Well now, this is a sort of farewell. An au revoir more than an adieu but a valediction all the same. This morning I switch off most of my connections with the outside world, for I have work to do. I must deliver a book to my publishers by the end of April or my soul and testicles will be forfeit.

Some people can write with ease in whatever circumstances they find themselves. Up a tree, on a bus, in a log cabin, a steamy-windowed café or a tropical beach. Some don’t mind noise, distraction or a broken up day. I, unhappily, am not made of this material. I need peace, absolute peace, an empty diary and zero distraction. I enter a kind of writing purdah, an eremitical seclusion in which there is just me, a keyboard and abundant cups of coffee, all in a room whose curtains have been drawn against the light. I would have added tobacco as a constant and necessary companion, but I stopped smoking some two and half years ago, so no longer will there be the pleasure of having a pipe clamped between the teeth as I grope for the Flaubertian mot juste.

I have a single appointment in London towards the end of January and another in Barcelona a month or so later. Otherwise I shall be as one wiped from the map of human existence. This is how it must be.

All this is a way of saying, of course, that my twitter stream will dry up for that period. No doubt this will come as a relief to some, but I am not so sunk in false modesty as to be unaware that there are loyal followers who will emit long, loud wails of “Noooooooo!” and who will feel pained and dispirited . But I hope they will understand that this is a) imperative and b) temporary. I shall return.

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And what of this book? Twelve years ago I wrote a volume of autobiography called Moab Is My Washpot. It is essentially a memoir of childhood and adolescence and ends after our hero is released from prison and contrives, with a year’s probation still to run, to get himself a place at university. The book I must now write will follow on from this. Whether it will be chronological or thematic, first person or third I have no idea. That is the adventure, if I can call it such, that lies before me. The loneliness of writing, or of my kind of writing at least, is absolute. The other week, the excellent @wishdasher tweeted me a line by Paul Tilich: “Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone and the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” Whether my reclusive isolation will be painful or glorious remains to be seen. Accept my apologies for what must be and believe me, no one yearns more keenly for the day when I will be able to be back amongst you all.

Stephen_small

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