I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
I re-comment on comments and re-re-re-comment on re-re-comments.
* One exception: short stories.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

Mich! Moi!! Me!!!

There’s no one like you, is there? You feel that instinctively but how to prove it? Atomically it’s true, genetically too, probably. But you can’t easily check these matters.

One way is to see your uniqueness as a combination of features, qualities and achievements.

I am male, the world population is 7bn, therefore I need only compare myself with half that figure, the rest being female. I am almost 6 ft 2 in. tall and - I guess - that removes two-thirds of the male competition and I’m down to 1.2bn. I'm eighty which reduces my peers to 600m. Almost manageable.

Let's get more personal. Aged eleven I decided what job I wanted then, later, went ahead and did it. How many eighty-year-old, 6ft 2in men can claim that? A small percentage? Say 5% and we're down to 30m.

I lived several years in a foreign country. Perhaps 10%. My peers at this stage now only number 3m - say a large city.

I've written a couple of novels now in print. That's a real slasher: 500,000 is perhaps too generous, shall we say 100,000?

I've been married for over 50 years. I only know fewer haven't than have. Half? So: 50,000. Remember I’m moving towards a unique combination.

I never saw The Sound of Music. Game, set and match? No, even fewer people have seen TSOM run backwards through a projector; that could be easily arranged to juggle the numbers. Stick to stuff that matters or you’re proud of.

I’ve read Proust, Ulysses and War and Peace all more than once. Plus The Man Without Qualities just once; that was enough. That might just do it. Eight factors: can you do it in less?

No doubt, but observe the rules.


  1. I commented on this post first.

  2. MikeM: Aha, no flies on you. Perhaps we might enter another competition for unique gemini.

  3. Can't be bothered with all the maths, RR. But in my life (77, a mere chicken)I have, so far, managed to survive prostate cancer and had two strokes, plus a near death experience after a car hit me from behind whilst riding a bicycle.

    Over time I have dressed and performed in Roman armour, been a lifelong club cyclist and ridden and restored motorcycles too. On 4 and 6 wheels I was a qualified bus driver/instructor.

    I enjoy much classical music, but prefer folk music, also classical Chinese, with its pentatonic scale. Can't read music or play any instrument. But did manage to speak, read and write basic Mandarin, which I found fascinating and much easier than the French and German I learnt at school.

    Married over 50 years, 3 children, 6 grand children and 5 great grandchildren (we are a fertile family!)

    Also like dogs and have had 6 over a lifetime.

    That must narrow things down a bit.

  4. Reminds me of an exercise we did in maths at about age ten. We were given index cards and a list of categories of staggering banality to which we might or might not belong. If we qualified we cut through to the punch hole for that category. The cards were then put in a box which had been appropriately pierced and the teacher put knitting needles through to select those who belonged to a given number of categories. (Sorry, this probably isn't very clear, I could better show with a diagram). When the intersection of those who walked to school, had a cat and belonged to the girl guides was selected, mine was the only card that fell from the box. I felt momentarily special and gratified, as though I had done something clever, a rare experience at school, except for always putting my hand up first for knowing what the long words meant.

    In fact one can do something similar with one's blogger profile, that now seldom visited and possibly slightly embarrassing location. I am one of just three whose favourite books include 'Peter Abelard', and the one and only who has chosen 'The Wandering Scholars of the Middle Ages'. But is it really true? It may have been at some point, but identity and its factors are fluid and numinous. Experience less so, it might seem, yet that too is subjective and subject to interpretation, memory etc, which, of course, are the things which really are unique to you.

  5. Avus: Can't be bothered with the maths! It's arithmetic, the sort taught in primary school! Lower even than that - mental arithmetic. Otherwise all you've provided is a partial CV, together with some things that didn't happen. Non-events can contribute (Willingly denying oneself chocolate. Voluntarily stopping breathing for longer and longer periods. Living in Kent and wishing one lived in Greater Birmingham.) but finding French and German difficult is almost mandatory for a typical Brit, especially when linked to being a dog-owner. And not finding arithmetic congenial. I draw a veil over what I suppose to be your preferred newspaper. Come on Avus, you can do better than that; on this showing and apart from a few quirks you're virtually merging with the background, putting yourself at danger from more cyclist-hating car drivers.

