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  1. Politics
19 October 2016updated 07 Sep 2021 12:08pm

Telling Tales

An identity crisis has followed me, from the ice cream shop to the home of the blue-footed boobies.

By Maureen Lipman

“Has anyone ever told you, you look just like that Maureen Lipton?” said the nice lady outside the ice cream parlour on the high street in Beaumaris, Anglesey.

I was in no way in hiding as I sat there, relishing a walnut-and-fig scoop and watching the world go by.
I nodded and said cheerfully: “Yeah, all the time. It’s maddening.”

“The spitting image. I said to my husband – didn’t I?” He nodded. She had.

“I know,” I commiserated. “I think that every morning when I look in the mirror. Just like Maureen bloody Lipton.”

“You’re not, though?”

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“I am.”

“You’re not.”

“I am.”

I had a fight on my hands.

How was I to convince her that I was who she thought I wasn’t? Should I give her: “You’ve got an ’ology?” Tell her a story about my mother?

This happens a lot, particularly in places such as B&Q, and once on the Galapagos Islands. That was a grand holiday, filled with rare beasts, but it was somewhat “over-organised”.

We are on a ship with a hundred passengers. Every morning, the panga boats moor up against the side of the ship. In groups of 12, we get into one of them and set out towards an island, then lurch off with wet trousers when we arrive. Our guide hoists a numbered placard and we obediently follow him.

The first group arrives at the iguanas and another heads for, say, the blue-footed boobies. A grey hill appears. It is moving because it is covered with lizards.

We look at them in awe. They look back in disdain. The guide tells us about Charles Darwin and we go in search of another moving mountain.

As group number six leaves, group number seven approaches. In this respect, it’s like being at the Post Office, but without the call of “Window number nine!” on the Tannoy.

We return to the panga and thence to the ship for lunch; a burp, and it’s back to another island for elderly tortoises. Now, I love tortoises – I have often written fondly of my nymphomaniac escapologist specimen, named Zuckerman. It is the regimented nature of the visits that is getting to me – just as it did six decades ago, on school sports day.

So, it is with interest that I watch an elderly gentleman from group number six distance himself from the people he is with, tiptoe like a stage vicar across a hillock, and head, pink-faced, towards me. I suspect that he is coming to tell me who I am.

He doesn’t. Instead, he pants a bit and says: “I don’t want to bother you on your holidays, Ms Lipman, but I just wanted to tell you that, many years ago in Hull, I used to clean your uncle Issy’s bike.”

Ms Lipton may have been happier at times in her life but, honestly, not much. 

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Select and enter your email address Your weekly guide to the best writing on ideas, politics, books and culture every Saturday. The best way to sign up for The Saturday Read is via saturdayread.substack.com The New Statesman's quick and essential guide to the news and politics of the day. The best way to sign up for Morning Call is via morningcall.substack.com Our Thursday ideas newsletter, delving into philosophy, criticism, and intellectual history. The best way to sign up for The Salvo is via thesalvo.substack.com Stay up to date with NS events, subscription offers & updates. Weekly analysis of the shift to a new economy from the New Statesman's Spotlight on Policy team.
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  • Arts and Culture
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  • Environment, Conservation and NRM
  • Facility / Grounds Management and Maintenance
  • Finance Management
  • Health - Medical and Nursing Management
  • HR, Training and Organisational Development
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