Tuesday 11 September 2012

That strange sense that one has been here before

Do you ever get the feeling that you have been here before? I have had it for years, latterly joined by the much more worrying sense that I may not be here now.

My younger son Jamie, now a strapping six months old, clearly remembers some infinitely superior previous existence, to judge by the despairing look he gave us when he first opened his eyes, and which he has been repeating several times a day ever since.

This clearly conveys: “Oh God, it’s not still you lot, is it?”

Meanwhile his elder brother Charlie seems to have pulled off the disturbing trick of becoming a reincarnation of his father without waiting for me to die.

Like me, he is profoundly conservative and intensely suspicious of anyone or anything new. This makes for a wearying afternoon at events like Saturday’s Ingram Show, where every attraction from the pony sports to the falconry display was summarily rejected as “bad”.

He was eventually persuaded to board the miniature roundabout so long as Mummy came too. I have a classic picture of them crammed onto a miniature John Deere tractor, my wife grinning and waving happily while Charlie maintains a white knuckle grip on the steering wheel and looks for all the world like a condemned prisoner en route to the scaffold.

Actually a classic composite picture, now I come to look at them

When did I last witness anything like it? Oh yes, when I used to drag my 50-something mother to the top of the helter skelter at the Hoppings half a century ago.

The nearest thing on offer at Ingram was a bouncy castle slide, which was completely out of the question until we returned to the car to go home, when he announced that he simply had to try it.

Could that be ... a smile?

I apologise to anyone who was traumatised by witnessing an elderly couple dragging a screaming and struggling three-year-old away from this attraction when our money was finally exhausted.

Before divorce proceedings start, I should swiftly add for clarity that the second elderly person involved was my aunt rather than my wife.

Having my face badly scratched in the course of this battle would have been the low point of my afternoon if I had not earlier made the schoolboy mistake of picking up an ice cream on my way to the pens full of prize sheep.

The dog made a lunge for his favourite playmates, his lead snapped the bottom off my cornet and my 99 landed splat on the grass. When I was Charlie’s age I would have sat down and cried. Believe me, it was a close run thing.

Nothing short of a tragedy

Overall, though, the combination of familiar events and distinctly unfamiliar good weather made Ingram a delight, despite the best efforts of half my offspring. (The other just sat in his buggy, gurgling happily and showing off his party trick of cramming his feet in his mouth.)

"Too bad" according to our self-appointed critic

We shall do our utmost to repeat the experience at Thropton on Saturday and Alwinton next month.

Less welcome was the déjà vu of Relatively Speaking at the Theatre Royal on Saturday evening, when I realised as soon as the curtain went up that I had seen the play before, and not that long ago. In 2008, to be precise, when Peter Bowles was the star attraction rather than Felicity Kendal. Even the programme notes were identical. A statement that can only be made by someone sad enough to have kept every theatre programme he has bought since 1973.

At least some of these are finally coming in genuinely useful as aides-mémoire for the book about opera that I am currently writing. It is just as well I am not relying on my actual memory, which is vanishing like a burning sheet of paper, with the most recent things going first.

Soon I fear that I will remember nothing more recent than my surly behaviour as a small boy. Which will be hugely ironic given that it is the one thing of which I have a permanent and active reminder on hand, with a small displaced person keenly understudying the role.

Originally published in The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne.


CC said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
CC said...

Don't panic.... the memory thing is most likely normal. By all means, seek medical reassurance. Bad news is, its an aging thing.

Good news...your droll description of your family day out indicates humor and writing skills still functioning very well! :-)