I’ve starting making lists; lists of things I want to do; lists of things I think I should want to do and “ much smaller “ lists of things I’ve actually done. What separates them from each other, apart from reality and fantasy, is the 22nd anniversary of my 18th Birthday.
And because forty feels like an age where extreme physical tasks may be aspirational at best, this inventory of want should probably be classified as stuff to do before I’m dead.
Bu before that this – kicking off on the younger side of the fence, here’s my top ten of stuff happily filed in a Pandora’s box marked Done and don’t come back.
10. Have Kids
I love my kids, of course I do but Lordy I certainly wouldn’t want anymore. The statistical probability of adding a fourth female to a family of two daughters and one wife is simply too terrifying. I’ve seen blokes burdened with that demographic and they look hunted. And poor.
9. Properly crash a car
Smashing up your car (or, for preference, somebody else’s) is a rite of passage from short trousered road hoodlum to middle aged, elbow-padded law abider who revels in the knowledge his sensible car won towing vehicle of the year in What Caravan? I’m dangerous enough on a mountain bike, so¾ of a ton of powered metal battering ram is not really crashing material anymore.
8. Wake up with a stranger
As opposed to going to bed with a sex goddess. You know that terrible waking feeling of spinning sky, intense urge to vomit and geographical discombobulation? It is hardly improved when followed by cruel sunlight shafting your hazy mental image that last night you pulled a super model. Leave your mates number, grab trousers and run.
7. Go on a proper bender
The kind of weekend where you go out drinking on Friday night and wake up Sunday morning on a freezing train platform without any shoes. Still in a suit but otherwise unrecognisable from the young, thrusting professional of 36 hours earlier. A goat has slept in your mouth and left with your cash, you mobile phone is covered in a slick glaze of beer and kebab and some street person has robbed you of your footwear.
And you have a hangover sharp enough to shave with. No thanks, never again. Not after last time.
6. Own a motorbike
Many people “ well blokes anyway “ trigger a Pavlovian two wheeled urge on hitting forty. It’s best described as squeezing middle aged spread into tight leathers and smearing oneself under lorry wheel some twenty minutes later. I’ve crashed too many motorbikes to ever want another one. Probably not anyway. Well not this year at any rate.
5. Buy a house
We bought this house and subsequently checked into the financial hospital of the monetary crippled. If we tried to do the same now, we’d be making Faustian deals with the devil and mortgaging our souls. House ownership have the weary trappings of repair, potential DIY and a permanent drain on disposable cash. But short of living in a cardboard box under a bridge, it’s hard to see an alternative.
Actually if we had to buy a house now, the box would be the alternative although marketed as Bijou and Compact Residence near major road links and with undisturbed views of countryside
4. Be poor
See above. As a student I was poor but so was everyone. And in those days we had overdrafts, summer jobs and “ in the case of the posh undergrads “ wealthy parents. While I kind of support the right on theory that money doesn’t make you happy, you have to balance that with being poor generally doesn’t either. I’m a financial train wreck at the best of times but it’s kid of nice to know that such behaviour doesn’t starve the children. Not yet, anyway.
3. Survive a parachute jump
I’m not good with heights and even worse with exposure. Phrases such as plummet to a fiery death instantly supplant airline safety briefings. Jumping out of a perfectly serviceable aeroplane was, without doubt, the most traumatic experience of my life. I didn’t want to be in a small plane, being buffeted around like a storm blown leaf, nor did a single atom of Al see any just cause for chucking itself out into the abyss. I got to know “ up front and personal – what terminal velocity looked like and from thereon in, I tried hard to stick to terra firma. The more firma, the less terror..
2. Go Mountain Bike Racing
I was rubbish at 33 and I’d be even rubbisher now. At 40 you qualify for the Veterans’ class and it’s all sinewy, grizzled racers with fitness, endurance and race craft. I’d be lapped on the start line. And while I loved the whole scene, I hated the actual racing. My last 12 hour race was so spectacularly bad, it ended with me grumping in a chair, drinking beer and smoking cigars at 4am in the morning. And that was the best bit by some distance.
1. Being 39
Apparently age is no barrier to progress. Yet being 39 has felt a bit like it was. There’s something transitory that wasn’t there at 29 and certainly never even entered my naval gazing orbit ten years before that. I’m not wild about crossing another one way frontier but I’ll be glad when it’s done. So this is where life begins eh?
Knowing my readers are troubled by a low threshold of attention deficit even when compared to a special needs goldfish, I’ve been ruthless in my selection. The remaining five hundred or so, including gems such as send wine back and understand the art of grouting, shall remain electronically welded to Pandora’s bosom. The lucky things.
Next up, all the exciting tasks I set myself at the age of thirty that I’ve yet to complete. Where the hell did those ten years go?