There is little doubt you have heard of that catalogue of mortal hope, the “bucket list”. If you have not, you are very fortunate and I urge you read no further. However, if you’re a stubborn masochist, here’s a crib: it’s a written tally of the things an individual longs to do before he carks it.
Considered in itself, the bucket list is not an especially foul practice. Considered within the culture that informs it, it has become the dull work of braggarts. And, of terrible publishers; at last count, there were 1001 books itemising the 1001 Things To Do Before You Die.
Advice on how to risk one’s life before it ends is everywhere: the average day can suffer decrees to jump out of a plane, join a cult or run naked screaming “pants on fire Supreme Leader!” through the middle of Pyongyang.
For the sake of all that is decent, SHUT UP. My goals for the remainder of my life are modest and I’d like to keep them that way, thanks. If I can manage to return my tax return on time and have a thorough dental check-up in the same financial year, I’m ecstatic.
Recently, I poked myself in the face with a gardening implement and stumbled to the rooms of my general practitioner. Shickered on pain-killers to the point that even a seven-year-old copy of OK magazine seemed a great literary undertaking, I flicked through a deck of cards designed to appeal to the drug-affected and time-poor. These were a mere 52 Things To Do Before You Die.
The first card suggested I “swim with a dolphin”. Now, this thought might have been briefly entertaining if (a) I hadn’t seen and read this proposal in a thousand cheap pieces of media and (b) we could suppose that anyone had bothered to consult the dolphin population about this inconvenience. Does anyone stop to think about the thousands of poor sea mammals who spend their lives catering to the greedy whim of unfeeling publishers who have pushed an entire generation headlong into their flippers?
The second card suggested that I “dance like no one is watching”. This oft-heard Hallmark nonsense never fails to piss me off and make me wonder about the tortured ghost who demonstrated an utter lack of foresight when he wrote these awkward words. Further, my poor skills as a dancer should not be further compromised. What if someone was watching? A dolphin, for example. Like they haven’t suffered enough.
Number three? Have Your Portrait Painted. WHY? Photography is an art and documentary form honed these past two centuries PLUS it costs virtually nothing. No. I will NOT support a form of expression that has, artistically and technically, long since outlived its usefulness. More to the point, why on EARTH would I BOTHER sitting still for six hours when I have an annual dental appointment to attend? Frankly, I’d rather have root canal than the attentions of the sort of artist my budget might allow.
Actually, I quite liked Number Four which was “Participate in a Police Line Up”. I called my local constabulary to make an appointment and they said, albeit politely, “What do you think this is, lady, CSI?”. There’s no great call for fidgety and unusually fair middle-aged women in forensic photography. Apparently.
I don’t want to climb a mountain. I do not wish to write poetry; I spent my late teens doing just that and I’m surprised I wasn’t put in prison for violating the copyright of Sylvia Plath and the health of my classmates. And skinny dipping at midnight? That’s just ASKING for a painful mosquito bite in an inappropriate crevice.
Besides which. I have a tax return to complete. And a wisdom tooth to conquer. And figs to harvest and lemon meringue pie to master. I wish these active-dying people and the publishers that feed their imaginations would shut up. I have 1001 unglamorous things to do before I die.
This was written for the lovely folk of The Big Issue.