Someone once told me I was suggestible. And I believed them. A couple of Christmases ago a friend was commissioned to write a New Years resolution piece for a national paper. She was to write about her attempt to give up smoking. Come 1 January she would be giving up with Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking. I had never heard of him or his method. On the way home from the pub I popped into a book shop and found the self-help section with its row upon row of Allen Carr’s (not to be confused with Alan Carr’s Look Who It is: My Story which I’m currently reading). The man had his own multi million pound industry. What on earth was his secret? Feel free to read the book and carry on smoking said the blurb on the back cover. By the time you finish, he promised, you won’t want another cigarette. Out of curiosity, and to see what all the fuss was about, I bought the Easy Way to Control Drinking. I began reading. And stopped drinking. Without intending to or even realising. And it was actually a problem because most of my social life revolved around the pub. There are only so many soft drinks before the time spent going to the loo becomes greater than the time spent with friends. And don’t even talk to me about the headaches. It was like a hangover without having the good night out.
This is testament not to Allen Carr and his method but to my own suggestibility. After six weeks I went back to normal.
Only it’s happened again. With alcohol again.
I’m in the midst of writing a couple of booklets which will support people in making changes to their drinking. These are based on evidence (I never did figure out the secret of Allen Carr’s revolutionary method) and I’m immersed in statistics. Such as one Scot dying every six hours as a direct result of alcohol misuse. So by day I write. But I live in Edinburgh and it’s compulsory for residents to either leave the city during August or go to the Festival. And I find myself sitting in a venue nursing an overpriced can of lemonade. A glass of wine would be cheaper. And make the stand up comedy more bearable. Yet, my mind goes back to the statistics.
One of the perks of this job is immersing yourself in a subject. Albeit briefly. For a few days, weeks or even months you become an expert on, say UFOs.
Did you know the best chance of spotting a UFO is after watching a sci-fi film? Over 750 people reported UFO sightings in 1978. The same year that Close Encounters of the Third Kind was the big film release. The sightings are amongst the latest Ministry of Defence files released by the National Archives which may suggest we are not alone. Or that I’m not alone in my suggestibility.
And then you move on and the specialist knowledge is pushed out as your brain fills up with the next topic. I’m reminded of this because it’s that time of year when the school exam results come out. My exam technique was to read the question, re-read the question and spend the next hour writing down everything I knew about Adolf Hitler. I figured the examiner would select the bits of my answer that were most relevant to the question.
Sadly life doesn’t work that way. Which is why God invented the Editor. And why I failed Technical Drawing…