Avoiding Arrest #memoir #humour

I don’t think I have ever stalked anyone. Not consciously, though there was a fellow student at university who thought I was following her, which I was because I was hopelessly lost and thought, for reasons that are now very obscure, that she had to be going to where I intended to go. She was rightly furious which left me (a) feeling stupid and (b) even more lost as I now couldn’t even follow her.

No, it’s not stalking that gets me into trouble but my one man conversations. I was thinking about this after reading Anne Goodwin’s interesting post on spending time with fictional characters. For me this manifests itself in many ways but one stands out.

I talk to myself.

I’d go further. I have conversations with myself, taking on different roles. I don’t think I always have but I can nail for sure when I became aware that (a) I was (b) they were often out loud and (c) they could be quite, erm, boisterous.

In the early 1990s I was elevated to run the department I worked in. On one level an achievement and a matter for some personal pride; on another muggins turn and ย some rather obvious ‘rather him than me’ ism. We were in financial difficulty back then. Something ‘had to be done’ and the person previously in charge wasn’t doing anything. It was a significant responsibility and, as with most of my career, I came to the new role fully briefly and well prepared – yeah right.

It took some months for me to get on top of things but one thing became clear very early: there had to be some personnel changes. And that meant I was going to have some of the bleakest, most awkward conversations of my working life. I began to find myself imagining the next scene, trying to think of what they might say and how I might reply. Or what was the correct pose to adopt: sympathetic; caring; hard nosed bastard?

As the time grew ever closer so the imagined conversations became more detailed and, increasingly fraught. One evening, some time in 1994, I left the office, the night before such a meeting. It was dark, wet and late. I caught the train to West Dulwich from where it is a 12 minute walk to my house. The train was empty and the streets emptier. ย As I turned into my road, I reached an imagined point in the next day’s interview where I had been accused of duplicity, of back stabbing, of moral cowardice.

I began a rather good, if possibly grandiose and maybe a little grandiloquent riposte. I included gestures. As my hand swept – rather magnificently I seem to remember – to emphasize a killer point I became aware of a rustling in a shrub ahead and to my right. Normally I’d assume an urban fox and barley give it a thought but my senses must have been heightened. Something about the rustle made me stop and peer through the gloom into the depths of the shrub.

Staring back at me were two startled, probably terrified eyes, surrounded by thick rimmed glasses. Not a fox. Indeed patently belonging to the class of mammals: Homo Sapiens.

The shrub was not the kind you normally associated with human nesting. It was tight packed and spiky.

‘Are you ok?’

It was an obvious thing to say. Well, obvious if it had been me saying it. But it was they who said it. This apparent shrub dweller was, in fact, someone I had seen a few times locally – probably a neighbour if I had paid attention – and, beyond their current incumbency, gave every sign of being utterly normal, by the social conventions and mores of this part of South London.

As they extracted themselves from the bush – involving, as it did a full body combing and some loss of blood – they explained that they had heard a mad man arguing with himself and decided to hide. It was only as I drew level they recognized me – my rants being common currency, not that I knew it then – and assumed I must be having some kind of fit or moment of demonic possession. They were genuinely concerned.

We parted amicably enough considering the extent of the perforations from which they had suffered. I walked home slowly. I hadn’t realised I was speaking out loud; and if I was, that I was speaking so forcefully; and how had I not seen or heard them as they leaped to safety into that shrub? I determined then and there to ensure that I kept such conversations internal in future.

Three days later, I made my way home. I survived the much dreaded conversation – it had been civilized and constructive – but the follow up, discussing severance was due and that was the next potential crisis. As I approached the shrub a voice behind me said, ‘Glad it went well.’

I looked back at my neighbour. They said, ‘You sound relieved.’

‘Was I talking out loud?’

A nod.

‘Like last time?’

‘Pretty much.’

And I thought I was keeping everything to myself.

Occasionally – I’m no longer in a ย position of authority so such stressful one to ones are a thing of the past – I find someone looking at me curiously. I force myself to assume they are surprised at my luxurious beard or dapper dress sense.

walking the dog

But I have a sneaking suspicion that I have been oversharing my overactive imagination once again.

Is this only me? Do you startle strangers into becoming shrub incumbents? And what do you talk about?

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published three books - Dead Flies and Sherry Trifle, My Father and Other Liars and Salisbury Square. In addition I published an anthology of short stories, Life, in a Grain of Sand this summer. A fourth book will be out soon. This started life as a novel in a week on this blog and will follow later this year. I blog about all sorts at geofflepard.com and welcome all comments. 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.
This entry was posted in humour, memoires, memories, miscellany and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

30 Responses to Avoiding Arrest #memoir #humour

  1. Ritu says:

    Oh Geoffles you do make me laugh! !@

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Ha! This is one of your best, even if it strikes close to home. ๐Ÿ˜€ I’ll be worried forever more, because I’ve had those inner conversations (imagining every possible scenario) throughout my adult life. Am I really keeping them to myself???
    I also did that “following” thing when I was young. It actually worked well for me. I only remember it leading me to the wrong location once.
    Thanks for this bright spot in a rainy, car-trouble Saturday. Huge hugs.

