God I feel virile! Not in a rip her knickers off and ride her bareback sort of way (at least no more than usual). I'm talking about a much more basic, instinctive, hunter-gatherer sort of virility. The sort that drinks beer, farts a lot, finds the word "bottom" funny, watches endless repeats of Buffy (or is that just me?) and can, whatever the time, city or state of inebriation, navigate unerringly to the nearest kebab van. I'm talking about being a man.

You see my wife had this brilliant idea. "Let's stay at home this summer," She suggested. "We can spend some time in the garden and go on some nice day trips in and around London. It'll be fun." And then to clinch it. "We'll save some money."

I don't think she could have been any more wrong. Summer. What summer? It rained almost non-stop for the whole two weeks I took off. The only time we set foot in the garden was to check that next door's cat hadn't drowned in the paddling pool. And as for saving money, it would have been cheaper to fly all four of us first class to the Seychelles. You see when the weather's that bad, a shopping mall is the only place you can get out of the house and stay dry. So my wife has finally got the new sitting room furniture she'd been angling for all year. In fact, now I think about it, I wonder if that wasn't the plan all along ...

Not that the two weeks were entirely wasted. It was brilliant to spend time with the girls and I, thank God, slowly inched my way towards having the vague outline of a story and characters for Book 4 which I'm getting quite excited about. Hooray. Plus I finally got round to all those annoying little jobs I'd been putting off - repainting the front gate, varnishing the back door, repairing the guttering, rerouting a waste pipe. I bet you never knew I was so handy! I even, after one particularly violent downpour had left an inch of water lapping against my french windows, resolved to clean my drains which were quite clearly blocked.

I tackled this with my father-in-law who assured me it would be easy. That was until we popped the manhole cover. We found three feet of foul and dark water, peopled by sleek brown shapes that were nosing their way through swirling icebergs of rotten tissue paper like seals. The smell made me heave and it was all I could do not to stumble head first into the gaping opening. My instinct was to call for Dyno-ripoff but then some deeper, primitive urge took over. No. I didn't need any help. I could protect my family from the rising tide of the turd army myself.

We went out a brought a rodding set which I assembled and fed into the opening. A couple of firm thrusts and I broke through, the drain spasming as it emptied its contents with a wild, sucking noise. I glanced up at the house exultantly, a strange glow washing over me as I saw my family staring at me proudly through the glass. Was this, I wondered, what it felt like when you brought home a fresh kill to your cave or fought off a raid from a neighbouring village? Turds banished. House safe. £120 saved. Job done.

It took two days to wash the smell off me. It was worth it.

P.S. Publication date in the UK for The Gilded Seal is October 15th. Anyone fancy coming to the launch party in London? Let me know and we'll see what I can do.

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