It’s been a while - well over a month in fact - but I have been keeping busy. As busy as this wall of unending torrential rain will allow, anyway. The British weather can be said to be trolling us at this point: when we were allowed to gather in groups outside, the rain got just bad enough to dissuade us from doing anything of the sort, and then, when finally, after six months, we were permitted to actually meet with others indoors, the rain got so bad that it made it virtually impossible to leave one’s own house at all. Just on Saturday night, as I went to a friend’s house for dinner - can you imagine? - I had probably cycled for all of one minute when the clouds exploded with hitherto unscheduled rain. Ten minutes later, as I chained my bike up outside her house, cold drenched jeans clinging to my shivering thighs, it stopped. Perhaps the weather is not trolling us after all, but trying to save us from our dangerous socialising impulses?
In any case, here are a few of the things that I have been doing, with which you may entertain yourselves while it pours.
I was recently a guest on the Backlisted podcast, one of the most interesting and entertaining podcasts I know, to talk about the classic Dutch novel The Evenings (De Avonden) by Gerard Reve. I’ve been hoping to be invited onto Backlisted for years and I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to discuss The Evenings with fellow author Joe Dunthorne and hosts Andy Miller and John Mitchinson. The Evenings, which was published in 1947, is perfect pandemic reading, concerned as it is with the tedium of spending all your time either at home with your parents getting infuriated by the way they slurp their soup, or repeating the same anecdotes to the same group of friends while tracking who is losing their hair the fastest. I really enjoyed taking a deeper dive into the world of Reve, discovering more of his hilarious and bizarre writing, even making an attempt to translate some from Dutch myself, and finding out more about this brilliant, provocative writer. Our conversation covered the difficulties (or not) of translating Dutch, the art of the author photograph, boredom, blasphemy, surprise Sharon Stone revelations, warts, the Dutch winter horn and more, as well as the most enjoyable David Bowie impersonation you're likely to have heard in a while. You can listen to the podcast here.
Meanwhile, weather permitting (big ask), on Wednesday I will be appearing in person to tell a story at the Natural Born Storytellers secret garden event, A Breath of Fresh Air. It’s already sold out, but if you want to join in you can follow the live stream at their YouTube channel here. We kick off at 7pm UK time. I haven’t told a story in front of an audience since last October and have barely had a conversation with anybody who is not my housemate or the hosts of the Backlisted podcast in the intervening months, so if I remember to face in the right direction while speaking I think I will have done pretty well.
Finally my book Create Your Own Midlife Crisis - a choose your own adventure book about having a midlife crisis, written pre-pandemic when having an office affair, picking up an inappropriately young man at a nightclub, or running away to Brazil was still an option - is coming out in various international editions. The German translation has recently hit bookshops (are bookshops open in Germany?), and the US edition - liberally illustrated with drawings of a woman who (not coincidentally) looks exactly like me doing all kinds of ill-advised things - is released June 1st. There is a fun interactive preview here where you can make your first few disastrous decisions.
What would I give to be wearing a slinky backless dress, with a great haircut and cool sunglasses, setting fire to my life right now. Though the rain would probably put it out.