Taking Stock

Life is divided into past-nows, now-nows and future-nows (the latter possibly including those happening after death, but of that I’m uncertain).  I had my eight-sixth birthday recently and, since I have cancer and have no idea how many more birthdays I’ll have, I thought I’d take stock of some of my past-nows.  By the way, I only mention my cancer because it’s a fact, not because I’m obsessive about it.  During  a normal day I don’t think about it anymore than I think about brushing my teeth, i.e. about twice a day.  In fact, it’s slightly annoying when there’s an advert on the telly about cancer because it reminds me I’ve got it!  

My past-nows fall into three categories:

Sensible things.

Silly things.

Boring/mundane things. 

These categories are obviously a simplification.  Each could be sub-divided.  For example, silly things could be sorted into admissible and inadmissible, and boring/mundane things into — need I go on?

In this piece I’ll confine myself to six sensible things and six silly things.  I’ll leave you to imagine how difficult it has been for me to dredge up six sensibles and to whittle down a long list of sillies.  You’ll be pleased to hear that I’ve also decided to omit boring/mundane things (though, as ever, you’ll be the judge).

Firstly, six sensible things.  If you find these boring, (but how will you know until you’ve read them?) by all means skip them and proceed to the six silly things below.

  1. Marrying my wife.  We married in 1964 but first met in 1958.  She took six years (sensibly) to decide to take the risk.
  2. Opting to do National Service after leaving school and before going to university.  A great two years, mostly serving as a young officer in Singapore and Malaya.
  3. Choosing to read psychology at university.  Virtually no one opted for psychology in my day, so I was a rare species and never had a problem getting interesting jobs.
  4. Deciding to go freelance at the age of thirty-three.  I loved being my own boss.
  5. Having the good fortune to have teamed up, at different times, with five great colleagues.  They are Neil Rackham, Alan Mumford, Simon Greenly, Sir Christopher Ball and, more recently, Robin Stuart-Kotze.
  6. Starting my own publishing company in 1982.  A great way to avoid rejection slips.

Secondly, six silly things.  This is a list, so I’m going to be tantalisingly brief.  Sorry about that.

  1. Setting fire to my daughter when she was a toddler.
  2. Nearly falling out of an aeroplane because I didn’t believe the sign on the door saying, ‘To open, lift lever and turn’. 
  3. Wondering why I was the only bloke in a sauna with five naked women.  When I left I saw the notice on the door saying, ‘Women only.’
  4. Opting to be paid a fee, not royalties, for the work I did with Video Arts.  ‘If Looks Could Kill’   was their best-selling video for about ten years.
  5. Falling off the top of a ladder in front of my grandchildren when I had just lectured them on ladder safety.
  6. Going to a Pilates class for intermediates and, withing five minutes, knowing I was a beginner.  The silliest thing was persevering and wrecking myself.

Note:  I did not consult my wife about this list.  If I’d done so, I’d have had an even harder job choosing just six, and they’d have been even sillier. 

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