The BBC television drama series Our Friends in the North finishes with a single question.
The four friends from thirty years previously are gathered in Nicky’s house after his mother’s funeral. Mary agrees to meet Nicky for lunch the next day. There is a sense that the list of lost opportunities is going to grow longer and you almost will Nicky to say something. Mary leaves in her car and Nicky suddenly realizes that he cannot let another moment escape. He runs frantically through the streets, taking short cuts, and manages to stop her. Gasping for breath he asks, “Why not today?”
The question seems to redeem the previous thirty years.
Mary smiles at him and agrees.
It is twelve years since the series was screened and the image of the breathless Christopher Ecclestone who played Nicky is still clear in the mind, “Why not today?”
I remember when a friend died of cancer in 1997, that I vowed never to have to ask, “why not today?” Life would be lived to the full; days would be filled; moments would not be wasted, because moments are all we have.
Of course, the resolution slipped and countless hours of time were wasted, there would have been plenty of occasions when Nicky would have asked, “why not today?”
The lull in activity on Easter Monday morning brought a sense that the time must be used profitably. Tidying up, I spotted a book of photographs by English photographer Edwin Smith lying beside my bedside cabinet, placed there for a moment when I would have time to look at them, it was then that I heard Nicky’s voice ringing down the years.
Why not today, Nicky? I’ll tell you – fear.
Smith’s pictures bring a past that is forever gone and lost, but which cannot be quite let go. It is like having to accept that something of which you were very fond is no longer there, and that you will just have to get used to it. There’s a fear about losing that past.