    Lucy: No apologies needed, I get the drift. What an apocalyptic moment! To be systematically confirmed as unique at ten, together with being hated (possibly) as a know-it-all; those are two powerful drivers that are only in abeyance when you knit.

    As to blogger profile embarrassment I saw that a mile off and re-edited mine during the first year. Which taught me another lesson. My initial claim was I'd been truthful but selective; on mature reflection I see that being selective is a fairly obvious synonym for lying.

    If I know the plot of Peter Abelard correctly I'd say you wouldn't be getting much competition from men on that one.

    And, yes, uniqueness is more accurately calculated via numinous bases like memory with its almost infinite levels of variation but that would be like trying to pick up mercury. The values I used in my sequence are virtually picked out of the air but they give a flavour of the truth and the hint of a method. In particular they show that quite humdrum facts - in combination - become definitive quite rapidly.

    Should anyone call your uniquity into question I would be willing to provide a reference entirely exclusive of my usual fee.

  6. Had my colon removed at age 44 and shot to death over 100 woodchucks in a single summer. And was first to comment on this post.

  7. So many possible ways to approach the (favourite) subject of one's uniqueness,I'm not sure which one to choose. Are you giving licence to show off? If so, then I might point to the CV part of my website: http://www.nataliedarbeloff.com/aboutme.html or (in case you miss it) this: http://www.nataliedarbeloff.com/aboutndapress.html

    But none of these things are unique if I'm lined up with an army of my peers, other artists etc. who are surely more unique in any category I can be slotted into.
    Then there's the accident of birth. We come into the world with the built-in uniqueness (physiological, psychological,illogical) of each one of our ancestors going way back: how to measure all those bits of uniquity that we didn't choose?
    Then there are quirks of thinking, individual ways of interpreting the world that we've each developed since childhood - how to compare those to everyone else's quirks?
    I'm full of admiration for you and your commenters who have managed to deal with this test so succintly. I haven't been able to, so in this context, voila my uniquity.

  8. Natalie: First, unique cannot be qualified any more than one may be partially pregnant. Also being unique is neutral, not neccessarily good. I suspect the uniqueness of Hitler, Pol Pot and Peter Sutcliffe might be arrived at in fewer than eight steps; after all if the term mass murderer represents the first step that may reduce the pool to less than a thousand names in one go.

    It is unlikely uniqueness will reside in a single feature, quality or achievement unless the definition is deliberately tortured away from generality (eg, the first one-eyed, one-legged person to have read Fifty Shades of Grey at the age of 27 years, four months, and six days.)

    This post, being by me, was rather less about being unique than hinting at a method for establishing it. Mine is fanciful because the percentages are mere possibilities. But it might just work. And the method does have the benefit of not being subjective; my qualifications are true and and verifiable. Thoughts are unquantifiable and by definition evanescent, thus of no categorisable interest.

  9. Natalie: I notice a logical flaw in the above: people who hold world records are unique. As are those who occupy certain positions during certain periods of time. Who paint certain paintings, write certain books, etc. All true, but all uninteresting. These matters are known beforehand; what I'm concerned with is the vast bulk of us, seemingly a bunch of indistinguishable lemmings.

  10. I never seem to get your rules right, do I?

    Anyway,I wholly disagree with this: "...the vast bulk of us, seemingly a bunch of indistinguishable lemmings" That's not how I see things. Try and do even a rough sketch of any person in any crowd and you'll see that there's no such thing as "indistinguishable". I also doubt that lemmings are all the same.

  11. But what about your Doppelganger Robbie? He surely lurks somewhere, in this universe or one of the others; he has written as many novels and been married as many years; but when he sings ... something sinister happens!

