Back in 2004 when I was what seems now like a tender age of 32 I created a list My Pre-40 Top 40 which was designed to outline the things I wished to achieve before 2011 when I hit the less than eagerly-anticipated age of 40. My reasons for making the list public were multiple, firstly I thought it would be of interest to people to see what it was that I wished to do, the things that made up my character, or that which I hoped would make up my character. Secondly I wanted to put it out there in order to give myself the impetus of doing these things, a kick up the arse in the wanting not to look stupid in front of my readership, like an internal competition as it were, something I need to spur me on a little. I think were I to have had a steady relationship during this time and had I shared my list with my partner there might have been an overlap in the things they wanted to do too, thus increasing the likelihood of some of these happening. This may of course be my slothfulness attempting to abdicate responsibility and trying to place the onus on someone else making sure I do what I should want to do enough myself. I am fairly sure though in my defence that I would be nurtuting enough of my partner to help them complete items on their list whether or not they were something of interest to me. There is a great pleasure seeing someone you love find or achieve something that makes them happy. If you have helped and participated in any way it heightens this joy because it makes you feel useful.
I had achieved a fairly derisory number of these items when I hit the magic age, I had however accomplished some other things but it would be disingenuous to claim that this mitigates the fact that I should have done more than I actually did. It is something that I feel somewhat ashamed of, many were perfectly within my power to do, whilst others could have been done with a little more focus and planning, and quite a lot of determination. They say you have to want something enough, it is also what I tell my children, but I do believe I want some of these things, many of these things, in some ways ALL of these things, and yet they have not happened. Did I perhaps spread myself too thin or allow myself to be dictated by the indolence that has defined me more than anything else across my life? [I did begin the process in certain areas which may have a more long-term effect, I have at various points lost weight, at times quite a bit, at times less than I put on but at present I am about the level I was at in my early thirties but no longer smoking so can officially now say that I have given up and not merely traded one vice for another. I had not solved my passport dilemma in 2004 and had not been abroad since 1997, it was too long then and it wasn't until 2008 when I finally sorted it and got out. Within 45 minutes of my arrival in Cannes I stood outside the hotel having a smoke, basking in the sunshine hearing French radio in the background. It brought all the pleasure to life back, the brightness of the evening alleviated what had seemed embedded darkness within me and I felt refreshed by the heat, the culture, the proximity to the sea. It had been 21 years since I had been in France and I hadn't realised just how much I had missed it. Such things shape our lives and can herald a whole new series of things we know we must accomplish.]
The purpose of my last list still stands, the desire to do meaningful things that not only seek to justify my existence and therefore render the oxygen I have breathed to have been of some purpose, but also to have been able to derive the pleasure from those accomplishments. And so spurred on by my actions 8 years ago and my inactions since then, coupled with a post by my erstwhile travelling companion, (the one who is going to get a punch up the bracket if he continues to refer to me as his sidekick!) I have resolved to create a Pre-50 Top 50 – the extra 10 being a penance for not having completed my original 40. It will be interesting at least for me to compare, to see whether this tells me anything about who I was and who I am now, hence as I write this it is not my intention to look at my last list at all so that the things I choose whilst perhaps duplicating will only be doing so because I thought of them independently now as I did then.
This is not an exhaustive list, though I am likely to get exhausted thinking about and writing it) nor is it designed to be one that includes silly wooly stuff or dreams that have little hope of coming true, or are at least not at all under my control to make happen. This list must be things that require me to do something, I cannot rely on others to be in control or even to help, if they choose to assist that is another matter.
Personal and Inter Personal Development
1. Move abroad (again) – I can’t guarantee this but I really do need to try, I feel better in Europe and I think actually I am better in Europe, it has to wait until the kids are old enough to come as and when they wish, but that isn’t as far off as it once seemed.
2. Leave IT for something meaningful – This is an absolute must before my soul is erased beyond recovery!
3. Go for custody of my children – For them, for me, at the very least to show that they have someone willing to take on the system for them.
4. Rationalise my stuff into want I need and a little of what commemorates my past for posterity. – This has always been a goal, perhaps the least attainable of the lot
5. Keep off the fags (been nearly 2 1/2 years now) – one can never say never but I am still pretty strong on this, most of the time!
6. Do an MA either in Linguistics or Trade Union relations – This depends on finance, these days education is not seen as something that will benefit society only something that should benefit the Exchequer and institutional coffers.
7. Write something every week – I need to get back to doing this, I used to and sometimes I write far more but often it just dries up and frequently due to nothing more than indolence
8. Read a book every month – I have long since needed to read again, I used to do so when I commuted on the train but cannot do so whilst driving. Now I need to find a time and set it aside, it will be its own reward.
9. Write a book every year – and not just part of a book either, perhaps this should have been finish one of the books every year!
10. Finish my play – to avoid it becoming like the books!
11. Get an anthology of poetry published – it would be nice, not vital but perhaps more important than it ought to be, this should be offset perhaps with the goal to stop searching for validation from others.
12. Send more work to competitions and journals – see above
13. Take more photographs – I used to take loads and nowadays I still see beautiful scenery all the time and moments that I should capture but my trusty Praktica BC1 is not in the car and such moments are lost forever.
