A Day in the Life…. by Abi Silver, author of The Pinocchio Brief, out in July 2017, published by Lightning Books.
Waking early in “so much to do today” mode, I check my list of “Things to remember to take in,” even though I checked it twice the previous night. After a while I rouse the kids, who grumble, they’re not pacified by my buoyant mood or comments of “it’s almost half term.” Three minutes into my journey to the station, laden like a pack horse (weighty laptop and charger, hard copy notes for shredding, paper plates for the pre-ordered cake, chocolates) I curse myself for wearing a jacket. By the time I reach the train, I am seriously overheating.
En route into London, I strip off my top layer and ease myself into a seat, eschewing the daily dose of Metro, because the pages are full of the faces of Manchester youth and it’s too unbearable to read. A child is talking in a loud monotone (we get a smattering of children on the 7.57); he wants juice, he wants to know how long the journey will be, he wants to sit on his own seat. A man rolls his eyes to heaven and tuts. I mentally rebuke him and then my mind jumps to the story I began to write a couple of months ago, set on a train, this train, albeit the older rolling stock which come through about 1 in 4 now (the modern, snaking, corridor trains don’t lend themselves as well to my plot). Perhaps I’ll add a child to the carriage I had imagined for the opening chapter.
I take a slight diversion and exit on the South Bank to say goodbye to some of my colleagues and deliver the first of the chocolates. The security man insists there is no record of my proposed visit despite me showing him the invite on my phone. It takes 10 minutes to resolve. On the third floor the team are smiling (I am leaving after all) and ask me about “the book”; how long it took to write, is there going to be a sequel, did I know I always wanted to be a writer. I think that this office block, with its windowless spaces and faceless corridors would be a chilling setting for a future novel.
Crossing the Millennium Bridge with a spring in my step, I marvel at the changing seasons; this journey has regularly frozen me to the bone, today the gentlest of breezes fans the air. In a moment of nostalgia, I pause on the North side and photograph the bridge, the memorial of the Blitz, a London bus and the towering majesty of St Pauls. I tell myself that I will post them online later; now that I am a “debut author” people will be fascinated by how I spend my days.
Walking up New Change I sigh. One New Change was where I began my legal career, but the room in which I sweated blood and tears on many a difficult case (and bear with me, I know without a shadow of doubt, that room will be reproduced in print someday) is no longer there. The stately red-brick and Portland stone building has now been replaced by a shiny, mirrored, glossy version.
I pick up some breakfast from the usual haunt on Cheapside and remember to grab some plastic knives for later, complaining inwardly at their flimsiness (no, I am not planning a murder – it’s for the cake). At work, my team, my wonderful, clever, hard-working team, make all the right noises like sorry you are leaving, what will we do without you and we will be able to say we knew you before you were famous. I tell them, knowledgeably, that even the best authors don’t usually achieve a “following” before their third or fourth novel (although the tips of my ears glow hot as I am, of course, hoping for global stardom with my first attempt). Then, they largely leave me alone to shred and label and tidy and finalise handover notes.
A lunch taken together at a nearby restaurant is both delightful (I realise how much I like these people as we chat offline) and sad (I have had only a handful of these meals since I joined, through pressure of work and, of course, this will be the last).
I make an excuse to run around the corner and pick up the cake from a nearby French patisserie, basking in the shadow of St Pauls. What a fabulous “people-watching” haunt this is (I salt this thought away for another day). The lady serving, quite unnecessarily, hands me free macaroons because I have had to wait which I accept with a smile but it reflects the pace of life in this City environment and I wonder what Christopher Wren would have made of it all.
My leaving presentation (delayed to allow me to take a final call, to determine a strategy I will never see to fruition) is short but very sweet with my boss saying undeserved but welcome things. I respond appropriately and, impromptu, tell a David Baldacci anecdote (which I attribute to him, of course – I am a lawyer after all) about not being recognised in public despite having sold 110 million books.
Then it’s home with even more packages to three “hello mum” greetings, closely followed by “when are we eating?” I enter the study (where I write, when I get the chance to write) and unwrap both the sweet-scented candle and embossed leather-bound notebook my colleagues bought me (for you to jot down your ideas) as leaving gifts. I lay them side by side next to my keyboard, my fingers itching to begin. Then I slip off my shoes and reluctantly tear myself away to the kitchen, to see what I can cook for dinner.