Tuesday 13 March 2007

A dream come true

Me, me, me, me, me. That’s all most columnists seem to write about. It may be pretty dull, but at least they don’t risk having their houses torched by pro-wind farm fanatics. (Don’t even think about it, guys. It would release lots of ghastly dioxins into the atmosphere, and red squirrels might experience breathing difficulties.)

So this week I thought I’d write about what I’ve been doing. Luckily, it’s been a step up from my usual lying on the sofa watching TV. For a start, I’ve been to a political get-together, where a rather lovely ex-policewoman tried to convince us that we were wrong to worry about the latest proposed extension of police powers to include random breath testing. This, she assured us, would never be used against “people like us”. I wonder. I feel that the days when the police were a benign presence for the white middle classes are long over. (Though, having said that, lads, please don’t come and kick my front door down as I really don’t have any illegal drugs or firearms, and my tax disc is up to date.)

Then I went to an open day at my old school, in open defiance of that wise old maxim: never go back. I have a friend who carries this to such absurd lengths that it is almost impossible to entertain him when he comes to Northumberland. Propose any of the usual stand-bys like walking from Craster to Dunstanburgh, or climbing Cheviot, and he reminds me that he did that 30 years ago and it could never have the same impact again. He’s made exceptions to the rule for his home and office, in the interests of sanity. And, come to think of it, he also has two children by the same wife.

But he would certainly never have made the mistake of walking back through the doors of the Royal Grammar School, as I did. What a shocker. Brace yourself, Headmaster, as I don’t want to have your death from a heart attack on my conscience, but I was seriously impressed. The facilities have been transformed out of all recognition, and it appears to be a considerably more civilised institution than the rather basic and brutal establishment I attended in the 1960s. There. You weren’t expecting that, were you?

I would also like to take this opportunity to apologise for the gratuitous offence I caused when the tall, pretty, short-skirted prefect delegated to show my group around asked what we would really like to see, and I replied “the girls’ changing rooms”. I knew it was the wrong answer, but I just couldn’t help myself. Further education is clearly still required.

I’ve also been to see no fewer than five operas within ten days, which might seem to be bordering dangerously on obsession. Unfortunately only two of them were really worth seeing, both by Handel and both requiring a trip to London. I’m increasingly convinced that, in the unlikely event of there turning out to be a place called Heaven, and in the even more unlikely event that I qualify for admittance, the angels will be listening to Handel.

Then I’ve been spending a fair bit of time with the delightful young lady who contacted me following the last column I wrote about myself, with special reference to my sad and lonely life. Since my cunning plans have a track record of success that makes Baldrick look like Bill Gates, I am truly astonished that this one has worked out so well. I have one word to say to my friend Howard, who took the trouble to inform me that the Valentine’s Day column in question was “pathetic, self-pitying and totally unfunny”. Unfortunately, it’s not a word that The Journal will be prepared to print.

After this triumph, I’m led to wonder whether there might be any eccentric millionaires out there with a suitcase full of cash that they would like to unload? Do feel free to drop me a line.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.

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