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  • Dougie

Reality Writes -- Brief 4 -- Write an article based on researching the day you were born

The degree to which one has a low threshold for boredom (as my Auntie Anne reminded me the other day) can be revealed in the oddest ways. Waiting for a bus in Canberra, for example, is substantially less interesting, more tedious and thoroughly boring than the same activity in Glasgow, the city of my birth.

In Canberra -- whether it’s in one of the many, many pretty but soulless suburbs of this fading memory of late-Modernist town planning or in the never-ever, not-under-any-circumstance throbbing heart of a city described without any hint of irony in a brochure I read once as “exuberant” -- waiting for a bus here is exactly what it says on the tin's label: a soul-destroying experience in waiting.

Life is too short. One loses the will to live. At least there were good jokes while we waited for Godot. And the play (one of my absolute favourites) had fewer roundabouts.

None. In fact.

In Glasgow -- on the other hand -- when I was growing up you were never entirely sure what to expect as you waited for a bus. In fact the arrival of a bus was among the least interesting outcomes of queuing for a bus in the second city of the Empire (see Hue and Cry here for a musical explanation).

No. Glasgow bus queues were seldom boring and almost never silent. Now and then they could teach adolescent boys a lesson or two about life. Not always welcome. But on at least one occasion … ecstatic.

Glasgow buses and trams (before we ripped out the rails)

Glasgow bus queues were never silent because Glaswegians are never silent. Unless you're dead (and even then there is likely to be singing and dancing -- because drink may be taken -- in celebration of the life most recently stepped off the bus). Give Glaswegians a bus queue and there is scope to engage in banter – if not perform and entertain.

Simply waiting for a bus would have been considered rude. Unlike Canberra where – at times – it can seem like the unfathomable answer to an indecipherable question.

Anyway, it turns out that researching events in the world on the day of my birth is much the same as waiting for a bus in Canberra. Way back then – according to Google (which is as near as I’m getting to research) – it seems that not much happened. No great lives started or ended and nothing much of historical note began, developed, diminished or reached a conclusion on the day I was born.

In a sense, I suppose, you could say the day of my birth was a typically British day. If old father time were to ask, “how has your day been?” the date of my birth might reply – like a middle-class Englishman of a certain age returning home from an accountancy office – “oh, you know, mustn’t grumble”.

Day of my birth? Not even a ‘dog bites man’ sort of day, according to Google.

Famous people born on the day of my birth?

  • Amy Goodman,

  • Dallas Moir (a Maltese-Scottish cricketer – perhaps the quintessential personification of not-world-famous achievement. Not that I could bowl or bat to save my life.),

  • Gary Kroeger,

  • Saundra Santiago and

  • Wayne Lewis.

Nope, I’d not heard of them either.

Famous people who died on the day of my birth? None, it would appear.

So-called “historical events” listed online for that day?

  • Something called Shinbone Alley opened on Broadway for the first of its 49 performances.

  • The Boston Celtics beat the St Louis Hawks by four games to three.

  • The Saturday postal delivery in the USA was temporarily halted due to a lack of funds.

  • And – in what may be the only news that might resonate down through the years for reasons that anyone my age could see – Eugene’s O’Neil’s Long Day’s Journey Into The Night and the musical My Fair Lady won TONY awards.

Historically, then, the day I was born seems to have been something of an inauspicious, innocuous, quiet, mustn’t grumble sort of day. Perhaps even the birth date equivalent of waiting for a bus in Canberra, capital city of Australia (the 11th or 12th largest national economy in the world). In that sense, therefore, something of an anti-climax. We might all have expected more.

On the other hand – this Scottish Presbyterian is always looking for the silver lining of whatever cloud he can find to complain about. So there may yet be time for this old man to up the ante for the date of my birth. I could do something interesting or even memorable with what remains of my life. In short -- become Google-sufficient.

Is that what my three score years plus ten (plus a wee bit more please) may come down to in the end? The futile search for something at least as historically meaningful or significant as being a Maltese-Scottish cricketer or – on the downside maybe – the human equivalent of the temporary suspension of a national postal service.

Oh, how the (never) mighty are fallen. Based on what Google tells me about the date of my birth, as Terry Malloy from On The Waterfront famously said;

You don't understand! I could'a had class. I could'a been a contender. I could've been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it.

And just to be clear, Terry Malloy (who is a fictional character) wasn’t born on the same day as me either. He is -- perhaps like me -- a figment of someone else’s imagination.

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