Autobiographical Notes

Rules

This autobiography mentions personal details, but not private details. This autobiography is not in chronological (or any other) order. This autobiography does not reveal feelings or thoughts. This autobiography provides no insights. This autobiography is open to interpretation.

100 people I once knew

I once knew a man who translated Spanish and Chinese poetry: his girlfriend and, later, his wife were millionaires. I once knew a woman who spoke Russian and went to Cuba: she and her friend had a secret language at school. I once knew a man who was shot dead in Nigeria: he had one of the early pocket computers. I once knew a woman who imitated bombs dropping on a British city: she liked to sing Gilbert and Sullivan songs. I once knew a man who was kidnapped in Columbia: he knew a lot about rice. I once knew a woman who ran away from Ireland with small items made of silver: her hair fell out in Paris. I once knew a man who chose not to be a minister: by mistake he drove across the Hungarian border in a tank. I once knew a woman who went out on a windowsill at the Chelsea Hotel: she had Japanese friends. I once knew a man who never knew his father: he wrote novels with studs in his ear. I once knew a woman who recorded the voices of banana pickers: she spoke German to Joseph Beuys. I once knew a man who said his wife represented Johnny Mathis: he tried to travel on an expired passport. I once knew a woman who ate haggis in hospital: she called off a wedding but had the party anyway. I once knew a man who had been an altar boy: he drank triple martinis with six olives. I once knew a woman who chopped wood in Siberia; she knitted and pickled mushrooms. I once knew a man who played bridge and conducted choirs: he owned a big building in Berlin. I once knew a woman who acted: she wrote a memoir. I once knew a man who made bread: he played the ukulele. I once knew a woman who practiced tai chi: she loved her dogs. I once knew a man who made large abstract paintings: he wore a black t-shirt and boots. I once knew a woman who didn’t eat meat: she often told the truth. I once knew a man who lived off percentages: he trained to be a therapist. I once knew a woman who had poodles in Vienna: she was always at the bottom of the stairs. I once knew a man who flew Spitfires: he lost many of his friends in a single year. I once knew a woman who broke her back on a mountain: she got into the driving seat by climbing over from the back seat. I once knew a man who knew the difference between black blacks and white whites: he liked the darkroom. I once knew a woman who had a voice like gravel: she valued her privacy. I once knew a man who wrote a journal every evening: he knew what spies did. I once knew a woman who made films in war zones: she looked like her grandfather. I once knew a man who had a bristly moustache: he always carried a penknife. I once knew a woman who listened to opera on planes: she wanted children to enjoy reading. I once knew a man who made TV dramas: he became a professor. I once knew a woman who joined a London club: she had a number of colourful hats. I once knew a man who collected wind instruments: he persuaded people to buy land. I once knew a woman who liked comics; she used words like ‘haptic’ and ‘skeuomorphism’. I once knew a man who played hockey and drank whiskey: he ate uitsmijter in a Kent pub. I once knew a woman who did tap-dance and capoeira: she ran on Canadian mud while the tide came in. I once knew a man who liked Charlie Parker: he was a member of an Italian freemason lodge. I once knew a woman who built libraries in Guyana: she travelled with a limp. I once knew a man who watched birds and did crosswords: he couldn’t taste the wine he drank. I once knew a woman who travelled to Europe on the France: she returned on a Boeing 707. I once knew a man who grew flowers: he liked living on an island. I once knew a woman who was descended from an imperial administrator: there was a black shirt in the family too. I once knew a man who quoted proverbs in Irish and English: he often talked sense about animals. I once knew a woman who cooked pancakes for everyone on the street: she had a special tool that used hot water to melt butter. I once knew a man who made bird boxes: he liked to stop for an ice cream when he was out and about. I once knew a woman who talked on the phone to people in trouble: she preferred Coke from a fountain. I once knew a man who cut hair when he was drying out: his father played chess. I once knew a woman who bargained