Gun to your head, if you had to leave the house all day, every day, where would you go and what would you do?
Frankly, my dear, I can’t think of anything worse than having to leave the house all day, every day. What’s the point of having a house and not being allowed to stay inside it? It reminds me of a boarding-house holiday at Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, with my parents and sisters. The landlady was strict – you had to gobble your breakfast (two runny fried eggs, cold toast and marge, tiny glass or orange juice, stewed tea), get out and not come back till seven, when you would discover the evening meal was running approximately one hour late and all the hot water had been used up by Germans.
What did we do all day on that holiday? Well, I think mostly we argued, with very few gaps in between. I was sixteen. That’s what you do when you’re sixteen and stressed, isn’t it – argue with everyone?
I recall a particular skirt – I was a clothing disaster in those days, having no choice but to be bought occasional items by my parents, from my mother’s Freemans catalogue. I was bad at choosing: hadn’t yet acquired cynicism, and failed to understand that whatever the model looked like in that skirt, I wouldn’t. Models are thin and beautiful, and the clothes are caught up at the back with clothes pegs, skilfully-lit, etc. This particular skirt – it was red and white roses – I hate red, hate white and particularly hate the combination of red and white – but in the catalogue it looked so nice.
When it arrived I discovered it was made of some strange, loosely-woven fabric. Threads were always catching and pulling; and then of course I would pull them through because I can’t leave anything like that alone. And then of course the roses got gaps in them. That skirt bothered me throughout the week at Ventnor. There was a photo of me in it, looking thunderous with a parrot on my shoulder. It was a café parrot and that was its job – to sit on people’s shoulders, dig its claws in and demand titbits – to amuse them whilst pooping down their backs.
It’s interesting what the author of the website (Seven Strange Questions That Help You Find Your Life Purpose) assumes you will be getting up to if you don’t leave the house. Apparently you will be sitting on the couch eating Doritos whilst nothing new happens. That would be so nice.
Also interesting is what he assumes you would do once you had levered yourself off that couch, tossed the Doritos onto the carpet and ventured out. No, he says – you wouldn’t go and sit in a coffee shop and browse Facebook – you would sign up for a dance class, join a book club, get another degree, invent a new form of irrigation that can save thousands of children’s lives in rural Africa or learn to hang glide.
Oh yeah? Well you listen here Mr Seven Strange Questions.
I joined a dance class, in fact I joined several different dance classes. Rose and I spent many an hour on the sidelines at the Railwayman’s Club, hoping for a man to come and waltz us round the room: anyone other than the effete instructor with the snaky hips and the fluorescent false teeth. And how many hours being hopelessly behind the beat and out of synch at that Zumba, rhumba or salsa class? I couldn’t keep up, OK? I love music, I long to dance but my brain won’t let me.
I joined a book club; several book clubs in fact. It meant reading a series of books you didn’t want to read – obscure biographies of people you didn’t realise were even alive; those strange books based on people’s deprived Cockney or Irish childhoods when everyone and his uncle either beat them up or molested them; syrupy, heart-warming stories of women’s knitting circles and discovering the meaning of life through kindness and crochet. You couldn’t just skim, because you might be required to say something intelligent about them.
But then you never were asked. Someone would go down a list of questions, like an exam paper (book club books often have a whole chapter of these at the back, supplied by the author) and you would have to answer yes, or no, or don’t know. And that was it. Also, you didn’t dare disagree with the retired schoolteacher types who run these gatherings, since they didn’t like to be interrupted and already knew the answers. Then everybody would put on their coats and head for the car park.
Get another degree? One would be nice, but even that I could acquire from the safety of my Dorito-and-moggie-strewn couch. Hasn’t he heard of distance learning?
Invent a new irrigation system? Has he ever invented a new irrigation system?
Learn to hang glide? Even if I wanted to risk my life jumping off a windy hilltop supported by a flimsy contraption of aluminium alloy and synthetic sailcloth, what would I pay for it with? This chap’s assuming everybody’s got disposable income for all this going-out-and-doing-exciting-stuff. Everything costs money: even breathing, probably. If not, there’s bound to be something in the pipeline; some tax or deduction for oxygen consumed, carbon dioxide contributed to the environment…
Apparently this little chap is Mr Winkle, one of the first internet memes/stars – unless it’s a joke. Featured Image is of Mr Winkle accoutred as a snail, or possibly as a winkle. And above is Mr Winkle in his birthday suit.
(Sigh!) Culturally, I seem to have missed so much.
What’s happened to his front paw? It looks kind of bendy.