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Wednesday 2nd july

02/07/2003

I’m doing my tax at the moment. It’s a very odd activity; a mixture of nostalgia as one holds up crumpled receipts and remembers having two cokes and a bowl of olives in Athens, and sometimes fury as I realise how much I’ve been paying for the sodding internet. Then there’s a delightful sense of order as the pile of receipts lessens and all the columns of ingoings and outgoings neaten up, and you can start adding up. I still add up using my fingers. I am not very numerically literate at all. Anyway, when all this is done , off it goes to the accountant who will have to check my messy calculations. I like to imagine the tax inspectors perusing my odd expenditures. Does he examine my receipts and tut over my indulgences? I seem to spend rather alot on beautifying my office (rugs, picture frames) and I buy a hell of a lot of stationary (I really do). Can I claim, say, for a bicycle bell as part of my expenses? It’s hard to manage a working life without a bicycle bell! And what about reflexology, acupuncture, gym membership? Then there’s the vague category of ‘research.’ Most writers could argue that they are researching all the time. I spend hundreds of pounds on books and I’m hoping they are part of my allowances. It’s hard for writers as our incomes are completely unreliable..one year you earn nothing, the next you might get a book deal and seem to be doing rather well. Most books take years to write, so we have to argue that our earnings should be spread out over years. My best tip for self employed people, and the only one I have done consistently, is to write each month on a large envelope and as you buy things stuff the receipts in the right envelopes. It saves days!

Tonight I am going to do an evening at Bishop Auckland Town Hall, talking about writing. I have always been very fond of Bishop, of the people there and the library. There’s a thriving writer’s group,(Wear Valley Writers) and a constant stream of writers reading and running workshops and book related events. This is all because of the brilliant Gillian Wales who runs the arts programme there. As usual, one person with a passion quietly changes the world around them.

On Saturday I am going to read with Jackie Kay at Hebden Bridge. I’m doing quite a bit of reading and talking at the moment. However Brazil is not far away, and it’s nice doing some talking about ones work.

Outside it’s raining. I must get back to my April receipts! Is underwear a necessary expense for a writer?

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