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06. A Day in the Life of Louis Philippe

I should call this: ‘a day in the life of Philippe Auclair’, really, as I don’t wake up (late‑ish – I wrote until 2.30am) to the promise of hours of singing and playing, and reclining artistically on a studio couch, but of toiling away in my other guise, that of the respected / famous / obscure / controversial (delete as appropriate) football writer and broadcaster. There’ll be music, of course. Only a few steps from my desk is the piano (lid closed). A few scores are piled up on the top, mostly songs in progress.

I’ll be frank: it’s a horrible day. The London sky is a grey smear. I can hear the patter of rain on the sycamore trees. Lights on at 10 am. Not nice.

Right – cup of tea (Rose Pouchong), grapefruit juice, nothing else for the moment. Time for my morning prayer, as Hegel said: reading the papers, starting from the back (football, you see). A cigarette is smouldering away, barely touched, a ritual more than an addiction.

Then, dealing with the correspondence. I receive between 40 and 50 emails a day, which is rather a lot to tend to. A friend is trying to offload a season ticket for the Emirates. The editor of an Arabic magazine I’ve just started writing for is wondering when my column will arrive. A very dear friend has sent me a beautiful message, which I’ll come back to throughout the day, I’m sure. An invitation to a wine-tasting (ooh – nice). Jerome from Orwell tells me which journalists he’s sent copies of Louise Le May’s mini-album to (thanks, J!). A Manchester United fanzine wants me to answer a list of questions related to my biography of Eric Cantona, which has just been published in England. And it goes on, and on. The rain, too.

The phone lies threateningly silent next to me. On a bad day, it’ll needle me every few minutes, until…

(and bang on cue, drrring! It my friend Amy, from The Observer, to share a few quotes from Arsène Wenger from his last press conference. Interesting stuff)

Back to more emails, and work. I work rather a lot. 70-80 hours a week. But my work dovetails to such an extent with what I love doing anyway that these numbers are irrelevant. Bertrand Burgalat and I have often spoken about this: the word ‘holiday’ fills us with dread. If I can’t write or make music at all, what can I do? (Quite a few wonderful things, of course, but you get my drift)

I glance in the little moleskine diary that I carry everywhere with me. Yesterday, on my way to a game, I ‘heard’ a little tune, and scribbled it as best I could on the bus. Music is a constant companion in that way. Walking automatically triggers ‘hearing’ new melodies – you’d be surprised by some of them, which have a distinctly ‘garage-y’ feel to them at the moment. It must be the beat of my footsteps.

Lunch is a hurried affair. I talked and gossiped with Amy far longer than I thought. In fact, can I call that lunch? I’ll do better tonight. Slow-roasted duck, yum-yum. But that’ll wait. The phone rings again – another footballing friend, and, this time, it’s serious stuff. X… and I often work together on ‘sensitive’ stuff, all very cloak and dagger, which is fitting as, in a previous existence, he did detective work in Japan (and this is the truth). We’ve both been working on the subject of a manager we know has illegally siphoned millions in offshore accounts; given the strictness of England’s libel laws, we’ve got to be careful. But he’s just found out some rather delicious stuff…and so have I. So, for most of the afternoon, from my desk, I play the role of the football sleuth. Fun as this all is, I finally decide it’s time to flesh out the tune I ‘heard’ the day before. Most of these generally end up forgotten, 95 out of a 100, I’d say. But this one has got legs, I think, even if there is no way I can yet tell how far they’ll run. I try out a few chord substitutions, take some fairly sharp harmonic turns…hmm…not bad. But I can’t quite see what this ‘song’ is about. That’s puzzling. It’s most definitely a tune that should be carried by a voice. When that’s the case, some images would suggest themselves, sometimes a fragmentary verse, but this time, nada, niente. Let’s have some duck. Ooh, nice. The wine isn’t bad either.

I realise that I haven’t gone out today. Not good, Philippe. Maybe it’s to do with the fact that I had the flat all to myself today. A bit like staying in bed through a whole day, knowing you can concentrate on doing precisely nothing. Then I walk to the french windows overlooking the garden. I can just make out arrows of rain drumming their relentless beat on the flagstones. Tomorrow will be early enough as far as ‘going out’ is concerned. It is possible to travel in a room, you see. It can be as ‘exciting’ (I hate that word, but you see what I mean) and fun than doing all these things which are supposed to be ‘exciting’ and fun; and which I do a lot of anyway. Today just happened to be one of those sedentary affairs.

There’s still some travelling to do, though. Some diddly-doodle-ing on my Spanish guitar, a last attempt to make sense of the not-yet-song, which then morphs into a little game of ‘what if…?’ (what if I built every single of these chords that way, building them from the third upwards? A bit like solving cryptic crosswords, mental gymnastics. Which reminds me: I must must must go the pool tomorrow. I’ve put on three pounds, and I don’t like it. Too much duck, not enough swimming).

I grab one of the numerous books which pile up on the bedside table. Plutarch’s Lives. Gosh. That’s a bit hefty. But let’s go for it anyway. What a dude Alexander was.

Time to dream, now. Good night.

Philippe Auclair (aka Louis Philippe)