The Making of Lists


Today I have stayed all morning in bed wondering, Am I a good person? Am I a bad person?

I find that things become clearer once you organise  them into  orderly lists so I start on a positive note by going over all the good things I have done in my life.

Right away I have a problem with my daily purchase of The Big Issue from the sad young woman  who stands,  every day, all day, rain hail or shine, outside the supermarket and wishes every passer-by a nice day even when they ignore her. I go into the supermarket every day and buy at least £20 worth of food and drink but only give her a quid. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

Stopping smoking is another grey area. Is that morally a good thing or just selfishly a good thing? Can something selfish be good? I’ve stopped because I don’t want to kill myself. Nothing particularly heroic there!

And taking in that stray cat my daughter brought home which drove my dear wife crazy and gave our younger daughter fleas and an allergy – a generous enough impulse but wasn’t it a bit thoughtless, a bit self-indulgent? And wasn’t the good deed more my daughter’s than mine?

And becoming a vegetarian? Did that stop me from buying shoes for which some poor cow had provided the uppers? Or wearing my ski hat made from the fleece of an unborn lamb?

I once stepped between a young woman and a man who was hitting her. He was smaller than me. My wife sort of pushed me into doing something about it. All the same I did the right thing. Stopped him by grabbing his arms, enclosing him in a tight embrace. She wasn’t grateful though. Told me to mind my own f*****g  business. And when it was all over and they had gone off, arm in arm, and I was dusting myself down, I discovered my wallet had gone with them. 

But I did save a boy from drowning. That was definitely a good thing. He had jumped in after his dog, not knowing it would dog-paddle its way safely to the river bank. His sister was running along the bank, screaming her head off, but couldn’t swim so I did what most adults would have done and  dived in,  grabbed him, swam him ashore. But then I am an excellent swimmer. With certificates to prove it. The boy probably showed more courage in jumping in after his dog than I did in jumping in after him.

 Tomorrow I might get round to listing the bad things.

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” What was Bill’s second name? ” I ask my wife who is trying to replace a light bulb. I am having problems making out a list of people I want to invite to our anniversary party.

 “Here, ” she says  and passes me down the dud light bulb. ” Can you hand me up that 100 watt one? There. On the table. No. Not that one.The 100 watt one. Yes, that one.  Thanks. Bill who?  OOOPS! ” I grab the ladder just in time to stop her and it from collapsing but the light bulb smashes at my feet.

” God, you’re so useless! ” she says, not so much to me but to the world in general.

After the party ( which went very well I thought ) she says, ” You know who didn’t come? That lovely man who saved you from drowning. Bill Watson. We never really thanked him enough. Such a brave thing to do. Why couldn’t he come? “

I tell her he didn’t come because I didn’t send him an invitation because I couldn’t remember his name.

She is outraged.

” He should have let you bloody well drown, ” she says

Spain, Czechoslovakia, France, and the rules of grammar

What a country!
Pontedeume……Oviedo……Lugo…..Caceres…….Santiago…. Pontevedra …… Malaga……Pamplona…..Oviedo……Vigo….
I was only there for a year but I’ve such fond memories of so many places.

Who was the guy who fiddled his way through Spain? Landed at Vigo with a violin and great expectations? Mmm  L-something… Lionel?..Leslie?…. nope. Gone. See my memory? The name’s departed, flitted off, no longer accessible.

Anyway, what was I on about? Ah yes. Czechoslovakia. Whatever happened to Czechoslovakia? There was a civil war, I remember that much though between who I’m not so clear about. Should that be ‘between whom’? And should it be ‘about between whom’ (you can’t end a sentence on a preposition)? But can you have concu –
One thing I remember though: when I was 15, in France, on the Seine, a wee village called……..anyway I had learnt to swim there and with all the confidence of teenage youth I struck out to see how far across I could swim. But along came one of these long sinister wave-making barges. A wave broke over my head. I tried to clear my nose. I went under. When I got to the surface I tried to swim back to the shore. Unfortunately I had forgotten how to swim. Then I was breathing water. Then air. Then water. Then more water.
And then I remember opening my eyes to see this circle of bright faces looking down at me. Angels. This is heaven, I thought. I have drowned and my mother is going to be so upset. Then what had happened came back to me.
“Ou suis-je?” I asked, very correctly (Miss Yule would have been proud of me).
Two guys, fortunately good swimmers,  had seen my plight and dragged me ashore.
Yes, I remember all that as though it was yesterday. But it wasn’t yesterday. It was ………..years ago. Dear god, long long years  ago!
Anyway, where was I? Ah yes, Laurie Lee, the ‘Cider with Rosie’ man. But what was the book called, the one about his trek through Spain? He landed in Vigo, with a violin and all the confidence of youth and a way with words as well as with notes. But what was his book called? ‘Travels with a Donkey’ , that  was Robert Louis, but what was Laurie Lee’s book called?
Do you remember?

I suppose I’ll have to google it. Now how……