By David Worboys •
Published: 17 Nov 2023 • 10:00
Life is not long enough. It looks as if the Aston Martin and the house in the Black Forest may not materialise before the Grim Reaper steps in.
If you live to eighty, you will have survived the winter a mere eighty times. On 960 occasions, a new month will have been and gone, and church bells will have greeted 4’160 Sundays. And you will have awoken in the morning 29’120 times, which seems quite a lot. So, how much of this time has been well-spent?
Especially when we are young, we waste quite a few days with hangovers. Aged twenty, after a pub-crawl involving about half the pubs in Oxford, I remember only one thing about the following day. When I tried to get out of bed, the first – and last – thing I did was fall over. That was all I achieved and it wasn’t until the next day that I was able to call the office and ask for sick leave.
On another occasion, after a Friday night blinder in the West End, I had to spend the whole of Saturday trying to find where I had parked my car. With the help of two friends I found it on Sunday morning. There were a few other such misjudgements but these were by far the worst.
Time is among our most precious commodities and, if it were managed successfully, we would all experience far greater opportunities, achievements and fulfilment.
What about the seventy or so New Year resolutions? It took me seven successive years to give up smoking (which I finally achieved in 1972). Hardly any other resolution lasted more than about nine days.
So many goals were never achieved. Since I sat in cinemas, mesmerised by Sophia Loren, Claudia Cardinale and Gina Lollobrigida, I always wanted to learn Italian but never got beyond “che bella ragazza!” and “ho mangiato tutti i frutti di mare”. I never learned the piano, never followed my parents’ advice nor read Steinbeck and Balzac. It would have been nice to live in Paris around the age of twenty and later to have visited St Petersburg, Colombia, Chile and, prior to Mugabe, Zimbabwe. It’s too late now. An Aston Martin and a house near Freiburg in the Black Forest are dreams that will not happen in this lifetime, but these are no longer important. There is so much to be thankful for.
I remember the long lazy days of childhood when, barring accidents, the future life seemed to extend into perpetuity. On leaving school and earning a living, it still seemed ages ahead to thoughts of retirement. But the older we become, the more rapidly time flies by. Every time I pick up my weekly newspaper, it seems just a couple of days since I bought the last one.
If, in my next incarnation, I am an Afghan herdsman, I shall not remember the lost opportunities in this lifetime, and the circumstances will have changed. This would, therefore, seem to have been the last chance.
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