In addition to learning and growing from them, as I have got older, I have started to embrace my mistakes, especially as a writer. I think you have to as you are only going to make more of them. That’s very much how time works; there is no going back now.
There is a lovely bit in Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe where Crusoe decides to attempt to salvage some items from his shipwreck. Robinson declares, ‘I pull’d off my clothes, for the weather was hot to extremity, and took the water…’
Naked as the day he was born, he heads out to sea, swims round the boat, gets on board and within a few moments is in the bread-room, where he miraculously manages to full his ‘pockets with bisket’. Those of a delicate constitution may find it best not to dwell on what pockets – or similar – were at that moment available to him.
Mistakes can change your life though. I once heard about a woman who lived in the Scilly Isles. She loved the place but had only moved there twenty years earlier because she thought she was going on holiday to Sicily. It is the sort of relocation that you might imagine Chico Marx making on the misunderstood advice of a brother:
Groucho: How would you like a job at the mint?
Chico: Mint? I don’t like mint. What other flavours you got?
Obviously I am not saying all errors are good. The explorer John Ainsworth Horrocks should be famous for founding the Australian town of Penwortham but unfortunately he is better known for his inability to ride a camel whilst carrying a gun.
Though I have never had the pleasure and/or misfortune to ride one of the beasts, I think I am right in saying the chaps are tetchy at best (please do feel free to construct your own ‘take the hump’ based joke and whack that in here), so I think John’s first mistake was to go hunting on camel-back.
His second mistake was almost certainly failing to secure the safety catch on the gun. The camel lurched, the gun went off and John managed to shoot himself in the mouth. Remarkably he lived for another month, which gave him enough time to have the poor dromedary executed, before he also perished of gangrene.
My favourite error (and I must add that no animals were harmed in the making of this error) is from a few years ago when the Irish police decided to have a crackdown on a Polish driver with more than fifty outstanding motoring offences.
It was a curious case for the man in question. ‘Prawo Jazdy’ had always produced his documents yet each time he had provided a different address.
It turns out that ‘Prawo Jazdy’ is printed on every Polish driving license because it means ‘driving license’.
And so concludes this month’s column, which is also my last, as other projects and commissions sit on my writing desk ready to be subjected to my own unique brand of waffly prose. I hope you have enjoyed reading them as much as I have enjoyed writing them.
l Tom Taylor’s Sitting Room Comedy Club returns to the Manhattan Club, Harrogate on Wednesday, June 14 with club favourite and star of Michael McIntyre’s Comedy Roadshow, Paul Tonkinson. Support comes in the shape of Jon Richardson tour support, Andrew Bird, the multi award-winning Alasdair Beckett-King and 8 Out of 10 Cats writer Alex Boardman.
Tickets and more information are available from the venue or www.sittingroomcomedy.com.