could I sell them my wank-in-the-shower-with-Pernod story? Would sensualists and libertines like that? Possibly. I resolve to write it up on my commute from Surrey to Mayfair in the morning but if The Erotic Review doesn’t go for it, I reckon it could just about be the end.