It’s dreadful, but quite short

Ok, it’s time to come clean. I have some unfinished business to attend to.

Yep, it’s time to answer a question that has been in the back of my mind for a few months. No, I don’t mean, is it going to rain and wreck my new suede boots? – although that has been on my mind lately too! It’s a question that relates to a Liebster award I accepted some time ago.

Oh I know, you thought I was done with that old thing – but no, I have a loose end to tie up.

Flashback: in March, or thereabouts, I was nominated for a Liebster award by Pinkjumpers. A Liebster is an award that bloggers can nominate one another for. In order to accept the award, a blogger must fulfil some requirements, which include answering a list of questions created by the nominator. Opinions seem to differ on how many questions, but in my case, I had to answer 11.

I was grateful for the nomination, but I had no time in March to write a long post answering 11 questions. First, I was busy organising an overseas trip, and then, I was on an overseas trip. Yeah, I know, you’re finding it hard to feel sympathetic at this point!

While I was travelling, I stumbled across the oldest computer in the world, in a house in Florence, (I suspect both house and computer were built around 1560 A.D.) and attempted – without apostrophes (which had apparently not been invented yet in 1560 A.D) – to fulfil my overdue duty, and write a post answering the questions Pinkjumpers had set for me. My response to her questions can be found here – with one exception. The alert reader will notice that I did not answer one of the 11 questions. That was question 7:

If you had to chance to meet a single character in history, who would you choose and why?

I didn’t answer, because no answer came to mind immediately, and I didn’t want to put off writing the post, since I wouldn’t get a chance again for weeks.  So this question has been in the back of my mind since then. Not constantly, but it pops up when my mind is idling – while I’m cleaning my teeth, or filling the car up with petrol. It shouldn’t be so difficult to answer. What single character in history would I like to meet and why???

Until recently, I kept on coming up with a big blank. Apparently I’m the only person in the world who isn’t hankering to meet some long admired hero.

I’ve learned something about myself in the course of pondering this question. When it comes to real people, at least, there are plenty I admire, but apparently (as it turns out), I’m such an anti-social, unconfident hermit, that my admiration doesn’t necessarily equate to wanting to meet them. Quite the contrary, in many cases. Sometimes it’s better to admire your heroes from afar.

Now, you can call me an over-thinker, but I find that fictional characters are almost as hard. (I’m guessing that Pinkjumpers choice of the word character was deliberate, and that she did intend me to choose a fictional character.) I may like a character, but do I want to meet them???

Finally, I had a realisation. Pinkjumpers didn’t ask who my favourite character is, who I think is the best character, or what character I’d most like to hang out with. The question was who I’d most like to meet. Meeting implies an introduction and a short interaction. Therefore, this person, or character, just needs to be someone who is going to be pretty interesting in a very short space of time. They don’t need to be a likeable character, or someone I’d want to spend much time with – as long as they’d be interesting to meet. When I finally had this realisation, I suddenly felt freed up.

Then, the next step was to try and remember favourite characters from the multitude of  books, plays, tv and film that I’ve encountered so far in my -ahem- long life. I’ve never kept lists of such things. So for fear of taking another 3 years to answer this question, here are just a few characters that I think would stand the test of a short, interesting meeting.

There’s Oskar Schell, the 9 -year-old boy in one of my most recently discovered favourite novels, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, by Jonathan Safran Foer. The quirkiness of this boy’s imaginative musings, often about tragic topics, made him a character I could imagine enjoying a brief conversation with. I’ve always had a soft spot for the thoughtful loner who spends his time musing about life and the universe.

I’ve written more about Oskar here.


There’s Rupert Cadell, the university professor played by James Stewart in the Hitchcock film, Rope. I’ll admit that I thought of this character primarily because I’ve loved James Stewart in every role I’ve seen him play (there are plenty I have yet to see) and this one is my favourite. He often played a man of integrity, at risk of being beaten by people with no scruples and more physical strength – and he did it well. Rupert Cadell was a somewhat different role – but the character still had Stewart’s signature mixture of the wry humour, sharpness, honesty, and integrity that made him so likeable. Rupert would be an intelligent, although disconcertingly straightforward, witty, pleasant party guest – unless the host has done something despicable that they are trying to hide!

James Stewart in Rope

But perhaps my final choice for a character I’d like to meet would be Bernard Black, the drunken Irish slob who runs a bookstore in the British TV series Black Books – a halarious series created by Irish comedian Dylan Moran, who plays Black. As it says on the Black Books WikiBernard is a drunken, unhygienic and possibly depressed pessimist who believes that the best way to enjoy life is through drinking, smoking and reading. 

Would I like to spend much time with Bernard? No way!  He hates other people! He is usually obnoxious. Is he my favourite character of all time? Hmmm…..can I get back to you in a year? But his conversation usually veers from witty sarcasm to irrationally absurd ravings – what’s not to enjoy? I suspect there is a good chance that Bernard could be pretty funny during a brief encounter, if I caught him at the right moment, or particularly if I had a bottle of red wine with me.

Here are a few quotes from Bernard, who, as a reminder, owns and runs a bookstore (where he sits drinking red wine and smoking while customers shop).


Bernard: (to a customer attempting to barter down the price of a book) That’s more like it. Now you’re being reasonable. [takes the book back and opens it] Two fifty gets you…[rips a few pages out of the book] this much. You can come back and collect the rest when you have the other 50p.

Customer: But you–

Bernard[Hits bell] Thank you!


Bernard: [attempting to fill in his tax return form] “What is your mother’s maiden name???”  – What’s her first name? I just knew her as “Ma”!  – That’ll have to do!

[writing on the form]

Bernard: ‘Ma. Possibly deceased’.


Bernard: (Selling a book:) Enjoy. It’s dreadful, but quite short.


Bernard Black in his shop, Black Books

What do they want from me? Why can’t they leave me alone? (Manny: they want to buy books)

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