The Sunday Telegraph - Sunday

Out of ideas? That simply won’t wash

For Oliver Pritchett creative thinking is best done while soaking in the bath. Well, if it was good enough for Archimedes...


Where do you get your ideas? I mean, how did you decide to put the sofa against that particular wall and the table with the lamp just over there? What inspired you to choose vinyl matt emulsion, in the shade of grey named Vole’s Belly, for your bathroom? At what moment did you realise that pork with gooseberri­es was a good combinatio­n? How did you decide to give your husband an old deep-sea diver’s suit for his birthday, to go on a cycling holiday in Paraguay, to fill your flower beds with ornamental thistles and to call your cat Wilfred? I don’t have ideas like that. On the other hand, I am very good at agreeing with people who do have them. “That wall is just the place for the sofa,” I say judiciousl­y. “Indeed, I hear the cycling in Paraguay is very good,” I observe. And, I add, the deep-sea diving suit is definitely him. I find it odd when people ask me where I get my ideas for what I write. These are about the only ideas I do have and, even then, it’s touch and go. A lot of pacing about and muttering is involved as I attempt to let my imaginatio­n take flight. Often my imaginatio­n has a way of behaving like a timid budgie, cowering on its perch and ignoring the open door of the cage. Going for a walk usually helps and the process becomes a form of recycling: trying to take some of the irritation­s of modern life, such as customer satisfacti­on surveys (“feedback”) or flip flops, car alarms, grown men on micro-scooters, or the word “fayre”, and turn them into something amusing. It also helps to recycle trivial anxieties, many about the various forms of social awkwardnes­s or perhaps etiquette conundrums, or minor problems, such as how to cope with canapés or how to deal with the hugging epidemic. Going for a solitary walk offers opportunit­ies for observing small details. I notice nowadays that the posher the house, the more sober the colour of the front door. They are in shades of dull seaweed, sombre blue, charcoal or austere grey – very much like Vole’s Belly, actually. I observe that so many people these days wear lapel badges with their names on or have plastic identity cards strung round their neck. I realise that in the city the smell of fresh coffee has overcome the delightful aroma of traffic fumes, as everyone carries a takeaway cup

 ??  ?? Laughing matter: Oliver and his son, the cartoonist Matt Continued on page 31
Laughing matter: Oliver and his son, the cartoonist Matt Continued on page 31

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