    Like

  3. Solveig says:

    Oh I remember sitting in the wrong classroom until the teacher realised because I had followed a girl there. My excuse I had no idea what lesson I would have as my whole timetable was in English and it was the first day of school and I didn’t know English or my way around… I had asked for directions but well they made me end up I the wrong class.

    I have heard that some people have to voice their conversations and that one shall not worry about them. Oh and that apparently it is a sign of being quite intelligent.
    You should record yourself for a day here and there to see what you go on about when you think you are keeping everything to yourself.

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  4. I can’t say I’ve ever done this but I do enjoy talking to myself from time to time…. there is still time I suppose, given the right circumstances, the right about of stress I can see some poor person hiding from my rantings in a bush! Though perhaps its my hubby they should be hiding from. He greeted a potential gardening wonder woman today while he was still in his pyjamas. They wondered all over our garden – him half naked and he didn’t seem to mind and neither did she!! In fact she stayed for rather a long time!! All the while I was skulking about in my pj’s too! We are a funny lot!

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  5. As far as I can tell, you weren’t even plugged into a mobile phone, but surely you would be regarded as perfectly normal now it goes on all the time

    Liked by 1 person

  6. So funny. I have imaginary conversations and scenarios in my head, but as far as I know I haven’t voiced them aloud. I admit I do tend to mtter under my breath though, does that count? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Too funny but not unusual. Ha ha ha.
    I have no one to tell me if I talk to myself now but back in the 80s, my desk abutted another in the office where I worked. One day I made the comment to my desk mate. Did he realize he talked to himself out loud?
    He roared. “Probably not as much as you.” ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€ ๐Ÿ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Rachel M says:

    I do live chat sometimes for work and whenever I do that I mouth the conversation. I don’t think any sounds come out of my mouth but my lips move. That probably looks more ridiculous than talking aloud.

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  9. Interesting that you startle strangers into becoming shrub incumbents. In the North West a lot of strangers these days appear to walk, run, jog, or cycle about plugged into electronic devices so the possibility of this happening in say, Manchester, is limited.On occasion, after imbibing numerous glasses of beer, I have been known to talk to myself on the way home so your amusing tale does ring true!. best wishes, Steve

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Jools says:

    I talk through contentious conversations with myself all the time, at home – usually in the kitchen. Anybody coming to the door would have a right to be afraid, as, whilst I’m inclined towards the passive-agressive when actually faced with the object of my anger or frustration, I positively let-rip in the privacy of my own home. I say all the things I wish I could say face-to-face. Then I pack them all away for fear of being presumed unhinged, mad, or even psychotic. Said presumptions, on reflection, perhaps not inappropriate.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Allie P. says:

    I had an extended stay in Hong Kong and I realized the loneliness had gotten to me when I found myself talking to myself as I made my way back to my hotel. To make it worse, my conversation was essentially, “shut up Allie. Just because the people on the street can’t understand you, doesn’t mean they can’t hear you.”

    Liked by 1 person

  12. I understand your logic. But, I’ve never inspired a shrub dweller….that’s pretty amazing. I work out most of those arguments in my head, unless I’m in the car. I can’t imagine what that must look like ?? Your dapper dress sense is very evolved ! โ˜บ

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  13. jan says:

    I do talk to myself – but I don’t think I’ve turned anyone into a shrub ornament! However you never know. I like the flower in your hat – purple suits you!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Ali Isaac says:

    Haha! You are one of a kind, Geoffle!

    Like

  15. Pleased to say, no I haven’t, but I do talk to Toby about lots of things when we are out walking and get some strange looks from passersby. They are usually ideas for short stories. I guess they are kinda strange?

    Liked by 1 person

  16. AJ.Dixon says:

    This made me smile! A bit of eccentricity is a good thing, especially if it prepares you for difficult situations! I find myself replaying conversations I’ve already had out loud, and I usually realise once the poor sod who is nearby thought I was talking to them.
    Great post! ๐Ÿ˜„

    Like

  17. willowdot21 says:

    I have discovered that I moan at cyclist who woosh past me with no warning on the pavement…how do I know they have stop and remonstrated with me . I shout at drivers using their mobile phones.. please driving theses day I’d dangerous enough. Worst of all I have become the customer in the supermarket who wonders around reciting what they need ! I thought like you I was keeping it all in! The plus is we now have the dog so if I am caught talking I can pretend I am talking to her!! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Great post as always Geoff. Ps love the hat!

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Norah says:

    Hilarious! I don’t think I’ve ever talked so loudly (to myself) that others have had to hide in the bushes. But I have been know to think aloud, and I often tell myself things out loud. I embarrass myself in the supermarket sometimes when I think (quietly) aloud about what I should purchase. No one has commented – yet – but seems, from your post, that that may not mean anything!

    Liked by 1 person

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