Touch Me In The Morning

My friend Peter called this week and said he had a very important question to ask me.

Now Pete, (I’ve changed the name to protect his reputation and, more importantly, my face) is not the sharpest tool in the box. In fact next to the screwdrivers, saw blades and pointy things in any self respecting tool box he has the sharpness of a duvet filled with jelly, so I wasn’t expecting him to ask my opinions on the revolution in Libya or quantitative easing.

Peter works for the government in the Public Health service as a boss looking after some sanitation department or other and he is a lovely bloke, but I do sometimes think that when brains were handed out he misheard and asked for Drains. Recently he dropped his mobile phone in the holy water font at church. When he claimed on his insurance form he put “act of God” as the reason for the accident.

Actually, Pete’s excuse doesn’t seem quite so silly when compared to the list of daft reasons released this week by the Child Protection Service who chase maintenance payments from missing parents. They are anxious to show us the kind of numpties they have to deal with as some sort of mitigation for the criticism they receive about their lack of results. One father told them he couldn’t pay maintenance as a father because he’d had a sex change and was therefore no longer a man. Another said that he’d used all his money to pay for his ex wife’s boob job, and since he was no longer getting the benefits why not let her new man pay instead? My favourite came from the dad who said he couldn’t pay since he “no longer exists” as he is in the witness protection program.

Suddenly Pete doesn’t seem so bad after all.

Anyway, back to the burning question he wanted to ask me. “If you had to lose one of your senses, which one would you pick?”.

At first I thought he was gently breaking it to me that he was going deaf or blind but it turned out he had been in a bar and had overheard someone else asking a pal the same question. I said I’d think about it and, believe it or not, it has taken over almost every waking moment in my life this week. A silly question, a ridiculous amount of time spent on thinking about it, but I think I have an answer for him – and it came to me yesterday in a toy shop.

I spotted a life size Lego model of Darth Vader and while looking at it from a few yards away I noticed how many people walked past and touched it. Why? I have no idea, but while I had been debating between losing sight, sound or smell I realised then that I would never want to lose my sense of touch.

This was reinforced this morning when I read that this Friday is National Pippa Middleton’s Bum Appreciation Day. Go on, admit it, seeing it is one thing but wouldn’t you just love to pinch an inch, give it a tweak to see if it’s flabby or firm?

Touch means everything to me. I’m lucky that I can see my wife and children, sometimes unlucky that I can hear them, but imagine what it would be like if cuddles meant nothing. A stroke of a cheek felt like absolutely zero. The feel of grass on bear feet didn’t even register. Mind you, why our kids leave grass all over our bedroom carpet goodness only knows.

A few years ago I was filming in the Tate Gallery in London, and while the lights were being set up I wandered over to a magnificent oil painting and automatically reached out to touch it. A bloke in one of those pullovers with epaulettes on the shoulders, a logo on the breast and stains on the sleeves, shouted at me and tried to force me out of the room. He was quite right of course, and it’s probably not the only time touch has got me in to trouble. But we’ll pass over that.

So Pete, I still haven’t chosen which sense I could do without, but I have decided which one I couldn’t ever lose. It’s Touch -  that thing that tells you when you’ve hit something sharp in the toolbox.