Thursday, 2 February 2012

Alter Ego

My friend Caroline rings me. She's very excited. 'I saw your alter ego on telly!' she exclaims. I am intrigued. I ask Caroline what my alter ego was doing. Imagine, fleetingly, a model on a catwalk  - my alternative self, half a foot taller and with a few of the creases ironed out. 'She was explaining the history of lavatories,' Caroline says.

A few days later I find an email from a long-lost mate in Worcestershire. It tells me that my 'identical twin' was on television recently. Studying lavatories. At church, one of the Ladies Who Does the Flowers bustles up. 'I've been meaning to tell you,' she pants. 'There was a lady who was on TV who is the spitting image of you!' 'Was she talking about lavatories?' I ask and she nods, thrilled at  glamour-by-association.

My brother, meanwhile, mentions that his old university friends, who haven't seen me for twelve years, have marvelled to him that my double was promenading across their TV screens on Thursday nights. So when I meet my old soulmate Serena for coffee I tell her that I have a duel existence as a television presenter. 'I've been dying to say...' she cries excitedly. 'My parents rang me to tell me that your carbon copy was doing a history of...' 'Lavatories?' I offer.

Weeks pass, then I open the newspaper and see myself peering out at me. A younger, better-coiffed, better-groomed self, but still, a likeness so unnerving that I race to Youtube for confirmation. And it's true. Lucy Worsley, author of the book and TV series A History of the Home, bears an uncanny resemblance in hair, eyes, forehead and manner. And she is utterly compelling on the subject of lavatories.

It is a strange thing to see yourself as you might have been if you were Chief Curator at Historic Royal Palaces, with a 1st from Oxford and a back catalogue of intelligent books on heritage. The clamour of my children as they brawl in the bath recedes briefly as I imagine myself writing best-selling volumes in a minimalist south London loft apartment, fingering royal snuff boxes instead of dribbled Weetabix and chairing forums on gargoyle preservation instead of adjudicating a spat over the last Bourbon Cream.

A shriek from the bathroom recalls me to reality. My seven-year-old has decided to investigate gender biology and his sister is aggrieved. Lucy Worsley, in her fitted wool tops, haunts me as I mediate and bully the pair of them through the bed-time routine.

But later, when lager has composed me, I check their sleeping forms and I am seized with new marvelment at their perfection. And I collect soiled damp clothing from bedroom floors and partially digested raisins from under the sofa cushions and suddenly I am glad that I am not Chief Curator of Historic Royal Palaces with a minimalist south London loft apartment, because I know that behind every unglamorous chore is a blessing.

14 comments:

  1. Like the sound of your alter-ego. Somebody told me last week that I reminded them of Denise Welch !!!

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  2. Now how could you post that without a picture of the 2 of you? I'm off to google her immediately.

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    1. Dunno how to upload piccies of the Net do I! And am hoping that people will imagine my alter ego looks a bit like Claudia Schiffer...

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  3. I love your writing - so witty and poignant, all rolled into one. Have I brown nosed enough? You know you're the spitting image of .....

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    1. I never realised brown-nosing could be so pleasant. Thank you.

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  4. When I saw Lucy Worsley I thought she looked a bit like Zoe Ball. It's hard for your fanclub to compare because there aren't many pictures of you out there in internetworld.

    Anyway, could be worse(ley)... You could look like Martin Freeman.

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  5. This is such a lovely post. I love your writing voice.

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  6. When I was 17 people said I looked like Jason Donovan. Now they say I look like Andrew Rawnsley.

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  7. Fantastic post, as always. Brilliant writing. I've been told that I look like Christina Ricci or Billie Piper. But not recently enough (runs out to buy face cream, trailing sleepless 3 year old behind)

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    1. You're very generous - and, by the sound of it, very glamorous!

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  8. Another lovely post.

    My students (back in the days Before Children) used to call me Ally McBeal. I think it was all to do with skinniness.

    I dread to think who my alter ego would be nowadays. I fear it is my mother's oldest sister. She is 70.

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