We all need routines, even a writer - Ian McMillan

Timing is everything, they say, and that’s certainly true for me.

Ian McMillan is a self-confessed early bird and enjoys his morning strolls.

Those who know me will know that I’m an early riser, tumbling out of bed at 0500, going for a walk at 0520, calling at the shop for the paper when it opens at 0600, then getting home at 0610 and getting down to some work.

All the words that make their way to the page have been swirling around my head as I strolled so that when I get home I just have to arrange them and make them dance.

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Then, like so many other things, the pandemic put a stop to all that. I still went for my one permitted amble but when I got to the shop and strode confidently up to the door that normally welcomed me with open electronic arms I narrowly avoided bumping into the glass like somebody on a viral internet video.

A handwritten sign informed me that the shop wouldn’t be opening until 8am, which as far as larks like me are concerned is mid-afternoon.

I went home but couldn’t concentrate on the writing because my routine had been disrupted. I sat at my laptop and tried to write but the words dripped rather than flowed, because I knew that I’d have to go out again later to get the paper.

At 0759 I stood outside the shop, or rather I stood in a queue of socially-distanced people waiting for the doors to open. From a distance, we looked like an Antony Gormley sculpture. The lines I was going to write swam around in my brain like fish released from a net.

Back at home the writing was difficult and fragmented. I reflected that I used to laugh at my mother because she always insisted that everything would be okay “if you can get yourself into a bit of a routine” and I thought I was more free-spirited than that, but now I was desperate for my early morning routine to start again.

The writing got done, of course, and it worked well, but it seemed like harder work than before. That may be a good thing, of course. If it comes too easily it may not be as well-turned.

Then, sometime in the haziness of last year, the shop started opening at 0700, which was better but I still had to go on my stroll, come back, then walk up to the shop, leaving my concentration, well, unconcentrated.

A gang of us used to meet outside the shop just before 0700, talking about the old 0600 opening days as a golden age. “Will you be opening early again?” somebody asked, and the shop manager shook his head. I’d have to get used to my new routine.

Then one morning I arrived at the shop early, at about 0650, and I saw somebody coming out clutching a bottle of pop. I stood in front of the door and it opened, miraculously.

I bought my paper and asked about the opening and the manager said: “Oh yes, we’ve been opening at six for a couple of days now!”

Happy days! My routine is restored; let’s see if that gives the writing an additional sparkle! I think it will!