As usual January is going so very, very slowly and you would think that the least I could do would be to think of something worth doing. Alas, that is simply not the way I am programmed. Rather than think of interesting things that could go right, but could also very easily go very wrong, I am much more the sort of person that might lend my thinking time to establishing the sorts of activities that I would go out of my way to avoid. New experiences are all very well but that doesn’t mean they’re everyone’s cup of tea. Imagine if every human being was born with an unerasable desire to visit Machu Picchu. Or Putney Bridge. Or a branch of Starbucks in Casper, Wyoming. It would be carnage. No, much better, in these days of carbon footprint shaming and life fulfilment anxiety, to just sit back a bit more and be grateful thinking about the precious time and money you could save by doing yourself a favour and enjoying more of the little things and less of the big, pointless shit that you thought might define your life but will more likely just be something else to forget you did when dementia comes knocking (and even when someone shows you a photo of you doing it you won’t recognise yourself, let alone that you’re doing it on The Great Wall Of China). Here’s 10 experiences I’ll die happy knowing I didn’t bother doing or, in a few cases, that I’ll never bother doing again. Balls to a bucket list; this is a F*ck It list.
- Visit Machu Picchu. Ask most teenagers about Machu Picchu and they’ll think you’re talking about a Pokémon character. Quite frankly they may as well be. Of course, the experts will tell you that Machu Picchu is a must-see. A window into a long dead civilisation. A chance to dance on the grave of the Incas and taste their ghosts as they drift by in the mountain mist. In reality Machu Picchu doesn’t look much more than a collection of abandoned walls stuck on a hilltop in the middle of nowhere. To get there the average tourist arsehole with more money than sense probably burns enough carbon to keep the Flying Scotsman running for the rest of time. Once there they will mainline on overly sincere photography and desperately hunt for an internet connection to update their Facebook profile. I’m sure this is not what the Incas had in mind, but then I wasn’t there to see them wiped off the face of the earth by invasive Europeans, so what would I know? I see that Machu Picchu has very recently been closed off due to political unrest and rioting in Peru, which has left hundreds of tourists stranded there. I bet they wish they had stayed at home and looked at some pictures of it instead, using a reliable Wi-Fi source. I rest my case. Note: I wouldn’t stop at not stopping at Machu Picchu, it’s just a handy example of all kinds of places around the world that, at very best, would offer an insubstantial bang for an awful lot of buck – eg – well, The Great Wall Of China.
- Jumping off stuff. Heaven knows why a certain kind of person finds nothing quite so exhilarating as jumping off random stuff. They might explain it away by saying that by coming close to death they have found a new appreciation of life, but when you are willingly putting yourself into a near death experience then you have to weigh up the chance that cliff diving directly into a lump of granite is not the kind of result you quite had in mind. Put bluntly, jumping off or out of stuff is an activity reserved for the idiots of this world. I have no idea what it must be like to be an adrenaline junkie, but I do wish there could be a much higher level of fatal overdosing. In fact, I would invite the concept of a theme park especially designed for people who want to jump off stuff for the thrill of it; that way they can all just show off to each other and we’d never have to hear about it. And in this theme park I would happily apply for the job of standing at the top of the bungee platform with a substantial pair of scissors.
- Go to a music festival. There are two kinds of people at festivals: those who want to be there and those who really don’t. Sometimes one type is converted into the other during the process. What is sold as a collective communion experience in the tender embrace of a sack of musicians keen to hawk their latest record is in fact an exhausting trawl through clotted throngs of dickheads, who would sooner see you dead in the mud than share their water supply, built on a foundation of disposable plastic, faeces and some live music, where most of the latter will serve only to remind you of faeces. I will never stay overnight at a festival as I can easily think of many other, cheaper ways to feel dead inside, and the more I think about it the more Glastonbury appears to me to be hell on earth. Literally.
- Lose and/or find myself in Thailand. Come to think of it – lose and/or find myself anywhere. When people go somewhere to lose themselves there is usually a good reason. More often than not they have reached a point in life where there are no doors left to open, or at least not any that don’t have a police officer on the other side waiting for them. Gary Glitter springs to mind; I think he tried Cambodia first, as you do. On the other hand, when people say they have found themselves what they mean is they have become even more unfeasibly pretentious than they were before. People don’t often go to cold places to lose or find themselves. Instead, they go to hot, cheap places where they can get laid or high or drunk and then can slip away into the crowd to make a video diary to bore their friends numb with six months later. If you want to know how dull it can be listening to someone who has returned from a journey of self-discovery then just watch ‘Eat, Pray, Love’, ideally blowing your brains out halfway through.
