It’s probably tempting fate but I have begun compiling my first-ever bucket list.
The idea occurred as I scanned my bookshelves for something new to read or worth re-reading and happened upon not one but several of those books telling us the 100 or 1,000 (sometimes it’s 1001) places we should go, things we must eat, and stuff we really have to own before we transition to the great lockdown in the sky.
One of my earliest examples of this do-then-die genre is 100 Things To Do Before You Die. It was written by an American named Dave Freeman and among the things he encouraged us to try before we peg it was to run with the bulls in Pamplona, land-dive with the Vanuatu natives who inspired bungee-jumping and nude night-surf in Australia.
Mr. Freeman died aged just 47 and after completing only about half of his list. He tripped over his coffee table at home, banged his head and that was it. The moral of his story surely is to never attempt a circumnavigation of your living room without the appropriate safety equipment. Thankfully, Captain (now Colonel) Tom took no such chances in completing the laps of his garden.
Among the other such guidebooks I have somehow acquired are compendiums of the 1,000 paintings and the 1,000 buildings we simply have to see before we expire; quite inconveniently, there doesn’t appear to be at least one of the paintings in each of the buildings.
There is also a 2007 classic detailing the 101 Things To Buy Before You Die. Surprisingly, the list does not include life insurance but it does suggest that our essential earthly possessions should include a pair of Manolo Blahnik loafers, a little black dress (phew, well who hasn’t got one of those?) and some hand-painted Portuguese tiles. Whatever floats your boat I guess although I would imagine that, when I do reach that between-worlds state and am awaiting my fate, I’m unlikely to be thinking “I’m really pleased with these shoes”.
I had always assumed that my bucket-list would be a bit like New Year resolutions on steroids and feature many of the usual big-ticket items – trek to Machu Picchu, luxury safari, run a marathon, cocktails on Taki’s Gstaad terrace – but, even armed with my vast library of options, it seems that the current crisis has tempered my needs and expectations.
The value of a hug from a relative or a pint with a friend has increased exponentially; plus, over the past couple of months I have become quite comfortable with spending very little doing not very much.
So, based on ambitions that are no longer particularly ambitious – I’ve given up on getting a supermarket home delivery slot and my BoJo tribute hairdo is an unintended consequence of the lockdown but was never a life goal – I have concluded that my lifetime achievements now only need to include the following (and, as they say, in no particular order):
Be dubbed “a cool dad”
While we’re each other’s only company, I’d settle for success with anything – a joke, a fashionable phrase or maybe a trendy hand gesture – that doesn’t elicit “stop, you’re so cringe” from my 14-year-old daughter.
Own a loo brush that works (done)
This unlikely ambition made my list shortly after my cleaning lady furloughed herself. I soon learned the folly of a brush carefully chosen to match the bathroom decor and ordered an unattractive model with a “replaceable silicone head”. Life-changing.
Fix something properly
Until recently, I had never done any DIY but circumstances forced me to do the manly thing and shop online for my first ever drill (and subsequently for the different drill bits required for different materials; who knew?). I have now successfully hung pictures in the hallway even if they hide holes large enough for a jailbreak.
Master another language
So that I can argue for holiday refunds in both English and Spanish.
Learn an instrument
This probably won’t happen but I envy my brother who feels he has mastered the ukulele in quarantine (though we only know what he’s playing when he sings along on Zoom) and has now moved on to the harmonica (which, on the upside, means he can’t sing along).
Create a Twitter storm
I have very modest ambitions for a tweet that perhaps gets 50 likes and 10 retweets. My best to date is 47 and three respectively for suggesting we’re doomed after Piers Morgan and Good Morning Britain presented Tony Blair as an expert commentator on the COVID-19 exit strategy.
Win the weekly family online quiz
This is a long-shot. I recently returned from living overseas for many years and the questions are loaded with stuff about Eastenders and Love Island. It’s a stitch-up probably by the very same relatives who bought me all those crappy books for Christmas.
When we do come out of this, I may, however, draw inspiration from another book that I have no idea how I came to own. It’s called Climbing the Seven Summits and, as I’m scared of heights, I can’t imagine ever having bought it. I won’t be scaling any peaks but I will attempt a demanding circumnavigation of my seven local supermarkets — Aldi, Lidl, the Co-op, Morrisons, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and, finally (if my expedition budget stretches to it), Waitrose.