I was born in 1954, which seems a very long time ago now. When we were young my parents often used to share New Year’s Eve celebrations with a couple of other Irish families and I can remember on the last night of 1959 one of the older girls remarking that this was the end of the nineteen fifties. ‘When will they come back?’ I asked. I was surprised and greatly saddened to learn that they never would.
It still seems a shame to me that we can’t revisit some of the highlights of past years, except by way of memory, of course. But perhaps one day we will be able to do so in reality. So, in readiness for that time, I have drawn up a list of the ten days in the last fifty five years that I would most like to live again, though since I am doing this with the benefit of hindsight, in each case, I would like to make a few improvements to the occasion. Here is my selection.
1. The day Rosie agreed to marry me. (Not the Rosie who sometimes comments on my blog, by the way - it's just coincidence.) But I would like to have this day without the absolutely dreadful hangover I was suffering on account of having drunk half a bottle of cheap brandy the night before in order to help me pluck up the courage to pop the question, but which only had the effect of making me so drunk that she refused to take me seriously until the next morning.
2. My wedding day. I know I’m beginning to sound like a young woman being interviewed for Bride magazine but this was, and remains, the happiest day of my life. In retrospect, however, I would like to edit out the terrible moustache I was so proud of at the time. What with that and the flared trousers the wedding photos are a bit embarrassing.
3. The day our first daughter was born. The only thing I would change about this was our decision, after we got back from the hospital and Emily had been asleep for six hours without stirring, to wake her just to check that she was all right. (She didn’t sleep through the night again for the next four years.)
4. The day Rosie phoned me at work to say that Oxford University Press wanted to publish my first book. There is more than one thing I would like to amend about this day. Firstly, I would like the advance offered by OUP to have been about ten times what it was. (It still wouldn’t have been a lot). Secondly, I could have done without my Head of Department coming into the room about thirty seconds later to tell me that I’d messed up the stationery recquisition that had taken me all one afternoon to complete the previous week and that I would have to do the whole thing again. I do not, however, regret my decision to tell him exactly what he could do with his recquisition forms, despite the years of poverty that followed.
5. The day my second daughter was born, I would like to re-experience this day without having to hobble around the delivery room on crutches because I had broken my ankle a few weeks earlier when the car I was trying to fix fell off the jack onto my foot. It would also be quite nice if the occasion had not been presided over by a midwife with all the charm and sympathy of Joseph Stalin with a migraine.
6. The day I moved into the house I still live in more than twenty years later. But I would have preferred to purchase it without a leaking roof and severe subsidence to the front bay. It would also have been nice if the previous owner had told the whole truth about the central heating.
7. The day I saw a woman reading one of my books on a train. It would have been perfect if I’d resisted the temptation to go over and introduce myself. Then I would not have had to endure the withering look of a woman who believes she is on the receiving end of one of the most pathetic chat-up lines imaginable.
8. The day I learned that I had sold my fantasy trilogy to Random House in the US for (what is to me) a lot of money. However, I do wish I had learned this from my publishers rather than reading about it on The Bookseller web page. I also wish I hadn’t immediately phoned up my friends and told them about it excitedly within earshot of the plumber who was attempting to deal with the afore-mentioned central heating system and whose subsequent bill turned out to be considerably more than he originally led me to believe.
9. Any of the award ceremonies that I have been invited to, only I would like to actually win for once, instead of slapping the other guy on the back and smiling for the camera.
10. My elder daughter’s wedding day. It would have been great to have gone through this not in the throes of some horrendous virus and not discovering about an hour before the service that the shirt I intended to wear seemed to have been transported to another dimension by aliens.
I’m afraid it’s rather a domestic selection but that’s me. Given the choice between travelling half way round the world to some exotic destination or staying at home with a good book, I’d go for the latter almost every time. I’m more Jane Austen than Jack Kerouac and that’s the way it’s going to stay for 2009.
Happy New Year!