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Notes from the Sofa

Regulars | December 2016

By Raymond Briggs

It’s not much good having a mnemonic to remind you of things you can’t remember if you can’t remember the mnemonic itself. I have a list of my ‘word blocks’ in capital letters on the cellar door post in the kitchen, forty two in all. These are words I know, but can’t remember, despite having used them for years.

A friend along the track here is a bone surgeon, and I can never remember what his profession is called. Whenever we meet on a walk, I ask him and we have a laugh about it. Sadly, like so many others, he died recently. Last night I couldn’t get to sleep, thinking over and over about the word for his profession. My mnemonic was that it sounded quite like my own job. So I was thinking Artist? Illustrator? Cartoonist? Writer? ... None of them reminded me of it. It must be on the door post ... oh don’t be a twerp, you can’t go all the way downstairs, after midnight, to look up one word! I’ll never get to sleep if I don’t. So I staggered down two flights of stairs, across the sitting room and into the kitchen. The post! The door post ... the list! Aah! That’s it! ORTHOPAEDIC! Saved by the post. Sounds like AUTHOR. So now I have a new mnemonic: AUTHOR-PEE-DICK. Slightly rude, childishly funny, but it may help me to remember.

There are also many names on the list, again, names I’ve known for years but can’t remember. Sometimes I read the name of someone and can’t remember who they are. One yesterday baffled me: KATIE PRICE. Do I know a Katie Price? Even more baffling was that just after the name it said JORDAN. Do I know anyone in Jordan? Don’t think so ... Later that day, in desperation, had to ring up a friend: Do I know a Katie Price? No, he said, but you saw her. She’s Jordan. You saw her outside the shop, you told me about it – huge black limo with blacked-out windows, chauffeur, three or four ladies with enormous bosoms, teetering around on nine-inch stiletto heels. You said it was surreal seeing these bizarre creatures in a sunny country lane. They seemed out of place. Should have been outside a nightclub in Soho at two in the morning.

God, yes I remember now. Drove past them... What does she do, exactly? Well, that’s what we all wonder ... She’s very successful, rich and famous, like you.

Ho, ho, I said. Do you think we should get married? Not sure I could cope with that quantity of bosoms at my age.

Another one is NARCISSISTIC PSYCHOPATH. Well, I know what they are all right. There are more than one or two of them in my line of business. They think they own you and you are there to do what they want. One director had been sent a piece of china merchandise based on one of my books. When I came into his office, he had it displayed on his shelves, my name printed on it next to the title of the book. Oh, that’s nice, I said. Got my name on it. Better take it now before it gets lost, so I took it down and put it in my bag. You have to be firm with these people. They are beyond reasoning. Someone who knows us both said: He thinks he IS you. Demonic possession?

CIVET CAT: two other words on the post. Vague memories of it, but then recently came across a card from a friend who had seen an Oldie piece I had done about Coffee Obsession. Had I heard of CIVET COFFEE? This is made from beans which have been eaten, digested and excreted by cats who climb the trees and eat the fruit containing the bean. Supposed to be the crème de la crème of coffee.

Crème de la poo more like. Best forgotten.

To buy copies of Raymond Briggs’s ‘Notes from the Sofa’, £24, call 01795 592893.

This story was from December 2016 issue. Subscribe Now