Can’t believe it took me so long to discover this thread. I am amazed by all of you without exception.
1. On a memorable night in the mid-70s, I was on the verge of losing my virginity, but I spoiled my chances by suddenly and very copiously vomiting on the girl's beautiful fur coat. It had been lent to her for the evening, very reluctantly, by her domineering mother.
Sometimes even the sincerest apology just isn't good enough to repair the damage done. I can still remember the way the lumps and droplets hung there in the hairs. It didn't smell very good, either.
2. On a summer's day in the 1930s, my grandfather saw a leprechaun in the countryside just outside Dublin. He had taken my mother and her sister out on an early-morning mushroom-hunt. The two girls had drifted off on their own for a couple of minutes, gathering flowers & fungi, and came back to find him standing on the road rooted to the spot and staring into the middle distance. This was unusual enough, and went on long enough, for the kids to grow worried. Eventually he cleared his throat and said: "Did yez see that? Did yez see the little fella? He was there and then he was gone. Just gone. I was watching him the whole time." My granda was not a superstitious man. He recovered his poise quickly and he refused all subsequent requests to talk about what he had seen. (But he wouldn't deny it either.)
3. When I was 22 I nearly drowned in the Mediterranean after swimming too far out under the influence of some ludicrously potent Columbian grass.
4. I was past 40 before I ever jumped off the high board in the swimming pool, and I only did it then because my eight-year-old kid accompanied me all the way to the top (and the bottom), having foolishly presumed that I had already performed that heroic feat several times beforehand, as she had. Since then, I have jumped off the high board approximately one million times, even without holding her hand. There's a lesson for us all there somewhere.
5. As a very small child, I was convinced that my dreams were real, and I didn’t tell my parents about them because I feared it would make the dreams disappear. One night, I woke up screaming from a terrible nightmare about The Child of Prague
(there was a cheap chalk figure of it on the tallboy opposite my bed) and I wouldn’t believe them when they told me it was “just a dream”. I spent the night in their bed and they had to ditch the statue next day, after getting a priest to de-bless it. If they hadn’t got rid of it, it would have eaten me. Either that or I would have spent my entire life in their bed. (No wonder they hurried.)
6. Moths frighten me, especially those big fat hairy dusty ones. They seem to be both alive and not-alive.
7. Having just eaten a plastic chicken, I once belched extremely loudly and quite deliberately on the stage of one of the biggest, oldest and most famously beautiful theatres in Europe. The response was spontaneous applause from about one-third of the packed premiere audience and loud boos from all the others. Some people actually walked out. That belch was something I had worked hard at and took a craftsman's honest pride in, and it had gone down well everywhere else. So I was not pleased.
(This reminds me of Billy Connolly’s remark onstage at the Royal Command Performance: “Those of you in the cheap seats, feel free to applaud. The rest of you can just rattle your jewellery.”)
8. During a period of sleeplessness and manic intensity and very productive work, I once entered a weirdly lucid state in which I was quasi-telepathic and prone to premonitions. It lasted about a month. On one particular day, I was on my way to rehearsal on the subway, feeling very good and optimistic (I was in love at the time too), when I suddenly felt a very strong and peculiar sense of dread. It was so intense and so abrupt that I actually very hastily made the sign of the cross, something I hadn’t done since my early adolescence. There were only about six people in the whole carriage. The guy diagonally opposite glanced at me and raised an eybrow slightly. At that moment, the train emerged from the darkness onto an overground part of the line. Seconds later, there was a very loud bang and the window behind the guy went totally white. He was showered in tiny fragments of safety-glass like fine gravel, but the window was intact apart from a small round hole about the diameter of a finger and about a foot to the left of his head. There was no hole in the window opposite. When the train drew into the station, various guards came looking to see what had happened. They suspected someone had fired a gun from the flats opposite, but no bullet could be found anywhere in the carriage.
9. Jeff wrote:
On the last day of school, in I think grade 3, my class exchanged gifts. I got a little Popeye toy. He was on a base; you pressed the bottom and his limbs and joints moved. On the way home I lost it. It still upsets me.
it with those things? When I was five, my four-year-old brother was in hospital to have his tonsils out. Among the presents he got was one of those toys, but with a dog (a Pluto?) instead of a Popeye. I was deeply envious and I have never forgotten it, not least because he had lost it by the time he got home. No doubt it was stolen from him by some other entranced infant.
10. When I was a schoolkid we always had to address female teachers as “Miss” and male teachers as “Sir”. Towards the end of my first year at university, I almost collided with my philosophy tutor while rushing up the stairs to a lecture. Breathless and flustered, I spontaneously said “Sorry, Sir.” He (a hairy young anarcho-syndicalist) burst out laughing and said “Let’s not exaggerate.” I was mortified.
10 ½. (Youse are right: once you get started it’s very hard to stop. Not unlike jumping off the high board at the swimming pool.) Continuing on the rewarding topic of embarrassments on staircases, I once knocked myself out cold by leaping the last six steps in a state of euphoria and banging my head hard on the sloping ceiling above me. You might say I felt mortified (again). Or you might say I felt like a right tit. I certainly looked like one, or so I was reliably told.