14. Do an anonymous selfless act each week – this isn’t as much of an ego trip as it sounds for whilst it will undoubtedly give me some pleasure it will also brighten albeit briefly someone else’s day and that might lead to another good act. I cannot expect the world to change to my way of thinking without trying to do something!
15. Think before I speak more often – Yes I REALLY need to do that!
16. Slow dance with someone – I’ve still never done this, in later life the situation never presented itself but the thought is a throwback to those many occasions watching others and having not had enough beer not to care.
17. Sit on top of a hill and watch the sun come up with someone – ok it sounds slushy perhaps and would be almost as good at sunset but I think if you’ve stayed up until sunrise and you watch that and go to bed that’s got to be special
19. Go to a film marathon with someone – I guess this is just one of those sort of bonding things, to spend a large but defined amount of time within a shared interest seems a win-win.
20. Spend more time concerned with those who care about me and less concerned trying to convert those who do not. – I’m sure we’re all guilty of this but that doesn’t make it any less necessary.
21. Learn empathy – never been a strong point, I get single-minded abut things, it isn’t that I don’t care I just find it difficult to detach myself from what is my routine for that time.
22. Take someone I’m in love with to Ile Saint-Margueritte (Currently my favourite place on the planet) – were I ever to feel the need to propose to anyone this is the place I would do it, but leaving that unlikely event to one side this really is a special place.
23. Visit St-Guilhem-Le-Désert (again) – This is one of those places that is just nice to visit, it’s a lovely place with a peace about it, in spite of the many tourists
24. Buy a sailing yacht – Given that I do not, nor am likely to own a house the prospect of retirement looks bleak, even were there still to be a state pension or any other kind is doubtful that this will be sufficient to pay all the bills that I would incur living as I do now in a house with a car and the like, to live in one’s mode of transport seems sensible combining the two costs and also having some freedom. Some might take the VW camper route but I prefer the sea.
25. Learn to sail – if my retirement plan is to have a boat then it would be sensible to be able to use it.
26. Visit Cuba – I have wanted to for many years and would prefer to do so when Fidel is still alive. I am aware that Cuba is no paradise but they have done a number of things differently to the Western model and I would like to see for myself how this is working rather than relying on Western sources that have a vested interest in the collapse of such a society.
27. Visit Venezuela – mostly because of similar reasons to Cuba, not a perfect place but one that has chosen to be more populous-focused than business-focused, as much of the West is going further the other way it seems like a good time to check out the alternatives.
28. Drive a 1980s BMW 6 series along the French Riviera – this ticks two boxes, I love the old shark-nosed 6 series, it was an iconic sports car of the late 70s early 80s, not a wide boys car this was far superior, it cost around the same as a Ferrari then and costs about the same as a decent old style Mini now. To drive it along the riviera would probably be the nearest to panache that I will ever attain.
29. Drive a multi-national banger rally in either an old Mini or a BMW E30 – Ok another BMW one, though I’d be just as happy in a Mini, I just think a rally would be fun, not the Cannonball Run I’ll grant you but a laugh anyway.
30. Spend a month travelling round India on trains – THis is perhaps the top travel one, the trip of a lifetime I think, India has always had a draw, the people, the colour, the food, the tea…
31. Spend a week on the Isles of Scilly
32. Leave the country once every year – one of those eminently achievable ones, I had hoped to do it from 4 years ago when I finally left but last year broke that. This way I could go every year of my 40s.
33. Visit 1 new country every 5 years – which follows on from the last really but isn’t as valid if you just visit the same country all the time, I need to leave my comfort zone and get further afield there is a lot of world out there.
34. Visit 2 continents within the 10 years – I really need to leave my comfort zone!
35. Take the children to Ireland – the trip to the homeland, they already want to go and I want to take them but there are administrative issues.
36. Take the children to France – my Grandmother used to take me to France all the time when I was younger, it was our little excursion, no-one else ever came, I loved it.
37. Walk the route of the old Berlin Wall – I remember Berlin in the old days, I confess I miss it, the uniqueness and the sense that the place was steeped in both history and intrigue it was as magical as it was palpable.
38. Stay in the DDR theme hotel – I have to, a year in Rostock was probably pretty close but I want the full monty!
39. Get into the habit of 4 forms of exercise a week
40. Cycle to work (4.8 miles)
41. Get down to 34″ waist
42. Get down to 14 stone
43. Sort out the health niggles I’m always putting off.
44. Pay off debts (around £7000)
45. Don’t get into any more debt
46. Menu plan every meal – that’s EVERY meal not just towards the end of the month when I’m already skint!
47. Don’t buy mindless things just to make me feel better or less bored.
48. Sell one item on ebay for each item I buy – this is not to say I should be working out small things to sell and then buy a load of big shit, the value and size should be close together.
49. Save some money each month, even if it’s a tenner. – longer you leave it harder it is.
50. If I should be still writing (not to mention alive) at 60 I hope that I might continue the process and that it will be of as much interest as it may be now.
Should you wish to do your own list, whatever the number (!) then it would be interesting to hear/see them.
Song Of The Day ~ Blondie – 11.59