Saturday, 14 February 2009

A day off

My day off started at four-fifteen in the morning (4:15 am GMT), when Emiliano, our younger son, took it upon himself to declare, as a pre-emptive measure, a very early dawn. Fair enough: infants’ biorhythms are not to be messed about – so I got up, shaved myself and zombied into my suit, knotting a dubious silver tie onto my black shirt.

Three hours later, the whole family set out for Stansted, and at around eight thirty I found myself driving back to Richmond on my own, and listening to a Shostakovich quartet as I overtook a Polish truck from Poznan.

At around ten o’ clock, I popped by the office and checked my email. I also gave John Calder a surprise call on his Irish mobile and sent out a couple of hundred emails, just to keep people on their toes over the weekend. After that, I felt I could really relax and set off for Chelsea, where I had a long meeting with the indomitable Melissa Ulfane of Pushkin Press.

Two hours later, at around two-thirty, we both felt a bit peckish and, after some deliberation, decided to get a sandwich. But then Melissa remembered she had just joined the Ivy Club and wanted to try its restaurant. The Victoria line was suspended, the Jubilee line partly closed, so we ventured all sorts of disruptions and cabbed our way across to the West End.

Once we arrived in West Street, a mind-operated plexiglass lift took us to second floor, where we left our coats, and a more prosaic flight of stairs took us to the restaurant on the third floor. The club was almost empty at that time, but they were still serving food. I must report here that we survived the scare of a three-course meal, four glasses of Beaujolais and a full tumbler of Armagnac.

After that, all I remember is a psichedelic London, a very helpful librarian at the London Library and a long-bearded, bereted Osama-bin-Laden-like figure on the Tube, who seemed to be growing iPod buds from his ears.

If you ever wonder how and when small independent publishers come up with their barmy publishing ideas, now you know it’s when they relax on an odd day off.


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