Tag Archives: regrets

Dreams, Regrets and Memories

It’s 8.15, it’s Sunday and I have just finished looking through my emails and the WP comments. It’s what passes for social interaction in what I refer to as “my life”. When summarised in a single sentence it isn’t much of a life. No editor has been in touch overnight, no Lottery win has been communicated and I have, as yet, not interacted with another human. (Julia is still in that Sunday morning phase where she is grunting from inside a cocoon of duvet, in case you were wondering. Not human. Not interaction).

I have had inspiration for some haibun prose since waking this morning, and I had a very peculiar dream about something. I can remember it was peculiar, but as time passes, I can’t remember anything other than that. Dreams are like that.

On the subject of teachers, however, I seem to have a set of superpowers I did not know existed. I can remember nearly every teacher who ever taught me, and I can remember something good about nearly every one of them. I won’t bore you with a list, but I was amazed how, once I started, I couldn’t stop remembering them. It would be better if I could remember everything they taught me, but that, unfortunately, is beyond me.

I’d have liked to have been a teacher, but it was not to be. My mother wanted to be a teacher too, but it didn’t happen. Same with my paternal grandmother. It’s a small enough ambition but my grandmother was told she had to work on the farm, my mother was told she had to get a job to help support the family. I was merely told by the careers teacher that people always said teaching when they couldn’t think of anything else and I should find something else.

When spoke to Julia about this she said she’d been told to consider a career as a waitress or hairdresser, because she would no doubt get married and stop work to raise a family. Fifteen years later she completed a part-time post-grad diploma whilst number one son, at the age of two weeks, slept on the seat next to her in the lecture hall.

We used to have a saying when I was in sales – “Nothing happens until somebody sells something.”

You could say the same about life – “Nothing happens until somebody teaches something.”

And with that, I will leave you. It’s 8.46 and I am hungry.

Ha! I just remembered the name of a history teacher that had been eluding me.

Sunday Morning, Fathers and a Haibun

In literary convention, Sunday morning is a lazy day involving late breakfasts and a leisurely reading of a weighty Sunday paper. I can remember Sundays like that, walking to the paper shop with my father to collect papers because there was no newspaper delivery on Sunday.

As I became a father myself, and the kids started playing rugby, Sunday mornings became more hectic times, featuring lost boots and arguments. I remember one morning in a car park 30 miles from home when a familiar face pulled up with his son.

I said: “You’re in the wrong place Dave, the Under 12s are playing at home.”

“What are you doing here then?” he asked, with the triumphal air of of a man proving an important philosophical point in an argument.

“I’m with the Under 15s today. Julia’s with the Under 12s.”


Modern Sundays seem so hectic.

Ten years after our walks to buy papers my father and I had developed a prickly relationship. Adolescents, as I would find in my turn, are awful examples of humanity and are barely human. Ten years after that, we still weren’t much friendlier. Ten years after that we had developed a better understanding, as I now had kids of my own. Ten years after that I no longer read newspapers. And ten years after that, having lost many games of dominoes and done a lot of jigsaws, I am left to regret the wasted time spent arguing, and the lessons I could have learned from my father. He may have lost a lot of things through Alzheimer’s, but he retained his competitive edge and his facility with numbers until the end.

To be fair, I wasn’t the only argumentative one (the apple not falling far from the tree) and some of his advice, whilst brilliant for the 1950s, was not so good when applied to the 1990s.

Here’s a haibun I wrote on the subject some time ago – first published in Haibun Today Volume 13, Number 1, March 2019.


Eternal Jigsaws

My father remembers who I am (though he can’t quite remember my name) and he’s keen to show me his jigsaw.

It’s one of the puzzles my sister ordered from a specialist supplier. They have larger pieces than normal and depict idealised, almost timeless, scenes from the 1950’s. Before she found these, he used to have jigsaws for children, bought from the Early Learning Centre.

When he clears it away, he puts the edges in a separate bag, so they will be easier to find next time. That could be as early as tomorrow, when it will be brand new as it comes out of the box.

winter afternoon
playing a child’s game
in the fading light


A Letter to my 14-Year-Old Self

I looked at a writing website for some ideas and I quite liked this title. I’ve recently been thinking about the teenage me and this merges with it very nicely. It’s going to be ten point because I’m still practising ten point lists.

So, point one for the teenage me is – you are going to be a failure in life, so don’t worry about success. All it will do is add an extra level of disappointment to the failure.

Point two, Stand up for yourself. I don’t mean just making a token gesture of dissent, I mean really digging in and refusing to cooperate. People will give way in many cases just to get a quiet life. You see it all the time in life – the most selfish people, who shout the loudest are the ones who get their way.

Point three, see above. When the broken down hack of a metalwork teacher masquerading as a careers advisor shouts at you not to waste his time because “everybody says teaching when they can’t think of anything else to say” go straight to the Headmaster’s Office and complain like hell. He’s only a careers advisor because he was a crap metalwork teacher.

