The Cautious Curiosity

I receive an email from someone who says they’re a literary agent, mentioning the words ‘book deal’. And suddenly the world gains new colours.

Hopes at ground level, of course. But it has galvanised me into author-shaped action, making me dig out the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook, scribble ideas, and generally Take An Interest In Life again. As opposed to just being interested in sleeping. And sleeping again. And sleeping some more.


Just when I’m in the mood to write, it’s getting on for time to go to the night shift. I’ve promised a short story for someone’s collection. It’s due on Monday. Have it all worked out, am terribly pleased with the idea, and want to write it now. But it’s  time to go to work. And although I have taken tomorrow night off, it’s in order to DJ at someone I don’t know’s wedding. Still, presumably that won’t go on all night. I shall just have to steal moments with my notebook wherever I can get them.

If you have the nerve to call yourself a writer, you’re meant to learn from experiences of being thrown in amongst strangers. Observe, note their conversation and so on. Except I’m hardly the fly-on-the-wall type. Too often, I AM the subject of conversation. ‘Hey, look at him! What’s he writing? Look at his hair! Oy, mate, are you gay?’ And so on. So much for eavesdropping. My ‘Overheard By Dickon Edwards’ book would be filled entirely with comments about me.


Boys with bikes in King’s Cross the other evening. Shouting at me from the other side of the street.

‘Oy, blondie!’

I keep walking, and don’t look over.

‘OY, blondie. Blondie. Hey, Prince Charles!’

(Prince Charles…!)

That makes me look up. They grin, and put their thumbs up.

I grin back and nod in what I hope looks like ‘Yes, I do look funny, don’t I. Heigh ho!’ Without sarcasm, though. It’s hard work.

Walking in the street is improv class. You pretty much have to cast yourself in the role of a person walking in the street. No one ever tells you this.

Because my appearance isn’t particularly outre compared to the proper human peacocks of Camden and Shoreditch, I’m convinced part of My Problem is in the way I carry myself as much as my clothes and hair. Or in the way I don’t carry myself. I’ve never quite managed to convincingly play Bloke Walking In The Street. Or even – crucially – Arty Bloke Walking In The Street. Neither fish nor fop.

Sunday morning. Sitting in Waterloo Station Starbucks, still recovering from the queasy swaying of the overnight ferry from Guernsey. The Japanese girl working behind the counter is playing her own mix CD in the shop. Entirely 1980s UK indie. New Order’s Age of Consent. OMD. Echo & The Bunnymen. The Cure (it’s always The Cure – they should get a Queen’s Export award). And best of all – some Durutti Column. On a Sunday morning in Starbucks.

I’m quietly enjoying the music, reading ‘Sark: As I Found It’ by a rather eccentric character called Captain Ernest Platt, published 1935. Can’t decide whether he’s real or a pastiche, a joke. Googling him later reveals he was both: a British Fascist. Common experience when reading old books, of course. So much latterday forgiveness has to be factored in. Even Mervyn Peake’s 1950s ‘Mr Pye’ refers to a burning match looking like ‘a hanged negro’.

Just then, there’s a knock at the plate glass window. A couple of men I don’t know, pointing at me, laughing, before moving on down the street.

This ability – or curse – for attracting attention. No, not attention, curiosity. It has to be worth something in the cut-and-thrust world of marketing new authors. Has to help. I’m hoping to find out.

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