It’s a cold evening.
“Laydeeees and Gentulllmen!!!” hollers the man through the microphone. The field descends into hush.
I am in a crowd of about three grillion people, which is most definitely not my natural habitat. I have also been persuaded to drive here so that other people can get very drunk, which is also not my natural habitat. I am less a fish out of water than a fish that has been signed up to undertake a charity bike ride across the Sahara. I shift my weight from foot to foot, which is the sort of thing that one does in these circumstances.
“Welcome to these wonderful stately home surroundings!!!”
In aid of Distressed Anglers.
It is weird; the whole thing is weird.
A while back, I wrote a book. I never meant to, but people started asking me, and then I sort of thought ‘why not’, and then I worked out that this little Private Secret Diary would never really work in book form anyway, and then more people asked, and I got drawn in. And in the meantime, the thing that my old friends would always ask – invariably, every time, without fail – after they’d done all the ‘how are you’s’ and ‘are you well’s’ was: ‘So how’s the bowls going, then?’
“By kind permission of your host, Viscount Coke!!!”
And I began to realise this: that the whole theme of my life today could be encapsulated in one simple concept: just how bloody, bloody disappointed my eighteen year-old self would have been at how things turned out. I mean, I enjoy my life immensely. There is nothing better than living in Norfolk and keeping chickens and playing bowls.
“On this stage tonight!!!”
But my eighteen year-old self would be appalled. And it struck me that here was the entire basis about what I should write about. So I did. The rural life. The insularity. The chickens.
“Laydeeees and gentulllmen – please welcome…”
But of course there would be nothing that my eighteen year-old self would have been more disappointed about than the fact I played bowls. Nothing. It would be the bit underneath the barrel; the depths of horror and naffness to my aspirational would-be-cool teenage self.
Thank you, and goodnight.