Life and times

Au­thor Matt Haig

The Daily Telegraph - Telegraph Magazine - - CONTENTS - Matt Haig

I get In­cred­i­bly neu­rotic be­fore a new b o ok c ome s out a nd of ten de­scend into a month-long patch of anx­i­ety. So just be­fore I be­gan my lat­est book tour, my wife An­drea and I took our two chil­dren to the greek is­land of Mykonos. We thought a lazy, loung­ing, do-not hing kind of pool­side hol­i­day would be a good coun­ter­bal­ance. A bit of yin be­fore the yang.

one of the beau­ties of a small-is­land hol iday is t he ab­sence of too many things to do. I find it strangely lib­er­at­ing to be de­prived of choice. I had one town to visit, one sea to swim in, one pool to lounge be­side, t wo books to re ad, a nd a ha nd f ul of re s t au r a nt s to tr y. bliss.

but at one point dur­ing the hol­i­day I felt a strange but fa­mil­iar sen­sa­tion, as t hough t he world was t ight­en­ing a round me. I re­alised I was about to have a panic at­tack. this is a pe­cu­liar t hing I have not iced about my­self – some­times I find re­lax­ation such a surpr ise t hat my sys­tem doesn’t k now what to do with it. but in­stead of pac­ing around and try­ing to fight the panic as I usu­ally do, I went out­side for a swim in the pool, and I kept swim­ming un­til t he panic lef t. I made a men­tal note that swim­ming is a good rem­edy if that feel­ing creeps back. back to My child­hood home town of ne­wark-on-trent for a book t a lk. I lived there be­tween the ages of eight and 18, and I dis­cov­ered that the talk was in the town hall, where I once vom­ited dur­ing a rat her wild si x t h-for m party. Strange to be back in such dif­fer­ent cir­cum­stances.

I was ner vous – not least be­cause my mum seemed to have in­vited the whole town – and t here were a few tech­ni­cal hitches as the sound sys­tem kept mak­ing that high-pitched squeal, like ex­ter­nal tin­ni­tus, but it was lovely to be there again.

Af­ter wards, we drove through the night for fou r hou r s back home to brighton, ready for my eight-year-old daugh­ter Pearl’s dance show the next day. that too had a tech­ni­cal prob­lem – the mu­sic cut out dur­ing katy Perry’s

Fire­work – but she han­dled it like a pro in front of 250 peo­ple. braver than her fa­ther had been the night be­fore. I found My­self on a no­to­ri­ous latenight lon­don-to-bright on train af­ter the launch party for my novel. the event it­self had been lovely – the jour­ney home less so. It was t he hottest, mug­gi­est day of the year and the train was full of ine­bri­ated peo­ple who be­lieved not only that they could sing Queen songs, but that they could sing them so well that they needed to do it loudly. this would have all been just about bear­able if the train hadn’t stopped some­where be­tween gatwick Air­port and burgess hill. It stayed there for about half an hour.

the drunk pas­sen­gers slowly be­gan to sober up and looked weary or an­gry. And then, of course, they all seemed to need the loo si­mul­ta­ne­ously, and I– stand­ing in the aisle with my large bag (I had been away for three days) – was pub­lic en­emy num­ber one.

Just as I was wish­ing they’d go back to their loud singing, the train started mov­ing, and some­time af­ter 1 am, I ar­rived home in brighton where An­drea had a chilli con carne wait­ing for me, and the kids had drawn some art to wel­come me back. Ar­riv­ing home had never felt so good. even bet­ter than a greek is­land. How To Stop Time, by Matt Haig (Canon­gate, £12.99), is avail­able from the Tele­graph Book­shop for £10.99 plus p&p. Call 0844-871 1514 or visit books.tele­

The talk was in the town hall, where I once vom­ited dur­ing a rather wild sixth-form party

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