Written in August 2008

In the past week, three people have asked me whether I need to be so ‘coarse’ in my writing. Two of these people were my parents and so I expected nothing less; the third was someone I knew to be a bit language-sensitive, but nonetheless, it made me wonder – am I a particularly coarse person?

I re-read my last column for the umpteenth time and couldn’t see one word or paragraph that I could have written differently that wouldn’t have changed the tone of how I feel about the whole circumcision issue. Anything else would’ve made it a purely academic exercise and I’m neither interested in nor good at that sort of thing – I took four attempts to get my English O level! (although I’m still stumped as to how I could have only been given a U for my excellent written observation about how you can tell someone’s personality from the contents of their shopping trolley.)

So anyway, there I was this morning, musing about whether I was coarse or not, while opening an Amazon package that I’d just collected from the Post Office. It was a book that I’d ordered ages ago but the publishing date kept getting pushed back and finally opening it somewhere near the front, the very first words I read were “I can feel a book coming on. You know, like when you get the first inclinations you might need a shit”. I laughed out loud. Then admitted, ‘Ok, I do have a slightly coarse sense of humour’.

Then that Orange advert started playing in my head. You know, the one where the voiceover guy says how he’s a product of all the people he ever met – his mum, his sister, his best friend, the teacher who always put him down, the one who encouraged him, and so on. And I thought, I could add to that all the places I’ve ever been, the books I’ve read, the TV I’ve watched, the conversations I’ve overheard, the pets I’ve cared for, the music I’ve sung along to… I am what I am because of everything I have ever seen, done, heard, tasted, felt or smelt. And I’m sure there’s at least one other sense I’ve missed there. What is that? Imagination?

Perhaps ‘coarse’ is how I sometimes come across, but maybe it’s simply a shell I’ve developed to protect my inner mush – a bit like a Locket – because inside I’m still the scaredy little child who glared defensively when, at five years old, a strange Scottish girl called Elaine turned up in my back garden telling me she’d come round to play; the same child whose heart broke into a million pieces two years on when Elaine moved away again. And I could give you shed-loads of violin moments between then and the time some years later when I came home from work one day and the man I loved looked at me coldly and said “Fuck! Is it that time already?”.

But that was then and this is now and I stand before you as an adult (physically if not mentally – and actually I’m sitting down but let’s not split hairs here). I’m not an academic and I very much doubt I’ll ever be awarded the this-that-or-other prize for literature, but I am a passionate person and I’ll continue to express myself exactly as the words choose to erupt from me. So I’m sorry if my language or sensibilities offend you in any way but let’s face it – if you’ve ever met me, then I am partly what YOU made me.

The book referred to here  is 17 by Bill Drummond.


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