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Martin Kelner, Journalist, Author and Radio Presenter.
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Martin Writes..

We're All Going To Die
By Martin Kelner on Mar 15, 2020 - 6:40:05 PM

I don't know about you, but I'm getting pretty fed up washing my hands.   The Government, bless them, have been helpful, suggesting songs we might quietly sing while our hands are immersed in or under hot water to adequately fill the time needed for the process to have the required anti-bacterial effect.   But, unless I've got the song wrong, it seems a heck of a long time and you're supposed to do it several times a day, as a result of which the backs of my hands now feel like the underneath of Wilson, Kepple, and Betty's trainers.  


(Look teenagers, I really don't have the time to explain all these references.   It's on YouTube, look it up, and you'll be laughing your socks off in ten minutes unless you've been diverted by a bit of click bait about Piers Morgan).   


One other effect, pointed out by my friend Darryl on Twitter, is that there really is no way to scrub your hands repeatedly while quietly singing 'Happy Birthday' to yourself without looking like a serial killer attempting to wash away the blood from his latest slaying.


Point is, we're all going to die.   Taking into account the lead time for this half-decent magazine, it's hard for me to say exactly where we will be in the progress of the Black Death as you read these words - some of you may be dead already - so I cannot help you with specific medical advice, but what I can do, if you are hanging on in there, is make the experience more palatable.


They say that as you die, your whole life passes in front of your eyes, although I'm not sure this is true.  


Around 2013, I spent a few weeks in hospital alongside some rather poorly people, and one afternoon as I shuffled out of the ward to greet some visitors - I am not making this up - I noticed that the chap in the next bed to mine was making guttural noises that sounded suspiciously like the death rattle. .  


Nurses rushed to his bedside, and he was indeed breathing his last.   Not too long earlier, he had been filling in one of those forms they give you in hospital to book your food for the day, so, inasmuch as you can be sure of anything in these tragic circumstances, I believe his final moments were spent not alongside some kind of celestial Davina McCall saying, "Let's have a look back now at some of your best bits," but choosing between the shepherds pie and the fish cakes.


But just in case conventional wisdom has got it spot on and our last moments are to be spent in remembrance of things past (a la recherché du temps perdu, as Marcel Proust put it in one of his famous gags), and you find at the last minute that your time on this planet does not amount to a life well lived, but merely to a life, well, lived, here are a few colourful memories you can borrow (not mine, but I keep them handy because you never know) to ease your way beyond the veil:


April 21st 1963, the NME Poll Winners' concert.   Do you remember?   It was an afternoon gig at the Empire Pool, Wembley.   We went to the Lyons Corner House first, and had egg and chips, white bread and butter and a pot of tea for a shilling, immaculately served to us by a clippie in a starched white apron, setting us up nicely for The Beatles and John Lennon belting out their hits, Please Please Me and From Me To You, alongside Twist And Shout and Long Tall Sally.   "Those boys are going to go places," I said to my dad.


Still in the sixties, we're in Detroit, Michigan now, and out of respect to Diana Ross and the Supremes, this is a memory I'm not going to share.   You're on your own.   Suffice to say, Berry Gordy and I still exchange Christmas cards.


1989 now, Tiananmen Square, a flower in my hand, straight down the barrel of the tank facing me, "Where do you think you're going with that tank matey boy," and he reverses to the cheers of the gathered thousands.


1990,   Slim's in San Francisco's for a gig by the greatest comedian of the time, Richard Pryor.   "I wouldn't open with that Dicky Boy," I say.   And he reaches for the blue pencil.


I've got a million of them, but if the whole Proustian thing, as I suspect, turns out to be no more than a strategy to make us feel better as we enter the home strait, and the end is more like a light being switched off, I wouldn't go for the fish cakes.


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