I chatted last week with a slightly depressed friend of mine, who listed regrets of his at length. After a period of nodding, making sympathetic noises and turning my head to one side (this looked more coquettish than sympathetic I feel, and was too reminiscent of Princess Diana giving that interview to Martin Bashir in 1995), I told my friend that 'I was lucky, as I had no regrets, whatsoever.' It was definitely tactless (considering his depressed state of mind), but when quizzed I genuinely couldn't come up with any. He then came up with a few on my behalf and we had a slight argument about it.
I was initially quite proud of my apparent contentedness, but my friend insisted it showed a 'lack of emotional depth and complexity' on my part. Like any real man of course, this made me think 'right! Fuck you! I'll show you regret! In blog form!'
So here they are. Bearing in mind I'll never have my time on earth again, I regret the following:
1. Not smoking heavily aged 16-25. It would have done me no harm in the long run, yet would have looked cool as fuck. I could have been the cool Gitanes smoking enigma at student parties, rather than the person asking quietly 'if it was alright to sit on that bit of bed, or has someone else already taken that space? Oh right, the cool Gitanes smoking enigmatic one has. And now he's drinking my Carling.'
2. Not being there on June 5th 1991, to watch Wales beat then world champions Germany 1-0 at the old Cardiff Arms Park. Dad, if you're reading this, YOU FUCKED UP, BIG TIME. Didn't you know anyone at work who could get a ticket? And before you blame me, I was ten. I didn't even have a Solo Card and Ticketmaster don't accept shrapnel, or WHSmiths vouchers
3. Not doing 'my bit' during Britain's finest hour (WW2).
4. Having my 'arson phase' during the summer of 1999. Although in fairness to me, I'd just finished my A-levels, and since when has drunken horseplay not ended with the manager of a local golfclub calling the police?
5. I got sacked from my Saturday job in a youth drop in centre when I was 16, for serving a truant an undercooked beefburger. The lad was a sorry case - burgeoning criminal record, despicable lack of respect and uncouth manners. That said, I wasn't trying to administer short sharp shock treatment to this ne'er-do-well by giving him e-coli and a lecture on Christian values - I was just 'thinking about other things' and didn't give cooking his lunch my full attention. There endeth my brief flirtation with the service industry, until student poverty caused me to sharpen up my ideas.
6. A quite major comedy agent once turned me down for not being ambitious enough, 'or sounding like I wanted it' during the interview. In retrospect, they're a very, very influential company, and have some really big acts, so maybe this was the wrong way to play it:
Agent: Thanks for coming in, and sit down. I really liked your stuff last night Elis, do you have a manager?
Me: No, no. I'm not really good enough.
Agent: Well I think you are. Listen, I'm 'X,' and I have real connections in the industry. Do you work for these promoters?
Me: No, no. Like I said, I'm not really good enough. I'm wasting your time.
Agent: errrr...well like I said, I liked your stuff. So what are your ambitions?
Me: (after about ten minutes of 'umm-ing' and 'aah-ing') To own as in mortgage on a nice semi-detached house in Carmarthen - maybe the nice houses at the top of Lime Grove avenue? By the Fire station? Easy access to the local primary, well it's my old primary school and a really massive Tesco has opened near the Athletic club, so I'd have everything I need
Agent: I think you should get out of my office
7. Trying 'the chicken kiev material' at a gig in Northampton back in March. That was an important gig for me (first for a big promoter), and 'the chicken kiev material' was something I'd written in the car, on the A420 going past Faringdon. I'd heard on the radio that back in 1976, chicken kievs were the first ready meal introduced to Britain by Marks & Spencer. Suffice to say, the people of Northampton simply weren't ready for a string of puns about this fact, ending in a weak impression of a quizzical 1970s shopper deciding on whether to take the plunge and buy one. I was first on that night - the look on the middle act's face as I essentially destroyed the atmosphere with a quip about garlic sauce will live with me forever.
8. Taking the early stance that the 'internet wouldn't catch on' and maintaining this position until 2001. Admittedly, this was based on my early, 'pre-google' experiences of the internet, which involved lots of whirring and beeping, search engines being shit and a single typo in a web address (which were always given as http://:www.btusernet./bbc.gov.how-do-they-do-that.co.uk and had to be typed out in full) being fatal. I think in retrospect this stance was fair enough. Technology moving on just took me by surprise, that's all, which implies that naturally I'm quite the luddite. I used the word 'devilry' the first time I saw a Sat-Nav, much to the taxi driver's surprise.
9. Not having a proper fight at school. If I was ever going to prove my masculinity in a safe(ish) environment then that was the place to do it. Under developed muscles on my opponent, teachers and fair minded older kids roaming the playground, I was never going to get really hurt. However, my opportunities to fight in a playground are now limited (and at 28 would land me in a whole heap of trouble), and the ramifications of the other option available (drinking Stella and throwing a swing at someone in a pub), are too scary to think about. Knowing my luck someone will spill a drink on my friend's shoe in a nightclub, and I'll do the honourable thing and kick up a fuss. I just won't realise I'm picking a fight with someone who eats broken glass 'to make a point about food in prison,' and sparred with Chris Eubank 'back in the day.' I can't afford to turn up at gigs and be forced to write my jokes on a spotlit flipchart, because I've just had my jaw wired to my cheekbone.
10. Taking the piss out of my friend's wheat allergy. He's dead.
11. Not playing bass on an era defining hit single. A royalty cheque landing on the doormat every month, because I stepped in when Peter Hook popped out to buy his road tax during the recording of 'Blue Monday' would be something to tell the grandkids, wouldn't it?
'Wow grampa, what did you do in the 60s?
'Well, I recorded the solo on 'All day and all of the night' by The Kinks, because Dave Davies had tonsilitis'
'Woooow! What did you do after?'
'I had lunch'
12. Trying to sell those 'Nelson Mandela is a cunt' t-shirts back in 1985. Oh man oh man, did I misjudge the mood of the nation.
Anyway, I hope this implies how truly well-adjusted I am, and puts those fears to rest that I'm a contented, uncomplicated dunce. My friend's ones by the way (the regrets he kindly came up with, on my behalf) were:
1. Wearing a gold catsuit to go drinking in on the night of my 18th birthday
2. 'Just being a wanker, loads'
I rest my case. If that's the best a bitter man with a questionable agenda could come up with after knowing me for 16 years, then it's a wonder I managed 12 of my own. And I've known me for ages.