Not Writing a Column for The Leither

This is how it works. When a new issue of The Leither hits the streets, an email is dispatched from the editor’s penthouse at One Diamond Point. He thanks us all for our contributions and then reminds the boys that they are a bunch of sluggards, underachievers, and fly-by-nights, who need to pull their socks up. He thanks the girls again, even more profusely, remarking that there work rate and attention to detail is second only to the late, great, Sir Jock Stein. He always finishes with the words that strike terror into any sane person’s heart – “and remember, deadline day for all articles is the first Monday of the month.”

That would mean this column should have been handed in on 6th January. It is now the 15th. Nine days late and no comeback, how come? The trick is to catch the editor as he walks among his adoring public and rugby tackle him into the nearest pub. There to feed him brandy and port and plead for a ‘special dispensation’, which he agrees to, but only until he finds out what special dispensation means. When that runs out, you must discombobulate him with bottles of Newcastle Brown Ale and rum and tomato juice chasers, and ask for a little, erm, more leeway. You have struck gold when he manages a, “yes of course dear boy,” before falling asleep in the toilet.

When all else fails you just have to sit down and write the damned thing. D-day finds me leaping from bed at 9am, okay 11.30am, well okay, my girlfriend drags me screaming and kicking into consciousness at around 12.30pm. Tea and toast are magicked up and I’m plonked in front of the computer. But, hark, isn’t that an absolutely hilarious episode of Last of the Summer Wine on the telly that will probably never be repeated? Disaster, they are showing three episodes back to back and Compo has just bought a wardrobe which you just know the irascible old duffers will turn into a canoe…suddenly it’s 2.30pm. I get up to brush the toast from my teeth and am shocked by the state of the bathroom cupboard, it is in fact pristine, but any excuse for time wasting is good on deadline day. I marvel yet again at the hundreds of tablets I’ve squirreled away over the years and dig out the Comprehensive Guide to Medicines to find out what they are all for. It is now 4.30pm.

I sidle, sheepishly, into the kitchen and offer to make dinner. The girlfriend laughs fit to burst, “you only ever offer to cook when your Leither column is due, get on that computer, and don’t start arsing about with the plants.” I come out of the utility room, arms full of baby bio, plant food, scissors and spray cans and transport all the plants to the bath, where I give them a happy half-hour of pruning and watering. I shout to my girlfriend that I’m just nipping out for some more plant food and manage to get out of the door before her tongue catches me. In Lidl I buy oil paints, an artists palette and a toolkit  – you’re right, I don’t paint or do home improvements – and take the packages home and start opening them. “Your tea is ready.” Oh good!

At 7.30pm I approach the computer gingerly but, hey, the Simpsons are on and it may never be repeated. At 8.30pm I start checking if the phone is off the hook, incase someone is trying to call me for a drink or something. Not that I would, I’ve got an article to write. At 8.45pm I tell the girlfriend that I’m popping to the pub to see if I can, ahem, loosen up the wee grey cells. I sit in a corner of the Alan Breck with my moleskin notebook like a proper tit. The congenial locals are not deterred, Darren sends over a pint, as does Derek. It would be rude not to join them, I put my ridiculous notebook away, I have written one line. The title of this piece.

I get home about 1.30am and resolve to do my article as soon as I’ve completed the computer golf game in at least 10 under par. At 2.30am I check my e-mails, there is one from the esteemed editor, the gist of which is. ‘You’ve let me down, you’ve let your colleagues down, but, most importantly, you’ve let yourself down etc.’ I crack open a beer, at 4.00am I send him this.

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