I've been put on 'gardening leave', not only for contractual reasons, but also it would appear, so that everybody I tell mimes playing the world's smallest violin. In total it amounts to five whole months outside of the workplace. In my particular case, it's the time off between hosting one radio show before embarking on another.
I don't blame the sarcastic 'Borrowers' and their miniature Stradivarius because my tone when telling friends is a tad downbeat - I like working, most people do.
I am of course fully aware of my fortuitous situation, I really am, but I noticed a theme amongst my nearest and dearest developing - it goes along these lines: "Gardening leave? You don't have a garden, plus for you, they should call it pub leave! Ha-ha!" Yes, very witty. Thank you "friend".
But sadly, I have to admit they're right. I am just the kind of person who could easily slip down the rabbit hole (a reference to the classic Lewis Carroll novel, not the name of a bar) without the tough taskmaster of the 4:30 a.m. alarm going off each morning as it had been.
And so I've made a decision, the only way forward for the coming months is a new mantra, "I will improve myself".
Yes! The nine-year-old me will be chuffed to bits when I finally master karate. College era Dave will be proud as punch to finally be able to play the guitar and sí! I will be fluent in Espanol!
But first. A glass or two of Rioja to celebrate this dawn of a new Dave. Muchas Gracias.
The following morning having slept in a little later than planned and being a tad hung-over, I set out on my journey and the first step is veganism. I am not an unhealthy eater per se, and I am going to ignore the recent Instagram post by scrotum headed techno enthusiast Moby, so worthy it could've made Morrissey eat a whole lamb. But having lived with a vegan, read some stuff and then watched the film 'Carnage', made by my former TV colleague, Simon Amstel, a move away from meat and dairy looked like the smart thing to do.
After a short time, I realised an even smarter move would be to become a "Liberal Vegan" (copyright Dave Berry Inc). Definition being a person who shuns steak and eggs but may once in a while listen to the sounds of their own body (which is surely the most natural thing in the world to do?) and mine may from time to time whisper, "David, eat a double chicken pitta with hot sauce from Nando's... Oh and have some chips too."
Veganism. Tick... This self-improvement stuff is a breeze!
And now I must face the Devil and its water. One thing I am absolutely positive any breakfast radio show host worth his or her salt will tell you, is that the daytime drinking habit, culture, whichever you prefer to call it, can occasionally spiral out of control... and it's bloody brilliant! In my (not) limited experience, the scallywags you encounter whilst drinking on, say a Tuesday afternoon, are the best/worst/best people around. On the roof terrace of a London bar at 11:30 a.m. I once shared a shot of tequila with a guy who sang along on the 'Nahnahahnnnnnaaannhh' bit on the original recording of The Beatles' 'Hey Jude'. On another brunch-time excursion, to the 'Pillars of Hercules' in London's Soho, me and my co-worker befriended three guys and agreed to manage their band*. All this, some food and in bed by the time that annoying theme song to 'The One Show' starts.
It's been a good and immensely fun run, but in line with my plan for self- improvement, I'm afraid daytime drinking must prop up the bar alone for a wee while. This has proved, by my previous standards at least, to be a very successful couple of months.
However, my one slip nearly ended in disaster when post an afternoon of delicious red wine drinking with an old friend, things escalated far too quickly and I very nearly got up on stage at an open mic comedy night. No plan. No jokes. Never done it before. Horribly, horribly drunk. When the memory of this event creeps back to me, usually as I'm trying to get to sleep, I have a very real and physical reaction to it. A form of prickly heat rises from the base of my spine and starts to crawl like the girl out of the TV did in the Japanese horror classic 'The Ring'. She makes her way up my back before wriggling over my skull and slipping back in through my mouth making me both light headed and nauseous. I feel sick even writing about it... I ALMOST GOT UP ON STAGE AT AN OPEN MIC COMEDY NIGHT.
And so in my search for betterment, I find myself now a vegan that eats chicken and a teetotaller that drinks red wine. And that's, like I said, just the start. Hot Yoga, Chinese, Morris Dancing, Greek Bouzouki learning. It's all ahead. Just like my new job is. Actually, what am I talking about? Gardening leave rocks. I'll change my tone and you can put away your violins.
(*Nothing ever became of the band but my friend did start dating the drummer and last month they got engaged)
The Dave Berry Show on Absolute Radio starts at 4 p.m. on Monday 2nd October