My name is Anthony Smith, my age is 86, I live on my own within one small room, think I still possess most marbles, have five children and am busily writing my 31st book.
I have a four-page CV that, in grandiose fashion, lists most of the antics experienced in the 25,000 days since I reached adulthood, such as flying in the RAF, exploring qanats in Iran (these being small, man-made, underground and frightening water channels), had a fish named after me, worked on the Manchester Guardian, Drum and the Daily Telegraph (as science correspondent), motorbiked from Cape Town to the UK, gas ballooned over the European Alps and East Africa (first to do so), created and flown a pressure airship, motorbiked back to Cape town with a son, examined every British mainland beach, filmed widely for the BBC, given 215 'Sideways Looks' for Radio 4, worked for one reason or another in 70 countries and - on the flip side of such positive happenings - been divorced twice, each most painfully.
People tell me I have led an interesting life. I say the activities have led me. They have arisen from the blue, emptied my purse (almost always) and were often dangerous, making me wish they would cease, but there is some demanding and internal maggot more in charge of me than the me which is myself. For example, the subject of this latest 'oeuvre' is rafting across the Atlantic. This could only be achieved by squandering all the compensation cash (received after being run over by a very faulty driver) but caused me to spend much time - 90 days in all - with good friends plus an assortment of others possessing zero merit. It also nearly killed me - try travelling on a reef when storm and darkness are so prevalent - and certainly led to several intensities (to borrow T.S.Eliot's term). He, most strangely, wrote that 'old men ought to be explorers' and I obeyed him to the letter, loving and loathing the experiences that came my way. Both he and the maggot were in charge.
Have I done good in all those days and years? I have driven some 2 million miles, consumed oil and hydrocarbon, eaten happily of produce from around the world (as if this was my right), relished the company of numerous souls, these the salt of the earth on which I have lived, and have also watched their steady disappearances. I know they all did good and (almost) wish I was still in their company. They shone bright lights in what it was they achieved in all their days. They were fireflies, dazzling meteorites, warm-hearted (without effort) and excitingly straightforward. Why I have survived so much longer I do not understand and this extra time is difficult to justify. The people without merit on the raft have no such doubt; they too consume but are not worried by this fact and passed their doubts to me.
I would love to believe in spirits, in the essence of one's being somehow existing beyond three score years and ten (or even four score years and six). Where would these vaporous entities exist - in other creatures and other places or in other human beings, guiding, instructing, and demanding just as they did to me? I do feel a little old in years (with senescence taking its toll) but my internal dynamo, running smoothly or driving wildly, has centuries in its wake. It has not always been wise - far from it - but has been dominant and has led to the interesting life.
This is not side-stepping on my part, refusing responsibility, but the steadfast realisation that one's brain is shared with something else - but now I must get back to the book. Over 50,000 words have been done so far, leaving 30,000 more to do, with cunning necessary (when describing the malcontents on board the raft), with determination to tell of the intensities that occurred, and with sufficient truth to make it all convincing. I ought to be better at writing books, having first put pen to paper with a view to publication 61 years ago, but it is nothing like so easy nowadays.
alter ego - or whatever name it goes by - is already packing up its
preparation for departure. It always was ahead of me, even on
the day of
birth. 'Typical of you to arrive early when there was no one
help' said my mother afterwards. I think she had a point.
Anthony Smith, writer and something more.