If I was asked to chronicle the principal achievements of mankind, ranked from 1 to 10 as they affect my own life, then number one would be list-making. Without a list to compile, my entire existence is a hollow sham. I have physical lists and I have mental lists, the former hitting the shredder more often than the gas bill and the latter evolving and mutating, like the flu’ bug.
Favourite Song is a list that swirls and contorts itself inside my head, metamorphosing with every other record I hear on the radio. With a, ‘Oh yes, that is the best song ever’ the list rearranges and reorders. Some songs never leave, but rise and fall like the Sale posters at a furniture store. To accommodate the many hundreds of songs that now constitute my top ten, I have had to devise sub-divisions – some of them so niche that they have disappeared up their own crannies before being fully formulated.
I am the same with films. I don’t really do proper grown-up films. Concentration is an issue. My mind skits around like a drunken baby on ice: Animation (‘Up’ or ‘Toy Story’?) Rom-com (‘Love Actually’ or ‘Notting Hill’?) ‘British’ Comedy (‘Full Monty’ or ‘Brassed Off’?) Sci-Fi (‘E.T.’ or ‘Close Encounters…’?) Adventure (‘Star Wars’ or ‘Indiana Jones’?) and Supernatural (‘Omen’ or ‘Exorcist’?). I am not a huge fan of ‘gore’, so my favourite horror films tend to be those in which, for the most part, insides remain there – preferably, they feature Abbot and Costello. There is, of course, a separate category for Monty Python. In a rare nod towards the kind of films that are watched by normal, rational adults, I would like to find a category for ‘Shadowlands’ which presented itself to me as a kind of film-acting masterclass, but it is impossible to have a list of one, so it will just have to accept the ‘lifetime achievement’ award instead (And yes, I have realised that these films are all very old.)
I am even worse with TV, with each genre having a thousand subtle sub-divisions, allowing my current favourite to be my all-time favourite without displacing my previous all-time favourite, which falls into a slightly different sub-category because the titular detective does not have personal issues and there is no internal conflict within the team. I cannot begin to bore you with the sub-divisions involved in my comedy lists – except to say that no comedy this year (or possibly forever) has affected me as much as ‘Mum’.
My friend Lizzie at school had a constantly evolving ‘P.I.H’ list which intrigued me. I kept asking her what it was, but she would never tell me, other than I wasn’t on it, ‘however, if I kept on pestering her about it…’
I would love to be a classical music lover, simply so that I could have a Liszt List – or even a lover of French beds, so that I could have a Lits List…
I do not have a ‘bucket list’ because, quite frankly, devising a list of things that I wish to do before I die forces me to face up to the inevitability of death and I’d sooner ignore that for as long as I possibly can really. Anyway, who needs more than one bucket?
Which (eventually – I’m sorry) brings me round to the kind of list that first set me off along this mental mystery tour: the ‘To-Do List’. I have just realised that whenever I go anywhere, I always start a ‘To-Do List’, and that list always begins ‘pants and socks’ – like I’m going to go anywhere without them.
Whatever flashes into my mind has to be written down immediately – the alternative being several hours wasted further down the line attempting all manner of mental yoga designed to help me remember what it was I meant to write down and why I didn’t do it. It is why I still have a calendar hanging over my desk. I could enter my ‘To-Do’ items onto my phone, but, by the time I had worked out how to do it, I would have forgotten what it was I wanted to do. By the time I managed to retrieve them, the day would have passed. Paper and pen are much safer for me.
Ah yes, ‘writing’, there’s an item for my ‘principal achievements’ list… and I suppose, if I think it through, it has to come before ‘making lists’ itself. But which came first, I wonder, the paper or the ink?
The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists – H. Allen Smith
I’m very much into making lists and breaking things apart into categories – David Byrne
We like lists because we don’t want to die – Umberto Eco