In which I defend my career choices…
I’d told David I’d be in London on Wednesday night, so I reminded him.
‘I had it in my head it was Thursday. Then I can’t see you as I have to work until 7pm, have a cup of tea then be asleep and up at 4am.’
He has a new job, delivering for my friend’s veg box company, which means he is re-enacting his baking days. ‘Do you have to do this?’ I asked him, annoyed. ‘It seems to me you do these crazy things because you have no interest in your own life. Doesn’t matter. Next time.’
‘It’s for my wellbeing. It keeps me fit.’
‘A walk in the park would do you more good.’ I can only imagine what state his flat is in.
‘I never gave you a hard time when you were in London and too busy to see me,’ he said.
‘I said it doesn’t matter. And you did give me a hard time, actually. You said, when I was flying all over the place, that I’d been “evasive for some time”.’
‘Really? Then I’m sorry. I’m disappointed not to see you.’
On Sunday, we had the first real day of spring. I texted David to tell him so. ‘Sunny in London, too,’ he wrote. ‘But I have a cloud over me because I’m not with you.’
I asked him what DS stands for, the place where apparently he and his ex have been arguing and posting things. Does it mean his Facebook page?
He replied: ‘Digital Spy.’
Really? I typed: ‘Why aren’t you reading Proust or listening to Beethoven?’
GF had insulted my job, saying it’s drivel and why don’t I find something else to write about. ‘I do write other things,’ I told her. ‘About a million words a year, six books, one screenplay. I’ve written about famine, earthquakes, eating disorders, elephant abuse’
Ah, now I remember. I once interrupted David on his iPad, and saw he was on page 52 of a forum discussing me, a forum that had a million views. If Facebook etc had existed when I was 21, I’m certain I would have monitored his every move. I used to get up early to peek out of my bedroom window and watch him walk to Brixton tube station. And then it clicked. David doesn’t go into the bathroom at midnight on a Saturday because he is obsessed with me. If he were obsessed with me, he would have made more of an effort, not given me, when he came to stay before Christmas, a dead plant and ready prepared squash that had gone mouldy. He is obsessed with himself and what I have written about him. Not how I might be feeling.
That is why, over dinner with his family, he revealed he had no idea I wrote anything other than my column about him; whereas when he ran a bakery, I knew the name of his business partner – even his kitchen hand.
I’m sitting here, waiting for the man from Mercedes to turn up and take away my car. I have no idea how I will get to the station tomorrow to get to London for work: it’s an hour and a quarter drive away. I don’t really want you to know this, but such is the nature of my job. My feeling is as follows: if you are going to pocket the money for being a writer, you cannot protect yourself, make life easy for yourself. Someone from The Guardian emailed me the other day, wanting to do an interview about how ‘confessional’ writing has impacted on my life. I don’t call it ‘confessional’ (it would never be called that if men did it) – it’s just writing. Why you would write something that isn’t excruciating and real, that glosses over the fact you don’t have sex, or you don’t have any money, or your children hate you, is beyond me. I remember being on a panel with Julie Burchill, and she was berating me. Someone in the audience agreed with her: ‘Why don’t you write about something important?’ she said.
But isn’t caring for your mum important? Isn’t watching her die from dementia important? Isn’t an eating disorder, or your sister dying from alcoholism, important? The Girl on the Train worked not because of its plot, but because the writer must, at some point in her life, have been drunk. Isn’t being cheated on part of life’s rich tapestry? Does Garnier Fructis email Hanif Kureishi, and tell him to stop writing about his divorce? I read the other day that Jennifer Lawrence puts up with sexist directors as she is made of Teflon. I, on the other hand, am made of a single sheet of filo pastry.