If I had my life to live over again, I’d try to make more mistakes
next time. I would relax, I would limber up, I would be sillier
than I have been this trip. I know of very few things I would
take seriously. I would take more trips. I would be crazier. I
would climb more mountains, swim more rivers, and watch more
I would do more walking and looking. I would eat more ice-cream
and fewer beans. I would have more actual troubles and fewer
You see, I’m one of those people who lives life prophylactically
and sensibly hour after hour, day after day. Oh, I’ve had my
moments; and if I had to do it over again, I’d have more of them.
In fact, I’d try to have nothing else, just moments, one after
another, instead of living so many years ahead each day.
I’ve been one of those people who never go anywhere
without a thermometer, a hot-water bottle, a gargle, a
raincoat, aspirin and a parachute.
If I had it to do over again, I would go places, do things, and
travel lighter than I have.
If I had my life to live over, I would start barefooted earlier
in the spring and stay that way later in the fall.
I would play hooky more.
I wouldn’t make much good grades, except by accident.
I would ride on more merry-go-rounds.
I’d pick more daisies.
I often use the above poem with my students, I teach English as a foreign language. I encourage them to make a bucket list of things they would like to do, places they would like to see etc…
The poem was used in a Harley Davidson ad, to encourage sensible people with well paying sensible jobs to do something a bit crazy and buy a Harley-Davidson Motorbike.
A motorcycle is around 20 times more dangerous than a car, it is loud but it is fun. I had a couple of Japanese motorbikes when I was much younger, first a Suzuki and then a Yamaha RS200. I have lots of good memories of those times.
“Can’t Be Arsed” by Richard Wilson is an antidote to all those lists of 101 ___________ to do before you die. He begins with Machu Picchu, which might look fantastic but is thousands of miles away and so expensive to get to. I had a quick look at getting there from Tbilisi and most routes involved two or three changes and around 24 hours to arrive in Cuzco, then there would be a “bladder-bursting seven hour bus ride“. The growing numbers of tourists threaten the area’s integrity wearing away footpaths and knocking over walls. Richard Wilson thinks it better to stay at home and watch Michael Palin’s TV Programme about it. The Taj Mahal is seen in a similar light, you can never get to see it as you imagine it to be. There will always be throngs of tourists in the way. The classic photos don’t show the polluted Yamuna River running behind the shrine. In short it will be an anticlimax. I visited Pompeii in 1981 at the end of a school cruise, we had earlier seen ruins in Greece, Turkey and Egypt, so by the time we got to Pompeii we were unappreciative of yet more ruins. The Pyramids and the Sphinx were pretty anti-climatic too, unlike Ephesus…I think with Ephesus we had few expectations and it was early in our cruise and we were blown away by the site…whereas the Pyramids, the last surviving Wonder of the Ancient World failed to live up to our overly heightened expectations. Even in Victorian times there was a sense that famous monuments weren’t all they were cracked up to be.
“The truth is that nobody was seriously moved. And why should they be, because of the exaggeration of rocks so enormous? I confess, for my part, that the Pyramids are very big,” wrote William Thackeray in 1844.
I am highly susceptible to lists. At one time I wanted to see every country of Europe by the time I was 50. This was going well, I’d visited about 32 of 50, I’d even visited a couple of countries (Northern Ireland and Switzerland) for the specific reason of ticking them off the list. Then I visited Georgia in 2008, met Khato (who became my wife) and the rest as they say is history. The only new country I have visited since then has been Azerbaijan and then I only wandered across the border at the site of David Gareji in South East Georgia, no border control, no passport stamp…
It is not just places and experiences (like bungee jumping) there are also lists of books, films, albums which he considers over rated and not worth the time to read/watch/listen.
Proust’s “A La Recherche du Temps Perdu“, the longest novel ever, is dismissed with a single sentence: “Yes, yes, Proust tasted a biscuit that made him think of his childhood, we’ve all done that.”
A lot of the things on those Must Do lists are very subjective as to whether they are actually worth doing.
I intended for this blog post to be an in-depth review of “Can’t be Arsed” by Richard Wilson, but I’ve written enough and can’t be arsed to write any more.