Never had one. A bucket list. Things to experience before I die. Too busy making it through the week. But given research from Sainsbury’s Bank found that at 60, when most traditional life goals have been met, bucket lists tend to become more adventurous, now seems an appropriate time to consider the concept.
For starters, you need to differentiate between aspirations and mere to-dos. So while regrout the bathroom tiles doesn’t cut it, flying in a hot air balloon is a bucket list fave. For me, that’s already a tick. On one ride, while the burner roared and the basket lifted, a young man prepared to scatter a relative’s ashes. Undeniably meaningful but due to where I was standing, I did wonder if auntie might get caught in my hair.
Online lists abound. Perusing one, I was struck by the suggestion to ‘whip up a homemade meal for your loved ones’, which in my humble opinion is aiming a wee bit low. However, further down the same list was ‘change the world’ - quite the leap from serving up a spag bol. If I buy into this kind of extreme thinking, then I shall opt for ‘bring about world peace’ and ‘successfully follow the plot of at least one episode of Endeavour’.
Invariably, travel dominates. This, I understand. I have a flag-studded map of the world above my dressing table. It reminds me I’ve seen polar bears in the Arctic, driven a reindeer sleigh in Lapland, watched humming birds in an Ecuadorian cloud forest and explored the Bungle Bungles in Australia. Studying the map now, I’m pinning my hopes on expeditions to Greenland and the Gobi Desert, magnetised as I am to wild, far-flung locations, partly because it’s in places such as these I experience true inner peace but mainly because during the pandemic, I’ve only made it to Southwold and Chorley Wood.
Extreme sports are classic inclusions but I’m too old to wantonly scare myself shitless. Can’t ride horses, hate skiing, couldn’t bungee jump to save my life and am way too nervy to scuba dive. But I am obsessed with oceans and the weird and wonderful world of the deep. The answer? To glide through the water in a submersible, studying the sea’s eye-widening treasures. I’ve even done my homework. A craft made by Triton called Project Neptune looks suitably racy, fashioned as it is in collaboration with Aston Martin. I just need to hitch a ride on a superyacht that has one as standard.
I think it’s also worth reconsidering things I could have done in the past but declined. For instance, on a commuter train from Waterloo to West Byfleet, I was once asked to be a magician’s assistant. What else have I turned down? Ah yes, many an invitation to Glastonbury. Maybe I was too hasty. Weighing up the two options, on balance I’d rather collude with a conjurer, based on snugger fitting outfits and superior toilet facilities.
I definitely want to write fiction, although I’m hopeless without a deadline. Otherwise, I procrastinate at a professional level. I’m reminded of Peter Cook. The late comedian recalled meeting a man at a party who declared he was writing a novel. Cook replied ‘Oh really. Neither am I’. But if I could get a literary agent to tap a watch with rabid urgency, my award-winning manuscript will be delivered forthwith.
Another suggestion from that initial ideas list was ‘tell parents and siblings you love them’. This stopped me in my tracks. While I know many people who do this as a matter of course, I was raised in an era where familial love was often taken as read rather than overtly expressed. In fact, it wasn’t until my elderly mum was very ill in hospital that I told her the full extent of my feelings. Thank God I had the chance. So this one is going on my bucket list: ‘make a point of telling everyone who matters how much they mean to me’. Why wait until we’re in dire straits in A&E?
And while in sombre territory, I’d like to manage my horrible anxiety better. To worry less, not more and more. Sure, there are key things one needs to take seriously, but when I think of the thousands of hours I’ve agonised over irrelevances, I weep at the waste of emotional energy. If I could focus on real concerns and discard the rest, that would make a dramatic difference to the rest of my time of earth.
Lightbulb moment! Maybe that’s it. Instead of a bucket list, perhaps I should compile a ‘f***k it list’. Put all the mental noise and nonsense on that. Then symbolically burn it and scatter the ashes over the Serengeti from a hot air balloon. Mission accomplished. Just mind your hair.