Thank you for the emails. No, I am not dead. Almost, but not quite.

I didn’t have much chance to blog yesterday. It was my birthday, you see, and the day I officially resigned from TFP to do this buy-out malarkey.

I absolutely detest birthdays. They embarrass me. I’m a terrible attention-seeking egotist – this much we know – but still there’s something about the undeserved gestures of special treatment one gets on the anniversary of one’s birth that makes me uneasy. “Do you want some cake?” No thanks. “But it’s your birthday.” Ok, I’ll have some cake. “Have some more cake…” “Let’s go to Disneyland…” Stop it.

But please don’t think I’m ungrateful. I had a lovely day today, given how much work I had to fit in. I had this damn book to finish for one thing. Savannah and I spent the day at Pond’s East Dulwich pied du terre at a little after noon. Savannah had very kindly agreed to read my hacked draft and to turn some of the lesser sentences into something resembling gold. Pond had been up all night writing and was breakfasting on a Bloody Mary when we arrived. A hive of industry soon developed interrupted only for a birthday fondant fancy and a bottle or two of excellent wine.

The upshot of all this, after a day of writing, a spot of dinner and then a night of more writing? Tell us Paul. What’s the wordcount? Tell us the damn wordcount. All we care about is the wordcount.

Well have it your way…

20,000 words.

Twenty thousand words.

The first draft in the bag. Done, dusted and ready to be merged with Pond’s chapters.

I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. A weight of panic. A weight of sleepy eyelids and caffeinated blood.

The quality of this post is testament – as is the fact that it’s just taken me three attempts to spell testament – to how much has been taken out of me, word-wise. It’s been reel.

Now all I have to do is write something funny about Rummy for tomorrow’s thing and I’m good to go to bed.

A weekend of loose end tidying and copy editing.

And then from Monday, things get really interesting.