Someone Like Me, by Miles Kington (review)

Miles Kington         Someone Like Me        headline    £16.99

          Presenting Miles Kington. The man with the irony mask. He subtitles this screamingly, howlingly, lie-down-on-the-carpet-and-chew-it-helplessly funny memoir Tales From A Borrowed Childhood. In one of his columns last year, he offered us this: “The autobiographer tells his own story - and lies about it”. In another, he observed that writers moaning about finding material to fill their columns were missing the point – the real trick was to be able to write about nothing at all, and to keep that going for the whole piece.

          He is as good as his word.

          Someone Like Me is a series of silver-tongued childhood anecdotes about the author, his elder brother Ralph, and their mother and father. It is probable that Kington had parents, and equally possible that he had an elder brother with actorly instincts. These things can’t be taken for granted, of course. But whether he really was one of a family of four is beside the point. Perhaps his father really was a sort of cross between Myles na Gopaleen and Heath Robinson. Perhaps this father really did pit his atheism against his wife’s Catholicism. Perhaps they really did spend many happy hours arguing the toss about life’s illogicalities.

          Such as adults offering a penny for your thoughts, but refusing to pay. Or people complaining about the appropriation of gay, but not, in an earlier age, about the appropriation of queer. Or astronomers naming constellations indiscriminately after objects, like ploughs, which they don’t resemble.

          It is equally possible that the Kingtons concocted an imaginary maid, that his father was obliged to sue himself for causing an accident between two cars he was technically driving at the same time, and that the whole family once held a memorial service for an aunt, who caught them at it. Or that the brothers met a vision of the Virgin Mary...

          “You may not believe that I thought these things, but I did,” says Kington, applying deadpan smoothly to yet another remembered rigmarole. Tellingly, he claims that his brother once received a letter from Bassetts (after a family debate on how many Allsorts were in existence), suggesting that the liquorice sweet with the ‘little coloured bits’ was supposed to be the result of a brush (so to speak) between a late Victorian Bassett and Pissarro. Kington observes that it isn’t the kind of story a PR department would invent. He suspects therefore that it might contain ‘a bit of truth’.

          Once you have stopped laughing out loud at Someone Like Me, at its infinite drolleries, you will probably believe that there is more than a bit of truth in them.

          That’s the thing about Miles Kington. You couldn’t make him up.


From The Independent