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Scottish Charity Register No. SC043760

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A day in the life: John Bird

May 18 2009
Bird: Bird:
Following the interview last issue, John Bird‘s day (with liberal doses of controversy) "I'm known as the late John Bird. I'm always late and I never stop talking. But my day starts early. I wake up at 6am to look after Sonny. I have a breakfast of toast and marmalade at around 6.15 and then I do some exercising. I want to live. I want to be so strong I can still beat people up when I'm 70 if I'm being attacked. And really I just like exercise. I cycle a lot. I'm always struggling to be healthy. "I start working on my book intermittently from around seven while Sonny's playing around. "It is called The Evils of Idealism, and is about how the road to hell is paved with good intentions. It's about how a lot of people love to help others but are actually only leading them into dependency rather than independence. They've got something to talk about over the dinner table, at a dinner party, but they don't actually help. "My wife, Parveen, takes over with the kids whilst I write. She is my third wife. I met my first in a lift in Gloucester Road tube station, when she was 16 and I was 18. I met my second wife in a nightclub. I was drunk on both occasions. When I met my third wife I was sober. I had given up drink when she walked into my front room two and half years ago with a friend of mine. She proposed to me nine days later and I told her, 'you're f**king mad!' I was obviously the most complete human being on her roster at the time. "Our newborn, Ish Priya, has a Punjabi name, which is where my wife's family are from. We never discuss what her family think of me, especially because Parveen is 24 years younger than me. But I don't think they have too many complaints; if you're a 33-year-old, your family are quite traditional and you're not married, then you're on the shelf. So any man that takes you down off the shelf is a good man! "Writing the book is a lot of fun. It's full of stories, and it's turning out to be about all sorts of things. But what I am really trying to get across is that often if you intervene in somebody's life when it's going in a certain direction, then you create a new problem. "I'm mainly looking at the road to hell or destruction that so many people seem to walk down. I'm looking at it philosophically, historically, and I'm looking at it from my own experiences. I'm using myself as an example because I've had all the illusions. I've gone from being a devout Catholic and shoplifter to a non-believer. Then I was a Marxist, until I realised they were a bunch of romantic idealists. These days, I am mostly just a classist, which means I have an absolute detestation of the way in which the comfortable classes get all the good jobs. "From about nine I go off to meetings, interviews, talks... I can't even remember. I'm just always talking to somebody, whether it's about the book, the film I'm doing about a Rolls Royce service out of the cycle of homelessness, or the Wedge card. "This is a new way to get discounts from hundreds of independent businesses, so a lot of people are buying these cards to support the local shops rather than the big corporations. Between a quarter and half of the ¬¨¬£20 annual payment for the card goes to a local project - like a homeless project - and the rest of the money is spent on getting merchants to give our card-holders reductions. The aim of the Wedge Card is to help in revitalising local communities. It's about social enterprise, but it is also the beginning of audience participation. "I'll go into a cafe for lunch, then I'll try and have a sleep somewhere in the daytime, because I don't sleep much at night. I used to work nights in the car industry and printing industry and I lost the art of going to bed. Also when I started the Big Issue a lot of my work was roaming around at night and I was always at my best at about two in the morning. I probably sleep about three or four hours at night, so I need an hour in the daytime. "I've also got an exhibition opening sometime this year called 'Arses, Grasses and Trees'. It's called this because I draw life models, I draw grasses, and I draw trees. Half of the money will go to the Big Issue, and I've no idea where the other half will go. "Dinner will be around 6pm and will be something very simple, like pork with cabbage and leeks. I put Sonny and Ish to bed, although the little girl pretty much kips most of the time. "I try and read before I head to bed at about 12.30am. I often have to get up at night for either her or him. But I'm a participatory father and I like it. I also like getting up at night because it gives me an excuse to turn a half an hour feed into an hour so I can write for the other half hour. "Am I happy these days? I don't think about happiness. I'm just a really driven person. I have delusions of grandeur. I have what is called a Napoleonic complex, which means I believe I really am the most important person in the world. I want to sort the world out for you lot if you won't sort it out for yourselves. It's a coping mechanism. Some people are ground down by what happens to them and some people rise and I have risen. Or I've tried to rise at the very least."