Life and times
Author 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.telegraph.co.uk
The talk was in the town hall, where I once vomited during a rather wild sixth-form party