  12. Natalie: It's called incompatibility. Possibly - but not definitely - a perfectly natural byproduct of individualism.

    Blonde Two: OK, OK, parallel universes and all bets are off. As to the singing me, he's nothing if not a yo-yo: one minute up, one minute down, a melodic manic-depressive. One question: is there such a things as a perfect state? Is thrusting your way across Dartmoor always unalloyed bliss? Are there dark moments? And if there are do these - in some curious way - afterwards enhance the bright moments? In short: is Dartmoor a heightened form of reality, where dark and bright do, and possibly must, co-exist?

  13. Thrusting across Dartmoor is never unalloyed bliss. I have been mentally composing a blog post over the last few days about exactly that point. Dark does enhance light, the expeditions that have some element of 'going wrong' in them will undoubtedly become the best stories and memories of the future.

  14. Well, I have read a batch of your posts and ended up here, where I know you and Lucy and Natalie (though she might not know me.) I love the surprise of Mike's woodchucks but expect there are a good many woodchuck chuckers. I don't suppose I'd be very good at this game, as I have been rather limited (obsessive) in my pursuits. Teaching (quit after tenure--I suppose that's unusual), writing books (terribly common, it seems!), raising three children. It can't be all that startling. Once biked the perimeter of Ireland. And I was probably the most frightened person ever to climb Macchu Picchu Montaña (10,007 terrifying feet with wee paths hanging onto the edge of the mountain) so that I could look down on Macchu Picchu from a great distance. I took the train from Bangkok to Siem Reap, and that was odd for a Westerner, it seemed. I appreciate being me and not some cipher, but I expect that there's somebody (or some somebodies) with three children and some books who occasionally gets a bit of travel...

    Avus's armor made me think of something else. I was in an obscure Gertrude Stein play (all Stein plays are required to be obscure), and had to swing out over the audience on a rope. I expect that I'm in a fairly select company there.

  15. Marly: I suspect Gertrude Stein gets you 98% of the way to uniqueness in one hop (Odd question: why were Gertie and Ernest Hemingway such good pals?) And the circumnavigation of Ireland sees you home.

    In following my normal bent (wrapping seriousness up in facetiousness) I rather lost my way with this one. Which was to show that even a series of relatively humdrum events can point the way to individuality and that we don't need to resort to vagueness ("O I just know I am.") to make the point.

    There is another post to be written about how these (as I say, often quotidian) matters affected our lives thereafter. Two years' National Service in the RAF, which I didn't even mention and during which I was forced into learning about science and maths, had a huge effect. And the six years spent in the USA, born out of casual curiosity, taught me more about being a Brit than I suspect spending those six years in London.

    But in the end this looking back is unnecessary. I have only to read the blogs of those I come into contact with to recognise - within seconds - individual tones of voice and that's what matters. History giving way to the present tense.

    Did you ever imagine you might be mistaken for a cipher? Shame on you if you did.

  16. Oh, I expect I would be, from a certain common point of view! I don't see myself that way, of course, but I live in my own little sub-world. Writing novels is one way of loving those who are not at all like us. Because surely we are not alive to one another when we see the great masses of people in the world. Art is one of those things that brings life to the faceless, surely. And that's one of the great beauties and strengths of the novel.

    Do wish I had been forced to learn math and sciences other than botany, which is probably the only branch I understand at all. I have used scientific ideas occasionally in fiction and poetry, but really I am just a magpie attracted to the glitter. When I was in high school, I did not particularly like the sciences, or perhaps would have liked them to be taught in a different way, more appealing to a person like me! My father was an analytical chemistry professor, so it's no doubt shameful that his daughter is not better-educated in the sciences. (He also loved to write, so I haven't rejected the inheritance entirely.)

    Perhaps there is something oddly in common between their prose styles? Or perhaps Hemingway simply liked the talk, the rule-breaking, and the way the pictures ran up to the ceiling in Stein's house. I have no idea!

    Clearly I am avoiding work and must go do some.