How hideous, therefore, to apply this same logic to ourselves! We won't be gainsaid, not even when our exploits are manifestly idiotic. We make the same dismal mistakes, over and over again; we follow the same dreary pattern, and we learn nothing from it. It is a sign of the times, my friends, and I fear that my generation carries a burden of guilt not visited on our dear old parents. Consider my venerable father, for example, lately laid to rest in an earthy bed. He went to his reward with no grimy vestment of guilt. No; he had set out his stall in the full bloom of youthful optimism and had achieved professional success in direct proportion to the effort he put in. And don't think that his life was narrow! For some years he had an association with Lancelot Hogben, the father of modern Medical Statistics, and assisted on the revision of some of his reissued works. My father was a general practitioner, but had an interest in completely incomprehensible mathspeak. Yesterday, in an old notebook, I found the following in my father's hand: "The magical content of the number three, which has occupied a position of veneration in European culture, seems to be Semitic in origin. Probably the worship of triangular numbers and the mystical attributes of the triangle itself in the Pythagorean culture, is traceable to the triangular symbol of the ancient Hittites, now the two triangles of Zionism". This sort of mumbojumbo would find no seedbed in our modern life! And anyway, which provincial GP, bestrewn with Practice Managers, and government targets and rising levels of chlamydia across all social classes, has the time to indulge in out-of-hours flimflam?
I compare my eighteen-year-old self with my father, and the tears spring readily to my eyes. In that glorious year, the year of the Queen's Silver Jubilee, my summer was divided sharply into protracted periods of idling and feverish attempts to make money. I spent a lot of the summer on my back in Corsica, an island-dwelling contemplative, who Just Lay There. The rest of the time, I was engaged by two tobacco giants and required to attend sporting events to promote the product. Mid-July found me at Lord's for the Benson & Hedges Cup Final (Gloucestershire v Kent. Gloucestershire won. Fred Trueman adjudicated. I was carried home, as per) in a vile polyester ensemble, a tiny dress that buttoned from the thigh to the neck and a golden sash with sequins. We were encouraged to smoke like fuck, which was easy, and to engage all-comers in flirtatious conversation, which was not. We had to sell the fags, natch, but we were also allowed to accept "gratuities", which were dependent on the level of outrageous compliments that we could pile onto the punters without gagging. I was quite good at it. A little girl from Leamington Spa was hopeless, however, and cried all day. She said the men were all old enough to be her father, which was rather the point. It still is the point. That particular point will never change.
My personal nadir, however, was Silverstone. I was working for John Player, and the whole event was a cynical money-removing exercise of the first order. We were each assigned hospitality marquees (working in pairs) and I got Elf Oil. I am afraid I still feel shivery when I remember this terrible day, but let us just say that corporate entertainment was still in its infancy, and the rules of engagement had not been ratified. I spent that night in Birmingham with 10 other John Player girls and we sat in a bar in stunned silence until Captain Morgan worked his magic. By the end of September, I had bought an Anthony Price dress and a Simca.
We had to wear black and gold uniforms, one-piece trouser suits, unbuttoned virtually to the navel, and heels. It was prostitution of the vilest nature. I have been listening today to Black and Gold by Sam Sparro, which is a sweet song and drives away the ghastly ghostly sounds of my Silverstone summer.
Because if you're not really here
Then the stars don't really matter
I'm filled to the top with fear
Because if you're not really here
Then I don't want to be either
I just want to be next to you
Black and gold, black and gold, black and gold.