I couldn’t remember where I’d put my hip flask on Saturday, and tore the entire flat apart, trying to find it. ‘I never lose things,’ I wailed at my little sister in despair. ‘Why has this happened to me?’ I clutched at my brow dramatically, because I’m trying to improve my repertoire of physical comedy. ‘Are you checking in case it’s on top of your head? It’s not like sunglasses,’ my little sister answered. ‘And you probably can’t remember where you put it because at your age, your memory starts going.’
My little sister’s 3rd favourite joke is me ‘being really, really old’, and her 2nd favourite joke is convincing me I have an illness, so this was probably the highlight of her weekend, but it made me very alarmed. I spend a lot of time thinking about things that have already happened, and am not even close to exploiting all the anecdotal possibilities of my past.
For instance, I have very fond memories of school. ‘We went to school in London,‘ I like to tell people. ‘That’s why we have so many naughty stories of going out on school nights.’ I can honestly say that I went out on a school night a grand total of twice in my entire school career. Once I went to Chinawhites, which was dreadful, but I thought was magnificent, and once I went to a club that has been re-named and taken over so many times that you can just tell that it’s a truly delightful place. I think, possibly, before I was born, Prince Andrew had a minor scandal there. I went on a Wednesday, and stayed over at my friend’s house, and noticed during assembly the next morning that I wasn’t wearing any shoes. My school didn’t have a uniform, but it did really require its pupils to wear shoes. ‘I’m not wearing any shoes,’ I whispered to my friend. (A brief digression here on whispering, which some people do not realise ought to be speaking at a volume lower than a normal speaking voice. Unfortunately, my friend was one of these). ‘What?’ she shouted huskily back at me, causing the entire row to wonder what was so exciting about that morning’s hymn. I pointed dramatically at my feet.
I assume some shoes were found for me, because I can distinctly remember the time I went on the tube in bare feet, because it was Summer, and I was wearing ballet flats, and one fell off into the gap as I stepped onto the tube. ‘And that was during the Summer holidays,’ I told my little sister. ‘I know, because we went to France the next day and Mum kept asking why I was wearing trainers all the time.’ ‘Yes,’ my little sister agreed. ‘That was not a good Summer for any of us.’
It wasn’t a very good Summer for me, footwear aside, because I had to read an endless series of Victorian novels, and I hadn’t yet realised that I could skim-read the descriptive bits, so spent much of the holidays looking up synonyms for grass, and wishing that country estates at that time had been a little bit smaller.
‘You spent all your time lugging books down to the pool,’ my little sister continued. ‘And then you left ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles in the front seat of the car and all the spine glue melted.’ ‘Oh yes,’ I said happily. I remembered that clearly. I had to spend the entire term sitting in lessons with a book that was more sellotape than paper, and missed a crucial plot happening because I’d stuck two pages together. I started thinking about that book, and then I realised that my memory wasn’t going at all, it was just that I’d left my hip flask in a weekend bag, after a weekend trip that went splendidly, because as the host showed me around their gardens, I had so many words to describe things.