My son wanted to know if I had any regrets, so I told him some of them – and others I kept to myself.
The late Chopper Read lied about me, as he lied about pretty much everything else. I appear as a walk-on character in his book Chopper 9: The
Final Cut (whose title itself was a lie, since Read wrote another two Chopper books – 10½ and 11 – and then started again from the beginning) in a largely fictitious episode set in a lap-dancing club in Tasmania. But I was with Read on the night in question (as they say in police statements) and I asked him about the first book, Chopper from the Inside. In the first chapter, he wrote that he regretted nothing, while at the conclusion he claimed to regret everything. That night, he told me he actually had no regrets, as he’d initially stated, but he’d felt that would make an unsuitable conclusion to his memoir.
The question becomes complicated when you consider the fact that most of the things that Read claimed not to regret, then to regret, then not to regret again, he had not done in the first place. Read regularly admitted to crimes of which he had never been accused, many of which hadn’t even been committed.
The other day, while we were walking to a cake shop, my 12-year-old son asked me if I had any regrets. I was determined not to give him a lecture, but I couldn’t help but tell him (the truth) that I wished I had tried harder at school. I would’ve like to put more effort into everything, really. Looking back, I’ve been far too casual about my life. Although at least I didn’t cut off my ears, like Chopper.
In fact, I have quite a few regrets – some of which I told my son, some of which I kept to myself. I wish I’d have had more silly haircuts when I had more hair. I would’ve liked to wear a mohawk, or even a fauxhawk. Now, the only option open to me is a nohawk. Conversely, I regret not shaving my head every week since I was 18. If only I’d taken that precaution, nobody would realise I was “going” bald.
I don’t regret starting to smoke at 16, but I regret not giving up at 21, when I’d tasted everything smoking had to offer (that is, nothing).
I regret not having pursued an amateur boxing career – but if I had done I’d be dead, since I’m undoubtedly the least co-ordinated boxer ever to pull the right-hand glove on to his left hand.
I regret not having been more confident as a teenager. I regret surrendering to that adolescent sense of shame. I wish I’d been a singer in a band, although I can’t sing any more than I can box, and my fantasy musical career would undoubtedly have conflicted with my imaginary sporting career, and I would’ve had to make the choice between one fictitious path or the other, so it’s probably best (or, at least, less complicated) that I did neither.
I regret every cruel word I’ve ever said to anyone. There haven’t been many – not that I remember, anyway – but none of them would’ve added anything of value to the world.
I regret buying a ridiculous tracksuit with pants that looked like pjyama bottoms, and a Le Shark polo shirt when I couldn’t afford a Lacoste. I regret being unemployed and broke. I should’ve pushed myself harder to find a job.
I regret not spending more time with my grandad when he was alive. I regret not knowing that my brother and sister needed me. I regret not having a “Bowie cut” in 1972, as I think I could’ve swung it (eventually) as the price of my co-operation with my mum’s divorce.
But the thing I regret more than anything else is not speaking to my dad for two years, and only getting back in touch with him when he was fatally ill. I can never make that right, not even in fantasy. But I didn’t tell that to my son, because I didn’t want to lecture him.