I’m willing to bet that nobody ever went to their death bed wishing that they’d spent more time watching day time television. My mind has been quite sharply focused during the past day or two because of a near death experience. The amazing wind recently brought down an enormous lime tree in front of my house and it came down across the path that I had taken half an hour earlier when I walked past it to pick up the Sunday papers. Having lived well beyond my three score years and ten I am presumably on borrowed time, but something like that makes one realise that it is important to try and make the most of what time we have left. John Betjeman famously said that his one regret was that he hadn’t had more sex! My regrets are much more mundane. I really regret that I didn’t learn to ski when I was younger. When I see my grandchildren gliding gracefully down the slopes I am full of envy. I regret not going to University which seemed fairly out of reach for my generation where we were mainly educated to be a good wife and mother! Regrets are for the things you haven’t done and rarely for the things you’ve done. Do I regret not having finished Marcel Proust’s ‘A La Recherce du Temps Perdu’ – of course, but I optimistically imagine that there will be time for that when I am whiling away the hours in my twilight years. I certainly don’t regret my (mildly) misspent youth. London in the ‘Swinging Sixties’ was a blast and when I read and hear about the youth of today I wonder if they are having as much fun. I’m sure they imagine that they are – I do hope so, it would be very sad if they yearned to live in another age. Maybe I watch too much reality TV, but it seems that the dating scene among the young is completely different. A lot of them seem to ‘meet’ on-line and also fall in love with people they have never actually met IRL (in real life). Then it also seems that if you have been out with someone more than a couple of times they are not allowed any contact with anyone of the opposite sex – including texting! We were a bit more happy go lucky and many of us regularly ran two or three boys at the same time! However, in those more innocent days – although at the time we felt very ‘sex, drugs and rock and roll’ – we probably weren’t having sex with any of them. It may have been the ‘swinging’ sixties, but nice girls were still supposed to be semi-virgins. As I remember it the acceptable number of people you could have slept with was three. Any more made you a slut and any less made you seem like a bit of a prude. There was also the ‘three hot dinners’ rule – this meant that one night stands were frowned on – we were supposed to have at least three dates before we slept together – although that expression has always confused me because, if memory serves, in those days sleep was the last thing we did!
I also regret not writing more – something I love to do, but like most things in life, in order to do it well requires application and hard work and as a naturally lazy person with a butterfly mind I have only dabbled my toe in the water. However, there is always time (at least my glass half full attitude helps me believe that) so maybe I could be first centenarian author of a best seller. Perhaps if I start now I might have finished by the time I reach treble figures.
What regrets do I have – sometimes the things I have said – maybe unkind but got a laugh. But it is pointless to keep going over the past and dwelling on things that have happened. Nobody has a perfect childhood and if you do it is probably rather dangerous! If I had really believed that my schooldays were going to be the best days of my life I would probably have topped myself there and then. One of the joys of growing up is having the ability to make your own decisions and the worst problem about getting old is that people start to make decisions for you as they did when you were a child! Her Majesty the Queen has been ‘forbidden’ by her doctors from carrying out any official duties for two weeks. I was delighted to see her driving herself in Windsor Park. People keep telling me I should get one of those alarm things that you wear round your neck – and whilst it might be sensible it is hardly something to make one feel young and vibrant!
Looking back can be fun – most of us have many happy memories, but spending too much time in the past is to the detriment of the future. I realise I’m unlikely to climb Everest or win a gold medal in the Olympics, but I still have goals. And I’m almost certain I would have regretted any tattoo that I’d had – the uplifting quotes or the tasteful dolphin on your shoulder may be fine when you are in your twenties. ‘Your only limit is your mind’ makes more sense when you are on your gap year and bungee jumping over Victoria Falls, perhaps not so much when you are sitting on an incontinence pad watching daytime television in a residential home. I had a distant (and ancient) cousin who continued to hunt well into his eighties. His legs were a bit doddery so he was strapped onto his horse and when the family remonstrated with him that it was dangerous he said that at his age getting out of bed was dangerous. He died in his sleep! As we get older our motto should be ‘Go For It’.