In The Bleak Midwinter ….


Woke up to a hard frost, the river in front of my cottage slowed to a trickle and patches of ice here and there. In eastern England there are 8 inches of snow. In America, where I spend half the year, snow is a familiar event. I was in Ohio last January ( 2009), researching my story, Cybergate, which is about to be published in Maxim magazine ( NY). I arrived in a blizzard but that didn’t stop people going about their business. Here, not used to the snow as we are, a few inches and everything grinds to a halt. We value our leisure more than the Americans, too – the British work to live, the Americans live to work – so a bit of snow is a good excuse for the kids to bunk off school and their parents to have a well-earned lie-in. I have always been one with Bertrand Russell, the philosophr, whose book In Praise of Idleness was an attack on our ceaselessly, and in his view, inhumanly, busy society. So, here’s to idleness !

Had a very pleasant evening last night with two old friends who I have known since we were all teenagers together at Bristol University. We chewed the fat late into the night in front of a blazing log fire – we talked about talent & fame & success, wondering what we could have done to have more of all three. The general consensus was that many ingredients lead to success in the arts: first and foremost, most obviously, talent. I liked to believe when I was younger that very 60’s notion that we are all Leonardo’s or Shakespeares if only given the right circumstances to flourish. I now believe that talent is genetically inherited and shows itself very early, despite the prevailing circumstances. It’s the old Nature v Nurture argument. I lean towards Nature more and more. We also agreed that you have to really LOVE what you do ( no point trying to be a painter if you don’t enjoy painting). You also need drive, ambition, a thick skin, self-belief and, of course, a bit of luck.

Tomorrow, my golden girl arrives from America. I can’t wait to have her in my clutches again … and tomorrow night we will be celebrating our victory at this year’s Hay Festival Winter Quiz ( the fourth in four years), at the home of Douglas Wright, an amazing farmhouse above Llanthony Abbey, just over the border in Wales …

Then, next Tuesday, we are throwing a party at the Frontline Club in London …