Thursday, 23 October 2008

All Mimsy

I am indebted to Steve for tasking me with blogging six random facts about myself. Indebted, because I have neglected blogging and, worse, my fellow bloggers for a couple of weeks, for no good reason, and this gives me no option but to get to it. I think Lucy already tagged me with this a while back, although it has metamorphosed from the 'six interesting facts' it was then, which I found much harder.

1) I was baptised twice. This isn't actually allowed. The first time was into the Anglican Church, in Khartoum Cathedral. It happened to be Gordon Sunday, which was an important day in colonial Khartoum. This is how I acquired Gordon as a third forename. The second time was into the Church of Scotland. As the minister paid feu duty for the manse to my grandfather (as did the hotel, the garage, the shop, the doctor, Argyllshire Constabulary, the Post Office, the North of Scotland Hydro Electric Board and Argyll County Council amongst others), he probably wasn't in a position to demur when my grandfather requested a second baptism, to be held at the family home. It hasn't made me devout (I think one may have cancelled the other out).

2) I was once hospitalised for two weeks by a beer can. The beer was Watneys, so I probably deserved it; the can was a party seven, which no normal can opener fitted. Students don't have access to proper tools, but trying to open it by stabbing it with a large kitchen knife was a mistake. I wrapped some loo paper round the ensuing wound, where the sticky-out part of the blade near the handle had ploughed into the base of my little finger creating the sensation of an elastic band shrivelling up inside my palm, and enjoyed the party. It was some days later that I realised that the finger was not working as it should. (If I made a fist, it projected out straight, like someone genteely drinking tea from their best china). After an operation involving insertion of a plastic drinking straw from wrist to finger tip, followed by another involving replacement of the straw by a tendon transplanted from my forearm and the sewing of a shirt button through the nail, the damage was more or less repaired. I took my third year exams with the help of an amanuensis, who presumably got the blame for not being able to spell words like 'Schumacher' (yes, I know we can all spell it now - this was the 'Small is Beautiful' economist, not the racing driver) and Ada, the computer language that I had a distressing tendency to spell 'Aida', like Verdi's opera. I was lucky to have had the great Fenton Braithwaite as my plastic surgeon - famed for his work on the 'Guinea Pig' burns victims of WW2.

3) I was once taught by Frank McEachran, the inspiration for Hector in Alan Bennett's 'The History Boys'. He had a more profound effect on me than I had on him.

4) I once celebrated New Year in a lunatic asylum. Although I guess it was called a psychiatric hospital by then. St Nicholas Hospital in Gosforth was formerly Newcastle upon Tyne City Asylum, and the African nurse who was a housemate must have broken every rule in the book inviting friends in for the night shift, to drink wine in an attendants' office between two wards. My main recollection was two patients shouting across at each other, "I'm Napoleon!" "No you're not, I am!" And spotting a rather fine Montague Dawson hanging vulnerably above a staircase, which I thought could have funded a lot of electro-convulsive therapy or vallium or something (I later learnt it had been on loan from the Hancock Gallery).

5) I may be the only surviving person to have vaulted an industrial-scale lighting column in a three wheeler. I was driving up the A1 at night, and a drunk driver had just run into it, felling it at right angles across both lanes of the northbound carriageway. I saw it too late to stop, and my tough little Reliant Regal hit it full on, became airborne and landed on the other side. A man who had stopped in time remarked that he thought I was a goner. The car seemed to have sustained no major damage, although the steering column never again sat quite right where it passed through the dashboard. A tribute to the durability of Tamworth engineering and the elasticity of fibreglass. Or possibly to being baptised twice.

6) Someone once tried to commit suicide in front of that same three-wheeler. She leapt out in front of me, again late at night, after quarrelling with her boyfriend at a dance at the local barracks. I sprinted quarter of a mile to the nearest telephone box to call the police and ambulance, looking for all the world like a manic hit-and-run driver, and leaving the ignition on (the coil burnt out the following day). Fortunately the boyfriend (a squaddy) stuck around to tell the police what had happened. After being breathalised (I passed), I was allowed to drive home with damage to the bonnet and one smashed headlight. I drove carefully round the next corner.....and ran over a cat. Conscious that the attending police were following not far behind, I didn't stop. Twice in two hundred yards might have looked careless. (Sorry cat). The girl, who had appeared terminal, turned out to be merely very drunk and badly bruised. A tribute to the elasticity of fibreglass and the durability of Maidstone girls.

That's six. Apparently I now have to tag six people. It would be rude not to (and more public than breaking a chain letter, which I habitually do), but I don't know how you feel about tagging, and it isn't unreasonable to find them tiresome, and anyway you've probably been blogging eight years longer than me and have more readers than you can cope with and therefore had it umpteen times before already, and you really don't have to, and I won't be hurt if you don't, and at least you get a gratuitous link here, and there's no need to apologise if you don't....

Can Bass 1
Laugh Now, Cry Later
Extra Virgin
Fresh as a Daisy

The rules:

1. Link to the person who tagged you
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write six random things about yourself
4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them
5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.


  1. A superlative six, Brother T, that speaks volumes for a life lived interestedly and interestingly... and twice baptized to boot. Now that is impressive. You've just got to be saved now.

  2. Well I never - I love learning new facts about my fave bloggers- how amazing you were taught by that guy - did he make you ride on his motorbike and feel you up!? He did seem like a good teacher though, if Alan Bennett and your goodself are anything to go by! I would love to do this one- I may not do it immediately as I just did one and that would look like I'm meme-crazy, but definitely soon!

  3. Thanks Steve. I'm a bit worried to find that nothing happens to me anymore. You can't really write 1) Went to Lidls last week; 2) Pizza for supper; etc. I suppose I'll either have to get a job as a stuntman or start making stuff up.

    Daisy, you say the nicest things. Kek didn't have a motorbike in real life; he rode around on an ancient bicycle, with his black academic gown trailing in the wind like Batman. And I never heard of him feeling anyone up, although I don't know what he got up to in his day (he was W H Auden's teacher after all, and both fought in the Spanish Civil War). Great teacher he was, though, and gave anyone he taught a love of words and the sounds they make. (Sadly Bennett never met him, but created Hector after being told about him and reading his two books of 'spells')

  4. I was going to ask exactly that about the motorbike! I loved that play. My main feeling was that it was a terrible shame that Hector was fictional as I would have been deliriously happy to have had just one teacher who loved knowledge for its own sake and not just for passing exams. How wonderful that you had him!

  5. I remember! I have a photo of you and McMum, both with arms in slings, looking like the Royal Victoria Infirmary Casualty Department has come for Sunday tea!

  6. Lucy - You would have been in your element in his classes, standing on a chair within a chalk circle, reciting whatever you chose. He also kept a shelf of new paperbacks which we could buy and charge home - it was how I was introduced to Kafka, Gide, Maupassant, Solzhenitsyn and a host of others, together with many seditious blue-covered Pelicans.

    Helen - Gosh, I'd forgotten your McMum was in a sling too. And just to really take the piss your dog (Honey?) had a button sewn on her ear, that exactly matched the one on my finger.