Someone Like Me, by Miles Kington

The relatively strange world of somebody resembling the author
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The Independent Culture

Presenting Miles Kington: the man with the irony mask. He subtitles this screamingly, howlingly funny memoir Tales from a Borrowed Childhood. In one of his columns last year, he offered us this: "The autobiographer tells his own story - and lies about it." In another, he observed that writers who moan about finding material to fill columns were missing the point: the real trick was to be able to write about nothing at all, and to keep that going for the whole piece. He is as good as his word.

Someone Like Me is a series of silver-tongued childhood anecdotes about the author, his elder brother, Ralph, and their mother and father. It is probable that Kington had parents, and equally possible that he had an elder brother with actorly instincts. But whether he really was one of a family of four is beside the point. Perhaps his father really did pit his atheism against his wife's Catholicism. Perhaps they really did spend many happy hours arguing about life's illogicalities. Such as adults offering a penny for your thoughts, but refusing to pay. Or people complaining about the appropriation of "gay" but not, in an earlier age, of "queer". Or astronomers naming constellations after objects, such as ploughs, that they don't resemble.

It is equally possible that they concocted an imaginary maid, that Miles's father was obliged to sue himself for causing an accident between two cars that he was technically driving at the same time, and that the whole Kington family once held a memorial service for an aunt - who caught them at it. And that the brothers met a vision of the Virgin Mary...

"You may not believe that I thought these things, but I did," Kington says, smoothly applying his deadpan to yet another remembered rigmarole. Tellingly, he claims that his brother once received a letter from Bassetts (after a family debate on how many Allsorts were in existence), suggesting that the liquorice sweet with the "little coloured bits" was supposed to be the result of a brush between a late-Victorian Bassett and Pissarro. Kington observes that it isn't the kind of story a PR department would invent. He suspects, therefore, that it may contain "a bit of truth".

Once you have stopped laughing at the infinite drolleries of Someone Like Me, you will probably believe that there is more than a bit of truth in them. That's the thing about Miles Kington. You couldn't make him up.

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