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David Charters.

"YOU are a wellington boot on the ballet stage of life," observed my mother in the twinkling of her days, before the vulgar advent of pop-up toasters and instant porridge, when Aga cookers still croaked for a vanishing England and our wireless wheezed behind its webbed mouth in comforting tones of brown. "A lump in the otherwise smooth flow of custard," I volunteered, applying a sticking plaster to my prematurely gnarled heel, as our spaniel snoozed in the basket with her wakeful eye focused on the lead dangling over the arm of the chair, where, on vigorous days, I would confront the easier of the two crosswords in the Daily Sketch. "Precisely," she replied. "You are a misfit, a wanderer, a dreamer."

I stand guilty On hearing such words, usually issued as an admonishment, I have always sensed a warm glow of pleasure. For, if I am a misfit, what is it to be a "fit" - to find that you slip easily into every hellish arena of contest known to man - to skip, sprint, leap, kick, punch and prance at the behest of others, in the faint hope of winning some trophy; to zoom through the air in a private jet seeing profit margins in the clouds and factories in in this easy the valleys, to master long division, to watch the roll of money, to juggle the atom, to increase the rapidity of a bullet's flight, to constantly want more? Of course, I stand guilty of wallowing too much in this easy image and, on occasions, I can stir the competitive juices at least enough to match those of the earthworm.

But I can't agree with the need felt by so many to appear successful in the eyes of others. Surely, it is more important to appear successful, and happy, in your own eyes. And, in a dream, those eyes saw a high-nosed tricyclist pedal proudly on the crown of the road, while sucking a menthol lozenge to clear the fumes of rhubarb wine from his head - as the money shufflers followed him in swish cars, swerving in and out, hooting and honking, in their desire to overtake and join the rush hour. As this parade vanished from view, I saw spinster sisters spread chunky marmalade on hunks of hot brown toast, while they sniped at each other over the teapot; widows on the romp; the spindly curate of the slums with his agile Adam's apple, lifting dumb-bells to impress spotty delinquents; the sad general behind the mustard jar, stalking Napoleon with his tin soldiers; skint Romeos in provincial hotels, evangelists and witches, spivs in mirrors, astronauts with bus passes, toothy philatelists, growers of giant marrows, picklers, seedcake bakers and astronomers in pyjamas.

All those people could be misfits, but then, in the generosity of this country, they are squeezed into that special haunt, known as eccentricity - this country's greatest offering to the world along with prunes, mothballs and cricket.

of My wife, like my mother before her, usually accepts, with sighs of resignation, that I belong in that haunt. But occasionally a mood of deter mination flashes in the lovely turquoise of her eyes. So one of her Christmas gifts to me was a desk planner, described as "the discerning gent's essential tool for an organised life".

image It has a "to do" list printed alongside the days of the week. This is it - hair cut, take suit to dry cleaners, car service/MoT, take gym stuff to work, you're cooking tonight, pick up the kids, take the bins out, call mum, sports night, drinks with the boys. I surveyed the list several times in the quiet of my little office, wondering if I could ever be part of this thrusting new society. But only one of these activities seemed to apply to me. Now, it is just possible that the Hercule Poirots and Miss Marples among you will have spotted the prime suspect already.

Yes, as the light of day greyed into night beyond the windows, a voice from the kitchen galloped up the stairs to flush my ears.

"Have you taken the bins out yet!" * LISTEN to David Charters on his picture podcasts at www.liver pooldaily
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Jan 10, 2012
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