The Usual Suspect

I like to have a little look at the stats about this blog. It's fascinating to see where people are when they look at what I've written, and what interests them the most. You're a strange lot, you are; of all the posts I've written, the most popular by far is a little throwaway comment on the health-giving properties (or not) of breakfast cereal. It wasn't big, clever, funny or even particularly interesting - just something to keep me writing, whilst nothing much happened - yet time and again it gets hits, mainly because people insist on searching for info on cereal. Strange.

Far more worrying, however, is the fact that several people have found my blog recently whilst searching for 'Arrest of Tracy Wheeler', or 'Tracy Wheeler mug shot'. I've found the mug shot, and I have to say - it's not pretty; though I doubt that I'd look my best either with no make-up under harsh lighting, and with a number stamped across my bosom.

So then I tried to find out what this Floridan Tracy Wheeler had done. OK she's got absolutely no link with me, other than a name - and that one 'e' down - but I felt a strange sympathy with her, if only because searching for her had led someone to me. But my second search found a SECOND felon - this time in Indiana, and this time with a full complement of 'E's'. Tracey Wheeler had been sentenced to 35 years in jail for possessing and dealing in cocaine, as well as 'maintaining a common nuisance' (well, who hasn't done that?). Her appeal in 2009 was turned down; so there she sits, still.

I guess many of us at some point have idly googled ourselves, perhaps with the hope that the little we do in the world has earned us a smidge of fame, or perhaps to see the road less travelled. Someone else with our name is the doppelganger we never had, the self we could have been. Up until now Tracey Wheeler has been a byword for safe and dull; achieving moderate success in sports, in creative design, and in complementary medicine. I am delighted to see that in 2008 Tracey Wheeler was advertising a gelding that on first glance looked half reasonable, according to a reader of Horse and Hound. She does a mean haircut. She's a college lecturer. She is paying too much for her electricity. And occasionally she writes a dermatology article or some poetry, and tells you about her cats.

I've been thinking a lot lately about the small moments or spurious reasons on which we base major decisions, that can turn a life in one direction or another. I went to Nottingham University, where I met Richard; but it was nearly Leeds. The decision came down to whether I wanted to go to Fontainebleau for the field course (Leeds), or Bavaria (Nottingham). Of course, that was the one year the usual field course professor took a sabbatical and the stand-in took us to (roll that drum...) Skegness. Without that decision I would not have met Richard; and our kids, these particular kids or similar versions, would not exist. No doubt you can think of similar instances in your own life. It is exquisitely poignant to think that such major personal matters rest on such numbskull moments. It is somehow more painful that a completely random event, because it seems as though we are in charge - which is, frankly, terrifying.

So... given slightly different circumstances could I be trading in horses, or cocaine? Could I be an expert reflexologist, or hairdresser, or doing fairly well at a chosen sport? Could I be standing terrified under the glare of a police camera flashgun, contemplating what I had done and what it would cost me?

Or would I just be paying too much for my electricity?


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