I’ve got a hole in my bucket list

‘I need some help with the things I should do be­fore I hit the big five-oh’

Cotswold Life - - NEWS - CLARE MACK­IN­TOSH

When I was a child, fifty was old. Prop­erly old. Bald­ing, tof­fee-suck­ing, might-not-even-have-all-your-own-teeth sort of old. But now? Fifty’s the new forty, which in turn is the new thirty. Which surely makes fifty, thirty… how very con­fus­ing.

Which­ever way you look at it, turn­ing fifty is a cause for cel­e­bra­tion rather than com­mis­er­a­tion. It’s a mile­stone, and like all big mile­stones it de­serves a de­cent build-up. With less than a decade to go un­til I hit the big five-oh, I’m al­ready mak­ing plans to make the most of my for­ties; sail­ing into my fifti­eth year with the warm glow of ac­com­plish­ment that only achieve­ment can bring. I’m mak­ing a list. Fifty Things to do Be­fore I’m Fifty. Not a bucket list (I’m not plan­ning on dy­ing any time soon, and be­sides, I think dol­phins are far love­lier with­out a hu­man hang­ing on to their fins) but a list of fun, in­ter­est­ing and chal­leng­ing ac­tiv­i­ties I can look back on and think ‘I did that.’

Num­ber one: com­plete a triathlon. I spent much of the last year plan­ning to en­ter our lo­cal triathlon, be­fore ad­mit­ting de­feat two months be­fore the race, when I still didn’t own a bike and my swim­ming tech­nique was more flail than crawl. Nine years to crack it.

Num­ber two on my list: pick mush­rooms. In prin­ci­ple I’m all in favour of for­ag­ing, and when one lives in the coun­try it’s ab­so­lutely de rigeur to scour the hedgerows for free food. But I’m also quite keen on stay­ing alive and, af­ter spend­ing sev­eral hours in A&E last year with the chil­dren af­ter some ill-ad­vised berry pick­ing, I’m in no hurry to re­peat the ex­pe­ri­ence. Time to read up on mush­rooms.

Num­ber three: or­gan­ise my pho­to­graphs. I know what you’re think­ing: it’s hardly a sky dive, is it? But for we Vir­gos, al­pha­betis­ing our books or fil­ing fam­ily pho­tos into neatly la­belled fold­ers is pure cat­nip. Like most of us, I have hun­dreds – thou­sands – of fam­ily pho­tos saved on my phone and my com­puter, but hardly any re­cent ones on dis­play. Ten years should be long enough to tick this one off the list, surely?

Num­ber four: sum­mit Snow­don. Frankly, it’s em­bar­rass­ing liv­ing in North Wales and never hav­ing climbed it.

Num­ber five: buy a ticket at the air­port. I travel a lot, of­ten at rel­a­tively short no­tice, but it isn’t truly spon­ta­neous. Not rock-up­with-hand-lug­gage-and-pick-aflight-at-ran­dom spon­ta­neous. Truth be known, I’m not a very spon­ta­neous per­son. I worry about what we might have to eat that night, what sights we should see; whether I’ve got enough clean pairs of pants. I think it’s time to break out of my com­fort zone.

Num­ber six on my list is to go to a con­cert. A big one. At the ripe old age of 41 I have never been to a gig with more than 100 peo­ple in the au­di­ence. This has a lit­tle bit to do with be­ing rather anx­ious in crowds, and a lot to do with lik­ing a com­fort­able chair and easy ac­cess to a loo. (This isn’t a new state of af­fairs; in my late teens while my friends were drop­ping tabs of acid and hit­ting the clubs, I was lis­ten­ing to Ra­dio Four and con­tem­plat­ing an al­lot­ment). Now that my own chil­dren are han­ker­ing af­ter big-sta­dium acts (Lit­tle Mix, any­one?) it feels only right that I make my de­but foray into mim­ing singers, ring­ing ears, and over-priced mer­chan­dise.

Num­ber seven: watch the sun rise. Now, I’ve seen hun­dreds of sun­rises. I’ve driven back from a night shift and pulled over to take a pic­ture of a sky that looked like it was on fire. But I’ve never watched one. I’ve never set my alarm, packed a blan­ket, a flask of cof­fee, a ba­con sand­wich kept warm in foil. I’ve never perched on a hill­top, quiet and still, wait­ing for the sun. I’ve never given a sun­rise the at­ten­tion it de­serves. But I’m go­ing to.

Num­ber eight: make York­shire pud­dings as good as my mother’s.

Num­ber nine: go to Ed­in­burgh Fringe and see a dozen shows, back-to-back. Standup; dance; one-man bands; ex­per­i­men­tal Shake­speare per­formed en­tirely in the dark… you name it, I’ll see it.

Num­ber ten. Write let­ters to my chil­dren. Not be­cause I’m dy­ing, or be­cause they’re get­ting mar­ried, or be­cause one of them has run off with a fire-eater from Gif­fords. Just be­cause. I want to record how they are now; the char­ac­ter quirks that make me smile and sob and roll my eyes. I want to cap­ture a sin­gle mo­ment in time; to seal it up and put it away un­til – years from now – it is time to re­live it.

And so there they are; the first ten things on my list of Fifty Things to do Be­fore I’m Fifty. The par­tic­u­larly aca­demic among you will have worked out that there are still another forty things to add to my list, and that’s where you come in. Whether you’re 25, 55 or 105, lend me the wis­dom of your ex­pe­ri­ence. What should I do be­fore I’m fifty?

Now, I’ve seen hun­dreds of sun­rises... But I’ve never watched one

I See You, pub­lished by Sphere. Out now in pa­per­back For more in­for­ma­tion visit claremack­in­tosh. com

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