Fellow Sherlockian Luke Kuhns would be unaware this week that in choosing who to tag in this excellent voluntary series he had selected two bloggers who have just become acquainted through Facebook, having Christ's College, Cambridge and 221b Baker St in common! Hugh Ashton and myself. It's a small world and I believe ACD would have made full use of the social media that draws together like minds whose bodies reside miles apart.
7 Things About Me.
1. First Editions last February detailed my own introduction to Sherlock Holmes. Re-reading that I realise I forgot entirely to mention a History project "The London of Sherlock Holmes" completed as one term's work when I was 12. Before proceeding, I should like to make a (very) belated apology for rampant plagiarism to Michael Harrison and his Estate. "In The Footsteps of Sherlock Holmes" was my central - and well-loved - source. It is not egotism, Watson, when I note the elation which greeted my award of 100% AND a special note of congratulation from oue distantly formidable Headmaster. I felt then as I do now that the tribute was to Holmes and not to me. My "magnum opus" began with "Behold the fruits.." and closed Oh so romantically! with Vincent Starrett's immortal poem.
Thanks be to the Fates I still have that project.
2. An incident the following year left me the man I have become. I pretty well drowned in the bluest, clearest Mediterranean waters you may imagine.
I had only recently learned to swim and was fine the short distances between our hired pedalos - until one accelerated away from me.Losing energy, gaining panic, I went under, way under three times. I remember clearly knowing and accepting I would not rise again. Folks, I return from the brink to tell you it is urban (marine?) legend that your whole (brief in my case) life passes before your eyes in this extremity. Nope. All I remember is being able to see the ocean floor and how beautiful it all was.
How did he escape? I hear you gasp - Or, more appropriately: "Ray, tell me how you came alive out of that dreadful chasm!"
Well, unlike Holmes, I was in it, but was saved by my best mate, Dave, who (elegant this!) went on to command submarines in a no-doubt illustrious career.
Since then, my friends. I have looked on every minute of every day as a God-given bonus - a response only deepened and broadened by the loss (the first in a life-long series) of my best childhood friend, Keith, who (having completed his training as a doctor and missionary) wrapped his Landrover and himself round the only tree for miles while night-driving across Africa to his first mission.
3. One of the joys of my life is amateur theatre. Along with school-teaching it has absorbed almost all my creative energy and any writing I have essayed. I ran school and local drama societies, directed and acted with several amateur companies in the West Midlands, Mid-Wales and (more modestly) here in Morecambe. I began and ended my teaching career directing 'The Bacchae' but have three special moments for you.
With Alan Parker's permission I directed the first amateur production anywhere of "Bugsy Malone" (from a script he approved). He wrote on his way to America ( on the Midnight Express to Fame) wishing us well...and better luck than he had with those splurge-guns!
I was on stage as The Emcee in Cabaret (my family in the audience) in The Rainbow Suite, at the Co-op in Central Birmingham , the night of the IRA bombings that destroyed two pubs just across the road. The police eventually stopped our production and ordered everyone out of the city. Yours truly fled through the night with his family still dressed and made up as The (white-faced) Emcee. Talk about surreal.
I would be about 40 when I played the Henry Fonda role in On Golden Pond (opposite, I may add, an excellent performance by my late wife, Kate). The play is (in part) about the impact of impending retirement. Norman plays the coda of the final scene alone - as he comes back on stage, looks around the summer cottage that will never feel the same again..and wordlessly leaves, closing the door softly behind him.
I remember thinking on the last night of the run as I stood (as Norman) alone for a long, pregnant beat that "the next time I do this will be for real". I have to tell you that next time comes on my 65th birthday this month.
4 -7 briefer but just as significant.
4. The sole reason I did not 'do drugs' at University is down to the first student I encountered once I had unpacked on arrival. An American (a 2nd year up early) was sitting in 3rd Court doing a passable impression of Bob Dylan (with acoustic guitar). He informed me of the drama enacted from the window above mine the previous day.A student had walked through it to his death having taken a 'bad batch' of LSD. I learned the meaning of that strange term that day...and to avoid drugs for life.
5. On full year's secondment from my Education authority I spent one halcyon year at The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham, gaining an MA in Shakespeare Studies that made it easier to accept the traditional, automatic MA Cantab.award.
Those few months under the late Professor Spencer, Dr,Stanley Wells & Tom Matheson cemented for all time my love and respect for Shakespeare's Art and gave me a grounding in bibliography for which I am deeply grateful.
6. My Yorkshire Dales Grandmother gave me the best advice I ever had. "Raymond", she would say, "When you choose your friends, always choose people who are better than you".
Those reading this are highly likely to qualify.
7. I have regrets and ambitions as I approach 65. I should not like to think I shall never act or direct again..When the inspiration comes I am ready. Almost everything I've ever written has been for teaching or theatrical use. I should like to publish some day. Perhaps this Markings Blog is a step to my next shade of Ray.
My remaining duty is to 'tag' 7 more Sherlockians and invite them to contribute to this series, emphasising that no one is under any obligation to do so. We are all Watsons here, not Moriartys.
John H Watson MD
Ever the rebel here Ray begs leave to break the rules and invite 2 lovely Bloggers who simply I find enriching to read as they remind me Sherlock Studies lead everywhere else.
You can trace the history of 7 Things About Me by clicking on Luke Kuhns