Once, on leaving my room, he said:

It’s not that I’m ungrateful, doctor, I’m very grateful, it’s just that nobody’s doing anything for me.

And they call Dickens a caricaturist!

Some of this notebook must have been about the time of Princess Diana’s funeral, for I took down the words of a notice on the prison noticeboard:

All are welcome to share in this expression of national and personal grief.

Some of the entries are cryptic. This was taken from a notice somewhere, perhaps a public library:

Poems cannot be returned. We reserve the right not to display poems which do not comply with the City Council’s Equal Opportunities Policy.

I must have copied some of the lines from the poems that did comply with the City Council’s Equal Opportunities Policy:

Love of a tender heart should be encoraged not lent

The meaning of life is a puzzel to us all

There follows a quotation from Burke’s (that is, Burke of Burke and Hare, the murderers, not Edmund Burke) holography confession:

That worthy gentleman, Mr Fergusson [later, by the way, Queen Victoria’s surgeon, and obviously the inspiration of Robert Louis Stevenson’s story “The Body Snatcher”], was the only man that questioned me bout the bodies. He inquired where we got the woman Mary Paterson, because she would seem to have been known to some of the [medical] students.

There is a series of entries that must have been from the time I was interested in the phenomenon of keeping reptiles (it was becoming more popular, pari passu, with tattoos):

Terrapins—prawns, fish 3–4 times/week

Iguanas—lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes

3 rabbits a month

6 rats this one’s had

Waiting list for green iguanas

Red-Eared terrapins crates of 500

Turtles—salmonella

Black market, Drug world, Puff [adder] £10, Spitting cobra £5.

At some time that I cannot now remember, I must have gone to the races and was intrigued by the technical language of the sport:

Yellow Dragon: Unreliable platinum-class animal on the flat, better on sand than turf; improved from racing on soft ground for the first time over hurdles when winning Folkestone Seller last month by 9 lengths and was confirming that effort when falling two out on similar ground in Lingfield Handicap next time. Claims on those efforts but today’s quick going a worry.

The fact is that I have no clear memory of anything in the notebook, or in any of the other two or three hundred notebooks that I have. What is recorded in them is as alien to me now as if it had been written by someone else. The past is another country; and these notebooks are the archaeology of my own life.


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