The elephant didn’t get me, but I’m worried

The Independent, 23/2/1993

Now Peter Rosengard is not paranoid, but he’s left handed, he’s the same age as Bill Clinton,and he keeps having these narrow escapes.

My weekend cottage is in deepest Sussex, just up the road from the sleepy village of Wadhurst, where this month a couple were shot to death in their home. (“It looks like the work of a professional hitman,” the local police chief commented). The other night I was just turning into my drive when I heard Alistair Cooke on the radio saying: “Sleeping causes heart attacks, according to a new American survey. So rest but don’t sleep, Good night”. I woke up at 2.17am, 3.23am, 4.47am and 6.18am.

I went downstairs and picked up the Independent by the door with my left hand as usual. The headline said: ‘Left-handers die earlier than right handers’. I think they’re out to get me.

I have just returned from India after a six-week trip to the sub-continent, and I read in the newspaper that a man in Nepal has been electrocuted while answering his phone. I must have made dozens of phone calls calls over the place. I could have been killed! The telecommunications manager was quoted as saying: “We know a lot of people have been getting electric shocks from their phones for a long time, but this is the first death that has been reported to us”. That’s OK then.

While we were there we were charged by an elephant. I didn’t see it coming because I was in the back of the Suzuki jeep bent over my tiny Sony nine-band radio trying to find the BBC World Service news. The lodge director, Col John Wakefield, ex-Indian army, ex-white hunter, told it to stop where it was, and it did. Another close escape, I thought. Just my luck to be killed by an elephant while listening to the six o’clock news on the BBC in the middle of an Indian jungle. I was only listening to it because we’d been driving round the jungle for two hours and the only wild animal I’d seen was a kingfisher.

We ended the trip in Goa. The first day there I walked along the beach for a cold drink at the 21 Coconuts beach bar. I was just in time to see Dietmar, the bar owner, being cremated next to the bar. Now, over the years I’ve spent lots of time thinking about whether I’d rather be buried or cremated, but I’ve never been able to make up my mind until now. I definitely want to be cremated, Hindu-style on the beach in Goa.

Palm trees, the sound of the surf hitting the sand, rose petals, sitar music, blonde mourners in bikinis, a bag of logs, a couple of cans of ghee oil, a box of matches and you’re away. That’s the death for me. Who needs Golders Green Crematorium?

Dietmar was a 49-year-old German who’d come out to Goa in the Seventies with the hippies and never gone back. He loved two things, the beach and bikes. Unfortunately, he’d fallen off the latter (an Enfield Bullet 500) which is why he was being cremated on the former.

Back in Sussex, I was just finishing my cornflakes when I noticed a news piece about a 46-year-old chief executive who was on an adventure training/male bonding course in the Brecon Beacons and dropped dead of a heart attack.

Bill Clinton is also 46 and last week I read that he took his cabinet to Camp David for male bonding purposes, and that’s in the mountains as well, isn’t it?

I was 46 in December.

I’m not sure what this all means, but I don’t mind telling you, it’s got me worried.

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