At the weekend a friend was given the DVD set of the BBC drama “Our Friends in the North” a birthday present. The 1996 television series finishes with a single question; which seems to be asked more often than answered.
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 more than fourteen years since the series was screened and the image of the breathless Christopher Ecclestone who played Nicky remains 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. The poet Philip Larkin once expressed that desire to make the most of the present:
What are days for?
Days are where we live.
They come, they wake us
Time and time over.
They are to be happy in:
Where can we live but days?
Being one who would have avoided Larkin’s question, living for some imaginary future where some illusory, imaginary happiness might be found, 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?” Looking back, how many days would have been worthy of a Kirsty McColl-like recall?
Thank you for the days
Those endless days, those sacred days you gave me
I’m thinking of the days
I won’t forget a single day believe me
There are plenty of days forgotten and plenty not worth remembering.
Why not today, Nicky? I’m not sure I know.