I wish I’d . . .

Mar 18th, 2012 | By | Category: Personal Columns

It is odd. Thinking about the things you wish you had done, but never did; it is odd.

Watching ‘Top Gear’, Clarkson and Co were racing hot hatchbacks around the Grand Prix course at Monaco. Entertaining television, but never something that appealed to me. Nor would any other of the extreme sports, nor sporting activity. Ski-ing gentle red runs in Austrian sunshine or sitting watching Leinster run in four tries is quite sufficient in the way of sports.

In terms of travel, self-financed visits to projects in the middle of Africa satisfies any wanderlust. Walking across the Rwanda-Burundi border for the first time was one of those moments that remain forever in the memory. The friend who had come to meet me stopped and looked down into the waters below, ‘During the genocide, this river was filled with bodies. They threw them in and said the river could carry them back to Ethiopia where they belonged’. The words could bring no response other than silence. Crossing the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco for the first time last year was a moment not one fraction as profound as that hundred yards or so of African roadway

Wealth never seemed very inviting and the notion of success in clerical life always seemed wholly contradictory. There is no sense of having missed out on anything material.

The one wish I had was inspired by a moment as an eighteen year old. Walking a village road on a summer’s evening, darkness had fallen but the air was still warm. Voices came from a garden to the left. Visible through light shining from the house at the end of a garden, a group of four people, two couples, sat at a wrought iron table, glasses of wine in hand, their animated conversation punctuated by bursts of laughter.

The memory remains. It is odd. No more than a few seconds. Nothing extraordinary, just people sat in a garden drinking wine with friends. Unremarkable.

Perhaps in 1979, drinking wine seemed sophisticated. Perhaps the thought of sitting in conversation, wine glass in hand had about it a touch of the cosmopolitan in a rustic community. Perhaps it was the thought of sitting out on a summer’s night when everyone else sat watching News at Ten. Perhaps it was having friends who would call and sit in the garden in the dark and who would talk and laugh about whatever subjects might have caught the imagination in that first summer of the Thatcher era.

I would have enjoyed such a moment. One’s own garden, one’s own house, one’s own time. No fear of comment on the propriety of drinking wine in the open air, or laughing so loud that it was audible from the road. No lingering thought in the back of the mind that the phone might suddenly ring with news of death or dying.

It is odd, the things you wish you had done.

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