Cultiver notre jardin – Voltaire
We are, all of us – in these heydays of ‘me-time’ – supposed to have a catalogue of experiences we’d like to achieve before we die.
Places we crave to visit, things we yearn to ascend or descend. Up a mountain in Peru, out of a plane over Strathallan.
Take up pottery or play the ukulele. Adventures we somehow missed earlier during our stay on earth. Perhaps 10 – or more? – goals we’ll make a purposeful effort to complete in our autumns, having missed the boat in our springs.
Before we’re too old to do anything but breathe – and then, finally, not even that.
A visit to Machu Picchu features regularly on such lists.
It’s a perfect example: it seems an extraordinary place; it’s been there thousands of years; it’s a long way away and it’s high up, entailing a purifying hike to reach the top.
For most of us, it would also mean a costly and complicated journey from home to destination and back home again. It even sounds exotic (though don’t get too excited: it just means old mountain, apparently).
And once conquered, what a sugar-rush of sweet achievement. How much richer our dwindling number of days will be, not only from the experience of having made it, but also the satisfaction of knowing, thinking and being able to say to others: I’ve done it, I’ve ticked it off my bucket list!
Well, forgive me if I go against the grain, but I can honestly say that I’ve almost zero interest in bagging Munro Picchu. Or many other things and places I’ve never ventured.
Now – I’d like to add – I’ve never been a stay-at-home-Harry.
I’ve travelled to all sorts of places: the deserts of Venezuela, the heart of Afghanistan, the tropics of Australia and the vast, grey edifices of Moscow and St Petersburg. I’ve composed bad poetry, gazing over the Taj Mahal.
I’ve even lived on the seafront in Morecambe. As Victoria Wood said: See Naples and die. See Morecambe and wish you had.
Inevitably, that leaves a long list of places unvisited. Just like everyone else. However far – or near – they’ve pushed their horizons. Nobody’s done everything. Nobody’s been everywhere.
As I get older, my own horizons are less about going somewhere I’ve never been or doing something I’ve never done. Rather, my burning ambitions – and I still have plenty – seem to fix on the people I know and love; places close to home I yearn to get to know better and things I want to improve. Like writing this blog.
So, on your way, Machu Picchu. Auf Weidersehen, the Oberammergau Passion Play. Sayonara, cherry blossoms of Japan.
You can keep the parachute folded, that bungee rope stays furled. I won’t be troubling any guitar teachers soon, nor yet buying ‘Golf for Dummies’.
Instead of a Bucket List, I give you my Fuckit List:
- Spend as much time as possible with the ones I love.
- Visit as many places in Scotland as possible.
- Keep going to the theatre, watching films, visiting art galleries and concerts.
- Read, read, read.
- Write, write, write.
- Cultiver notre allotment.
I know, I know. That’s only 6. Not even 10. How bloody lackadaisical can you get?
by Paul Bassett, Glasgow, October 2019.
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