PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST AS A CONSUMER: NIGEL BIRD

TELEVISION

I’m not sure what it is, but I’m still trapped in a time-warping loop that takes me back to a different age. My devices are filled with episodes of Columbo, Van Der Valk and Frazier and I can safely say I’m an addict. It might be that life feels stressful a lot of the time, so I need something familiar and comforting when I turn on the box. They’re all great, mind, and I’m amazed at how many stars and legends have appeared in Columbo on one side of the camera or the other.

I’m also a bit predictable when it comes to contemporary work. Killing Eve had me purring until a slight drop off at the end of series one. Fleabag, on the other hand, is just about as good as it gets and I would happily be sucked into their universe whenever they wanted me.

The big police shows often leave me cold. To me, they seem so contrived and even when they hook me in, I wish I’d left them alone.

I also get to see a fair bit of kids TV. Millie In Between (now defunct) is where my kids are at and I love sitting with them as they work through nostalgias of their own.

And the 63up documentary – top class.

Whatever it is, if it’s longer than half an hour, I’m unlikely to see it all in the one sitting.

BOOKS

Now I realise that I’m stuck in another loop. McBain and Simenon more often than not. Pelecanos and Winslow. I’d read more Willy Vlautin if he’d write more quickly. Getting a buzz from Duane Swierczynski. Delighted by whatever All Due Respect put out.

FILMS

When I get to the cinema, it’s with my family. Mary Poppins Returns was a good stab at a sequel. Favourite recent watch, The Blue Lamp – even better than I remembered – courtesy of channel 81.

The fact I’m struggling to come up with anything makes me a little sad. I’ll need to do something about that.

MUSIC

My favourite music to listen to when I’m writing is jazz. I only discovered this recently (not jazz, but the fact that I like to write with a free-flowing musical background). It helps with the flow of words. It’s a kind of mutual improvisation, I suppose. Again, it’s mostly old, but Giles Peterson keeps me fresh.

TRAVEL

All our travel is with the family, so it’s usually somewhere that isn’t too complicated.

We pop to Holland every year and that chills me out without fail. What a vibe.

Last year, Berlin blew my socks off. We had a lovely week wandering around in German woodland and loved that, but the capital was so vibrant and buzzing that I almost wanted to be a teenager again.

This summer, our holiday’s to France. We’ll be staying with some old friends, some new friends and in a caravan.

I get to the city for an occasional break. Bristol, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Newcastle, London, Preston, Liverpool, Paris…  I love them all. I sometimes wish I was back living in a bigger place, but when I get back to the sea, I remember that the peace and tranquillity outweigh the cultural offerings, though it’s a close run thing.

Other than that, lots of my travel is into the countryside. Walks through valleys, up hills, alongside rivers, into the woods or by the coast, that’s what I’d miss the most if they were to be taken away.

FOOD

Been vegan for three years now. That hasn’t changed my eating habits too much, other than on the desserts front. I crave good cake and do my best to make one on a weekly basis (a cake, not necessarily a good one). And dairy free banana pancakes don’t half sweeten up life when I need a pick-me-up.

DRINK

Soft drinks only. It’s safer that way.

ART

My wife’s just changed jobs and she’s now the head of conservation at the National Galleries of Scotland. I’m pretty jealous of the opportunities she has of getting up close and personal with artworks, but not envious of the stress, pressure and endless workload. Even so, I’m hoping there’ll be some fringe benefits for me.

Our most visited galleries are in Newcastle. The Baltic is terrific. There’s always something amazing and something awful in there, so whatever is on display I leave feeling something, which is why I go in the first place. I’ve also become a regular visitor of the Side Gallery. It has a photography gallery and much of the work feels very political and really digs into those emotions.

Last year, on a Paris trip to meet up with some very old friends (very old as in my age). I braved the queues and went to the Musee D’Orsay and it absolutely blew me away. The building alone would be worth the entrance fee. Throw in some of the most amazing pieces of art and this has to be one of the most beautiful human-made spaces on earth.

THEATRE

Recently, Matilda was an entertaining treat. War Horse made me cry.

 

BIO:  Nigel Bird is the author of several novels, novellas and short story collections, including The Shallows, the Southsiders series, In Loco Parentis, Smoke, Mr Suit and Dirty Old Town.

He is currently an editorial consultant for the publisher All Due Respect books.

He lives on the East Coast of Scotland in Dunbar with his wife and three children.

As well as writing fiction, he has been a teacher for thirty years and has worked in a number of mainstream and special schools.

NIGEL B