To think I did all that and, may I say, not in a shy way, oh no, oh no not me
REGRETS, I’ve had a few, probably more than a few to be honest. But then again a few to mention, moments when the opportunity was not grasped, the day was not seized, the words went unspoken. Doing it our way, the Frank Sinatra way, is a luxury few of us are accorded consistently. Rather than seeing it (whatever it might happen to be) through without exemption, we must rest content to plod along in time to the beat of someone else’s drum.
Regrets? Never mind the team for which the call never came through from the selectors. I was never a good enough player and would have ended up perpetually on the subs bench. Regrets? Never mind the job interview flunked. I was always destined to labour as a foot soldier rather than a general. Regrets? Never mind the girls not kissed, the dates not asked for. Romance has dealt me a good hand in the form of fair Hermione.
The regrets which make me wake up in the middle of the night, sit up in the darkness and say ‘shucks!’ to the ceiling are rather those fleeting chances passed up to make a memory. Not that anyone shares such regrets. Whenever these unfulfilled passing fancies are shared with family members, the reaction tends to be a heartfelt: ‘I am so glad you didn’t do that’.
Eldrick squirms with embarrassment when I tell how close I came to singing Beatles songs in public. We were on a family holiday in London, making our way from one side of the Thames to the other via the pedestrian tunnel at Greenwich. The Medders quartet strode jauntily along the old walkway which runs for several hundred metres, deep below the river, deep below the city.
A feat of no-nonsense Edwardian engineering, it remains one of the workaday wonders of the metropolis. And right in the middle of the passage, as we marched amidst the steady stream of locals and tourists, a busker was performing. The man and his 12-string had hit upon the perfect acoustic location to belt out a few Cat Stevens classics. The tiled walls carried his voice, undistorted, far in either direction for the delectation of the public.
I happily tossed a coin into the busker’s guitar case as we passed. Only a few paces on and I was wishing that I had produced a fiver instead, and that I had prevailed upon him to switch from ‘Morning has Broken’ to Fab Four - with me on lead vocals.
I suddenly wanted, needed, craved to deliver ‘ Yeah, Yeah, Yeah’, with this stranger ripping through the chords providing accompaniment and improvised harmony. Together, we could make people smile, fill this echoing subterranean tube with pop joy created on a whim. Perhaps he could work out the chords to ‘Back in the USSR’ and really make my day. I know all the words, though not always in the correct order. Maybe it was not too late.
I stopped to glance back at the musician, then looked forward to observe the backs of wife and offspring receding swiftly as they strode obliviously away from me towards the Isle of Dogs. I opened my mouth to summon them back but no sound emerged and the moment passed as I broke into a reluctant trot to catch up. The sound of ‘ Hard Headed Woman’ pursued us from the distance we reached the stairs at the north bank exit.
‘I am so glad you didn’t do that’ was our son’s unsentimental reaction later that evening when I shared the lost opportunity over our plates of fish and chips. And Hermione said just the same thing after our experience walking on Our Strand.
The beach was particularly beautiful that day as we set off, a vision of white sand and blue sky. We were tempted to extend our stroll out beyond our usual prescribed limit. At the furthest point, where the open sea meets river estuary, the swirling of the sand and water had produced a pond, no bigger than a large dining table but deep enough to be mysterious.
The Pooch launched himself into the pond and we laughed at his frantic dog paddle. As we made our way home along the beach after hauling him back to dry land, it dawned on me that I should have torn off all my clothes and followed him into the greeny-blue depths. ‘I am so glad you didn’t do that,’ responded Hermione primly. Let her take notice that the next time I feel the urge to skinny-dip, then I shall do so. No more sitting up in the night and saying ‘shucks’ for me.