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A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH

05-07-2007

Sod Tony Blair’s legacy…what will our grouchy old scribe Laurence Inman leave behind? At least one decent driver in the family, and a fuzzy picture apparently.

The pictures on all six TV sets in my house have gone fuzzy. I’ve re-wired all the aerial plugs till I’m blue in the face and it hasn’t made the slightest difference. My mate Mike, the technical wizard from round the corner, took one look at the roof and said my aerial was out of alignment.

I was relieved to hear this. The remedy was now very simple.

I would use my extending ladder to reach the top of my three-storey house, scamper across the wet tiles of the steeply-pitched roof carrying my claw-hammer and box of socket-spanners, cling to the shaky chimney-stack, adjust the angle of the aerial while craning over to hear the instructions being shouted by Mike in the kitchen thirty feet below, pack my tools away and leap like Spiderman back to the safety of the ladder.

I’m still fairly young, after all.

Four people, all of whom stand to gain immense fortunes from my death, insisted I didn’t, citing the case of Rod Hull.

I was very moved by this show of concern, until one of them pointed out that I might not die immediately. I might bounce off and between the various protuberances of brick and timber which would interrupt my fall from the roof to the garden-tunnel. I might live on as a vegetable for years afterwards.

Then they all agreed sagely that, although my Mom might carry on visiting me (the mothers always do, apparently) the rest of them would soon get bored and I would eventually die, unknown and alone, in the hazy amorphous dream which my consciousness would have become.

You don’t have to tell me, I thought. I’ve read Tolstoy’s The Death of Ivan Ilych too many times to feel any sentimentality about my own ‘importance.’

All of which has led me to think about this legacy thing, about which certain people seem so exercised just lately. What exactly could I regard as my ‘legacy’ ?

Well, I’ve never killed anyone, or done anyone any serious harm. I’ve had three kids and none of them has ever killed anyone. Apart from that, a few seconds of my fleeting presence in this screaming chaotic parade we call Life have been preserved on bits of film and VTR, some of my thoughts have been recorded on printed pages and a few hundred people have, at one time or another, seen me arsing about on various stages.

Then there’s all the time spent on my necessary animal functions, walking backwards and forwards, breathing in and out, sleeping, doing things I don’t want to do but which I do for other people - the usual stuff.

In a few years, or months, or days, all this will come to an end and pretty soon after that I will be entirely forgotten. I’m not really all that bothered about posterity. As someone once remarked: What’s posterity ever done for me?

But there is one thing I have left in the world which never fails to give me a warm surge of satisfaction.

My middle child, now twenty years old, is a superb driver. He is not a goody-goody by any means, but he has absorbed every piece of advice I have ever given him on safe, considerate, defensive driving, so that being his passenger is always a pleasure.

I give him marks out of ten for every journey. His lowest mark so far is 9.8. (He lost 0.2 for referring to the ‘fast’ lane on the M5.) He treats his sixteen-year-old Fiesta as if it were a classic Lamborghini.

This is in contrast to my elder son, who has a car which must have cost nearly as much as a Lamborghini, but who treats it like a clapped out Mini. He once hit the back of another car at a roundabout because he was watching for gaps in the traffic from the right rather than what was two feet in front of him. Yes, a son of mine did that!

Now my daughter has started driving lessons. Her instructor thinks she’s a natural. I can well believe it. The only cloud on the horizon is that if she doesn’t pass first time (like her brother) or takes more lessons than him to do it, I’ll be listening to arguments about it for the rest of my life.

I’ll keep you informed of her progress.

So far she hasn’t killed anyone.

   

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