DNA TV Mnemonics
The bit at the Beginning
As a child I carefully watched 176,893,223 hours of British television. This was my education. I diligently stuffed my mind full with files on everything from Ludwig Wittgenstein's Cambridge years to that bit on Blue Peter where John Noakes slips on something that had recently fallen out of an Elephant. The resulting library, sadly, was largely destroyed in the great fire of adolescence, and only fragments remain. Little bits of 'Cosmos' with Carl Sagan are still there. Professor Yaffle, the old wooden woodpecker who went 'Fnya fnya fnya..' remains for some reason. So does Cliff Richard wandering around in the fog with a torch in the 'Green Light' video - though I wish that one had been destroyed too.
The Bit I Wish Won't be Destroyed Too.
I remember once, settling down with my notebook, crisps and vodka for further televisual research and, on this occasion, being actually surprised by what I saw. What I saw was a man wandering around outside in his dressing gown. 'This has got to be interesting ' I thought ' It looks like anything could happen'. Anything is what happened just then. Yet, even so, when they went into space and the earth was destroyed it felt to me as if the programme makers were reading my mind. Though of course, only one of them was. Douglas Adams had the trick of all good writers, which is not just to write for the minds of others, but to read them too. So I responded in kind. I read his mind - well, his books anyway.
The Bits from the Books That I Can't Remember
The bits I can't remember from the books unfortunately make up huge great swathes of blank. The one bit I do remember is the story of the digestive biscuit from 'So Long and Thanks for all the Fish'. I remember reading it and laughing a lot and thinking that it was the best thing I had ever read. That was why I memorised it. It was like watching a magician pull a whole planet from a top hat. It was as if a Volkswagen Beetle had just tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a lollipop. You get a billion moments of crushing mundanity, all made worth it by a few moments of genuine delight and this was one of them.
The Funny Bits That Get Stuck In Between
A radio interview, I think. Douglas Adams talked about how he wrote. He talked about a passage from one of the Dirk Gentley books. In the passage, he describes a bathroom in great and lengthy detail. Only at the very end does he mention that there is a horse in there. Adams was laughing as he related how he wrote it, drawing out the dullest description he could, imagining the reader getting increasingly frustrated, and then finally, as if an afterthought, mentioning the horse. Here was someone telling the world how to be funny, and taking a patent delight in the process. You don't get to hear that too often on CNN. You would think with all their cables and satellites that they might find something interesting, but they seem to be obsessed with smart bombs and tactical nuclear missiles. I haven't met a smart bomb yet, and the nuclear missiles I know seem to be pretty tactless, so I think they must have got something wrong.
The Bit on the Internet
Like many others, I first washed up on h2g2 the week that Douglas Adams passed on. I had heard of the site before, but I hadn't taken a look. That week, however, I realised that wonderful things are not around for ever, and so I went on-line and jumped in. I haven't jumped back out since 1and I cannot think of a better legacy for anyone.
The Bit at the End.
I could write here that Douglas Adams' books changed my life - but that would be too simple. Books don't change your life that drastically - unless a crate of them drops on you. The changes are more subtle. A sentence here makes you think - a paragraph there makes you see something you didn't before. Trying to record the changes is like trying to record a penguin sleeping, difficult, expensive and the results don't prove much. But penguins do sleep. I have seen them sleeping on TV. David Attenborough stuck his tongue out at one and it didn't even move a little bit. 2 The web site, on the other hand, has changed my life. I spend much more of it typing than I did. And laughing, which makes up for the typing.