I go strangely brain-dead when I'm travelling. In the normal way of things I'm fairly observant, quick on the uptake, sharp-eyed. But once I'm through passport control some of my brain turns to mush (does mush come under the 100ml rule?). I can't see the signs to the loos, I read gate numbers wrong, I ask stupid questions of ground staff whose faces are already tight with weariness and the idiocy of the Travelling Public. They're usually quite nice about it.
As you may have guessed, I'm posting this from airside, Gatwick North Terminal, on my way to Madrid. It's a short, straightforward trip for a nice reason, launching the Spanish translation of The Mathematics of Love, and I'm no longer worried about missing trains, wrong terminals or disappearing flights (yes, I am that neurotic). But I still feel weirdly spaced out. It's like being drunk: I'm at once over-sensitive to some things and deaf and blind to others.
Which is not unlike how I feel when I'm writing, in a way, but without the focus. I feel thin-skinned, hyper-aware, but that awareness can't fasten onto one thing and shut out the others. There are too many lights, notices, announcements, music, faces, words, glossy goods to buy. Whereas when I'm writing, focus is all: it's like having my peripheral vision - peripheral brain, peripheral feeling? - switched off. I think that was one of the first things that drove my desire to write: when I found something (or something found me) that gathered me into that absolute focus, that complete submersion. At its - I won't say best, because it isn't always nice - but at its most complete, it's like dropping through a hole in the ice of my normal existence into the world below.
Mind you, there are some things no newish author neglects to do, however spaced out. I've still got a big grin on my face from finding a wodge of copies of The Mathematics of Love, face out, in W H Smith, nearly seven months after the paperback was published! See you in a couple of days.