When the Day was Fixed for My Departure

I’ve just finished reading Quentin Crisp’s The Naked Civil Servant for the first time and enjoyed it, as I’d always imagined, tremendously. Towards the end of the memoir, Crisp relates a time he held a job at a publishing firm before leaving to write a novel.

For those of us who’ve struggled to fulfill a contract among people seemingly better adapted to the daily grind (and then being ashamed by their utmost kindness at the end of the ordeal), these choice quotes will resonate:

The other members of the staff adopted the ruse of filling in the hours by doing the work well. This device never occurred to me. Even when I saw from their example the endless time-consuming possibilities of attention to detail, I could not bring myself to try it.

When the day was fixed for my departure, I received a present from the members of the firm who knew me best. I thanked them with unfeigned amazement. They were the people who had suffered most from the annoyance of having me sit on the corners of their desks screaming with laughter when I could find nothing better to do.

I had been teasingly asked if I’d intended to go round to every department and shake hands with the entire firm. I had said that I did not but that I would like to see the boss himself before I left … I wanted to thank him for being so long-suffering. As I stepped into his office, he said, “I just wanted to say how tolerant I think you’ve been.”

I left work partly in order not to be doing it and partly because I wanted to write a novel. Until now I had never had the time. I had never been able to collect enough money to live for a year without a job. Now this was possible.

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Robert Wringham is the editor of New Escapologist. He also writes books and articles. Read more at www.wringham.co.uk/about.

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