Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Erasing old contacts

There is a good joke in one of the early episodes of Friends when Phoebe finds her grandmother sitting at the kitchen table with a newspaper and a thick book in front of her, in which she is drawing lines along a ruler. When asked what she is doing, grandmother replies: "Checking the obituary pages and updating the phone book."

That came to mind yesterday when I deleted Alec Bedser's home number from my address book. The former England fast bowler died a couple of months ago, so I guess I don't have any need for it any more. Sad that he has gone - Bedser had been a regular sight on the cricket dinner circuit and remained a good raconteur even in old age - but at the age of 91 he had had a good innings.

And then I flicked to the news and saw that Stuart Cable, the Stereophonics drummer, had been found dead at the age of 40 and another contact was scrubbed out. Journalists pick up contacts like cats attract fleas and having worked on most sections of the paper in my nine years at the Times, I have picked up an eclectic array of phone numbers and emails.

There are some odd groupings in my contacts book. Jane Asher, cake-maker and former squeeze of Paul McCartney, sits between the Arsenal press office and the official Ashes poet. Keith Chegwin, the 1980s children's TV presenter, is followed by a number for the Chennai Super Kings Indian cricket team.

I had spoken to Cable a few years ago for a rugby supplement I was editing. If you want to find a celebrity to talk about rugby, you can't go far wrong with trying anyone Welsh and Cable was happy to chat for half an hour about his love of the sport and his favourite players. He was charming, funny and very un-rock and roll.

I can't say that I knew Cable from a half-hour conversation any more than I knew Bedser, but he was kind enough to give me his mobile phone number and email and that formed a small connection that is now broken. Updating your contacts book can be quite cathartic, a good way of looking back on your career and remembering conversations long forgotten.

I've just gone through the book and found four more names that can be crossed out: Ben Pimlott, the historian, Bernard Levin, the satirist, George Melly, the jazz singer, and Ian Richardson, the actor. Other names had to be Googled before verifying that they can stay in the book a bit longer, such as Dannie Abse, Dennis Healey, Seamus Heaney and Lord St John of Fawsley.

Of them, it was the erasing of Melly that brought the biggest smile of recollection. When I last spoke to him he told me that he enjoyed watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer because he was a lecherous old man who liked perving over Sarah Michell Geller. You can get away with saying that if you are old.

So the Vole's contacts book is now a little slimmer than it was before, but it has been an interesting trot down memory lane. The only contact I can't bring myself to delete yet is that of my grandfather, who died more than four years ago. It seems that if I was to remove his phone number from the database, he would cease to exist. Does that seem rather pathetic?


Anonymous said...

Excellent post, really got the thoughts flowing. And no, it's not - to answer your final question. I will miss your times cricket blog, but very much enjoy this one :)

Paddy said...

Thanks Anonymous (whoever you are). Will try to post more often (and better). Sorry you will be deserting the Times cricket blog when the paywall goes up but I'll try to keep entertaining here

Rich Abbott said...

Not pathetic - entirely understandable. Is that the grandfather who, I think I'm right in recalling, first got you into cricket? If so, then we all have something to thank him for.

Paddy said...

Thanks Rich, yes that's the grandfather. And sorry not to have blogged much recently. Busy time...