`The publisher needs all copy by August, so I am having to write about the end of my life now'
It's the bloody book that's done it. The moment I croak, these columns will be on sale for £16.99 a pop to a lot of people who've already read them. But in order to catch the Christmas rush, the publisher needs all copy by the end of August. So I am having to write the end of my life now - committing myself to what I'll be doing, how I will feel about it, and my exact method of blapping my lulu. It's driving me nuts.
Of course, I could make it up, but then I might as well lie about my suicide, too, and stay alive. What the hell would be the point of that? The whole idea of Time to Go is that I kill myself. Otherwise, all this writing will be quite valueless.
I've also rejected the idea of giving scripts to friends to make them say what I'd said they said. So I've been trying to predict what my life will actually be like then. My first thought was that I'll be utterly suicidal. I imagined the dreadful day when I can no longer derive the faintest pleasure from my Paul Smith polished berunia condom applicator.
But, then again, I might be rapturously anticipating my life as a sunbeam, singing tra-las to the season of mists and kissing the pates of the ludicrous. Or what if I've been run over, pierced by a spear of frozen piss from a passing airliner, or stabbed by one of The Observer weirdos who've set up a daily Geefe vigil in the pub on the corner?
In turmoil, I faxed the editor a selection of starts for my column for 22 August. He hated them all. `… what the fuck's this: "I've been wondering this week whether sharble should be the word for a grain of instant coffee that hasn't dissolved by the time you drink it"?' I told him that would be what I'd write if I'd come to terms with my death to the extent that I no longer bothered to mention it at all.
He told me to write about my new TV show. `You know exactly how that will go - you're making it now, aren't you?'
Not quite. Channel Five, who've clearly heard of me but never read my work, have approached me with an idea called It's All Right - He's Got Cancer, in which the presenter pulls unforgivably cruel stunts on innocent people but gets away with it because he has cancer and is therefore understandably twisted. I pointed out that I have the big S not the big C. They've yet to come back to me on It's OK - He's Vowed to Top Himself.
`Richard, if you're desperate, why can't you just do something about your suicide method?' I told him I'd seen a very touching art movie in which a man jumps off a first-floor balcony repeatedly until he perishes - just in case at any point he wants to change his mind.
`Very moving.' `It took him 42 jumps.' `Will you do it?' `Well, the publishers like the idea - it's photogenic and there's time for camera crews to arrive... but I think I'll use this gun I've bought.' `Oh God, no Richard, please,' he said. `What?' `You know about Will Hutton's history of firearms convictions - he might be offended.' `Oh, right, but it would be OK for me to die in agony by hurling myself into an amphora of puff adders?' I said. `Yes, I don't think that will tread on any toes.'
In the end, I decided that to make those last weeks entirely predictable I should spend them in bed injecting heroin - taking each dose from a separate timed safe so that I could not OD. The publishers seemed delighted. Very noir, truth in smack, safe smack, too, mmm controversial, maybe some coffee table book-style photos of the paraphernalia.
But guess what? The editor blew his top and said no way - taking heroin is a sackable offence at The Observer. Actually, it's perfectly acceptable to take heroin at The Observer if you write about it here. It's only sackable if another paper mentions it first.
We rowed, of course - like cock ferrets. He said I'd better not botch it now because, apart from anything else, he has a 50 per cent interest in the book deal. What?!! Well, he said, my suicide pact was his idea after all. Well, fuck me. This man, who I've known since we were 19, who saw me through my very worst years with Tears for Fears (keyboards in the `Seeds of Love' phase) casually turns round and tells me that the one brilliant thing I've ever done was his idea. I told him he could shove his nuts in a mangle and I'd take my last 12 weeks elsewhere.
I phoned the Sunday Times: sorry old chap - love the column but we've got a reporter who's just taken out a contract on his own life and is writing some terrific stuff about living in fear. The Mail on Sunday have an accidental injury man who gets something dropped on him or falls out of a window every week. And there's a female writer at the Sindie who's agreed to have her child kidnapped. I'm so fucking marvellous, they're all ripping me off. So I'm stuck here.
Perhaps you'd like to know that I have at least now written my ending. And what the editor doesn't know yet is that on 16 November we play Russian roulette with two fully-loaded revolvers and he fires first. I, of course, follow with pangs of remorse about the futility of it all… oh, yes, I do sir, most definitely.