When I was very young I discovered a set of grey, flimsy booklets offering me the secrets of the universe. Well, not quite, but almost. They offered to train my mind so that, with practice, I could become a cerebral superman. I knew then I’d never be a Charles Atlas, so clearly this was the way to go. This set of thin books explained the secrets of Pelmanism and they occupied a section of my dad’s book case.
Not wanting to be a writer then but determined on being Liverpool’s answer to Sherlock Holmes, these books seemed like a gift from God - until I started reading them. They promised much, exhorting me to exercise my brain to the full via exercise, after exercise after exercise. Mental press-ups, neuro treadmills, cerebral weights – all heavy stuff for a ten year old, but we didn’t have TV then. Instead I’d wander gloomily around the house like Hamlet’s ghost.
I could no longer simply enter a room.
I had, in a glance, to absorb and remember everything there, down to the colour of my Uncle John’s shoe laces. That was easy enough. They were usually black. Unless he was wearing brown shoes. Then they were brown. I probably gave up around Lesson Five but by then the damage was done.
The result was people began to suspect the wheel was running but the hamster was dead. How else to explain young Michael entering a room wide eyed and blank and saying nothing to anyone. I was seeing and recording, filing images, sound and smells. It’s not an easy exercise, even with practise and it buggers up social skills, I can tell you. Autism, Pelmanism. The two are creepily alike. But at least I knew there was fluff on the mantelpiece and a fly on the window.
But I was in good company: Lord Baden Powell, Herbert Asquith, Baroness Orczy, Jerome K Jerome and Rider Haggard all practised Pelmanism. The downside was they were all dead. And so was its founder William Ennever, who died the year I was born.
As I reached puberty I realised Charles Atlas may have been a better mentor and guide.
Postscript. These below are testimonials from the dead.
But Pelmanism isn't. It refuses to give up the ghost. I can't believe it!