Ian McMillan: From the life of the party to: 'Watch out, it's Ian'

WE'VE all encountered that all too common creature known as The Lesser Spotted Bore. They're the ones who come into the pub or the barber's or who sit next to you on the park bench or the train.

You can tell by the gleam in their eye that they've got something to tell you. It doesn't matter if they've told you it a thousand times before, with slight and almost imperceptible variations; they want to tell you again.

Sometimes they see you, as a potential audience member, from a few hundred yards away; they make their determined way towards you like a knight at a joust. You pretend to be tying your shoes. You speak into your mobile phone. You speed up your walk and you glance at an imaginary watch to make them think that you'd love to listen to

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them but you've got something vital to do. None of these things work and you find yourself pinned to the spot as the epic begins.

Of course, I try to be kind because these people might be lonely and they just want somebody to talk to, and because I've worked for years in Community Arts I know that everybody has a story to tell, but sometimes I wish they'd just keep it to themselves. Harsh, I realise.

But true.

Then the other day, as I walked into a room full of people, bursting to tell them about something hilarious that had happened to me as I walked past the post office to the butcher's, I noticed that they were turning

away, very slightly, but turning away nevertheless.

The person who was looking towards me as I walked in was suddenly absorbed by the less-than-exciting view from the window; a chap who almost smiled when I caught his eye performed a swift right wheel and exited the room as though he had urgent business in another part of the building that was as far away from me as possible.

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I moved towards a couple who were standing by the door and I began to tell my funny story and I couldn't keep their attention as their faces swivelled away and I ended up spouting the tale into the air where

it hung like a black cloud in an otherwise sunny sky.

I finished the story and didn't know what to do. Normally the story gets a laugh and I'm able to do a "boom-tish!" and a theatrical flourish but this time there was a sepulchral silence and I could hear the birds singing outside; in fact, the birds outside seemed to be having more fun than me. I said something lame like "Well, it was hilarious when it happened" and the people I was telling the tale to looked at me as though they'd only just realised I was still there. I metaphorically crawled from the room like a snake. A deeply embarrassed and humiliated snake. How had the transition occurred? How had I gone from Life and Soul to Watch Out, It's Ian?

I thought back to when I realised I could first make people laugh; it was on a church trip to London when I was a teenager; I sat on the back seat and made humorous and satirical remarks about the people we passed as the bus made its steady way through the crowded streets. My fellow members of the Young People's Fellowship hooted and howled and thought I was a comic genius and, eventually, so did I. Everything that happened became anecdote fodder. I began to believe that my life was simply a series of events designed for humorous retelling. I thought I was Groucho Marx when, in fact, I may have been nearer to Gummo Marx, the least memorable of the brothers.

Occasionally, I caught myself retelling the same story and stopped myself halfway through, rapidly changing the subject and hoping

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that nobody had noticed. Maybe they had. Sometimes I found that my anecdotes slipped into a groove, like a machine that, once set in motion, performed its little dance then stopped. I've started so I'll finish, as the man said and the odd thing is that, like a helter-skelter ride, once you're on the move you can't stop and the story bumps along from A-Z and then it grinds to a halt.

So here's my resolution, witnessed by all the astute readers of the Yorkshire Post. I hereby pledge not to repeat any of my stories, no matter how absolutely earth-shatteringly magnificent they are. Each day I will create a newly minted linguistic gem that's bursting to be told and, like one of those flies that only exist for 24 hours, the life of the story will be brief. It will burn brightly and then fade away, to be replaced by tomorrow's jewel. Cross my heart. Poet's honour.

Oh, who am I kidding? The old ones are the best! If you go and see The Who, you expect them to play Substitute! Did I ever tell you about the time I... no, no don't look away; I promise you, this is hilarious...