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’
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
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