Inspired, belatedly, by Richard Herring’s daily blog Warming Up – which, if you don’t follow, you should: it’s truly mindbending that he’s kept it up without fail since Monday November 25, 2002 and it is simultaneously revealing, pithy and hilarious – I thought I’d try and write a blog entry every day for five whole consecutive days about my daily working life. I might look back on it in ten years’ time, when I am still going about my self-employed business, writing a bit, talking on the radio a bit, reading the New Yorker on public transport and having a few meetings, and think, “Wow, my life hasn’t changed a bit in ten years!”
Day One: my daily working life involves moving about a lot. I used to spend a lot more of my days in coffee shops but I am currently on a sensible economy drive, which means avoiding coffee shops and spending more time in libraries and other people’s offices, or the coffee shop of the Curzon cinema in Soho where, as a member, I feel comfortable just sitting with my laptop on my lap. (By the way, as it’s only five days, I will make no attempt to jazz this up and make it profound or sexy. This is my life as it occurs to me, as it were.) So, my first refreshment of the day was the free glass of mineral water I was given at my hairdresser’s. I could have had a free tea or coffee, but I know it would be disappointing, and also, I assume it will have hair in it by the time I finish it.
I spent my childhood having my hair cut by Mum and Dad’s friend Carol who lived up the road. In my teens, I visited my first ever ladies’ hairdresser, because I had become a preening ninny. However, my hair was mostly cut by friends’ girlfriends-who-were-hairdressers. In the 80s, in Northampton, a hairdresser was just about the coolest girlfriend you could have. I think I went out with a trainee hairdresser once, but not for long, and in any case among my circle of friends in the sixth form, there was always one who was going out with a hairdresser. When, during my college years, I literally grew out of stupid haystack hair, and having it cut for free by fellow students, I graduated to visiting an old-fashioned barber, firstly one in Parson’s Green, then one in Brixton. These haircuts were short, manly and cheap. I loved them.
It is only in the last 15 or so years that I have returned to ladies’ hairdressers. I must admit, I quite like the pampering aspect. I trust my current hairstylist (yes, my hair is styled, not cut), although it’s best not to get too attached, as they’re always moving or being promoted to a new, more expensive grade. Anyway, it’s a two- or three-monthly pleasure to have my hair cut, and that’s how I began my day, having first sent through a list of records I fancy playing this week while I fill in for Steve Lamacq on 6 Music. What fun! For the record, I have suggested songs by Tom Waits, Solomon Burke, Baby D, Cud, Bauhaus, the Ohio Players, Killah Priest and The Move. (The trick is to introduce records or artists into the show that aren’t already likely to be in the pile. This is actually quite difficult on 6 Music, as the pool of old music is so deep.)
I always feel my age in the hairdresser’s. I am literally twice as old as my regular stylist. When he asks me if I am busy – his traditional opening gambit – I often wonder if this means he actually remembers me, and that I am self-employed, or if, in fact, it’s a safe, homogenous question that he can ask anybody. (I don’t flatter myself: it’s the latter, isn’t it?) I remember lots about him, but he is the only hairdresser I ever talk to, and I am one of about 200 people with hair that he talks to over the course of a couple of months. He told me about his 23rd birthday party last time, which had taken place in a club in King’s Cross which opens at midnight, and at which he and his friends had stayed until about 5am. It would have been sad if I’d envied his life, and his youthful stamina at that point. Luckily, I didn’t.
The picture at the top of this entry was taken while I took the train from South London to King’s Cross, where the British Library is. The picture above was taken in a coffee shop at St Pancras station, because I had a completed loyalty card and was able to buy a coffee without spending any money. There is something romantic about the Eurostar announcements in the background, and the constant turnover of travellers with suitcases coming in and out while I sit here and observe them, going nowhere.
Actually, I have decided to go to the Curzon to see the Japanese film Norwegian Wood. This will be my “lunch hour” – it’s two hours long, but since I am working until 7pm, and won’t be home until 8pm, I am taking an extra hour in lieu. This is what being self-employed is all about. I can actually guarantee five days’ worth of income this week, which, for instance, I couldn’t last week, and can’t next week, so I am feeling more relaxed than I might be about paying for food and utilities.
If I was rich I would spend all day in coffee shops. (Having recently read and enjoyed Stuart Murdoch’s diary Celestial Cafe, published by Pomona, it seems that he does spend all day, every day, in coffee shops. Mind you, he is mostly in Glasgow where perhaps the cost of living is cheaper than it is in stupid London.) Also, if I was rich, I would not have to worry about where the next job is coming from. Now that Mr Blue Sky has been recorded, the project that has dominated my thoughts and my waking days since September has receded into the background. Nothing that big or that personal has filled the vacuum, so it’s back to doing bitty things, and hoping 6 Music presenters will get the flu, go on holiday or fall pregnant.
By the way, my main writing task today is to write an extra scene for Mr Blue Sky – an important linking/establishing exchange between two of the main characters whose absence has become apparent during editing – so that’s what I’m doing now. Or will be, when I am not doing this. Fortunately, the actors required, Mark Benton and Michael Legge, are available to come in and record this scene on Thursday. I’ll write about that on Thursday.
They were playing Florence and the Machine in the hairdresser’s. I did not find it relaxing, and I suspect it undid all the good work of the head massage. (I asked my stylist if the music was the same in all branches of the chain, but he said it wasn’t, and that it was from an iPod playlist on shuffle. I wonder who decided to put Florence and the Machine onto this playlist. There was also a song by Arctic Monkeys, one of the more useless recent ones, and the rest was modern R&B, apart from Ride On Time by Black Box, which was my favourite song.)
I do not promise that this will be an exciting week. The ridiculously long piece I am currently reading in the New Yorker is about the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It is 24 pages long – exhaustive even for the New Yorker! I am halfway through it. They have just started using chemicals to disperse the oil to stop it reaching the Louisiana coastline, and a scaremongering marine toxicologist has gone on CNN warning of chemical effects on the human population, saying that one shrimp fisherman had started “bleeding from the rectum.”
I have just had a Direct Message on Twitter from the comedian John Moloney. And my neck is itchy from the haircut. Will write again tomorrow.