Back in April, work gave me three days notice that I was about to be put on furlough - probably for six weeks, maybe more, maybe less, they weren't sure at the time. I considered the possibilities of what I could do with this newly-acquired free time, and felt pretty sure that I could get the long-overdue Edinburgh Diaries Volume Three assembled and ready, and possibly even make a start on the even-longer-overdue LFF Diaries Volume Four and the not-quite-as-long-overdue LFF Diaries Volume Five, depending on how long the furlough actually lasted.
October 11th, 2010. It was close on ten years ago that I wrote the following sentence: "This'll be the last one of these for a little while, I think." In the year or so leading up to that, I'd managed to publish six books via the print-on-demand outfit lulu.com: one collection of travel pieces scraped from the website, two volumes of Edinburgh Festival reviews, and three similar volumes of London Film Festival reviews. I had a couple of vague plans in mind for future books, but I predicted that it'd be a while before I had enough material in hand to create those, so I quickly knocked off some basic ebook editions of the original six in time for Christmas 2010 and left the publishing world for a spell.
In that ten year gap, The Belated Birthday Girl has published nine books: admittedly, to a degree, they're all variations on the same book, but still. Basically, I need to publish three more volumes before her 2021 diary comes out, in order to have any hope of keeping up with her.
I started the process in April. Just finishing it off now.
Back in June 2019, they announced that they were going to move the date of the 2020 May Day Bank Holiday. Under the usual rules, it would have fallen on Star Wars Day, Monday May 4th. But for 2020 it's being moved to Friday May 8th, to fall in line with the 75th anniversary of VE Day.
A change like that is always going to annoy some people, but it was surprising where the main objection to it came from: diary and calendar manufacturers. Because by the time the announcement of the date change was made, many of them had already completed their print run. Some of them had to expensively pulp all their stock and reprint: others have had to go for the messy option of an apologetic sticker on the cover with a correction: a few are just ignoring the situation and hoping not too many people lose their jobs from not going in to work on May 4th.
In those circumstances, a diary that's traditionally put together in a kick bollocks scramble towards the end of December doesn't seem like a silly idea any more, does it?
I published my first book back in 2009. You might remember it. Monkey Round The World: Travel Writing 1993-2009 was intended to be the first of a series of books using the facilities of lulu.com to rehash my favourite bits of this website in hard copy form. Since then - more accurately, in the twelve months following then - I brought out three volumes of LFF reviews and two collections of Edinburgh Festival reviews, meaning that I currently have six books in print. That's quite an achievement, isn't it?
Except that now she's published Living For The Weekend: 2019 Diary, The Belated Birthday Girl now has two more books in print than I do. I may have to do something about that over the next couple of years. But for now, let's put that to one side and get on with the annual post announcing that you can buy her new diary for £3.99 plus postage and packing from the usual source.
Diaries! They're rubbish, aren't they? Too much space for you to write in all the boring work stuff you've got to do during the weekdays: too little space for you to write in all the fun stuff you want to do during the weekends. A good diary would display an entire week across two pages, but dedicate one of those pages just to Saturday and Sunday.
But you know all this, of course. Because you were told about it in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017. And guess what? 2018 isn't going to be any different. So for the seventh year running, The Belated Birthday Girl presents her Living For The Weekend diary, available for £3.99 (plus p&p) from the good people at lulu.com.
(Okay, you could argue that December 31st 2017 is a bad date to be releasing a 2018 diary. Still, at least it's better than last year.)
Om Puri, the great Indian actor, died on January 6th 2017. You may know him best from his starring role in East Is East: while in these pages, I've reviewed his 1997 performance in My Son The Fanatic. But aside from UK productions like those, he was also a solid and comforting presence in Indian and international films for forty years.
Here's a wee experiment for you to try. Go to your 2017 diary and turn to January 6th. Is Om Puri's death noted in there? Of course it isn't. You might just assume that all diary publishers are racists, but in fact what you're seeing is the revelation of a dirty little secret that these publishers have been keeping to themselves for decades - even though the diary says 2017 on the front, it was actually written and published in 2016.
What if there was a diary that didn't play to those rules? A 2017 diary which didn't even go on sale until January 16th 2017, largely down to Microsoft Word generating ghost pages which couldn't be edited or deleted but still kept printing out regardless? A diary which could, therefore, include events from the first two weeks of the year in its listings?
Well, that was my idea for justifying the publication delay of Living For The Weekend: 2017 Diary. But when I suggested it to The Belated Birthday Girl, she looked at me like I was some sort of mental and refused. So that's why Om Puri's death isn't listed in there. Fair enough: it's her name on the cover, after all.
One of these years, The Belated Birthday Girl and I will get our respective acts together to such a degree that we can publish her Living For The Weekend diary in good time for people to be able to order it and receive it before Christmas Day.
As you've probably realised by now, 2015 is not going to be that year.
This is the fourth year in a row that she's done this. You've got the idea by now, surely? £3.99 plus postage and packing from lulu.com, buy now for possible delivery in time for Christmas.
Hmmm. Needs more text.
The story so far. Towards the end of 2011, The Belated Birthday Girl's frustration with the diaries available in shops reached some sort of peak. None of them were laid out in the specific way she wanted. So, with the aid of my book publishing arrangement over at Lulu, she made her own.
She did it again towards the end of 2012.
This article doesn't need anything like this number of paragraph breaks, but it helps to make the text stretch out to fit against the portrait-formatted image on the left. Because she's now designed a third one. So if you're in the market for a new diary, why not consider Living For The Weekend: 2014 Diary? Available for just £3.99 plus postage from Lulu. Buy now for Xmas. (Disclaimer: may not arrive in time for Xmas.)
I don't want to sound like I'm obsessed with this or anything, but I want to go back to Suze's comment on the Simian Substitute pages from a few weeks ago. As I mentioned at the time, for the last three years those first-of-the-month posts have also been used for what I call Month End Processing: a series of short reviews of things that I've done recently that I don't believe justify a whole article to themselves. Looking back on them for the first time in a while, it strikes me that quite a lot of them are reviews of books, which I've been happy to dash off in a few hundred words rather than a couple of thousand.
In fact, the last full-length book post I wrote was almost a year ago, and it was written specifically to promote a book by The Belated Birthday Girl - her 2012 diary, Living For The Weekend.
She is now utterly horrified to realise that the first full-length book post after that will be the one promoting her 2013 diary. (Out now from lulu.com, price £3.99 plus postage and packing.)