I think the American comic Lewis Schaffer may have taken leave of his senses.
Last night he said to me:
“You should do something with your blog. People have book tours. You should have a blog tour. Go round the country telling stories from your blog.”
Lewis grabbed my attention by saying this – not because it was a good idea but because I was taken aback by the fact he was not talking about himself.
“Lewis,” I told him in the patient tone I reserve only for small children, drunks and people from the Colonies, “I am not in any way a performer; I have no charisma; no-one has ever heard of me in Leamington Spa (my eternal benchmark for middle England); and I have a shit memory.”
I have mentioned in these blogs before – but I cannot remember when – that I may be the ideal comedy audience because I can sit through a superb show with great gags rolling on like overlapping waves for an hour and yet, two minutes after leaving the venue, I cannot remember any of the jokes at all.
I once mentioned to someone with whom I have been friends for 36 years that, although I had worked briefly and peripherally with Sylvester McCoy on the TV series Tiswas, I had never actually seen him perform on stage.
“Yes you have,” my long-term friend told me. “You and I saw him on stage in Accidental Death of an Anarchist!”
“We did?” I asked, astonished. “I can’t remember ever going to a theatre with you.”
She then reeled off about five occasions when we had been to the theatre together. And another occasion when we had both gone to see Sylvester McCoy perform on stage. (Obviously, at the time of writing this blog, I cannot remember what that second play was.)
Fortunately, my friend knew me well enough not to be insulted.
Ironically, people who do not know me as well as she does think I have a very good memory because I always remember their birthdays. But this is because I write everything which seems likely to be important down in a diary which I always carry around with me. I once lost it for two days and virtually needed psychological counselling.
Sometimes, when transferring birthday dates into a new diary, I can barely remember who some of the people are but, if I were ever to meet them again, I would be able to impressively know when their birthdays are.
It is a minor compulsion and I control it. It does not control me.
This same friend (the one with whom I apparently saw Sylvester McCoy in Accidental Death of an Anarchist) told me, knowing I never wanted to live beyond my 18th birthday:
“The irony is you are liable to live into your nineties because you don’t worry very much and people who don’t get worried are supposed to live longer… You worry-away at things but not about things – and you tend to look forward not back.”
Readers of this blog may disagree.
But she knows me quite well… although one reason I do not look back too much is that I have mostly forgotten what happened.
Life just stretches apparently endlessly onwards but occasionally people remind me of something I did or saw and I think: “Ooh. Perhaps I have had a more interesting life than I thought I had.”
I am quite a good editor and perhaps I edit my memory too tightly. Perhaps I too quickly discard into the forgotten recesses of my mind’s filing cabinet seemingly irrelevant things which I think will be of no practical use to me in the future and I only keep in my immediate frontal memory things which I think may have some relevant cross-referencing value later on.
My blog a couple of days ago was about a road accident in Greenwich.
In it, I wrote:
“By the weekend, I will have forgotten any of this ever happened. It is not relevant to my life”
This was read by the retired senior fire officer whom I mentioned in yesterday’s blog,
After he read it, the retired senior fire officer sent me an e-mail in which he said:
“It is strange how apparently irrelevant events can become relevant later. Doing my old job consisted of lots of events that weren’t really relevant to my own life, only to others… or so I thought.
“But I received a phone call out of the blue last year from a young lady. She asked me if I remembered a road accident on an obscure B road about 20 years previously.
“Until her call, all I had remembered about that accident was that the passenger in the other car had been reading a novel called Dead On Arrival. The book was open, in the footwell, as we removed her body.
“Talking to the lady on the phone brought the accident back to me and I was able to remember in detail the two-car double-fatal event which also left three badly injured. This included the recovery of two seriously injured little girls trapped in an upside-down car pinned into a ditch full of water. I gave one of the little girls a teddy bear which I carried around – to comfort her and to stop her unnerving screaming.
“She was the girl talking on the phone and she had been looking for me since she was able. Despite her brain damage and crippled body she had survived, grown up, married and had children. She wanted to say “thanks” and to tell me how she had got on… about her home, her children and husband.
“Because of that one phone call, she is now no longer an irrelevant part of my past and I think all the perceived irrelevant things we see, do or sometimes think have some sort of impact, even if its just….. ‘just’….. on our character.”
The retired senior fire officer is, of course, right. And the same incident one person forgets can be the very incident that scars – literally or figuratively – another person for life.
My mother, a very sensitive woman, was Christened with the name Agnes but was never called that, even by her parents – she was always called Nan.
When she was a young girl at school, her English teacher told her, “Oh, Agnes. You have no soul for poetry.”
As a result, after that, she took no interest in reading books.
A few seconds after that schoolteacher had said the words, I am sure he would have forgotten that he had ever said them.
But they scarred her for life.
She was born with only one hand. She had no left hand. As a child, she was brought up to always hide her hand in public.
In her late twenties, when she became engaged to my father, a member of his family said to her:
“I wish Harry could marry a whole woman.”
Obviously, she never forgot. She had been brought up to be ashamed of her missing hand. She never told my father about his relative’s comment. She lived until she was 86.