Point four – do stuff. Don’t just end up on the scrapheap as a sixty year-old-man with arthritis and a duff prostate. Buy bigger motorcycles, fall off more of them, at least you will have an excuse for arthritis. And beat that jerk of a metalwork teacher to within an inch of his miserable wasted life.

Point five – don’t regret not getting  a degree, beat the metalwork teacher to death and remember that a life sentence can be as little as 15 years. You can do an OU degree in that time and have time left over to write an autobiography in that time. It didn’t do John McVicar any harm.

Point six, don’t bottle up old grudges against metalwork teachers.

Point seven, don’t worry, it will work out alright. People generally don’t starve to death in the UK and the council won’t let you rot in the gutter when you die. Even if you end up going through the bins behind McDonald’s it’s still better than being a metalwork teacher.

Point eight, spots are transitory.

Point nine, so is hair, Get used to the idea.

Point ten, die during lockdown. That way people won’t notice you had no friends.

Too Much Time, Too Many Thoughts

Last night I became pensive. It’s one of those words, like costive, that you don’t see often, and it generally isn’t a good thing. (As a subsidiary thought, I checked costive to make sure I had the meaning right, and was amused to find it had a second meaning, which seems descriptively appropriate – “slow or reluctant in speech or action; unforthcoming”).

This state of mind was caused by an ill-advised look at property websites. I’ve recently been forming an ambition to return to the East of England as my sister and all Julia’s siblings are there. The thought that formed in my mind was that I should sell everything of value to raise money and reduce clutter, and look for a cheap house in Norfolk.

There are two sorts of house in Norfolk – the ones that I can’t afford and the ones that I don’t want to live in (otherwise known as the ones I can afford). I would like the one I found that has several sheds and a private mooring on one of the Broads. Based on current estimates of my worth, including the jar of £1 coins and the stuff down the sides of the chair cushions, I definitely can’t afford it.


Mencap Garden April 2019

The ones I can afford are generally small, Victorian and badly designed. They normally have a bathroom that was added long after they were built, which is right at the back of the house (having been built as an extension to the kitchen). That’s a long trip for a man with a bad knee and a substandard bladder. They are, in short, great value houses to start in, but not that great when you are looking at somewhere for your twilight years.

At that point I started comparing my life to the one I had planned for myself as a teenager.

Compared to the life I had planned when I was 14, my current life is deficient in sunshine, palm trees, cocktails and bikini-clad women. However, as my bald head burns badly, I hardly drink and I’m married, I don’t really notice these things.

When I was 16 I wanted to be a University Lecturer in History. The dream, by now, featured sunshine, manicured college lawns, real ale and female undergraduates.

I suppose you are starting to form some conclusions about the way my mind worked as a teenager.

The dream came to an abrupt end when I was shouted at by a careers teacher. “Don’t waste my time. Teaching is what people say when they can’t thing of anything else to say!”

I’d said teaching because it seemed less pretentious that University Lecturer and didn’t want to upset him. I’m not sure it worked. To be charitable, it’s possible, as an ex-metalwork teacher who had been moved into careers advising (despite, I feel it is fair to say, a lack of talent for careers teaching) that he nursed a grudge against the profession and didn’t want me to end up like him.

By the time I was 18 I was working on a poultry farm, worrying about money and wondering where my dreams had gone. To a large extent, this is still the same today, though with fewer chickens and more arthritis.

That was what caused my introspection.


Mencap Garden April 2019

Fortunately these episodes don’t generally survive the sunrise and after writing about it (well, you need to write about something) and eating a bacon sandwich I am ready for the rest of the day. I’m currently watching an item on TV about a woman with a collection of 400 novelty teapots and reading the internet about more people getting into trouble for their comments on Boris Johnson.

This multi-tasking stuff is getting easier as time goes on.


Regrets, I’ve had a few…

There are of course the obvious ones – I regret ever starting smoking, I regret eating so much and exercising so little and I regret not being better with money.

I regret being an indifferent husband, a bad father and an ungrateful child.

Most of all, in this miserable, whining list, I regret not being able to make Julia see my marriage potential when we first met. It took me nine years to persuade her, though as she points out, it might have been easier to persuade her if I’d adopted a life of seclusion, sobriety and celibacy. I, in turn, point out that if she’d married me I wouldn’t have needed the wine, women and song to dull the pain of rejection. I am not by nature, introspective or pale and interesting.

To this day, after 30 years of marriage, she remains unimpressed by my explanation.


Two of my favourite things…

I was born too late to drive a Bentley Speed Six or fly a Sopwith Camel and I didn’t realise you could use a metal detector to find gold in Australia until it was too late. On the other hand, in the absence of parachutes and decent brakes, my regrets are tinged with a feeling of relief.

