It came to me in a flash that when I die, the whole world will come to an end; not just for me, but for everyone in it, as far as I’m concerned. Now, I’m not a great one for philosophical thinking: existentialism, for me, might as well not… er, well… exist, but I do find it slightly comforting to know that the whole universe can only exist for as long as I am in it. When I cease to be, everything ceases to be. Unfortunately, from the same view point, it will never have been in the first place – so, not much point in keeping backups of everything on the computer is there?
If this all seems uncomfortably close to the I can’t see you, therefore you can’t see me view of a child playing Hide and Seek, well, that is entirely consistent with everything that constitutes me and my life. I presume it is part of the human condition that we all feel the need to make plans for when we are no longer here, but I think that I might just have found a way out of it. Planning has never been a strong point for me. I tend to either plan every last ounce of enjoyment out of an enterprise or get the day wrong and find myself on a bus load of pensioners heading to Cleethorpes in the rain. The lure of there being no point to it is quite a strong one. I have, in the past, started to make all kinds of elaborate plans for my funeral, but now I realise that there is no reason to do so, because it will never happen! (The italics are my own.) I will not be able to hear ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ therefore it is not playing; never has and never will exist. I might as well choose ‘Bye Bye Baby’ by the Bay City Rollers, which, when I do cease to exist, will provide a bonus for all of us.
Actually, thinking of all the things I will take with me: pain, starvation, the Taliban, Okra, is quite comforting. Imagine a world with no Chicken McNuggets. It will come, but I will not be able to imagine it. As I look out of my office window I see a giant buddleia at the end of the garden and it is absolutely covered in butterflies. Imagine a life without that. Imagine a life without anything, including life. Quite disturbing isn’t it? Occasionally my mind digs itself such a trough and it can be difficult to get out of. I do so now by thinking of my kids and my grandkids, and by remembering that for them life will go on long after I am no more (selfish buggers!) Each of my grandchildren will carry something of me into the future: for one it is ginger hair, for one it is a fearsome curiosity, for one it is legs that would look more at home on a carthorse. Maybe they will remember me, maybe they will not. If they do, I hope it is with fondness and not every time they catch a whiff of urine.
Not that I am planning on going anywhere just yet – I must make that quite clear. Whatever I may have lingering in the future that is waiting to pull the trigger, I am blissfully unaware of it at the moment. I feel like one of those posh fridges that monitors everything you put into it, but has no idea that you dropped a rogue brussel sprout in December 2012: it knows that the milk has only a day or two left, that the salad tray is devoid of all except a multi-pack of Mars Bars, that you really should have put a lid on the tin of tuna you opened last Wednesday, but it does not have a clue about the lump of green goo that is slowly spreading through the drain plug. If it did, it could tell you why you can never open the fridge without setting off the smoke alarm and why everything you ever eat tastes of mouldy brassica, but it wouldn’t have a clue of what to do about it. I doubt that, ‘Get yourself some long plastic forceps and a pipette for sucking up goo’ is part of its vocabulary. To be honest, as my only real experience of AI is through the Terminator films, I suspect that it is far more likely to disguise itself as a central heating boiler, seduce my wife and take up arms against me. Perhaps there are some parts of the future that I will be happy to miss.
There are two main reasons why I am currently involved in this navel-gazing. The first, and most obvious, is that I have just caught sight of the bloody thing in the bathroom mirror. I’m sure it didn’t used to look like that! It used to lay in the midst of an area of toned muscle and taut skin. It now looks like a sink hole in the middle of a pink blancmange. I would like to do something about it, but I fear that it might involve sit-ups and I cannot live with the sound that my back makes when I try to do that. I’m pretty good at sit-downs, but not so good at getting-back-up-agains, unless I have something to hold onto. I will just have to wear a vest and whitewash the mirror. The second reason for the navel gazing? Well, I have just spent a couple of days in the company of my grandkids and they are so full of life (an absolutely infuriating amount of it) that I have started to realise that I am not. I am left with a sense of inadequacy that I only otherwise feel when watching ‘Only Connect’. Whatever I had that formerly passed for get-up-and-go, has pissed off with the au pair and left me with a mortgage I can no longer afford and a dog that farts whenever it moves. I am not what I once was – although I’m not sure that I ever was – and I am not entirely happy with what I fear I might become, so the best thing I can do is to just be what I am now. It’s not much, but when the lights go out, it won’t matter. Meantime, I get the popcorn in, fuel up on the kind of fizzy drink that will bubble out of my ears if I run, laugh at the absurdity of it all and try not to worry. There’s almost certainly nothing I can do about it now anyway…