On young Albert Ramsbottom’s birthday
His parents asked what he’d like most
He said “to see ’Tower of London
And gaze upon Anne Boleyn’s ghost”
(That isn’t one of my ditties, by the way; it’s from the third of the Albert monologues by Stanley Holloway. If I were to write one it would be more along the lines of: If I were a ghost, what would I like most? Vanilla ice cream or some hot buttered toast? It’s one of the reasons for having gone through life without the slightest hint of fame ever attaching to me. Well, apart from the time when I appeared on a TV quiz show, of course. But the only people who found my televisual manifestation worthy of note were an actor I knew at the theatre and a bunch of young girls who stared at me through the glass doors. And that doesn’t really count as fame.)
I think about ghosts a lot, you know; I always have. My life has been full of strange experiences, many of which seem quite inexplicable without reference to the paranormal. Mel once said that it was one of the things which made me difficult to live with. Spooky things happen around me. They do.
So now one of the things I find fascinating about death is the possibility that I might finally discover whether it’s possible to join the league of ghosts. The thought of being a ghost appeals to me, although I’m not quite sure why it should since it must be a lonely sort of existence. People don’t usually invite them for tea and muffins, do they? People are not generally in the habit of boosting the poor ghost’s confidence by reassuring them that ‘you look really quite fetching today. That particular shade of off-white suits you perfectly; it matches the pallor of your skin so that one completely fails to notice the absence of colour in your eyes.’ They don’t, do they? They run away instead, and the more you run after them the more they shriek.
Besides, I’m a considerate and mostly inoffensive soul at heart and I would be more mortified at the prospect of frightening somebody than they would be at the prospect of seeing a ghost. I must admit, however, that there is one person on this planet under whose window I should like to roam in the early hours singing the first verse of Raglan Road, but I haven’t a clue where her window is these days so that possibility must lie begging. And the same impediment also applies to my other wish: to whisper in her ear at unguarded moments: ‘You once promised to tell me what the ‘y’ meant and you never did, so now I cannot rest in peace and it’s all your fault.’
(But if ever you read this, my lady, you may be assured that my abiding fondness for you is quite undiminished and I would rather engage with perdition’s flame than cause you any distress. Have no fear; sleep peacefully. You may rejoice with confidence when somebody informs you of my demise. That’s if anybody bothers, of course.)