- Swim with dolphins. Do you really think it helps the average dolphin ego when we throw ourselves into the water with a snorkel and a bandana for a selfie? By now dolphins must have realised (if indeed they are as intelligent as we have been led to believe: they’re certainly not the most consistently stupid mammal on the planet) that while they may have mastered sonar, radar, texting, crochet, particle physics and jumping through hoops for a pilchard they will never go the true distance and learn how to walk on land; even the ones that can kind of walk on water with their tails. Therefore, humans swimming with dolphins could be seen as a deliberate act of rubbing their bottlenose snouts in an abject failure to adapt to dry land by accentuating our very limited mastery of water in return. Besides, who is ever impressed to hear you have swum with dolphins? I like them enough to just let them get on with their lives. Indeed, I am happy to extend this entry to any such shenanigans with unwitting animals, to include: showering with elephants; tombstoning with wolves; fly fishing with otters; surfing with flamingos; dancing with polar bears; cooking with bats; gambling with owls; painting with chimpanzees; skate boarding with penguins; auto-asphyxiating with giraffes and dogging with rabbits.
- Ride in a helicopter. Unless I decide to volunteer for The Vietnam War Part II or need to be evacuated from a very dire situation, I see no value whatsoever in being up in a helicopter. Helicopters are unreliable and noisy and messy and when they crash and explode they do so in the least dignified manner imaginable: spinning and spluttering and grinding away until their rotor blades rip themselves free and scythe through an overweight family of six, spreading fat and blood across the pavement like warm margarine on cold toast. This is why they’re called choppers, and this is why I’m happy for the A-Team to use them. All by themselves.
- Any red letter day/unique experience rubbish you could care to mention. I have no interest in drinking cheap prosecco in a hot air balloon. I don’t want to abseil down The Shard or have lunch (or be lunch) in the lion enclosure at London Zoo. I’d sooner eat glass that sit through a West End musical and then go backstage to meet the cast. I don’t want to know what it feels like to drive a car that I’ll never, ever be able to afford to own, and I don’t want to test drive a monster truck either because I’m not a redneck with a girth complex. I can’t be bothered to climb to the top of the O2 or be treated to a Segway tour of historic Wolverhampton, and any offer to join an Escape Room experience would only be taken at its most literal level. And be assured – when I’m suddenly inconvenienced by multiple organ failure I won’t be welling up because I never got to spend a morning at Go-Ape followed by a 2-course set menu lunch at Frankie & Benny’s with Nick Knowles or Coleen Nolan (please tick option 1, 2 or neither of the above).
- Be photographed in front of the Taj Mahal. Or any well-known monument to historical indulgence. I’ve read that the Taj Mahal is falling apart and in dire need of some serious love and attention, but that just makes it a micro-metaphor for India as a whole. Someone far wiser than me said that The Mermaid in Copenhagen is almost laughably disappointing. People generally like to take photos of themselves in front of these things to prove they have been there; but who would truly care if you had been to the Taj Mahal or not? Or Mount Rushmore? Or Uluru (which is the politically correct version of Ayer’s Rock). I wonder what it’s all for – going out of your way to capture these moments and then selling them off as ‘achievements’. I once walked behind a South Korean chap in a huge crowd negotiating one of the corridors of the Vatican’s art collection. He spent the whole time filming everything with his iPad, without ever actually looking at anything. Later on I collapsed to the floor and spent what felt like hours weeping for the boundless absurdity and ignorance of humanity. He probably filmed that as well.
- Go to space. Because why would you? What good has ever come from space travel? It is the great leveller and sits at the apex of man’s inability to match in practice all that he imagines at night. At night and in bed, all tucked up and cosy, not cold and alone and drifting away into the void as the stars look on and laugh; which sums up space travel quite nicely.
- Have children. Not strictly a bucket list kind of choice, but an awful lot of people do still seem keen to throw themselves into parenthood (which often appears to be an extended exercise in not learning from the mistakes of others) without a thought. I can see why couples had more children decades ago, when the world’s population was generally blinkered to the multitude of positions in which we are humping the planet to death, but now that there are no secrets left it just seems wilfully arrogant, vain, tasteless and selfish to have more children than is absolutely necessary. Any more than three is already more than enough, and in some cases even one is not quite anybody’s idea of the gift that keeps on giving. People with children ask those without why they aren’t interested, and the answers, at least to me, always include: it’s expensive, it isn’t compulsory, it can be very painful, it is a lifetime of worry to worry about, there is a chance your child will be born with all manner of disabilities, or even worse will grow up to be a dick (and only you won’t see that and, more importantly, no-one will dare tell you to your face), there are more than enough children out there already and, most crucially, by not having a child one is automatically doing the planet a favour and compensating for those who have lots. As experiences go having children is arguably life’s biggest adventure and by default life’s riskiest gamble, and the die is sometimes cast by very bad gamblers with not at lot to offer except questionable genes and dreadful taste. Obviously it isn’t always a disaster and I’m certainly not going to start praising eugenics (as if any other idiot should be allowed to decide what the ideal child would look like), but I bet there is a great deal more heartache and regret out there than any doting, desperate parent would ever be willing enough to admit to. Some may believe that children are the future but it does rather depend on which children they have in mind.
There. A glimmer of something in this darkest of months. I’ll get back to being busy doing as little as possible and so do the world the greatest favour of all.
G B Hewitt. 26.01.2023