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I want to live to see my paperback come out - Ian Marchant

Blog | By Ian Marchant | Mar 27, 2023

Llandrindod Wells by Alex Liivet

Ian Marchant has a new book out but also has prostate cancer....

A few weeks back, I had to go for a chest X-ray in Llandrindod Wells.

I hadn’t done anything wrong, other than getting pneumonia at the end of January. It just so happens to be my nearest X-ray unit. I might have gone to Hereford County Hospital, but Llandrindod Wells is my X-ray unit of choice.

The drive through the Radnor Forest is always thrilling, there’s never anyone else waiting to get X-rayed, and, afterwards, there’s a nearby Greggs, where I go for two sausage rolls (one meat, one vegan), and a milky coffee known these days, for reasons known to somebody, I guess, as a ‘lartay.’ Years of living in Wales means that I can pronounce Llandrindod Wells properly, but to do so marks you out at once as an incomer, because no one in Radnorshire speaks Welsh, and the locals all call it Landod.

Even though there was no one else waiting, and I’m quite clearly who I claim to be be, (because who scams an X-Ray?), the not-lots-younger-than-me radiologist asked my date of birth, and when I told him, he said, ‘Oh! Happy Birthday!’ I was greatly pleased.

65 years old. It used to be a landmark birthday, but now, of course, it’s the occasion for a great deal of moaning. In the not too distant past, I might have been able to claim my state pension, which I seem to be mostly entitled to, though I know not why. Listeners to Ed Reardon’s Week on Radio Four will remember the increase in Ed’s prosperity offered by his state pension, and that’s how it will be for me, too.

No thirty-year-old who naively thinks ‘I might do a creative writing course’ realises at the time how long it will take to recoup their outlay, and I look forward to getting my hands on £175 a week, always supposing there’s still such a thing as money in a year's time. Elda’s Colombian Coffee House, High Street, Presteigne, can look forward to a noticable uptick in their turnover, though my wife doubts I can spend any more time there without over-dosing. Elda, who, as you might imagine, is Colombian, has taught me to ask for a ‘tinto con leche’, which, let’s face it, amounts to a lartay. My pals, a group of similarly bookish old geezers, usually go for the caffeine-free, but most of them can still drink alcohol, and a coffee perk up is all I’ve got left to me, whilst getting up and down all night (‘like a bride's nightie’, my old Mum used to say), is my main form of exercise.

I fail to see how the State has made much out of me, and I must surely be costing it a fortune these days, because I have prostate cancer, and not the good kind that you die with, but the bad kind that (all other things being equal) you die of. Scans, chemo, hormone implants, meds that my pharmacist accidentally told me how much they cost, nursing, bloods etc etc; after a bit, it starts to add up to serious money.

They must be keeping me alive for something, I reckon, and I’m hoping it’s the publication of my new book ‘One Fine Day’. This concerns my discovery and discernment of the diary of my seven times great great-grandfather Thomas Marchant, which he kept in Hurstpierpoint in Sussex, between 1714 and 1728. I can therefore say what he was up to, with a fair degree of accuracy, 300 years ago.

There was an amount of dung carrying and making of faggots, but on the day I’m writing this, the 24th of March 2023, he and his family might well have been looking forward to a night in the pub; because, until 1752, this would have been New Year’s Eve, and tomorrow, the 25th of March, Lady Day, was a ‘holy day’, a day to nurse a hangover in front of the fire, as it was New Year’s Day. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it to begin the year as the days lengthen, and you can start getting out, rather than on the First of January when it’s dark and driech, and there’s only Kenneth McKeller or ‘Jools’ Holland on the telly.

I started work on ‘One Fine Day’ a few weeks before lockdown started, and around the time they diagnosed my cancer as incurable; ‘manageable’, the Macmillan Nurse said, ‘but incurable.’ And I know it’s hubristic, but I prayed that God might allow me to finish the book. As publication day nears, I find that I’m trying to negotiate what I mean by ‘finish.’

Publication, yes, but then there’s the paperback next year, which my forthcoming pension would allow me to bask in. And what if an enterprising film-maker wants to take it on? (As, honestly, they should, if you know someone.) Surely the presence of the writer would only enhance the première and subsequent award ceremonies? I’m hanging out for three score and ten, and will settle for that happily, with this one caveat. I’m in a Tontine with my step-father, who is 96. I really can’t break his darling heart by popping off before him, but nor, of course, do I wish him dead. As long as he’s with us, I’m stuck here. So, as you’ll appreciate, I’ll be needing to be a burden on the State for a little while longer.

Ian Marchant, Presteigne, 24/03/23. One Fine Day: A Journey into English Time is published by September publishing on 4 April, £20 hardback