YES PLEASE, ARE YOU SURE, ARE YOU MENTAL, I LOVE YOU
I started my day being sad about not being at my bookshop for World Book Day. I don’t work there anymore, since last week. I got another job. And although I love my new job, not being at the bookshop was like a little thorn in my heart. But I was cheered by seeing my nephew and niece trotting off to school with his Beano (CLASSIC) and her Clever Polly and the Stupid Wolf (NEW CLASSIC) to share with their friends. I thought of their day ahead. It made me smile.
Then I got to my new place of work, which I realised is actually like something out of a book. A big old house in a beautiful park. Approaching it I feel a bit like a governess turning up for her first post, Jane Eyre meeting her Mr Rochester with his mad wife confined to the attic, or an injured highwayman seeking shelter, or a WW1 nurse at an orphanage turned war hospital, or an 19th century solicitor sent to tidy the business of a dead woman, peered down at by the ghost of a woman in black, a rocking horse set to creak his welcome.
The magic of books is all around us in our surroundings, if we choose to see them. In the trees and houses and paving slabs and ponds. In the furniture and countryside and faces of strangers. Real life things are all would-be mementoes of the things that we have read. We can see what we have read, and what we choose. That is the beauty of fiction. It is ours.
Then I got to work and in the slithers of moments I grabbed instead of a lunch I replied to personal emails that were stressing me out. Business that needed tending. Things I had to hurry when I did not want to hurry them. I got a bit huffy at everyone and myself, at time, and the notion of lunch, and work, and technology for allowing us to keep ploughing on when actually we probably should just step outside and walk around the rose gardens and read bench plaques or laugh at silly dogs.
Only at the end of the day did I fully realise I had been tending to the correspondence between my literary agent and my publisher, reading and finalising contracts so that in a couple of months time I will find myself holding – a book. My first published book. Of a playscript. That I wrote myself. Then a couple of months after that I will be holding another book, of another play, that I am finishing at the moment. Two books in one year. After thirty five years of producing no books but wanting to. Suddenly World Book Day felt like it had telescopically zoomed in to something very small, unglobal, unimportant to anyone but myself, localised to the most central point – right next to where my love of books lies. Inside me. In my heart. With all the other important stuff of my life, in the hidden unthanked organ that pumps constantly without moaning; that keeps me alive.
I may not be working with books anymore, but this year, on Book Day, I presided over the business between two men; a literary agent, and a publisher. They have spent days, weeks, bouncing back and forth with legal things in my name that I have no understanding of, and have little interest in beyond ‘I love books, can I have my own one now’.
I read their business emails and replied ‘ok’. By which I really meant ‘YES PLEASE, ARE YOU SURE, ARE YOU MENTAL, I LOVE YOU’.
And I dare to dare to dare to say it, I felt very happy.