Category Archives: Memoirs

The Story of My Life

I was searching through old files in the Documents File and found one I’d started about a year ago – “Life Story”. I’d started it, inspired by various blogs, but had let it drop and forgotten all about it.

I will quote it.

Chapter One

That was all there was. I can’t tell you if there was ever more than that as I just don’t remember.

Let’s be clear – I always have trouble starting things, and the style of a chapter heading takes thought. I’m never sure whether to go for Chapter One, Chapter 1 or simply 1. It all depends on the measure of gravitas you are aiming for. What works for a modern novel isn’t necessarily going to convey the full depth of dignity required for the autobiography of a middle-aged man with a beard and a fountain pen. However, even by my standards, writing a chapter heading and calling it a day is very lazy.

I mention the fountain pen because writing, in my imagination, always features a fountain pen. It also features a big desk in a library, a summer’s day and open French windows. There would be fruit trees in the garden and pen stand on the desk.

A book I once read told me that if I really wanted something I should visualise it in minute detail. It doesn’t seem to be working. I can imagine it, but apart from the fountain pen I’m having trouble putting the rest together. We do have a temperamental plum tree and a few small trees in pots (apple, damson and fig) but I can’t actually see them when I sit down to write.

Anyway, the story of my life. I think I’ve already summed it up – good intentions, unfinished projects and poor visualisation skills.

One of the reasons, apart from idleness, I didn’t go any further is that I haven’t really done anything interesting enough to merit a book. To make it more interesting I would have to delve into my subconscious and try to make it into the misery memoir section. Unfortunately my parents, by failing to either beat or abandon me, didn’t do me any favours there.

If I had my time again I’d be much more irritating as a child and see if I could build up some misery for future use. Failing that I’d have to do something notable and become a celebrity.

In 1968 I won a prize in the Brooke Bond essay writing competition, but I’m not sure it’s enough of an achievement to hang a set of memoirs on. I noticed from a quick search of the internet that Janet Street-Porter won an earlier Brooke Bond competition. She gets 50 words out of it. Even if I pad it out that would leave me around 79,900 words short. She, however, has done quite a lot more than me, so has plenty to fill her book.

The obvious answer is to make something up, but even the fraudulent memoir market seems to be overcrowded. As they seem to have missed Grey Owl out, it could be even more congested than the link suggests.

I’m faced with two possibilities here – one being to do something energetic and outlandish like cycling from Land’s End to John o’ Groats on a Penny Farthing with a fridge strapped to my back. That’s entry level for a memoir by a non-celebrity these days.

Another is to do something famous. I see that I am, for instance, more likely to win an Olympic Gold Medal than win the lottery. Even so, the chances are 1 in 662,000 so this could be tricky.

The article actually says “The chances of the average person winning an Olympic gold medal in their lifetime are 1 in 662,000.”

Am I the only one wondering what the chances of someone winning one not in their lifetime?

That really would make me a celebrity.

 

 

 

This knife of Sheffield steel (3)

According to an article I read last week,  instead of puns and quotes I should be using a set of simple formulae for titles. If I’d read that before starting this three-parter it would be entitled 5 uses for a Stanley Knife and people would be beating down the doors of the internet to read it.

However, as it only features two uses for a Stanley Knife (cutting paper and amateur surgery) I’m going to stick with the original title.

So, back to the hospital.

I could tell that it was getting late from the rising howls of injured drunks sounding down the corridors, but there wasn’t a lot of action in our corridor.

Eventually I was allowed into the next room and told to lie on a couch. Lie on a couch? For a finger injury? What would they have done if I’d been, for instance, pregnant or knocked down by a car? I was soon to find out as they helped a little old lady into the room and told me to get off the couch.

“We need it because she’s been hit by a car.” They said. “It’s an emergency.”

Well, she didn’t seem to be too bad; she was built like a prop forward and sheathed in one of those old lady checked coats. I’m fairly sure that somewhere a car driver was having to explain that though it looked like he’d hit a buffalo the truth was far less interesting.

FInally, about seven hours after arrival, I was called through and a doctor yawned his way into the room, muttering in the manner of a man that has just been wakened and isn’t very happy about it.

I received more evidence of this when, after injecting the local anaesthetic, he grabbed my finger in one hand and a pair of tweezers in the other.

“Just checking there are no foreign bodies in the wound.”

I could have told him there weren’t as the only possible foreign bodies were Stanley knives and sheets of A4 paper – both of which would have been obvious to the trained eye. However, he needed to run his tweezers over the surface of the wound to be sure, which made me jump a bit. The good news is that it only took three stitches and the anaesthetic was almost working by the time he tied off the third stitch.

I couldn’t help but think that the nurse at reception could have put three stitches in without anaesthetic, which would have saved me something like 7 hours waiting and a massive parking bill. It would probably have been less painful too.

After that, the ignominy just kept coming.

Next day I had to go to a conference. Competitors, customer, workmates, ex-college friends, strangers – all united in pointing and laughing at The Man with the Comedy Finger. I, of course, retained my normal cheery attitude but couldn’t resist using the comedy finger to make my feelings known amongst the general outbreak of mirth.

Then, at the end of the week, I went to see a customer.in Leicestershire. Imagine my surprise, when he opened his door, to find that he had two comedy fingers raised in a massive V-sign.

Seems one of his poultry feeders had jammed and as he cleared the obstruction he suddenly remembered that he hadn’t switched off. The chain took the ends off two fingers. One, when washed, was stitched back on. The second was last seen clutched in the beak of a chicken heading into a dark corner.and was never seen again.

So, bad as my week had been, someone had been having a worse one.

Over the years I recovered the feeling in the finger tip and it gradually turned pink again, then one night I slipped with a kitchen knife and sliced myself so close to the original scar that it actually formed one boundary of the new cut…

Repeat.

(Don’t worry, there is no Part 4.)

(In fairness I ought to point out that my recent experiences in Casualty have been a lot better than the one described here, which is now 25 years ago.).