45. Battling distractions

THIS blog entry is a paradox. I am writing about distractions and this little rant is a distraction in itself.

What I should be doing is working on Header (working title), the follow-up novel to my debut effort Crossing The Whitewash. Instead I am writing this to give you an idea of how easy it is to be dragged from the beaten track, a victim of the savage, wild beasts we know as “everyday things”.

I’ll explain. This morning I sat down to work on a particular chapter of the new book. It is actually a prequel to Crossing, in which we get to know Arnie Dolan’s father Big Mo,  a dangerous career criminal with a different set of values to many of us.

It is set in 1982 and Big Mo is planning a Post Office raid. Beforehand, though, he makes a visit to his guru, a bloke who helps ease his tensions with a massage and some sage advice. Like everything with Mo, even this visit is accompanied by drama.

He parks up his car, using a disabled sticker he has obtained from someone “on the council” who owes him a favour. This causes a serious altercation with a member of the public.

Trouble is: Try googling Disabled Disc 1982 or such like and see how you get on. Typical of everything on the internet, nothing really happened before 1990 unless someone decided to write about it on Wikipedia.

I want to get it right so it starts nagging at me, distracting me from the scene I’m trying to write. It seems like a good excuse to ring my 91-year-old disabled Dad.

Trouble is, he refused to use a sticker before he was 65, even though he had managed to survive very nicely thank you on one leg from the age of 12. His memory isn’t great (unless you want him to remember films from the 1940s) and his hearing is even worse.

The result was a long, drawn out conversation – with me shouting down the phone to be heard and losing my voice, already on the wane because of a bad case of man flu – and failing to get a satisfactory answer. “I don’t know, I didn’t have one,” was his final answer. Pfft.

I decide to chase the problem up later but as I cut the call I see a text message on my phone. It is a reminder that a buy-now-pay-later loan I took out years ago is due for payment in seven days.

It’s the first time I have ever had a reminder of something that goes through automatically by direct debit, so I decide to ring the bank. I wait 15 minutes before being able to speak to the relevant person.

“Oh yes, it is just a new system the bank is trying out.”

“But it alarmed me something was wrong and I thought I had better ring you. The number I had been given was 0345 which is no doubt expensive and I’ve been waiting 15 minutes to speak to someone. It has probably cost me quite a lot of money on this silly call.”

“Sorry about that. You can always complain.”

“Yes, I think I will.”

This involves looking up a number for the complaints dept, ringing them, putting in all the account details, sort codes, security numbers, inside-leg measurements and amount of times you figured in a 20-run opening batting partnership in your works cricket team over a five-year period.

Before they put you on hold.

Eventually someone answers, apologises, puts you on hold again… and eventually says your complaint has been approved. You will get £12 back in your bank account within the next two hours.

Having started the whole “research” business at 10am, now having written this blog because I am still steaming over the bank’s stupid text message, my distractions have lasted just over two hours. Actually novel-writing time today? About 15 minutes. See how easy it is?

A small addendum: If anyone knows anything about Disabled Drivers discs in the early 80s, please send me a message. I will be most grateful for the information.



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