As for Australia, my suspicions about snakes and spiders mean I am not fully committed to the idea of wandering round with a metal detector, regardless of the possibilities.

You can, after all, find gold in Scotland if you are prepared to brave a cold river.

Finally, I confess that although I did many things I would come to regret, my main regrets are about chances I didn’t take, challenges I ducked and opportunities I missed. There is probably a good quote about this somewhere on the net, but at the moment all I can think of is “A man who never made a mistake never made anything.”

It doesn’t quite fit the subject, but it does provide a good place to break off. And it’s probably a good place to put regrets into perspective. It’s all very well looking back, wondering about “what ifs” and plotting different courses for my life, but it all points to one thing. Destiny needed me to be in Preston on a particular day in 1980. I was there. And I’ve never regretted it.


A pattern develops…


More Serious Stuff – Deep Thought, Castration and the Importance of Parents

I started doing more thinking after writing yesterday’s post. There was a lot to think about, mostly about murdered teenagers. After bringing two kids up in a city that had a poor reputation at one time, you can get quite thoughtful.

Interestingly, the writers blame the Labour government for the various problems, where most of the people these days blame the Conservatives. That is probably a sign that we should leave politics out of the discussion.

Youth clubs, youth sports and such things are, at best, distractions rather than a cure. If you are keeping kids off the street they can’t get into trouble. When looking at funding possibilities I’ve often seen the terms “distraction” or “displacement activity”.

We had quite a few difficult kids at the various rugby clubs we attended. Some were the typical sort of inner city kid you’d expect to be in trouble (who we used to work with in Rugby League) and others, in Rugby Union, were much more affluent and better educated.

One of the things I noticed was that you could put a lot of effort in and make no discernible difference. I also noticed that if the parents weren’t engaged nothing seemed to work. That held good for all the kids – parents who were at work all the time were just as bad as parents who deserted their family.

So my solution to the problem is to put the family back at the centre of things. I’d also be prepared to think about castrating absent fathers who didn’t live up to their responsibilities, though it’s likely that this would be a last resort.

It’s about the basics – decent places to live, education, jobs, reducing teenage pregnancies…

I’m starting to sound like a beauty queen here, but I’ll stop short of advocating world peace and an end to famine. It is, however, a matter of some regret that I didn’t start thinking forty years ago – it might actually have made a difference at that point.

Does anyone have any good ideas?


A Very Average Day (Part 2)

This is the second part of a post about Sunday, written on Tuesday.

I was finally able to load the clean laundry into the car a couple of minutes before 10.00 and decided to go directly to the supermarket, rather than go home first.

If I go home between errands I tend to brew up, sit down and turn to WordPress. It can take quite an effort to get up and go out again.

Since our new Sunday opening laws Sunday has become a strange day. (Note that “our” refers to England and Wales – Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own regulations, and “new” means 1994 – I take time to get used to change). It’s always been a strange day, to be honest. Even before the 1994 Act it was legal for shops to sell some things on Sundays, but not others. Even if a shop was open you couldn’t guarantee being able to buy everything on the shelves.

This law was partly to safeguard shop workers from exploitation. Farm workers didn’t count. We were allowed to work Sundays, and when the shops are closed on Easter Sunday and Christmas Day, we are still allowed to work. The law is quite keen on farm animals being fed and inspected every day.

And I was, quite honestly, happy to reduce Christmas Day to work, food and presents. It’s what people really want – I’m not sure how many people really enjoy the Queen’s Speech, Monopoly and arguments.

I remember being in a Motorway Service Station one Sunday before the changes came in. A man was reading the paper and talking to his wife.

“They won’t get me working Sundays.” he said. “It’s not right. I won’t do it.”

He seemed totally oblivious to the fact that people were working to allow him to travel, eat and read papers on a Sunday.

Anyway, let us leave 1994 and return to the present.

I missed the customary chariot race opening but, arriving at 10.07, was still amazed by the number of people who were already there, and by the speed at which they were moving. What is it about Sunday opening that turns the average shopper into a crazed looter?

There’s plenty of food in the shops, so why do we need all the wheel-to-wheel Ben Hur impersonations?

Later, I noted a new tactic from a particular couple – one of them stood looking at a shelf, whilst ensuring that their trolley stuck out into the aisle. The other stood looking at the opposite shelf, making sure that nobody could get past. It’s a new one for my anthropological survey of irritating shoppers.

On leaving, I passed a woman in a four-wheel-drive discussing shopping with her teenage son. He was clearly failing to live up to her expectations. In several different ways. It took me right back to the time when I used to do similar things with my kids. It never made them change and it often made me feel guilty afterwards. Kids are like that.

If I could, I would have told her she was wasting her time, but I don’t think she’d have listened. Anyway, I’m not exactly an expert. I did, however, manage to coerce Number Two Son into making brunch when I got home. I may be bad at parenting, but I’m good at psychology. Once I got his mouth watering he was putty in my hands…