Writer’s blog: Monday

This seems like the only way to get me scriptwriting: prosewriting. Or diarywriting. The last time I wrote a daily blog, or diary, was for five consecutive weekdays in March 2011. It was a social experiment, really, as I have neither the time nor the inclination to write at a prescribed frequency – in any case, that would take the fun out of it. I blog when time and inclination align, which is not every day, and is sometimes only once a week.

I’m giving it another crack this week because I’m hoping it will get my scriptwriting juices flowing. I can’t reveal anything about either script I am currently writing, as I fear the jinx, and anyway, it would be unprofessional.

Day One

Last week I believed the hype and stayed away from London, even though I live in London. This was Boris Johnson’s doing. He personally ordered all Londoners to avoid London during the Olympics, and at the nadir of this Soviet-style propaganda campaign, his comedic voice could actually be heard coming out of the public address system of stations on the London underground and overground networks, warning us not to travel during the Games.

So, for the whole of last week, I worked from coffee establishments near to my home. And went home for my lunch. It was OK. I got a lot of writing done for future editions of Radio Times, which was more urgent than either script, so that was fine. The Guardian decided to wait until Wednesday before informing me that they were giving me two weeks off Telly Addict, by which time I’d already spent a couple of hours selecting clips for what would have been Friday’s. Luckily, I hadn’t started the script. If I’m honest, it’s a relief to get two weeks off, having done Telly Addict every week of my life, except one, since April 2011. (Usual self-employed turbine: don’t work, don’t get paid, don’t eat.)

I kept reading in the papers that Central London had in fact become a “ghost town”. So, having failed to write anything meaningful on Thursday or Friday, I decided to get back to normal, brave public transport, and do a week at my “office”, the British Library, which is where I am now. (The Library Tweeted last week that it was awfully quiet here. And it is quieter than usual. But not empty. And anyway, it’s a library, it’s supposed to be quiet, even when it’s full to the seams.) I’m glad to be here.

For the record, these are the songs that soundtracked my commute in.

LL COOL J Pink Cookies
BINARY The Prisoner
THE BEASTIE BOYS Rhyme The Rhyme Well
BOMBAY BICYCLE CLUB Shuffle (partial: arrived at Library mid-song)

Not sure how interesting that is, but Samuel Pepys only wrote about going out for dinner and then going to bed and he’s the most famous diarist in the world.

Anyway, boring day ahead – for you – as I will be sat here, in reading room Humanities 1, with a break for my packed lunch, all day. Will check back in later. And you’re not allowed to take photos in the reading rooms of the British Library so I used one of me sitting in another building that’s strip-lit.

Progress report: some words written. In an attempt to psychologically kickstart my script, I decided to scrap what I’d written so far, even though I liked it, and even though I’ve been honing the first scene, because I suspect that “honing” has been a displacement activity, which was preventing me from “writing the next scene” (apologies for the writer’s jargon). Anyway, since starting again, I have reached scene three. This can’t be interesting, but there it is. I’m way too close to it to know whether the new scenes are funny enough in terms of comedy or efficient enough in terms of story yet. That’s why I’m having a break to eat my packed lunch in the cafeteria, where, unlike the vast reading rooms, there is noise, even during the so-called “quiet” fortnight of the Olympics. (One thing I love about the British Library, which I also love about London generally, is that you are always in the middle of a maelstrom of different accents and languages. I would miss this if I lived in the middle of nowhere, as I am sometimes romantically drawn to dreaming about.)

I have not been able to access Twitter for most of the day, which has been a blessing. And I have not checked any news feeds, so I have no idea if medals have been won or not. I learnedĀ before Twitter went down that Louise Mensch has resigned in order to spend more time with her family in New York and that the Americans have put a robot on Mars. (Maybe Twitter didn’t go down*; the British Library wi-fi has been playing me up all day, too, which has at least provided a bit of friction for my creative mind.)

*Twitter clearly didn’t go down. God bless the BL wi-fi. It helped immeasurably.

Packed lunch: homemade chilli, naturally. Pretty good, if I may say so. The addition of garam masala to my trademark coriander seeds/cumin/mustard seeds/fennel seeds mix made it interesting. I shall be eating this again tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day, so won’t mention it again.

I am avoiding the rush hour on a train. Loads of extra Olympics-looking people, lots of families, which is nice, and people genuinely caped in Union flags, which is astonishing, but not enough of them to prevent me from going about my business. (Enough to prevent me from walking up escalators by standing on the left, but it is ever thus in a city full of visitors.)

I have decided to avoid Olympics coverage for the early part of the evening by going to see a new Hong Kong film called A Simple Life at the cinema. I think the Olympic flame will stay lit without me fanning it. For the record, I was in the next room when Saturday’s historic Team GB victories were achieved, so I heard it, as it happened, and was very pleased for everybody involved and I appreciate what it means for sport and for the national mood, but I am not hooked by the Olympics. I actually find it all a bit overwhelming; so many events, so many heats, so many teams, so many interviews with puffed-out athletes after winning or not winning, so much cheering.

I saw the start of the marathon yesterday morning, and heard a commentator say that perhaps the crowds who’d so valiantly and noisily lined the rain-lashed streets of Central London should hold back on the cheering a bit, as they still had another two and a half hours to go. I Iiked the patrician practicality of his advice, but I suspect they did not heed it. These games started with cheering, and they will end with cheering, and inbetween there will have been cheering. It is impossible to be cynical about it. The sport and the people have roundly beaten the sponsors and the politicians, and that’s a result I can get behind. From the next room.

A Simple Life was a lovely film; moving and very sad. Ready-garlanded with awards – particularly in China and Hong Kong, but also honoured at Venice – I won’t go into too much detail about its plot. Based on the experiences of one of its producers, and directed by Ann Hui (whose past work I do not know), it’s basically about a movie producer (Andy Lau) whose family servant (Deanie Ip) needs looking after in her autumn years, which he selflessly sets out to do. Perhaps too long at two hours, it was nonetheless gentle and occasionally funny amid the sadness, and showed a slice of modern Hong Kong life. And, like so many films from China and Hong Kong, it was full of food and eating.


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