Alexe Sayle

Mr Potato Head was at the cutting edge of toy technology in the Fifties, and was in fact used by the police force in lieu of the invention of Identikits
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Indy Lifestyle Online
I have a routine for writing my column every week for this newspaper. I have an office in my flat and I settle down there in my tracksuit and go over what I've written down over the course of the week in the little notebook I carry everywhere with me to jot down any inspirations, jokes, etc that occur to me. In the course of the morning, some of these ideas transform themselves from mad little jottings ("wasp honey??"; "I think I could beat Mike Tyson as long as I don't have to do it"; "Bjork - she's dead normal in Iceland") into the intellectually balanced column you see before you.

But when it came to writing this week's column I had a terrible job getting started this morning. I kept forgetting things. I walked into my office without my notepad. Then had to go back to the kitchen for the breakfast tray I'd left there. At one point I had a moment's panic as I thought I'd forgotten where my desk was.

Apart from straightforward forgetfulness, it is increasingly difficult to keep your mind on the task in hand. I've just come to with a start to realise that I haven't been working on my column at all - I've been mentally walking down Valley Road, Liverpool 4, aged seven, on my way back from school. I was in an excited state because I'd got a new toy at home and I couldn't wait to get back in to play with it.

Younger readers used to Sega megadrives and mountain bikes and Scalextric won't credit what used to get passed off as a toy in the late Fifties: my fab new toy was basically a potato. It was called Mr Potato Head and consisted of some plastic ears, noses, mouths that you stuck on a potato to make different faces with. It was at the cutting edge of technology back then, and was in fact issued to the police force in lieu of the invention of Identikits. This led to the repeated arrest of Jimmy Somerville, mostly for crimes he hadn't committed.

Now that I think of it, most toys back in the Fifties were potato-based: I had a Spud gun, for example, that fired pellets of Idaho potatoes about six inches; and one toy I wanted but never got was the table football game Spuduteo, in which chips painted in team colours could be manipulated to kick small King Edwards about on a miniature football pitch.

In the course of this extended reverie my coffee had gone stone cold, so I went to the kitchen to pop it in the microwave to heat it up (yes, yes, I know it's bad for you to do this), but, depressingly, there was already a cup in there that I'd put in yesterday and forgotten all about.

My wife's memory seems to be getting worse, too. She came home recently with some pills from the health food shop that are supposed to enhance your memory. We'll never know if they work or not because she keeps forgetting to take them.

That's one of the sad things about getting older, isn't it, you find yourself hanging out in these terrible places like health food shops looking for that magical missing ingredient that would miraculously turn back the clock 20 years. One of the big differences between the young and the old is that young people take drugs to get out of their minds while older people take them to try to get back into it.

I always pride myself on my scrupulous professionalism - I'm always on time, always know my lines, etc - so it came as a big shock to me a little while ago when late at night I set off from London to drive up to Liverpool - I was listening to one of the London talk radio stations and the announcer said, "And later in this programme my guest will be Alexei Sayle." How could I have forgotten! I did a hand-brake U-turn and set off back to the centre of London in a hurry, my return journey being punctuated by the announcer's increasingly anxious tones. "Well, any moment now Alexei Sayle will be in the studio ..." "We'll just run this item while we're waiting for my guest Alexei Sayle to appear ..." Reader, I worried that man. But I did just make it.

Such an event really undermines your confidence in your memory. It makes you realise that forgetting anniversaries and birthdays, even your own, is the least of your worries. You realise you're beyond forgetting when you were born, you've forgotten why you were born.

Actually, all this has distracted me - I've forgotten what I was going to write about this week.

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