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Where were you when I was shot?
The oldest man in Britain celebrated his birthday the other day. He's 112. What a target for optimists like me whose dream is of receiving a message from my contemporary, the Queen, when we both
hit the century mark.
Students of these matters know that the OMIB is generally based in Scotland and is invariably interviewed with a glass of Scotch in one hand and a cigarette in the other.
This tends to preclude the obvious question from the interviewer: "To what do you attribute your longevity?" They don't want a "booze and fags" reply.
I am certainly prepared, armed with regular supplies of Famous Grouse and the odd cigarette donated by one of my daughters, I always emerge from watching the interviews with the belief that I could have another quarter of a century in hand.
Tony Blair, it must be admitted, did not encourage a zest for life among this Golden Oldie when he got his minions to send me a state pension increase to mark my 80th birthday for 25p. Repeat. TWENTY FIVE PENCE. Taxed, of course. No, Tone, I won't forgive you for Iraq for that!
I am sure Gordon Brown would have rung to say he was planning a U-turn - no tax on 25p pension rises for those who served King and country in far off lands or, perhaps, a 32p postage stamp in lieu.
Anyway, as they say in the best cliches, I regard every day as a bonus. Ask anyone of a certain age where they were when Kennedy was shot and you get an instant answer.
Ask the same question about Signy Sahib and you'll just get a blank look. 'Editor shot in office' - what a story. Never even got in the News in Brief column though.
It happened at the time when the Times ran a Neighbourhood Correspondents column. Organisations were invited to submit their grass-roots type reports outlining who won the raffle prize or baked the best cake in Mill Hill.
One of the correspondents was a slim and attractive, very smartly dressed, lady who I met at various functions around the borough. She had a variety of contacts and was a good source of news.
She disappeared off the scene for a while, but returned late one Wednesday afternoon in reception in Church Road asking to see me. I asked for her to be shown to my then office at the head of the stairs on the first floor.
She had a carrier bag and, as she walked in, looked neither slim, attractive nor smartly dressed figure I have described. Some sense came to the startling change in her appearance and demeanour as she unfolded a sad and complicated story about meeting this chap and him moving in with her in Hendon.
I wasn't sure what I was supposed to do apart from listen and make encouraging noises, so I sat quietly with her voice droning away against the traffic noise from Church Road and me praying for an interruption.
Suddenly she seemed to be tailing off and I perked up. She bent down towards her carrier bag and her right hand slowly came up over my office desk revealing that she was holding a gun.
She pointed it straight at me and, in a daze, I watched her finger tighten on the trigger... .. and then there was a loud bang.
I went back in my chair and I remember wondering if I was dead or alive.
"Thanks for listening Dennis", she said - and was gone. I have not seen her again to this day.
I rang home to relay the dramatic front page news. " ---- ----- has just shot me", I gasped.
"Is it important dear?" asked the wife. "I'm watching the potatoes in preparation for dinner".
I was livid. There had been a loud shot and no-one had come to my aid. There could have been a bullet hole in the walI. I could have been lying in a pool of blood.
I stormed into the reporters' room next door. "Didn't you hear a loud shot?" I asked. " ----- ----- just shot me".
They all thought it was a typically obscure Signy joke, so they patronisingly nodded their heads in unison and fell about laughing.
I went home and got some comfort from the Famous Grouse ... that's the Scotch, not the wife.
It was, of course, on reflection, only a cap gun. I swear, though, that it looked like the real McCoy and the sound of the shot sure enough deadened the roar of the traffic outside.
PS: I forgave and stayed with the wife, but the reporters were all moved on! Only chief photographer Peter Beal remains in situe. Where was he when I was shot? In a dark room I guess.