Tuesday, January 14, 2020

101 Things #48 - Me, Me, Me

You may have noticed, if you have been following my steadily increasing series of pieces concerning the achievements I steadfastly recoil from attempting, 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die, that many are what other people regard as perfectly sensible objectives. I am pretty damn confident that the offering I have for you here does not fall into that category. It seems to be one of the most ego-centric and eccentric [Nice juxtaposition: Ed] of attainments I have encountered.

It was featured on a website called Brass 612, a site so primitive in design that it looks like it was designed when Netscape Navigator was state of the art and a 200mb hard drive a luxury. I suspect it has not been looked at by its owner for at least 20 years. Nevertheless, I utterly reject his insane idea that one should aim to

Tell someone the story of your life, sparing no details.

It is the "sparing no details" clause that has me bemused. No details? I can't leave out a single measly detail? You want me to accost an innocent fellow human being, peacefully minding their own business and contemplating a full day ahead, with hours of rabbiting about my own life which cannot be of the slightest interest to them even if précised ruthlessly down to a skeletal twenty minutes or so. Well, let me accept the challenge in order to demonstrate how ludicrous it is and, to make it a little more palatable, I shall cast it into a more suitable format.

 I take up my pen in that year of great turmoil when all Englishmen eyed each askance and sought to know whether their fellow was for one of the two great houses of Leave or Remain, and look back to those simpler times of my boyhood.

Know then, reader, that the day of my birth was forecast to be of mild sunny intervals and occasional squally showers, with sleet falling over the hills of Northern Scotland. His Majesty King George VI was not at all well but the Lord Chamberlain was recovering from a slight cold that had mildly inconvenienced him three days earlier. Unemployment stood at 4.7%, England were 33 for 2 against New Zealand in the third Test and a Leyland light van had broken down on the B343 near Warwick. A packet of Lux washing up powder could be bought for 1/3d and whilst chocolate manufacturers eagerly anticipated the end of rationing, the darts team of the Red Fox in Macclesfield were falling out over tactics for the grudge match against the Sefton Arms mob.

The sheets of the bed on which I entered this world were made of Indian cotton with some slight admixture of coarser cloth. The bed itself was some six feet long and three wide, lit by four 60 watt bulbs suspended, some eight feet above the linoleum floor, in fittings made of thin alloy of steel and tin ... 

Umm, before I go on, is this alright? Not too skimpy on the details? I have a great deal more to write about the railway timetables for the LNER that were in force that day, the prospects for Charwoman's Fancy in the 3:15 at York and the worsening relations between Sweden and Chile that threatened a revival in the artificial leg industry in which J. Arthur Maltravers and Son, of East Worksop, were keenly interested. Ah, a bit too much detail? Sorry, sorry. Only I thought - well no matter, I shall, as you rightly say, try to get on with it and cut out the scene-setting; I do hope Brass 612 does not feel let down.

Yes, the hour of my birth.

I was born at about 4:15 am, at home. My mother was at the birth.  Some years later I left school to make my way in the world ...

What was that? Not enough detail? God, you're hard to please. You see my point? If you happen to be sufficiently interesting to have a publisher commission someone to write your biography, then, by all means, sit them down with a nice cup of tea (and biscuit of choice) and let them have the works. If this is not the case who on earth are you going to tell your story to? A stranger? Usually on bucket-lists it is a random stranger who gets singled out for some sort of treatment, as though the word "random" adds any meaning in this context. Yes, I can just see this working out.

"Hello, stranger, whom I have obviously never met before. I intend to tell you the story of my life in some detail. I was born at about - hello? Don't move away, please. I say! I don't want to have to shout - oh, he's gone. And I was just reaching the interesting bit about the colour of the blanket they wrapped me in, and what my father had for breakfast."

Other than kidnapping, tieing up and gagging your victim, I can see no way to accomplish the telling of a life story. We no longer live in a world of lengthy train journeys in closed compartments, or of travellers forced together in the mess-room of a sailing ship caught in the doldrums. Start yakking on whilst on a modern mode of transport and everyone else will be plugged in to their phones, oblivious of your riveting account of all the nursery rhymes you had mastered by the age of three.

As it happens, the story of my life is indeed deeply fascinating and, when alone, I can keep myself entertained for hours recounting episodes - that history essay at school that the master said was "Really not too bad, considering". The first day at a new job when, quite by chance, there were tea and cakes laid on for someone else who was celebrating a third wedding anniversary. That time the Queen was driven past me (and several hundred other onlookers, I hasten to add) and, if only she had been looking the other way, she might have glimpsed my reflection in the window of Rumbelows.

So many rich memories ....But I shall not be burdening a stranger with the duty of listening to it all. I wouldn't want them to be so overwhelmed by the torrent of emotion, the dramas and the epiphanies that it ruined their lives thereafter as they realised that they had missed so much, so very much in their own existence. I couldn't have that on my conscience, could I?

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