I only met Spike Milligan the once

November 19, 2008

but it made me very angry.

It was about 2000/2001 in Sydney. I was over there for some IT thing or other and I went (as is my wont) to the Queen Victoria Building in Sydney. I like the pictures on the walls of the building (lots of men in bowler hats shepherding horse-drawn carts into elevators) and I like the print shop that had a huge number of old pictures of Auckland (alas I never had any money despite the dirt cheap price) and of course it’s a good place to have tea and sit and watch the world go by.

I had been sat at my table, drinking my tea for some time ignoring the maelstrom of frittering at the table opposite me. Books were being piled high, people were flapping about tea, coffee, sweets and the like. There were loud obnoxious calls on cellphones, there were English accents of a type that set my teeth on edge and there, in the eye of the storm, sitting quietly was Spike.

He looked incredibly old. His skin was almost see-through, it was that delicate and his hair was but a wispy halo. He was pretty much completely ignored by all around him, but seemed quite happy in himself.

I should have gone up to say hello, to tell him how much I liked Open Heart University and Milliganimals as a kid and how that had become an avid reading of his biographies when I was at university but I didn’t.  I was too chicken.

Later I saw him in the loo struggling with the weird hand towel dispenser things they have in the QVB. I scuttled away (approaching old men in public bathrooms isn’t high on my list of priorities. Far from it).

And now of course I won’t have the chance to talk to him. But I could buy his piano. I like pianos.

The moral of the story is: if you get the opportunity to meet one of your heroes, damn well take it. Better to discover they’re human and normal and just like the rest of us than to shy away and fret about it for ever more.

And if anyone reading this wants to buy me the giant book of Milligan’s poetry for Christmas, they know what to do.

NOTE: I have now seen the word Milligan so often that it’s doing that weird thing that words do when you’ve read them over and over and it just doesn’t look right. I’ve checked the spelling half a dozen times and something’s odd about it.

It’s either that or the trousers of time have slipped and this is an echo of another parallel universe. Either or.

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