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Version I

Yesterday was a good day. I wrote 5000 words and I when I look at them today, I still want to keep most of them. This means that when I tell him, my agent and publisher will also have good days.

4.30pm

Wake up and smell red wine on the sheets. Ah yes, there’s actually wine spilled on my Egyptian cotton bed linen. Irene the housekeeper will wash it out. She’ll be in soon and will wave her finger at me and tell me in wonderfully staccato English that I drink too much and am wasting my (alleged) talent. And my liver.

Downstairs, I see she’s left me another note: Please don’t put cigarettes in the sink. Please use one glass for the same drink. I need to change your sheets but you’re always in them when I come. Thank you for my wages.

6.00pm

With eyes still shut, I make a black coffee and have with a shot of whisky and the leftover sandwich from this morning’s snack. It might be marmalade.

7.00pm

Meet Angus my agent at L’Argent Disparú. A dark place which smells of oak casks and loose women. Many’s the night I’ve ended up rolling around a cask after cavorting with a loose woman. Or something similar…

He tells me he’s waiting for the next few chapters. What I’ve shown him so far is of course genius but could I do some more please.

I buy him a drink and we stay there talking about memorable films, travels around Argentina and loose women.

2.10am

The house smells of Irene’s lemon cleaner and she’s left me another note.

I sent Mme. Pinochet home. I found her sleeping in the cow shed wrapped around Stendhal the pregnant cow; her clothes were with the chickens. If you weren’t so (allegedly) talented I’d resign. But leaving you in the hands of a less experienced, less worldly housekeeper would be irresponsible. Eh bien, til Friday…

2.30am – 6.45am

I put on a Bach CD and make myself comfortable at my desk. The last line I wrote reads:

If Harris married Adele, that would make them not only husband and wife but criminals.

I made a note to myself after this: when you read this tomorrow you must delete it and continue when you’re sober.

7.00am

Another five thousand words written and I write another few.

Adele would never wear white to her own wedding: she’d known that since she was nine. Franz would marry gleefully, gratefully. Adele would love Franz. Within two years they will have ruined each other’s reputation, trust and estate.

8.00am

Even from my remote chateau the village church bells summon me. I open a bottle of wine. It will fortify me for the sermon.

10.00am

I return home feeling cleansed and in need of a drink. My agent has slipped a note under the door: I’m coming round at noon to collect the next chapters of your work. I don’t want a drink and I don’t want another woman. Your audience is hungry and Max Melting is on my back about whether he’ll be able to make your next book into another blockbusting film.

Considering I live very well off the last book Max Melting made into a film All Good Things, I get back to my desk and with a bottle of white wine beside me and continue my story.

10.15am

Five thousand words later, I feel I’ve done a good day’s work. I finish the (third) bottle of champagne and call my brother in LA.

‘Martin… it’s me…’

‘You *****. It’s the middle of the night here. My children asked about you. I told them you were dead. I’m busy.”

He hangs up. Suddenly I’m sober.

He runs my condo over there but doesn’t want to speak to me personally. My sister runs my Knightsbridge penthouse and is the same. ‘You selfish drunkard. You haven’t called Papa in months. No one’s that busy. He asks about you. He’s old and lonely.”

“He should have contemplated that before he beat me with a palette knife and ridiculed me all my young life. I’ll write him a letter.”

She hangs up.

4.00pm

I hear cows and smell the field outside my window. My door bell sounds. Right on time as usual.

The ten poorest children from the village (I think they’re mostly Mme. Hachette’s, some may be mine) stand in an uneven circle looking up at me expectantly. I lead them to the kitchen and they wait obediently.

We sit down and Irene serves chocolat chaud and her freshly made croissants and pastries to us all.

I started doing this a year ago as it stopped the children taunting me and writing rude things on my house wall in colourful chalk.

Then they play in my garden for a couple of hours and leave. I go to bed.

 

Version II

6.50am

Wake up to Radio 4. I can hear birds. One of them is twittering prettily, another is screeching and one other is just nagging in rhythmic squawks. I hear two bulky pigeons fighting.

My pyjamas are too baggy and have stuck to the sheets. I can’t really move…

Prepare breakfast for the family.

7.20am

Wake family.

8.30

School run. Except it’s not a run. The teenage boys on their bikes have overtaken me and are probably at school now. The Micra in front of me gives way to everything when there’s room for two cars in that gap.

9.00am

Shop for the third time this week.

Jobs to do sometime this week.

Find car insurance

Think of something to cook when child has friend over for tea. They won’t eat tomatoes, cheese, pork, pulses or fish.

Contact accountant

10.00

Return home. Make beds, empty bins, clean bathrooms, prepare evening meal (chicken fillets in creamy mushroom sauce, steamed green beans, rosti potates).

1.00

Sit down at PC

Reply to emails. Make dental appointment. Check accounts. Chase up invoice. Input data into business account. Check bank balance. Log onto HMRC. What do I have to do today? VAT, PAYE…

2.00

Open up my ongoing written work.

My shared desk is strewn with other people’s stuff: headphones, coloured pencils, letters… I move it all to another place.

Read over what I wrote the last time (some days ago). It’s not going anywhere. Have I got any ability at all? With my level of self-esteem can I even write an interesting cover letter to an agent?

Continue writing and thinking for an hour in between calls from people wanting me to make a claim for mis-sold PPIs and convincing me I need a UPVC orangery/conservatory.

3.20

Leave house and do school run.

Snacks, homework help, chatting time, bath and bedtime mean I don’t get to write until after 9.00pm.

9.10pm

Load dishwasher, make packed lunch, spend time with spouse. Sleepy, feel like I’ve run out of ideas, get into pyjamas and open up ongoing written work.

Write about 300 words, 50 of which might be any good.

Wonder what I’d feel like if I was a well-selling author. I’d move to France, buy a chateau, have a study of my own… Life would be good.

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