What do writing people do when they are not writing the magnum opus? Get together with other writing people and play daft writing games; which is why I ended up with three slips of paper. The first slip said “Ringo Starr”, the second “discovering a great secret” and the third “the surface of Mars”. It's a bit like the Radio 4 programme Just a Minute where people have to speak for one minute about any subject given to them, but in this game you have to write (for a bit longer than a minute) incorporating the three disparate things written on the slips of paper. It's amazing just how much bollocks one can write in a situation like this. Perhaps it is not altogether surprising that I had Ringo, at the insistence of his wife, seeing a new-age Beverley Hills therapist with beads and feathers round his neck who calls himself Star Bird, (but his real name is Eric) and feels an immediate connection to Ringo because of the name.
My name isn't really Starr, says Ringo, it used to be Starkey.
Still has a star in it, says Eric, and it's one powerful birth name to be blessed with – having the key as well as the star. You can unlock secrets, my friend.
I guess, says Ringo, but he never felt that connection. Stark raving mad was what they used to joke about, him and his mates in the playground after school, or stark bollocks naked. Hey Starkers, they used to call – you comin' ou' toni' or wha'? Good times, they were, hanging out with the lads, ribbing each other and throwing wolf-whistles at the girls on a Saturday night (he liked the blonde ones).
Richard, says Eric – mind if I call you that?
Sure, says Ringo, whatever (christ, was that the time, they still had forty five minutes to go and already he was feeling bored, wishing he were by the pool downing a couple of Buds).
Richard – Star Key – how do you feel about having a re-naming ritual?
Ringo doesn't know about that, and his wife usually tells him how he feels about things.
We could do it right here and now, says Eric – reconnect you to your name of power, words are magic, Richard, I think we both know that. I'm a great admirer of your work, by the way.
I'd just like you to shut your eyes and imagine you are stepping out of the body – will you do that, Richard?
Sure. He could get forty winks, perhaps, make the time pass more quickly.
You are going up into the sky, flying at the speed of light, away from earth itself. You find yourself in outer space – what do you see?
No forty winks then, he had to answer questions. Planets, says Ringo.
Planets is good, says Eric. And I wonder which planet you are going to choose. Look carefully, Richard. Venus is beautiful with all its greens and blues, perhaps it beckons you. Mercury, now there's a gem, Saturn is majestic and brings untold wisdom – and then there is Mars, the warrior's planet -
Chocolate, thinks Ringo, with soft fondant and caramel encased in its dark embrace.
Mars, he says. A Mars a day helps you work, rest and play.
You will just have to believe, as I do, that he does in fact discover a great secret.
Ok – I have been having problems: the Signs hard disc self-destructed and seeing as we hadn't backed anything up since November there has been a bit of bother, some things being quite lost, though others (mercifully) alive in hard copy. We are re-configured now and backed up to the hilt. Never trust a computer, says a friend of mine – they always let you down eventually. The notebook never does, though.
So back to it I go.