Readers of the Culture section of the Yorkshire Post will know that a few weeks ago I visited the lovely Arts Centre in Selby with my band. When I got there in the afternoon I was greeted by lots of jollity which almost, it seemed to me, had a touch of genial hysteria about it.
“He’s here!” people shouted. I waved like the Pope does. And then somebody said, mysteriously, “But he’s not here yet!” I carried on waving and smiling. Somebody said, “He’s not here yet. Your brother! He’s coming later!” Now I was baffled. I stopped waving. I knew that our John was away for the weekend and he wouldn’t be coming to the show.
“He’ll be coming soon!” the people at the Arts Centre chorused. “Who?” I asked. “That bloke who looks just like you!” they shouted gleefully. Now I was really confused. They gathered round me, eager to explain. “There’s a man coming tonight who looks just like you! He could be you! When he walks in you’ll think you’re looking in a mirror! You should invite him up on stage and the audience will think there’s two of you up there!”
I was intrigued. A man who looks just like me: the lucky fellow! I wonder if he’s the same chap as the maintenance man in that hotel I stay in in Gateshead, the maintenance man who’s the image of me. As I toil up the hotel stairs cleaners shout, “What’s up, Keith, aren’t you talking?” Or “What are you doing here, Keith? We thought it was your day off!” Maybe this man in Selby is Keith, because the last time I’d stayed in Gateshead he wasn’t around. Maybe he’s on the run. Maybe he’s escaped to Selby from Gateshead. Maybe the coppers will burst in halfway through the show and arrest me, thinking I’m him.
Lots of people are coming into the Arts Centre now, bubbling with excitement. Not with the prospect of seeing me, but with the prospect of me coming face to face with my doppelganger as they say in Selby’s German quarter. One or two of them look at me and say, “Are you really Ian McMillan or are you the bloke who looks like Ian McMillan?” And I say, “I’m the bloke who looks like Ian McMillan and I’ve just come down from Gateshead,” and they laugh and say, “You really can’t tell them apart,” and for a moment I think they mean Selby and Gateshead but then I realise they mean me and that bloke.
Just about everybody is here now but the Ian McMillanalike hasn’t come. I stand on the step of the Arts Centre looking for him. I’m as excited as the rest of them. Maybe it will be like looking into a mirror. Maybe it will be like some kind of chilling film where I meet myself to the sound of doomy music. Then, suddenly, he’s here, through the back door so I don’t see him arrive. People rush up excitedly and present him to me. Ah, I remember him from last time I came to the Arts Centre in Selby; he’s a lovely man, a really nice guy. And he looks a tiny bit like me. He’s got grey hair and glasses. And that’s it. “He’s here! Your twin’s here!” they shout. I love them in Selby. I love their enthusiasm. I love their creative thinking.