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Raymond Briggs

Regulars | May 2016

Notes from the Sofa

A list entitled COINCIDENCES ... the paper yellowing and old, like me, and it seems that I wrote it some time ago. Came across it in the shed last week, filed away neatly with the lawn mower instructions.

No 1: Looking round the garden of my friend Brian, for the first time, I saw three canoes upside down on trestles, a double and two singles. Oh, I said, Jean and I used to go canoeing. We had a double with a blue deck and a white hull, just like that. Ours was a Tyne canoe; we got it in about 1968. That one’s a Tyne, said Brian. Where did you get it? I asked. Oh, somewhere in Brighton, he said. Not a dealer, it was a private ad in the paper. I’ll look it up and give you a ring.

Later, when he phoned, he said, Yes, we got it from M Gordon.

Maggie Gordon! I said. That’s who I sold it to in about 1975, two years after Jean died. We got it in 1987, he said. So it was first bought in 1968 and this all took place in 2008.

Forty years! Only three owners. Mint condition. Offers? 

No 2: Having just taken part in the recording of a radio programme chaired by Jenni Murray, we were all sitting around drinking wine and chatting. Jenni Murray was just behind me and I heard her say to someone, My house is just where three counties meet ... So when we all stood up, I said to her, I couldn’t help hearing what you said about your house and the three counties. A friend of ours also lives where three counties meet – Yorkshire, Lancashire and Derbyshire It’s called Wild Boar Clough.

Yes, said Jenni Murray, That’s where

I live.

It turns out that our old friend is now Jenni Murray’s cleaner.

No 3: In 1977 my book Fungus the Bogeyman was published. In it there is a scene in the Bogey Public Library and one of the joke non-fiction titles I made up was Rotten to the Core.

Eleven years later, Francis Selwyn wrote a biography of George Neville Heath, the sadistic serial murderer, called Rotten to the Core. Furthermore, Heath had attended my old school, Rutlish in Merton, only a few years before me. Also, he lived in Merton Hall Road where I went to art school.

No 4: I was always a regular listener to Radio 4’s Front Row programme, but since Liz died I’ve stopped listening to it. I don’t know why, just the general apathy caused by unhappiness, I suppose. When I am having the evening meal, the radio is on the table, and one day a few weeks ago I thought, Oh heck, switch it on. The moment it started a voice came: ‘Oh, dear,’ says Hilda, ‘I’ll just get the washing in – ’

‘Hey!’ I cried aloud, ‘That’s MY line, I wrote that!’

The rest of the programme was all about books, plays and films dealing with nuclear war and they were quoting a line from When the Wind Blows.

It all felt a bit uncanny. Maybe I am a natural born medium? Better take up spiritualism, see if I can contact the dead.

No 5: Can you imagine anything more unlikely than a hit pop song being about a milkman? Let alone a milkman who, at the end of the song, dies!

Yet, Benny Hill made just such a record called ‘Ernie (the Fastest Milkman in the West)’ which became a hit in 1971. At the end of the song, Ernie dies.

My father was a milkman, his name was Ernest, and he died in 1971.

To buy copies of ‘Notes from the Sofa’ (£24 inc p&p) by Raymond Briggs, please call 01795 592893.

This story was from May 2016 issue. Subscribe Now