in an Accra market: she knew how to herd cats. I once knew a man who made pizza in a Ukrainian way: he chased burglars with a baseball bat. I once knew a woman who left her harp on the other side of the ocean: she swam a lot. I once knew a man who took pictures of cowboys: he had a 410 shotgun borrowed from his brother. I once knew a woman who played shop in a children’s museum: she had made studies of rats. I once knew a man who wrote musicals in his spare time: he thought there was a secret to everything. I once knew a woman who was a radio star in Africa: she promoted quality education. I once knew a man who liked to swim in cold water: he practiced writing different languages.   I once knew a woman who made things using bright coloured paint and fabric: she had a wedding party in a barn.   I once knew a man who ate Jaffa Cakes every day: he was a count. I once knew a woman who made bread and pottery: she lived in an old draper’s shop. I once knew a man who had big pigs and troublesome guinea fowl: he used to cross the Atlantic on ocean liners. I once knew a woman who studied mushrooms: she went to Antarctica. I once knew a man who could filet a hundred herring: he built a special house for his family. I once knew a woman who raced, swam and cycled: she used to invent crossword puzzles. I once knew a man who played in a rock band: he painted trawlers and houses. I once knew a woman who laughed at the rugby: she knitted endless scarves. I once knew a man who had an oven full of cockroaches: his family had a business making winter underwear. I once knew a woman who designed stage sets: she looked like a lion. I once knew a man who was brainwashed by a presidential candidate: he lost his teeth in the Arno. I once knew a woman who lived in a big house near Blackpool: she gave me half a crown. I once knew a man who had a cupboard full of St Bruno and Lamb’s Navy Rum: he had an encyclopaedia about the Great War. I once knew a woman who drove an old Vauxhall with a column shift: she was a nurse. I once knew a man who drank white liquid for his stomach problem: he stood at the front gate and chatted to passers-by. I once knew a woman who was a model for painters: she went back to Africa. I once knew a man who drew pictures of sheep: he had a very long dining table. I once knew a woman who owned a gin brand: she had an apartment in Soho. I once knew a man who wrote sad poetry: he didn’t know airline meals were free. I once knew a woman who put up a story tent: she always had new plans in her travelling bags. I once knew a man who had fought in the jungle: he drew diagrams about publishing. I once knew a woman who was crazy for Dada: she held meetings in old Austrian libraries. I once knew a man who couldn’t boil an egg: he made remakes of old silent films. I once knew a woman who wrote books to order: she married a publisher and then a lord. I once knew a man who knew about colour: he swam in the president’s pool. I once knew a woman who made Irish coffee: she had an old friend who lived in a caravan. I once knew a man who went fishing in Norway: he spent a whole month at a family wedding. I once knew a woman who bought lots of video equipment: she had a number of expensive wigs. I once knew a man who slept in a tent: he enforced the rules at rowing events. I once knew a woman who wrote about history: she couldn’t remember anyone’s name. I once knew a man who played golf and told stories: he was good at selling a product that no longer exists. I once knew a woman who had an impressive civic memento: she left money to her godchildren. I once knew a man who drove blue lorries: he cried when his dog died. I once knew a woman who asked rhetorical questions: she wore bright clothes. I once knew a man who worked behind double doors: he remembered Picasso’s birthday. I once knew a woman who worked at the top of the stairs: she didn’t want to talk to adults. I once knew a man who wore brocade jackets: he spoke denglish very well. I once knew a woman who made needlework patterns: she raced huskies. I once knew a man who defended copyright in Africa: he loved Italian publishers. I once knew a woman who made images of books: her husband rode motorbikes and built a house in Germany. I once knew a man who started an organisation: he didn’t open his post for more than a year. I once knew a woman who owned a Greek villa: she had a French bulldog. I once knew a man who was an envoy to France: he wore a red scarf and a natty beard. I once knew a woman who grew up in a commune: she gave ties as presents.

