benedicto, benedicatur.

As a lexivorous child living with her paternal grandparents, all my reading matter was either adult works (I carried the dictionary around with me and read it as other children – good children – might read a bible[1]); or the books my father had read when he was a boy.

My first ever crush – before my brief but intense year-long affair with Roger Moore, when I was seven – was “Benedick” Carter from the Jennings books.

Mister Carter was cool as. He was on top of his shit. You could go to him. He was a kind man, very centred. He listened. You could say difficult things to him. He reacted to crises promptly, but in a positive and measured way. My life was full of crises. Nobody I knew reacted to them in a way that could be described as “positive and measured.”

Plus, in my imagination, he wore one of those long teachery robey things (what do they call those things? Since its sartorial counterpart is a “mortar board”, I’m going with “pestle frock”); and I’ve always had a penchant for a man in anything long and flowing. Seriously, it started young[2]. Also, he was an authority figure. I dig those. Well, that’s not strictly accurate. As an adult, what I dig is bending authority figures like young saplings. But I hadn’t worked that out, then. Back then, like all children, I just found them potentially reassuring.

I suspect the reason for my magnetic attraction to Carter, apart from the excellent qualities outlined above, was that his antithesis – the character without which Carter would have no context in which to shine – was Lancelot Phineas Wilkins. Mister Wilkins.

Wilkins was short-tempered, explosive, dramatic, emotional, given to wild gesticulation, and inclined to go off in the wrong direction like a thrown firework. He was fast! Dynamic! Often wrong. He was not sympathetic. He blustered and puffed. He meant well, his heart was good but …

Wilkins was me.

I know this, because his watchword – often referred to in the books as such – was “action, prompt and immediate!” It might as well be engraved in my DNA.

I think I returned to my Mr Carter crush after the disgraceful interlude spent making little cardboard frames with coloured-in hearts and filling them with pictures of Roger Moore, cut from old Radio Times-es and various newspapers (I wasn’t daft enough to cut them out of the current issue of the Radio Times, which would have caused a domestic explosion from my grandfather – anyone want to guess where I get my temper from?).

I am still drawn to people who exude a positive inner stillness to this day. That’s not to say calm people. Calm people unnerve me. What are they so calm about? Have they just not noticed reality? No, I mean people who you know are a big dynamo of wow and competence just waiting to swing into action. You can hear it, all that capability and knowledge, ticking inside the casing. But these people somehow have it all neatly contained and their competent wowness – when it comes out – will come out in an appropriate direction and achieve desirable ends. They’ll probably say “RIGHT” with a steely glint in their eye. Set their jaw. And then just magically make everything work. They will probably achieve this without waving their arms or grabbing a hammer. They are unlikely to shout “FUUUUUUCK!”

It’s like a superpower, to me.

[1] Imagine my abject horror when this stupid condition erased my ability to spell. It’s gone. I can’t spell. I have to look words up that I’ve used all my life. It’s as if a segment of my brain has simply been erased, and I wouldn’t mind, but it’s not the bit that dealt with council tax – oh no – it’s my favourite bit, the bit I used most, the bit that was most “me”. Oh, the irony.
[1] Slightly later in my crush career, my first crush on an actual living human being was on a Catholic Priest called Fr. Brian. He used to swan about in a long black dress. Dayum, that man had the neatest cuffs I have ever seen on a man. It was as if he measured them, precisely, so thsy stuck out from the sleeves of his frock one (1) precise quarter inch. With hindsight, I suspect they might have been stitched in, because believe me, I watched those cuffs with the wrapt dedication only cats and very young children in the grip of a powerful crush can bring to an issue, and they never budged.

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