I read recently that the world is a bowl of toenails. I don't think it is. The world is, however, the playground of the eccentric.
I have an eccentric uncle. Uncle Fred. Not that he is my uncle, he isn't even a relation, he's merely an adopted uncle. Years ago he worked in the NHS alongside one of my real uncles, and from that point he was accepted as an uncle. Uncle Fred is a genius, a character of such quirkiness and extravagance that Wodehouse, Dostoevsky and Dickens would have been gobsmacked.
For as long as I have known him, which is in excess of twenty years, he has moved house roughly once a year. I say roughly because he has been known to move three times in a year. Not for financial reasons, he simply possesses an insatiable desire to move. What is even funnier is that he has lived in some houses more than once, frequently returning to a home that he had lived in a few years before.
I mention him because my birthday is coming up. He has sent me a birthday card every year of our acquaintance. The card always arrives early, provides notice of yet another new address, contains a comical story or summary of recent events in his life and without fail has a barely legible message scribbled at the bottom. The message is always the same.
I may have forgotten your birthday this year. If you do not receive this card please let me know.
A few years ago we were at the funeral of my Grandpa. Uncle Fred and I were feasting at the buffet table. Uncle Fred was on a roll, telling story after story. I was listening attentively, I regret that I didn't take notes. An old lady arrived at the buffet table.
"Excuse me," said Uncle Fred, "have we met before?".
"Beg pardon?" replied the old lady.
"I am sure we have met before," said Uncle Fred, "are you the Queen of Sheba?"
The old lady giggled and wobbled away. Shortly after another old lady approached.
"I know you," said the old lady, "you're Jean's brother aren't you?" Jean is my Grandma. At the time of the funeral both Jean and Uncle Fred were in their 70s.
"No, no, no," replied Uncle Fred, "I'm her great-grandfather." The old lady stepped back a moment, peered austerely over her spectacles and then wandered away confused.
It goes without saying that I'm eagerly awaiting this year's birthday card. I'm also looking for an opportunity to use the Queen of Sheba line. If I ever get caught jelly-biting I may use it. You can picture the scene.
Shop attendant : "Excuse me. What are you doing?"
Me, removing a pack of jelly from my mouth : "Um, err, I think we've met before, are you the Queen of Sheba?"