Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Twiglet moment

I said nothing went wrong so there was nothing to write about didn’t I? But something bizarre did happen. How could I forget? Nothing to do with driving, more a twiglet moment with regard to the passage of time and the smallness of the world.

I didn’t have time to dash to the library for more audio books and, as I think I’ve mentioned before, the wilds of North America between cities can throw up a dire lack of decent radio stations. I was fine through the extended urban sprawl that merges east from Toronto, plenty of news and talk, but as the night wore on the options became rather thin. I took to setting the radio to scan and checking each offering that wasn’t actually rapping at me for sources of interest.

And this is how I found, at about 1.30 in the morning, a programme called Coast to Coast, hosted by some weird bloke in Nevada. I must have picked up a station in New York that was broadcasting it. Coast to Coast specialises in investigating and discussing UFOs, life after death, government conspiracies and other unexplained phenomena. I settled in for a good giggle. And then I heard a name, followed by a voice, that took me back 35 years. They planned to interview, by phone, an author from England who had written a book about conspiracy theories. The book was Voodoo Histories and the author, one David Aaronovitch.

Now some of you will have been there back then. The Manchester University Students’ Union. We’d formed the Custard Appreciation Society for a bit of a laugh. We thought we might get some union funds for a properly constituted society, and then we could spend it on custard creams. I was the Trifle Secretary. But the laugh grew legs and the society got popular. There were humourless types within the union hierarchy who considered that the only acceptable point to being a student was holding meetings and having votes condemning political misdemeanours the world over. Suspicion was rife as to whether the Custard Appreciation Society was really a political front organisation for some subversively right-wing elements. Chief among the suspicious politicos, one Dave (I suppose David suits the now successful journalist better) Aaronovitch.

Perhaps if I’d not emigrated, I’d be used by now to someone I vaguely knew in university days being a relatively well-known pundit; but this was news to me. There I was, somewhere between Toronto and Montreal,driving an American icon, listening to the voice of someone I’d known 35 years ago in rainy old Manchester, being interviewed by some nutter in Nevada.

We’ve taken remarkably different paths to our 50s. I understand he is no longer a communist. Perhaps he made a better job of growing up than I did, although I haven’t made trifle for years. At least he has a proper job; while I muck about with big boys' toys. The weirdness of it all kept me pondering the passage of time and the changing of people all the rest of the way. I enjoyed the interview. I will buy his book, it sounds good. I might even send him a copy of mine when it’s written, after all he’ll be in it. And I have a sneaking suspicion that, over the years, he has developed a bit of a sense of humour.

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