Ever get an idea in your head that it would be fun to do something and then never get around to it?
Well, stop wasting time.
Get around to it.
Below is a invoice from Blackwell's, the famous Oxford bookseller, for one copy of Richard Anobile's book Why a Duck?
I found it tucked inside my copy when I bought it second hand on Charing Cross Road many years ago. It is dated 24th May 1973, just under a month before I was born, and addressed to Dr D. S. Parsons of Merton College, Oxford.
It seemed so right, somehow, for a doctor at Merton College to have ordered such a book, and so sad that he should have sold it on, with the invoice still carefully preserved inside.
As soon as I saw it, it struck me that it might be amusing to write to Merton College, to ask if by any chance Dr Parsons was still on the staff, and if so to find out how it came about that he lost possession of the book he ordered and paid £2.50 for back in 1973.
Marx Brothers fans, I've generally found, like meeting each other. A certain kinship is automatically assumed when a shared love of the Marxes is discovered: I'm sure it helped me to my own place at London University when I noticed that the man interviewing me had a picture of them on his office wall, and I named the film from which it was taken.
Needless to say, however, my Dr Parsons idea remained just that.
Years passed, and some fool invented the internet, and the idea occurred to me again. Now it would be so much easier.
So just over a year ago I looked up the staff of Merton College and found to my amazement that Dr Parsons was still a fellow of the college.
And again I put it off.
Finally, last week, with this site as impetus, I looked up the college again, but this time his name wasn't there. Perhaps he'd finally retired. So I wrote to ask if they could forward his contact details to me.
A few days ago I received this email from Matt Bowdler, Development Office, Merton College:
I am afraid I have to be the bearer of bad news, Dr Parsons passed away last July. If there is any other information that I might be able to provide for you, do let me know.
So, Dr Parsons, I'll never know why you parted with your copy of Why a Duck? I'll never find out what your favourite movie was. I'll never share with you any reminiscence of that unique species of happiness that only the Marx Brothers can provide. I hope you exited laughing.
Hail and farewell.