Adrian Chiles (Photo by Stuart C. Wilson/Getty Images)
Artillery Row

The secret diary of Adrian Chiles (aged 55 11/12ths)

A glimpse of genius at work


My latest masterpiece, about my investment in an instant boiling tap, has gone live on the Guardian website. I go online to gauge the reaction. 

What do I see? Mockery, disdain, people inventing ridiculous headlines beneath my by-line. (The handsome face — the serious gaze — yes, that is moi, Adrian Chiles). 

Do they not know that this piece went through 300 drafts and, faced with the 301st, even my editor — granted with whom I share a bed, but genius has long relied on the tolerance of loved ones — begged me to desist from further revision?

Phoning it in? I don’t even have a phone! 


Lunch with my Guardian colleague Owen Jones, who hides a dark secret: He is a Blairite. Every column he writes conceals this secret sympathy which could possibly cost him upwards of seventy thousand Twitter followers.

Surely the storms of controversy can only be defused head-on

“How do you do it, Ades,” he says, “How do you write columns so true — so resonant — so widely read?”

“It’s not for me to say, OJ,” I say, “although of course I agree. The only thing I would say is that genius is 1 per cent inspiration — 99 per cent perspiration. Wait — I have been sweating more recently!” I write that down in my “Book of Ideas”. “I’m sweating more. Is this the male menopause?”

“I don’t know how you have the courage,” says Jones. “I don’t even dare try ‘I’m no longer sure Jeremy Corbyn was a great idea’.


It seems an online controversy has erupted over my boiling tap essay, with some readers complaining that such a tap is a luxury. 

Perhaps they should try producing work that commands a thousand pounds for 500 words! Every idea counts; every phrase serves the whole. Do they really think a column like “Who are these people who love sand between their toes? I hate it” comes from nowhere? 

This is how my magic works — “A mundane thing. My unthreatening opinion on it”. Yet no one can repeat the formula!


The tap controversy has inspired me to “take up my pen”. Surely the storms of controversy swirling around the column — 171 comments and counting! — can only be defused head-on. I begin my piece: “I bought a boiling tap and people complained online. I guess I’m cancelled”.

Yes, a middle-aged man’s thoughts on cancel culture — this is surely what the world needs!


It seems the weekly Guardian meeting to decide what is currently problematic has run into problems of its own.

You must always bear the burden of your own legacy

One of the staffers apparently suggested that the concept of meetings was itself problematic, and the staffers could find no way to discuss whether this was true outside of a meeting. The meeting has been arguing about whether to dissolve itself for seven hours, with no end in sight.

“We need you to come in, Adrian — the brilliance of your columns is the one thing everyone at The Guardian agrees on.”

I walk in dressed in my customary polo shirt, canvas shorts and Guinness 0.0 per cent hat. “What seems to be the problem?”

“We can’t decide how to end this meeting without doing harm,” a staffer tells me, weeping.

“Don’t worry. I brought just the thing!”

I read them one of my finest columns — “We can go to the moon so why can’t we stop my glasses sliding down my nose?”

Of course, being the younger generation, they immediately grasp the point, and the meeting breaks up in collegial fashion.

Back home I bin my “cancelled culture” piece. The audience for such a work is not yet born.


I am stuck for an idea. “I found something in the washing machine.” “Sometimes when I yawn, a spray comes out of my mouth”? “I went to the post office, but then found I already had stamps … ”

No — all so shallow, so trivial, so minor compared to my greatest works. This is the terrible paradox of success. Once you’ve written, “I thought it was weird to have a favourite spoon. Then I realized I wasn’t alone”, you must always bear the burden of your own legacy.

Evening at a BBC Sport event. Surrounded by shams, poseurs, phonies and people who will never know the travails of genius. Also meet Gary Lineker who is very nice.


The initial 15,000 word draft has gone to my editor. I await the response eagerly, before an email arrives from my wife: “It’s brilliant, Adrian. Could we get it down to about 400 words?” 

I recognize this part of the process is necessary but it still hurts every time. I have to cut the analysis of the Qing dynasty, the allusions to Jean-Luc Godard, the — I dare say brilliant — section in which I develop my own proposal for a new Latin American cryptocurrency. All to get to the pure, hard core, distilled Chilesian Chiles which has created such a distinctive literary brand. I open a pack of Beck’s Blue and get to work.


My latest piece is up on the Guardian website. I look at it and again it catches the light, it hymns experience, it sings. I can but hope that the audience understands what I mean — that they grasp the message I wished to offer humanity when I wrote “At the age of 55, I finally have enough coat hangers”

Beneath the line, someone is calling me a turnip head. Genius always comes at a terrible price.

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