Top Cat

top cat

I learnt the lyrics to this; loved it as a kid, even though I always felt Officer Dibble was more a role model for me

Lisa Reiter’s latest prompt is Bite Size Memoir “10 out of 10″ We have to write a memoire around something we, or someone, has excelled at – at which someone has excelled – as you can already see, it won’t be me and grammar (grammar and I? Oh sod it.). I never ‘got’ grammar. Never the top dog, or cat in Eng Lit and Eng Lan. There are grammatical phrases and constructs that, to this day, pass me by. When Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle created their hero, Nigel Molesworth in Down with Skool, How to be Topp and Whizz for Atoms etc, they included the ‘Private Life of the Gerund’. That was the first time I had heard of it, the Gerund,  and I loved seeing it battle with peaceful pronouns. Chiz chiz. But I still look up what a Gerund is (what is…) and why we care.

So achieving ten out of ten for anything, in nursery school, at Primary school, at Senior school, in Scouts, anywhere… it was all a bit Molesworthian – i.e. highly improbable. My earliest school report said I came into my own at playtime. By eight, I received a ‘I don’t know how he did it’ when given a ‘C’ for my handwriting exam and, more tellingly, in Geometry I received this comment: ‘Good term’s work; utterly confused in exam’.

Things did lurch to and fro, rather, so far as academe was concerned. A failed eleven plus, was followed by a place at a Grammar school after I was interviewed (at 11, mind you. Bloody ludicrous). I was asked what I enjoyed reading and said ‘Paddington Bear’. The lady on the panel of three interviewing me loved the little bear so I secured a place. Heaven knows what might have happened had I confessed to my real love – Tintin. Perhaps, even then, my innate craftiness and duplicity carved me out as having ‘lawyer’ potential.

All this time the Archaeologist was winning prizes and scholarships to private school. Jealous? Moi? You don’t believe me? Check out this. letter to nana 1965 It was Easter 1965; I was 8 and he 9. We stayed with our Gran in Herne Bay and these are letters to our other grandmother. I wrote like an eight year old; he like he was about to be awarded his doctorate.

So where have I ever excelled so much that I can justifiably claim a 10 out of 10? Nowhere, really. That’s not false modesty, just a realistic assessment; I can always improve. Academically, at work, at home, at sport, in my writing, in my relationships, as a dad and husband, as a gardener cook handyman (blimey me and handyman in the same sentence, now there’s a joke) – everywhere really. I love that, in truth. I’m not sure I want to achieve the ultimate, to be the best, because then I’ll have no room to stretch that bit further. If I do crest a summit, it’s always a false horizon and there are more summits ahead. And while at times that brings on a dog-tiredness and enervation it soon passes and I tighten the straps on my metaphorical rucksack, take a sip of tea and set off for the next peak. I don’t want my life to be any other way (well, no, not quite: I do want to cook the perfect brownie).

I don’t suppose I will be the only one to quote Voltaire in this challenge: ‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good’. It’s one thing to keep on striving but there comes a point where you need to let go – I’ll never master the quickstep for instance (and while I wouldn’t sell my soul to do so, I might mortgage it for a fair while..). More pertinently that thought should act as a brake on my passion for tinkering. Particularly with my books; I need to remember that aphorism, it should be written over my desk so I stop picking at them and get on and publish at least one. As someone said on an Arvon course  I went on years ago (I expect they were quoting someone else but I don’t remember), writers don’t finish anything – eventually they just abandon their work and move on.

So in that spirit, here’s a little piece of me when I achieved a state of grace, if not perfection.

Happy Days

2014-07-13 17.53.16

The Textiliste hurries into the church – fashionably late perhaps?

It’s 19th May 1984. My hired morning suit itches my thighs; I have both relations and nearly in laws watching so I can’t scratch. Just bear it. My watch says three minutes past, an acceptable lateness but I’d rather she didn’t go for a new personal best. It’s sticky today – the day will be bookended by rain – and I’m sweating.

The organ groans into life; there’s a rustling and movement and a vision in white, silhouetted against the door.

I face front as I’ve been told to do; soon enough she slips to my side. ‘Sorry. Needed a pee.’ I nod. So do I.

Michael, the vicar steps forward. ‘Did you check for labels?’ The man is neurotic about the happy couple showing the soles of their shoes with price tags still attached when they kneel for the blessing; too much sniggering is a bad thing. I should have drawn a smiley face. It would reflect my own.


