You’re supposed to write a list for this one.
Come on, think, think! There must be a whole lot of things you’ll never do again – or would that be a whole lot of things you never did in the first place and now it’s too late.
I’ll never again…
Go shopping in Oxford Street. No money. Never any money. Air pollution and far too many people.
Paddle at the seaside. I’d like to think I would, and no physical reason not to. But if I did – ah, if I did it might all come back, the wash of the little waves, the smell of seaweed, the way pebbles change colour under water – and I might never leave…
Visit the house I grew up in and find it anything but empty – no Mum, knitting in the living room; beavering away up the top of the garden and not hearing the doorbell; making a huge fuss of a bony, toothless cat that’s just trying to get some shut-eye; standing confused in the kitchen, wondering why she’s in there or listening to her voices coming in from outside through the cupboards.
Fly in an aeroplane. Nowhere to go. And who wants to risk weird people diverting you to Cyprus on a whim?
Write a really brilliant poem and think, at the end of it, that’s what I’m alive for. Poetry is like mathematics – a game for the young. Though skill remains; the muse deserts us all.
Write a novel. I wrote a novel, once. It was one of those Mills & Boons. I thought someone might pay me to write soft porn, which would free me up for my own version of War & Peace. Mills & Boon were very kind. Quite a long rejection slip, with suggestions for improvement; a recommendation not to rewrite this one but to start afresh. I gather if they really hate you, you just get a little square slip: No Thanks. But, to be honest, I haven’t got it in me to write long stuff. As my ancient friend Michel de Montaigne once put it:
…I am a sworn foe to constraint, assiduity, and perseverance; and that nothing is so foreign to my style as an extended narrative.
Walk all round the British Isles. Not that I ever did, but I planned to, once.
Buy a car – well, I suppose you can never say never. I live in hopes of an elderly and as yet undiscovered Australian uncle leaving me pots and pots of gold – but he’d have to be pretty ancient to be my uncle – in which case he’d be dead by now. My car and I will see each other out – she with her mended windscreen, a big gouge out of the dashboard, various bits like headrests gone missing and several red and orange lights permanently flashing. Me with… Well, me with. She’ll fall to bits one day – or like Mum I’ll forget how to drive her. The roads I once knew so well will overnight turn into spaghetti to match my brain, and that will be that for us both.