Raymond Briggs

Diary - 12 April 2017

Diary - 12 April 2017
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Don’t get old! Everything takes so long – it’s an hour to get down to breakfast. And I’m not only slow, but confused as well. Sometimes I can’t find a garment I took off the night before, or can locate only one sock (I usually have two). I’ve always been a bare-feet-and-sandals man; I have on my wall a quote by Einstein, ‘I never wear socks, they are useless garments.’ I do so agree with him, but Old Age strikes again. I now have to wear a toe spacer and this falls out if I have no socks on, so I’m locked into a cycle of sock dependency.

There’s a great fashion for ‘de-cluttering’ these days, but what exactly is clutter? Stuff left lying about when it should be in the bin? I’m not guilty of that. My clutter is made up of the very things that I am always using — pens, pencils, rulers and so on; I have far too many. Another Einstein quote I have cluttering my workroom wall is: ‘If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk?’

What a wonderful day yesterday was! Glorious sunshine all day. Me, moaning on about socks, and all this glory outside. Every morning I walk along to see dear old Pepper, the one-eyed collie at the organic farm nearby. I always take him a treat — just one Markie. No more, as he is getting too fat. ​Our front garden is covered in primroses, packed in edge-to-edge like commuters; they even bloom all over the paths, thrusting up between the bricks. There is also a scattering of pale violets and a few really purple ones. Later on, I thought: ‘This is such a lovely day that it’s a pity to waste it; I must sit in the sun.’ So I went over to a chair, still lying on its back from the recent gales, and stood it up next to the little stool where you can put your wine glass. Wine! Yes, to celebrate the return of the sun. Bit early for it, not even lunchtime… still, there’s that half bottle near the back door I was chucking out, cheapo muck. I won’t drink much of it, purely symbolic. So I got the discarded bottle of plonk and settled into the seat in the sunshine. Quite enjoyed it. ‘The venue is as important as the vintage.’ Who said that? Me, I think. It’s heartening when your best intentions are swept away, but when they’re swept away by something pleasant and sunny, it’s even better.

A big day today — there’s a photographer coming. Not a poxy press photographer, thank god. I had one of those here recently for nearly two hours snapping away; then, when the article was published, the paper did not use any of them. It was supposed to accompany a piece they’d asked me to write called ‘My Working Day’. Mind you, it was only the Grauniad. No, this man today is the portrait photographer Michael Birt, who has captured big cheeses all over the world. The frontispiece of his book is a letter from Marlene Dietrich turning him down, saying: ‘Millions of photos have been taken of me, many by all the great photographers of this century, and I hope never to see another camera aimed at me.’ I quite agree, though I suspect that she may have had even more taken than me.

A dramatic mystery this morning. Right outside on our front wall, two pretty little pink bags tied with pink ribbon. How sweet, I thought, a little girls’ treasure hunt trove? I picked up one semi-transparent bag — dog poo. Can you believe it? Bring back hanging.

The doc, having mistakenly diagnosed my lithe, athletic build for skinnyness, had sent me to a nutritionist. This lady gave me a form to fill in, asking me to list everything I ate and drank for two weeks. On and on it went, yards of it. Yesterday, when I took the form back in to her, she checked carefully through it and said: ‘Your diet is fine, but you’re not drinking nearly enough.’ ‘Great!’ I said. ‘Red or white?’ She looked back at me, unsmiling: ‘I’m talking about water.’ ‘Oh, that,’ I said.

I thought I was hallucinating this morning. I was having breakfast while gazing down the road to Plumpton Racecourse when a bunch of cyclists came sweeping by, 20 or more, all with numbers on. Minutes later, another bunch, a lady marshall standing there, pointing the way. Another lot… then another. In the end, I went out and asked the marshall: ‘What is going on?’ ‘They are doing 80 miles,’ she said. ‘However many are there?’ I asked. ‘Over 800,’ she said. Blimey, 800 cyclists spoiling my breakfast! It went on the whole morning. Spoiled my elevenses, too.

Raymond Briggs is the author of The Snowman and Father Christmas.