As today is my birthday, I have decided that the time has come for me to make a list of all the things that, for a multitude of different reasons, I will never do.
I suppose I should start by looking at all of those that I would never have done however my life had panned out: climbing a high mountain; trekking to the North Pole; running a marathon – that sort of thing – from all of which I am now permanently excluded by virtue (I choose the word carefully) of my age. I read somewhere that one should never take up any new form of exercise beyond the age of fifty, since which I have been in a virtual state of torpor. I thank my lucky stars that I had never set foot in a gym prior to my fiftieth.
I do not run well, reaching, at full tilt, something that could be best described as an arthritic lope, and I get dizzy on anything taller than a milking stool, particularly if looking down. I wear so many clothes in cold weather that I am barely able to move. Should I be adequately clad for an Arctic expedition, I would probably be of sufficient size to support my own moons. There is not enough TOG in the world to keep me warm.
I will never swim the channel, my most efficient stroke being the flounder. My wife tells me that my swimming would improve if I practised, but it is my firmly held opinion that one can get better at nothing beyond the age of fifty. In any case, the effects of global warming would have to be far more extreme than they are today before you would have any chance of coaxing me into the North Sea. Smothering me in goose-grease would be of no avail – it would only make me harder to catch when I ran away.
As much as I would love to, I will never swim with whales, unless they choose to congregate somewhere where I can keep one foot on the bottom.
So, moving away from ‘the physical’ – ironically one of the few exercises in which I am able to demonstrate an above average fleet-footedness – I will never write a ‘great novel’. My plotting is, at best, sketchy. I seldom know what my characters are going to do until they tell me and, as most of them are fairly feckless, they are not always to be believed. Even if I were to attain the dizzying heights of ‘average’, given the way in which these things work, I would almost certainly be ‘ex’ before I was recognised as such.
Generally, I am not plagued by the need to do things. I have, for instance, never bungee-jumped. I will never bungee-jump. I defy anyone to give me a single, rational reason why I would even consider a bungee-jump. I know how it works. You go somewhere high (which puts me out already) and somebody on a job creation scheme ties a giant elastic band around your ankles. You notice, with a growing sense of unease, that their shoe laces are undone. You jump off aforementioned high place. You bounce back and you spend the next ten years telling everybody you meet that they ‘really must try it’. You never do it again. I do not need to experience this to know, with an absolute certainty, that I would hate it. I have had to do, in my life, plenty of stuff that I do not like doing. Why would I voluntarily do something that I almost certainly would wish on my worst enemy?
Talking of which, I will never fight in a war. I would love to believe that there will never be another one, but even I am not that stupid. There will always be wars, but I am too old to fight in them. Now, don’t think for even the tiniest, fleetingliest* of moments, that I have any desire to fight in a war – I won’t even queue in the Post Office if the weather’s hot – but I am aware that most of the people who have shaped our modern world were, themselves, shaped by war. They knew something that I can never know. They knew how they reacted. I will never know whether I would be (as I suspect I would) a useless gibbering wreck, or whether I would be the man who fought against almost impossible odds in order to protect the honour of the regimental goat. I cannot begin to imagine from where these men (and wars are traditionally fought by men – only fair, as we generally cause them) drew up the guts to even get out of bed in the morning. I will never know what there is to be found inside of me, but I fear it would be jelly.
I will never give birth. I have endured the pain of childbirth: I had to ask my wife not to squeeze my hand so tightly – but I will never know the experience of actually giving birth – although I have had a hangnail.
I will never be a naturist. I have seen myself in the bathroom mirror. I have no desire to inflict that upon anybody else. I cannot play volley ball or badminton at the best of times (those being when all extraneous appendages are securely stowed). I can imagine no occasion as fraught with danger as the naturist barbecue. (I will also never write a Carry On movie having just blithely ignored an open invitation to pen any number of sausage and baps gags.) We once stayed at a hotel which had a naturist beach between it and the nearest village. They were very friendly, but I never quite knew in which direction it was acceptable to look. My wife suggested that I would not have that problem if I too was naked. She is right, because if I was naked, I would not have been there. If I was naked, I would have been in the shower. Alone. Although still slightly uncertain of where to look. I always find it inadvisable to study oneself too closely. Disappointment can so quickly lead to nausea.
I will never blow my own trumpet. My trumpet is very small. Most of the time, I am not my favourite person. My self-esteem is not worth the tissue-paper it is written on. As a boy, if I thought I had done something clever or funny, I attributed it to somebody else when telling my parents about it. If they approved of it, I felt disappointed that they would never know it was really me. If, on the other hand, they disapproved, I would spend the next few days panicking in case they challenged the supposed ‘wrong-doer’s’ parents. To this day I only ever really view myself as ‘third person’ – and you get all of that. (I’m sorry.) Fortunately, none of my family ever read this as they know I have nothing of value to say, so, at least I don’t have to explain myself to them.
I will never parachute, parascend, paraglide, hang-glide or balloon. I have no desire whatsoever to feel nearer to my God. At my age he is quite near enough, thank you very much.
I will never remember what it was that I intended to say.
* I am aware that I have just made up that word, but I like it