50 things I saw when I looked out of the window

I once looked out of the window and saw bush fires in Sudan. I once looked out of the window and saw a car on fire on the Autoroute des Deux Mers. I once looked out of the window and saw a ferry to Æro. I once looked out of the window and saw a bomb explode at New Scotland Yard. I once looked out of the window and saw a subway train in the Bronx covered with graffiti. I once looked out of the window and saw Gem Spa as the plane came down to land at LaGuardia. I once looked out of the window and saw hundreds of people doing tai chi in a Hong Kong park. I once looked out of the window and saw a man dancing under the spray of a New York City fire hydrant. I once looked out of the window and saw a sparrow hawk catch a sparrow in an Oxford garden. I once looked out of the window and saw children riding their bikes into a Suffolk church. I once looked out of the window and saw thousands of bats flying over Ife. I once looked out of the window and saw a tropical rainstorm over Peconic Bay. I once looked out of the window and saw seaplanes landing on Moose Lake. I once looked out of the window and saw a sunset over Canigou. I once looked out of the window and saw Air Force One on the tarmac in Africa. I once looked out of the window and saw armed men running across the roof at Frankfurt airport. I once looked out of the window and saw imitation pubs near the railway line to Norwich. I once looked out of the window and saw overturned kayaks in the Calanque de Port-Pin. I once looked out of the window and saw men defecating in a field near Kaduna. I once looked out of the window and saw dead pheasants, foxes and badgers by an English road. I once looked out of the window and saw a body lying on the road between Ikeja and Ikoyi. I once looked out of the window and saw a pile of old tyres in an East Oxford yard. I once looked out of the window and saw a barbed wire fence between Austria and Czechoslovakia.   I once looked out of the window and saw people riding horses in Church Lane. I once looked out of the window and saw packs of wild dogs on the streets of Santiago. I once looked out of the window and saw a long line of trucks loaded with sugar cane in Belize. I once looked out of the window and saw joggers’ dogs staked out in a park in Buenos Aires. I once looked out of the window and saw the go-slow caused by a presidential motorcade in Lagos. I once looked out of the window and saw the end of the train going into a tunnel further down the Swiss Alps. I once looked out of the window and saw palm trees bent double in a Florida storm. I once looked out of the window and saw African traders on the streets of Naples. I once looked out of the window and saw a helicopter practising a rescue in the Solent. I once looked out of the window and saw a Russian jet fighter break through the clouds over the Black Sea. I once looked out of the window and saw Kilimanjaro with no snow on the summit. I once looked out of the window and saw crowds of people walking in the dark by the road to Songea. I once looked out of the window and saw an Airbus wing flapping wildly between Lusaka and Johannesburg.   I once looked out of the window and saw children begging for small coins next to a taxi in Calcutta. I once looked out of the window and saw the stadium in Cairo where Sadat was assassinated. I once looked out of the window and saw white stretch limos at Dubai airport. I once looked out of the window and saw Concorde at Heathrow and then again at JFK. I once looked out of the window and saw tanks queuing at the border from Slovenia to Italy. I once looked out of the window and saw kites circling over Dakar. I once looked out of the window and saw a giraffe running up the road in front of me. I once looked out of the window and saw Belted Galloways in Cornwall. I once looked out of the window and saw red deer at sunrise near Brora. I once looked out of the window and saw the tracks of snowmobiles across a Finnish lake. I once looked out of the window and saw helicopters flying far below the top floor of the World Trade Centre. I once looked out of the window and a gypsy funeral near Bath. I once looked out of the window and saw a family of lions in Amboseli – really close. I once looked out of the window and saw no other vehicle on the snowy autoroute through the Auvergne.

25 things I talked about then

I talked about dada then. I talked about colour then. I talked about translation then. I talked about Liverpool Football Club then. I talked about semiology then. I talked about garlic then. I talked about deforestation then. I talked about marketing then. I talked about hotels and airlines then. I talked about the New York Yankees then. I talked about red wine then. I talked about Cuban cigars then. I talked about chillies then. I talked about war and revolution then. I talked about the future of the book then. I talked about the World Bank then. I talked about rights of way then. I talked about Viennese coffee houses then. I talked about murram roads then. I talked about spiders then. I talked about country music then. I talked about steaks then. I talked about Woody Allen then. I talked about class then. I talked about fiction then.

25 ways it could have ended

It could have ended at a roadblock. It could have ended asleep at the wheel. It could have ended in an undercurrent. It could have ended in a dumpster. It could have ended at a shooting range. It could have ended in a blaze of publicity. It could have ended abseiling on a slippery rope. It could have ended with a live wire. It could have ended with a smoking-related illness. It could have ended close to a concrete landing stage. It could have ended in a stormy landing. It could have ended at the least expected moment. It could have ended in a drunken drive. It could have ended with poisonous shellfish. It could have ended driving a motorbike. It could have ended in the middle of a song. It could have ended with a twitchy security guard in an elevator. It could have ended on a motorway. It could have ended with organ failure. It could have ended in bed. It could have ended in a fast-flowing river. It could have ended in a thunderstorm. It could have ended with a careless word. It could have ended in a moment of despair. It could have ended without anyone knowing.

25 ways I once approached life

I once approached life with equanimity. I once approached life in a state of agitation. I once approached life pessimistically. I once approached life alone. I once approached life in a daze. I once approached life hopefully. I once approached life with dread. I once approached life with a spirit of adventure. I once approached life in good faith. I once approached life with low expectations. I once approached life hoping for change. I once approached life head on. I once approached life without a care in the world. I once approached life with a heavy heart. I once approached life while thinking of death. I once approached life with a spring in my step. I once approached life because there was no alternative. I once approached life under a misapprehension. I once approached life in a muddle. I once approached life with eyes wide open. I once approached life with a plan. I once approached life as a game. I once approached life gratefully. I once approached life contemplatively. I once approached life as if it could end at any moment.