Identity

‘Once upon a time there was a lonely girl who lived all alone, except for her nameless cat’

I’m paraphrasing, for sure, because my memory is most definitely not what it used to be, and of course I am absolutely unable to remember what it used to be, although it must have been better than it is (I think), but George Peppard’s character Paul types something vaguely similar when he is writing his book and describing Miss Holiday Golightly in the movie of Truman Capote’s wonderful novella,‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’. It doesn’t really matter what I think of the movie – I could list ‘fors’ and ‘againsts’ until the metaphorical cows and pigeons come home, but there is no doubt it is a flawed (the seriously miscast Mickey Rooney leaps to mind), yet strangely moving and uplifting creature – not unlike the character of Holly Golightly herself. Of course, she is not at all what she appears to be; she has come from somewhere else to re-invent herself, but is still trapped by that re-invention …

‘I-den-ti-ty!!’ Oh thank you, Poly Styrene, sometimes it does need to be screamed at the top of your lungs against a barrage of noise… if not X-ray Spex then it’s the outer world that sends the needles on the dials spinning into the red on the db meters of our lives as we repeatedly ask the question ‘ Who am I?’

Otis was unusually reluctant to eat any porridge this morning, and a throwaway humourous comment from Ani on how un-Scottish that was set the cogs in motion within my ever diminishing grey matter. When I lived in Scotland I believe I felt ‘Scottish’, whatever that was, although not conforming to many of the clichéd assumptions that allegedly define masculine ‘Scottishness’. For example, I do not like Whiskey, Football or Haggis. Whiskey and Haggis because they physically disagree with me. Whiskey makes my inner demons rise from their slumber, Haggis brings heartburn and indigestion. Football I dislike because my dad was a football referee. Many times in my childhood I had to endure hearing the torrents of verbal abuse directed at him, and, as I grew older and more visible lurking in his car parked by the touchline, at me. The fact that I wore spectacles made it even worse (I was going to append ‘in the eyes of the crowd’ there, but that would probably be just too much …). References to blindness accompanied by bursts of often inspired profanity meant that the Highland League and all its far-flung venues were an equivalent to one of the circles of hell for the skinny, pale and unduly sensitive Scottish boy I was back then. Then Charles Atlas made a man of me, and I went back to every piss-ant football ground in every drizzle-drenched crookit little village slumbering in every grey and tragic misty glen and penalty-kicked the living daylights out of my tormentors. In reality, no… in my head, yes. So, football mostly stirs a seething cauldron of far from pleasant memories for me. Throughout my Scottish life, many friends (yes, at one time I had many friends…and many non-friends) referred to me as ‘peep’, or ‘peep junior’. The logic behind this? My dad was called Robert. Robert = Bob. Bob becomes, through the liberal use of his referee’s whistle and a corruption of the nursery rhyme, Bob-peep. Hence ‘peep junior’. I accepted it, as mostly there was no real malice behind it, but I did not like it. Something similar has happened here in Cambodia. Amongst colleagues and others involved in mine action here and in the UK I am known as ‘Jamie’. I grudgingly accept this for three reasons, one being that I still feel like I am an actor playing a role (‘Jamie’) in my life, as I (James) regularly have to pinch myself even now to believe that I really am a) living in Cambodia and b) working in mine action, and the second being because I liked the character Jamie (Frazer Hines) who was an early companion of Dr. Who (and a bit of a cliché of dour Scottish manhood, if truth be told… ‘och, Doctor, it’s only a wee Dalek – dinnae worry, one whack wi’ ma caber and he’ll be as much use as a chocolate fireguard!’). Number three, and perhaps the most surprising, is because it does sound, well, a little… Scottish. So I suppose what I am trying to convey here is that I believe we all appear to others, at any one time, just constructs of our environments, both physical and emotional, yet given that, we still have at our core who we really are (or really believe we are) and where we have really come from. And perhaps, just perhaps, we actually do know where we’re going. We’re after the same rainbow’s end, my huckleberry friend…

All the above has woven a tangled web around the point of this particular missive, which now follows.
I would really like to say I am very sorry to anyone I may have offended (now or in the past) by assuming that my self-centered interpretation of your construct is really who you are, because only you truly know who you are.

And me?

I’m neither Peep, nor Jamie…

I’m Lula Mae Barnes…

I think…

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