At least, I thought I didn’t. Then something happened that made me listen to myself – I mean, really listen – and I discovered that in fact I talk to myself all the time.
My housemate Dean and I are up early in the morning – me because puppy dearest (dubbed ‘Monster Baby’ because that is what she is) is bright-eyed and bushy-tailed at 4.30am after a night shut up in the bathroom, and Dean because he’s a winemaker and at this point in the year – harvest time – winemakers start the day at dawn’s crack.
Usually I’m up first, though, so I’ll go out onto the back verandah, feed the zoo, and then doze on the outside divan until the sun comes up, from which satisfactorily horizontal viewpoint I can keep an eye on Monster Baby’s neverending attempts to find a hole in the fence and flee the property (heaving myself up now and again to go and reclaim her, wriggling with wicked delight at her cleverness as an escape artist, from the Big Wide World).
One morning I was just beginning this routine when I was disturbed by a sound. It was Dean, sitting at the table on the back verandah, having his early-morning cigarette. ‘Goodness me, you startled me,’ I said. ‘I didn’t realise you were there.’
‘Really?’ he said, in a smirky kind of way. ‘Then who were you talking to?’
‘Me?’ I said. ‘I wasn’t talking.’
He smiled and examined his cigarette in a contemplative fashion, and left me to do that instant-replay of what’s just come out of your mouth that you most often do when something you’ve said has caused someone’s eyebrows to do the fandango and you realise that once again you’ve operated vocal chords before engaging brain.
And in my mind’s ear I heard the most embarrassing stream of drivel. ‘Let’s fill that little tummy, shall we? Now, where have you put your bowl, you little monster? Here it is. How did it get under the divan? Oh, hello Mrs Jones, how are all your little chicks today? Wait there, I’ll get to you in a moment. I know you’re hungry, just be patient. Sara, where are you off to? No, you can’t go next door, haven’t we talked about this? Balu, stop chasing the chicks, you know they don’t like it. Ooh, and here come the kittycats. Where have you been, moggies? Caught any mice? Are we all going to be good little children today…’ and on and on and on until I could have wept with mortification.
Having done this discomfiting exercise, I then found I couldn’t stop listening to myself. And do you know, I really do talk to myself all the time. When I’m typing at the computer (which is for much of the day), I speak what I write, duly emphasising the words that I’m putting in italics (and I type about as quickly as most people speak, so it’s an unbroken monologue) – ‘… and I specifically pointed out when I signed the contract…’ and ‘… would be lovely to see you when you’re here…’ and ‘… please read this over carefully and let me know if there’s anything that needs clarifying…’ etc etc etc.
It gets worse. I realised, on doing a grocery shop on Friday, that I do this in the supermarket. ‘Tinned tomatoes… tinned tomatoes… three or four …? Oh, let’s take four, we’ll definitely use them. Right. Baked beans. Who wants baked beans? Yuk. Alright then, in you go. Loo rolls. Another couple of dozen. How can one household use so much toilet paper? Milo. I thought we had Milo. Must be finished. Right. Milo. Check. What’s this? Sharpener? Soy sauce? God, Isabella’s handwriting is worse than mine. Slee… oh, scissors! Scissors again?! What does she do with them, eat them?’ and so on. (And I used to think that people stared at me in the supermarket because I dress funny.)
Sometimes – although, mercifully, this isn’t a constant – I talk to the TV. I’ve found myself berating the writers of stupid movies (‘That’s a plot hole so big you could drive a bus through it!’), commenting on the sartorial sense of continuity announcers (‘Goodness me, woman, did you look in a mirror before you left the house this morning?!’) and chatting to people in sitcoms (‘Nice do! Who’s your hairdresser?’).
So now I know that I’m going to end up doolally like my Nana, who, at the age of 88, complained that there were people in her house who talked to her all the time but never listened to a word she said – and, when my father investigated, he discovered that she was trying to have conversations with her television.
Sunday, 8 March 2009