Saturday, June 22
To the Wylam Brewery, which despite its name is now located in the old Science Museum in Newcastle’s Exhibition Park. I used to come here to on school trips to see Turbinia, the first steam turbine-powered steam ship, but today I am here to drink enough Galatia bitter to sink it.
The occasion is a knees-up for the Tynedale U15 rugby coaches, of which I am one, paid for by grateful parents. The coaching elite assembles – Mark S, Jonathan and Mike – and we are also joined by Matt, who as well as being one of the parents is also one of the owners of the brewery, and thus “keeper of the tab”. He has his dog with him and in keeping with the relaxed nature of the afternoon seems happy to let her roam among the drinkers.
On the nearby Town Moor the Hoppings funfair revs up. Mark S is keen to go, but is unanimously voted down. We are too old for fun.
At Central Station I am apprehended by a cordon of security guards who tell me I can’t board the Carlisle train with my bag of gin and tonics. For a moment I think about causing a scene, but decide I can’t be bothered and duly hand it over. Hopefully the guards enjoyed the contents and didn’t choke to death on them.
It seems that after we left, Matt realised his dog was missing. After a search lasting three hours, he eventually found her in a house belonging to an old couple more than a mile away in Jesmond.
Sunday, June 23
Recuperating with the Sunday papers.
James Lovelock, inventor of Gaia theory, has a new book out in which he predicts that cyborgs will eventually supersede humans as the dominant “species” on Earth. Hearteningly, he does not think they will destroy us, as in Terminator; rather, they will keep us in the manner of garden shrubbery – interesting to look at and useful for keeping the planet cool.
Eventually, however, he predicts that the Earth will become increasingly uninhabitable due to the dying Sun, at which point the cyborgs will decamp to Mars, leaving us to our fate. “But just as we do not mourn the passing of our ancestor species, neither, I imagine, will the cyborgs be grief-stricken by the passing of humans,” he writes.
Elsewhere there is an article about Americans with too much money who are obsessed by living forever. If James Lovelock is correct – and he usually is – there seems little point.
Monday, June 24
Heavy overnight rain abates, leaving a muggy, moist day. Miltonrigg Woods is like a tropical rainforest – dripping leaves and overgrown undergrowth. The shriek of a bonobo monkey would not be out of place; even Parker seems unusually unnerved by the transformation.
Clear some Day Job stuff, but my mood is like the weather. For the first time since I sent off my book, I am consumed by the edgy restlessness that is associated with the absence of a creative outlet. It’s not that I don’t have things to do – it’s just that I can’t be bothered to do them.
Take Parker for another walk, this time by the Mad River. Things pick up upon my return: first an email from neighbour Simon L, who proposes a four-day excursion to Girona in September for members of the Hairy Glove Velo, our little cycling club. It will follow what promises to be an expensive August in France and Italy en famille, but after consulting with J I am the first to sign up.
Then G rings from school to announce that she has won the plum part of Penny in a forthcoming production of Hairspray. Is that the one in which Divine eats dog shit? I do hope not.
After that my holiday kaftan arrives from the US, cheering me up no end. I spend the rest of the afternoon wafting round the house, looking like a slightly debauched sheik.
And then, right at the death, an email from Joanne, my agent, who – true to her word – has read my novel inside a fortnight. She describes it as “a great piece of writing with real potential”, but with inevitable coda that it also requires quite a bit of work. No matter, this is highly encouraging news and we agree to discuss further tomorrow on the phone.
Celebrate with a hilly 14-miler on the bike and return an hour later spattered with flies.