‘Well. . .probably no. in your terms. but truthfully. A/by wasn't meant to be that funny. It was confusing for me right from the start when an agent told me how funny she thought it was. and I didn't think it was that funny. [.ux was written to be funny. Ruby wasn‘t meant to be funny. It probably didn‘t come across as deadly serious literature. but. . . [wouldn‘t say I was going to spend the whole of my life writing comedies. but ifwhat you were asking is if I‘m going to come out with a book that‘s perfectly straight. serious literature then no. I don't think so.‘

To make amends. I tell him that stylistically Ruby follows on so smoothly from the first two books that the humour seems more upfront than it probably is.

Yes.‘ he says. ‘I have had twinges of thinking “Are people going to think I'm just a funny author‘.’". but I‘ve kind ofgot over that now. because I can say what I want to say about love and friendship and loneliness and keep it in the tone that I write in. so right now I don't really need to change to say what I want to say.‘

Lux. Alby and Ruby appear in a forthcoming graphic novel. apparently to be called Lux and Alby Sign On and Save the Uni verse. scripted by Millar and drawn and inked by Jamie Hewlett and Philip Bond. two of Deadline magazine‘s best artists. Through choice. he is having no control over the proposed Alby TV film. for which the BBC bought the rights. but have yet to make. ‘I hope they do it well. but if they don‘t I won‘t be surprised.‘ he says.

The De Dannan tape that has been playing quietly in the background clicks off. and Martin spirits a tin whistle from somewhere. trilling a few folkish airs.

‘I spend about twenty times more time playing Irish and Scottish music on my tin whistle now than I do writing. playing traditional stuff on my mandolin it‘s such fun. you knowf

Perhaps as a result of his musical activities. or vice versa. there are no new novels planned for the immediate future. ‘I don‘t want to write another Brixton book just now. which is mainly because I don't want to do it. but I‘m sure nobody else would want to read one either.’ Instead. New York beckons. Millar has gone so far as to get his first passport. ‘but it‘s a much more extrovert thing than I usually do. so it could fail easily.‘

Downstairs. a sign by the front door urges the residents to ensure that ‘visitors don‘t park over the tunnel'. and as the door is pulled open. a black cat called Lux (‘one lumen of light per square metre‘). son of an even blacker cat called Lucifer (‘bringer of light') escapes on to Clapham Road. the sole patch of white on his chest glowing for a moment in the streetlights before it is gone.

Milk, Sulphate and Alby Starvation, Lux the Poet and Ruby and the Stone Age Diet are published by Fourth Estate at £4. 95 each.

The sacred Aphrodite Cactus was first brought to Britain by Brutus. Britain is in fact named after Brutus. He was a refugee from Troy.

Aphrodite, sympathetic to the defeated Trojans but unable to help militarily, gave the refugees food and supplies lortheirjourney, and a few cactuses to help them with their love affairs.

Geoffrey of Monmouth won his true love, the daughter of a local noble, in this way. As soon as the cactus he presented herwith flowered, she fell powerfully in love with him.

Mine will notflower. Neitherwill Ruby’s. It is almostJune. June must be a good flowering time for cacti.

I ask Aphrodite if there is any problem but she is too busy to talk to me because there are broken hearts everywhere. She refers me to Jasmine, Divine Protectress of Broken Hearts. Jasmine says she will see what she can do but she is also very busy. The number of broken hearts there are is increasing all the time.

‘I know,’ says Ruby. ‘And there is not much to do about a broken heart. But don‘t worry. I heard that Cis is missing you.’

Ifinish the fishfingersandwiches and bring them through on our metal tray, green with a tobacco advert.

‘I think it is a little banal,’ says Ruby.

‘You told me you were keen on fishfinger sandwiches,‘ l protest.

‘Not the fishfinger sandwiches. I love fishfinger sandwiches, as long as there is plenty of mayonnaise. Ithinkyour story is banal.‘

‘What story?’

She looks a little impatient.

‘The one you told me last week. About your spaceship crashing and you walking around on the planet with a robot’

I have no idea what she is talking about. I never told her any story like that. l have never been on a spaceship that crashed onto another planet. Butl go along with it while we're eating our sandwiches.

‘Why is it banal?’

‘Because you stare at people doing things in canyons and don‘t know what they’re doing and really that is a very obvious image and notoriginal atall.’

I am hurt, despite having no idea what she is talking about. The amount of times I have helped Ruby with her hair, not to mention her sandwiches and putting in her diaphragm, she could be more polite than to call me banal

She starts writing a letter.

‘ls itto yourgenitals again?’

‘No. This one is to my orgasmic response. lam really fucked off at my orgasmic response. Sometimes it is pathetic. lam going to give it a good telling off.’

‘I want to write something too.‘

‘How's your orgasmic response?‘

‘All right I think. I haven’t had much use for it recently. ldon‘tthink I could write it a very interesting letter.‘

‘How about writing a hippopotamus story instead?‘ says Ruby. ‘That would be nice.‘

(From ‘Ruby and the Stone

Age Diet‘ by Martin Millar)

The List If) April 3 May 19907