Maurice Summerfield was an old man, a very old man indeed, who boasted that he ‘could remember his ninetieth birthday as if it had happened only yesterday’. He was also something of a celebrity, having been a popular broadcaster for many years, a lecturer at both Cambridge and Oxford, and, in between those two academic phases of his life, he had spent ten years as a Member of Parliament.
But, despite his undoubted success in a number of spheres, he came from a very modest background, his father a coal miner and his mother a factory worker in the East Midlands; as for his brother, the less said about him the better…
Maurice, however, was rather less impressed than others by what he had achieved, and when, in his early eighties, he found himself stricken by a speech defect so appalling that this arch-communicator was transformed into a gibbering wreck, he became convinced that the underlying cause was low self-esteem; the first hurdle he needed to cross in his quest to rediscover his fluency of speech was to persuade other people that someone so outwardly successful could possibly be suffering from a crisis of confidence. Fortunately he had a formidable ally in his loving wife Elaine…
"I was once old; extremely old. In fact I am one of those presumably rare people who can remember their ninetieth birthday many years after it took place; indeed I remember it as if it had happened yesterday. And why, I hear you asking, should I possess such extraordinary recall? And why should I remember that birthday in particular, when, given my age, I must surely have experienced so many? These are both reasonable questions, and I shall therefore endeavour to give you as honest and as comprehensive an answer as I am able, for I have to admit that I do not fully understand what happened to me myself, or what, indeed, has continued to happen to me in the course of the seventy-something years that have elapsed since my ninetieth birthday. If, that is, one can legitimately use the past tense to describe what most people would consider to be the future – or, from my own point of view, use the future to describe the past, for it appears I am unique in the history of mankind in that I appear to be living life in reverse; in fact I seem at the moment to be permanently locked in fast rewind mode."
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