About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published four books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars, Salisbury Square and Buster & Moo. In addition I have published three anthologies of short stories and a memoir of my mother. More will appear soon. I will try and continue to blog regularly at about whatever takes my fancy. I hope it does yours too. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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26 Responses to Top Cat

  1. Lisa Reiter says:

    Perfect at the obtuse but perhaps too much perfectionism to regard your multitude of talents, my favourite token blog bloke? I would add incredible wit and repartee to a long list of things I could draw up about you!

    I confess to not having foreseen the agonies some feel at recognising something good in themselves and should throw Voltaire right back at you but I’m so glad it doesn’t prevent you from sharing your ungrammatical drivel with those of us it pleases!

    Meanwhile, the other twin in my gemini existence recognises the humility in perhaps always finding someone better at almost everything about myself I care to examine, so I do understand. Obtuse as your little bite may be, I take it that your decision to marry the Textiliste was a certain 10 out of 10.

    Happy Days indeed 😄 Thank you, Lisa x


    • TanGental says:

      Oh yes; my 10 out of 10 was to luck into her life. And you are right about the second sibling syndrome; the good thing about it, though, is that it has made me very determined to keep going if ever I hit a set back. I suppose I would always accept 10 out of 10 for effort; that perhaps defines me.


    • Lisa, I thought about this, “not having foreseen the agonies some feel at recognizing something good in themselves” and what you said on my blog, and it made me wonder if you thought you were the only one that had a hard time with it? Isn’t it interesting how so many of us feel that no one else has gone through what we have and couldn’t possibly understand when I think so many of us have gone through the same things and understand better than one could ever imagine. I think it is fair to say that no matter what your prompts are, they are bound to trigger something in someone, it’s just the way of memoir writing I think. =)


      • Lisa Reiter says:

        Yes, I agree with you. I’m beginning to see however much permission I might have given with this or any prompts – to perhaps take a humorous look at it, many are courageously authentic with sharing what ‘springs to mind’ rather than doctoring it too much. I am sometimes quite humbled by that.
        Thank you both xx


      • TanGental says:

        It feels like instinctive rather than curated memoire; perhaps because the length is so short it lends itself to the ‘honest’ bite.


  2. Sherri says:

    What a great post this is Geoff, and for the record, I adore Top Cat! Interesting too, as you shall see. I love it when I read someone else’s post and this happens…are you intrigued? Haha!
    Seriously though, you seem like a 10 out of 10 kind of a chap to me in many ways, and I definitely think you should have drawn smiley faces on the bottom on your shoes. What a lovely image. And, to top it off, hopefully adding to the smiles, I’ve nominated you for some awards, as seen here: in appreciation of you, my new blogging friend, your fine writing and wonderful wit! Happy Monday – Sherri 🙂


  3. Annecdotist says:

    What a lovely story to share, Geoff, and looks as if you’re lots of bloggers’ Top Cat!


    • TanGental says:

      Thanks Anne. I really think I might try my hand at memoire; that Reiter woman has a lot to answer for.


      • Lisa Reiter says:

        Well, I think you already are..
        .. and arguably more than me! I love your posts 🙂 10/10


      • TanGental says:

        Soz, Lisa, I put that terribly. I meant to say, try it comprehensively, rather than just these excellent morsels. I have toyed with the idea for a while (I know the kids would like me to) but following your lead has been both fantastic fun and eye opening. So much so I have written a first chapter… we will see where that goes. And while you do have a lot to answer for, I’m really grateful to you for pushing at the door. I wonder if you realise what good you’ve done! (you’ll be after commission next…) 🙂


  4. Hi Geoff, I’d say there is probably a lot that you do very well and like so many of us, you just can’t pat yourself on the back without extreme discomfort (that and the perfectionist in you says it is never good enough so how could it ever be perfect-takes one to know one :).

    Oh and by the way, “me and grammar” is correct. No I’m not an expert and make lots of my own grammatical mistakes but I recently learned a little rule that helps me with the me or I. If you take out the other thing (this instance it is grammar) you would say, “it won’t be me” you wouldn’t say, “it won’t be I” or another example, “He and I went to the store.” You wouldn’t say me went to the store so “I” is correct. remember that and it will always be correct.

    Peace to you.


  5. Charli Mills says:

    Your capacity to love your ladies is your perfect 10! How dear and sweet you signed your letter with obvious love and affection. Then is shows again as you kneeled in perfect grace (well, near-perfect; perfection would have been the smiley faces on the soles of your shoes). Your wit far exceeds any knowledge of gerunds.


  6. Norah says:

    I’m sure the Textiliste considers you 10/10. Great post!


  7. Pingback: 10 out of 10 | Lisa Reiter - Sharing the Story

  8. lucciagray says:

    Thoughtful vicar! I bet he had a few embarrassing stories to tell!


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