June 9-11: Summer holiday, Cavatina, brain mapping


Following a short break, the diary resumes.

Tuesday, July 9

The cream of Britain’s youth arrive

The summer holidays have already begun for the entitled, public school offspring of the privileged middle-class elite.

Nephew B and his friend, both 14, have come to stay the night. Watching them in action makes me think that Beavis and Butthead, which I previously thought was a cartoon series, was actually a documentary. It’s now 37 years, and the memory plays tricks – but were my friends and I really such blundering assholes at that age?

They arrive with immediate demands to be taken to the trampoline park in town. I oblige, if only to get rid of them for an hour. On the way back, a brief stop-off at Sainsburys for supplies. Beavis and Butthead remain in the car, but demand that I buy them four cans of something called Strongbow Dark Fruit, which apparently is a low-alcohol cider much favoured by teenagers. Sensing an opportunity for payback, I return with four cans of dog food and plead deafness.

G and her friend, both 14, arrive. Teenage girls are intrinsically much nicer than boys, but together they are like a pack of dogs. Full marks for cunning, however: J catches them decanting gin and tonic into a water bottle, at which point I move all the beer and spirits to the attic and padlock the hatch.

By 8pm J and I are prisoners in our own living room while the rest of the house reverberates with thuds and whoops. At 9.30pm a pizza delivery van arrives and I note that The Exorcist has been downloaded for late-night viewing.


Wednesday, July 10

7.30am and a scene of utter squalor in the downstairs TV room where Beavis and Butthead are comatose on the sofa and Parker is greedily consuming left-over pizza and chocolate cake from spilled containers on the floor. The girls are asleep in G’s room, a bombsite of clothes and filth which even a resident of the Kibera slum in Nairobi would complain to his landlord about.

Left to their own devices, I have no doubt they would do it all again – but I decide that divide and conquer is the best policy. Beavis and Butthead are duly rousted and driven into Carlisle, where I hand them £10 each for a McDonald’s breakfast and a ticket for the 9am train back to Newcastle.

Lots of Day Job stuff to do in town, but I kill half an hour listening to a busker in the Market Square. Never has an out-of-tune version Cavatina played on an electric guitar sounded so soothing.

My lack of progress on rewrites is beginning to annoy me, however.


Thursday, July 11

To a hotel in Penrith, for an 8.30am breakfast networking meeting organised by the Chamber of Commerce. I hate breakfast networking meetings, but unfortunately the Day Job demands it.

Pleasantries and cards are exchanged over a limp bacon sandwich and an insipid cup of coffee from a vending machine. I find myself stuck between an expert in intellectual property and a man who describes himself as a “career management, change and life coach” and also a “brain mapping practitioner”. He seems rather down-at-heel in appearance, suggesting the brain mapping business isn’t going too well and perhaps he should manage his career by changing it.

A woman stands up and announces that “without further adieu” we should listen to three 10-minute pitches by Chamber members about their respective businesses. A sense of “there but for the grace of God” sweeps over me.

Thirty long minutes pass and then the woman announces that we should “get networking” – at which point, and without further adieu, I leave without making my excuses.

In 30 minutes, England will play Australia for a place in the Cricket World Cup Final. Oh, to be in Edgbaston!




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