Ian McMillan: That’s the idea...

Ian McMillan
Ian McMillan
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I wake up early, like I always do, on the Sunday morning and I have an idea for my column in this magazine and I write it down in the half-dark of autumn because if I don’t write the idea down it will walk away and all that I’ll be able to recall is that I had an idea and it was a good one.

Ideas are the basis of pieces like these because in a sense that’s all they are; there’s no critical analysis of anything in particular, there’s no report of a sporting event or a play or a film, there’s simply an idea expanded and played with and danced with and brought to a conclusion. The idea is to do with the fact that the column will be published on Bonfire Day and so the column will be from the view of Guy Fawkes. Nice idea.

By Monday I’ve gone off the idea. It wouldn’t really fit, I don’t think: it might end up being too serious, too historical. I considered making Guy Fawkes a man from Barnsley but that didn’t quite work. I pound my brain for another idea.

How about a column about the names of fireworks? That might work. I could speculate on who first came up with names like Roman Candle and Golden Rain. After a while and a bit of note-jotting I go off that idea too because in the end the firework names aren’t really spectacular enough, they’re descriptive in a utilitarian way. I briefly toy with the idea of inventing new firework names but that doesn’t seem to work either. Time for more ideas.

I’m not worried, even though I know I have to get the column written soon because that warm feeling on the back of my neck is a deadline breathing heavily. In this job I have to trust my brain, trust that it will come up with a workable idea. Soon. Okay, here’s the Tuesday idea: I could write about the time I put a jumping cracker in my Uncle Charlie’s turn-ups and he hopped around the garden like a kangaroo in a flat cap until my dad chucked a bucket of water on the burning garments and I was sent to bed without any parkin. Hmm: that might work. It just might. Mind you, it might encourage accident-provoking behaviour and I wouldn’t want to give my McMillan seal of approval to that in any way so that idea will have to go too. That’s a shame, because it’s a good story. You should have seen how high he hopped!

The back of my neck is almost on fire. The deadline’s breath is fierce and dragon-like. Come on, brain: one more heave. One more idea.

Of course: it’s been staring me in the face all the time. The Column-as-box-of-fireworks idea, an extended metaphor to play with. Thank you, brain: that’ll do nicely. The similes flying like rockets. The images spinning like Catherine wheels. The smouldering sentences. The fizzing paragraphs. Now all I have to do is write the words whilst applying ice to the back of my neck. Here goes.