Don's diary: adventures in theatreland

December 12, 2003

Tuesday
Have I received the pink card? It's a call from my publishers.

My collection of neurological tales, Into the Silent Land , has been shortlisted for The Guardian First Book Award, but I haven't received my invitation to next week's prize ceremony.

This week, let alone next, is a little out of the ordinary for a neuropsychologist. I'm at the National Theatre Studio working on a stage adaptation of my book. Today I coached Emily Hamilton (who plays the Christmas fairy in the Sainsbury's TV ads) in the finer points of drug-induced behavioural disinhibition. It felt rather wicked.

Wednesday
I take time out to catch up with Susan Aldworth, an artist whose work explores neuropsychological themes. We jot down the outlines of a joint grant bid over beer and sandwiches at her studio.

Thursday
The actors and I sit round a rickety table with paper and pens, "exploring our thoughts". The walls are aflutter with our earlier scribblings. Mick Gordon, the director, strolls round giving teacherly encouragement. Emily, sitting next to me, hasn't written much and takes a sneaky look at my sheet. I let her. I think I'm developing a crush on the Christmas fairy.

Saturday
I read a scathing review of one of my rivals, D. B. C. Pierre's Vernon God Little . This is encouraging. It's nothing personal, D. B. C.

Sunday
Sarah Waters, novelist and Guardian prize judge, chooses Vernon God Little as her book of the year in The Observer .

Monday-Wednesday
Back to reality and scarcely a mention of literary prizes or adventures in theatreland. My invitation arrives, so on Wednesday lunchtime I go for a haircut. "Oh dear, sir," the barber says, "am I right in thinking a woman cut your hair last time?"

Thursday
Today's the day, so it's back up to London. On the train I speed read Love , Toni Morrison's new novel. Andrew Marr is interviewing the Nobel prizewinning author, followed by a Q&A session, on a Start the Week special this afternoon. It dovetails quite nicely with The Guardian do and seemed like a good idea three weeks ago when I agreed to take part. Now, with three hours to go before recording, I'm still only halfway through the book.

The venue for The Guardian reception is a bar-cum-club-cum-restaurant in Soho. The place is too noisy, too crowded and too hot. Fiona, my publicist, manoeuvres me this way and that to shake a hand or have someone shout in my ear, and gives me a reassuring squeeze every now and then. I find myself chatting to Robert Macfarlane, another contender and a fellow academic. Or rather we're bawling at one another over the noise. "Not my kind of place," he says. "Nor mine," I tell him.

Then Bill Bailey's up on the stage saying nice things about all of us. And here it comes ... the winner is ... not me. It's Robert.

Friday
Back in the department, a colleague asks if I've had my lobotomy yet. It's a running joke. I tell him it feels like it, but, no, I'm just a little hungover and deflated about not getting the prize. What prize is that? he asks.

Paul Broks is a senior clinical lecturer at Plymouth University. Into the Silent Land is published by Atlantic Books.

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