50 things to do before I die (Part 1) (so, 25 things to do before I die)
I have emerged from another week unscathed. My record attempt continues.
In 2003 the BBC compiled a list of the 50 things you should do before you die, based on the suggestions of 20,000 people. I should point out that these were meant to be exciting things, not the practical things that will make life easier for your surviving relatives (like 'make a will', 'explain how the recordable dvd player works' and 'earn enough money to buy a house that your children can inherit and then sell so that they can buy their own houses which their own kids can inherit and sell and so on) or more ethical ideas (like 'don't destroy too much of the earth', 'try to help people in need rather than watch Glee all the time' and 'floss').
So today I thought I'd copy and paste the first half of the list (50 is a large number, although not, obviously, in age terms) to see how many of these things I've already done and how many I still need to do in the hundred or so years I have left on this earth. I can then decide how quickly or slowly I need to get on with them (it'd be a shame to polish the lot off when I'm still in my early 40s and then have to sit around for the next 90 years), and maybe even make an order so I don't leave myself something particularly active (like 'play a game of squash') till I'm 120 (I haven't copied, let alone pasted, the list yet so don't know if 'play a game of squash' made it yet).
Right then. Enough faff. Here is the first half of that list:
1. Swim with dolphins. DONE. TWICE! Once in a river (yes, you get river dolphins too – they're pink) in Bolivia and once in the sea in Costa Rica (yes, I went to Costa Rica – it was my honeymoon – sorry our honeymoon). Both times I found the experience disconcerting. But then that's probably because I developed a mild phobia of fish after treading on a dead one (which then rose to the surface) when I was 11. I know people say dolphins aren't fish but look at them; they're basically fish.
2. Scuba dive on Great Barrier Reef, Australia. DONE. My my, it already looks like I've done a fair bit of travelling in my so far short life. I'm sure (and I hope) there'll be more gaps as this list progresses. This one I also found a bit disconcerting, partly because of the fish thing (see No.1) but mainly because of the whole being able to breathe underwater thing (we'd booked onto an incredibly (worryingly) cheap trip and were given our underwater training lessons on the side of the boat, five minutes before tumbling in).
3. Fly Concorde to New York, USA. NOT DONE. Tricky one too, this. I know they've been decommissioned, but anyone know if you can still hire them for a one-off? They must be around in someone's garage somewhere, surely? Quite fancy getting it ticked off. I like flying (especially the films. Airlines seem to make and then show very good films).
4. Go whale-watching. DONE. South Africa this time. And I liked this one even though I'm scared of fish (again, whales are basically fish – see No.2). Thankfully it was whale-watching not -swimming-with or -riding. And I preferred whale-watching to bird-watching because they're a lot bigger so you don't need binoculars.
5. Dive with sharks. NOT DONE. Oh dear. Really not keen on this one. Why are these so fish-related so far? I know some people like them but do we really have to swim with them all the time? Can't we just look at them occasionally and eat them on Fridays? Especially sharks. I might just leave this one to last and then go out in a blaze of glory on my 130th birthday.
6. Sky diving. DONE. Australia again. And I liked this one too, far more than bungee jumping which was just scary and irritating. Sky diving was scary and exciting – and you have a free man strapped to your back. If it's allowed (I'll check) I might even do this one again before I die, ideally from that concorde.
7. Fly in a hot air balloon. NOT DONE. My mum's done it and said it was 'nice'. She may even have said 'really nice' so I'm looking forward to this. Have looked into it once or twice when researching birthday presents and feeling generous, but each time I saw the price and bought a CD instead.
8. Fly in a fighter jet. NOT DONE. Who would suggest this? Fine if you're a fighter pilot but otherwise, surely not what you'd choose to spend your time doing? Still, it's on the list so I must give it a go. Do I just ring up the airforce? Or do I actually have to sign up?
9. Go on safari. DONE. TWICE! Once in Malawi, once in South Africa, both exciting and not at all irritating. Elephants (and that sort of thing) really are amazing to see close up. On one trip a man (from Arizona) dropped his cap off the side of the jeep and insisted that we go back and get it. The driver had to jump out and retrieve the cap (also from Arizona – it said Arizona on it. In fact, the man might not have been from there, I think I'm basing that entirely on the cap. But then I know a man who wears a cap with NY on it and he's from Exeter) even though there was a lion nearby. Silly.
10. See the Northern Lights. NOT DONE. But yes, I'd love to do this one. I saw Professor Brian Cox (he used to be in D-REAM) (really?) (yes, the band that did 'Things Can Only Get Better') (are you sure?) (fairly) talk about them in his recent (good) series. The name 'Northern Lights' doesn't really do them justice. They should be called Northern (if you insist on having the location in there) Lovely Lights.
11. Walk the Inca trail to Machu Picchu, Peru. DONE. I celebrated my 21st birthday en route, in fact. My friend Mike had carried a bottle of cava all the way up so we could mark the moment. Unfortunately I got quite bad altitude sickness so didn't really appreciate the gesture. Still, it was a nice walk and the view from the gateway to the ruins as the sun rose was worth the dizziness. On this trip I also swum with those pink dolphins, by the way, so a good one for getting these done.
12. Climb Sydney Harbour Bridge, Australia. NOT DONE. So, back to Australia for me, then. Really should have read this list before heading out there (although this list came out after I went out so not entirely my fault). I don't think I've ever actually 'climbed a bridge' yet so don't have any real opinions on this one.
13. Escape to a paradise island. NOT DONE. This is the vaguest 'thing' so far. 'Escape' from what? Do I need to commit a crime or be the victim of a crime first? Can I just escape from a normal week? I'm pretty sure I can just 'go' to a paradise island and concoct some story to suggest I was escaping something. But what makes an island 'paradise'? Can the one of Wight be 'paradise'? I played pitch and putt there and enjoyed it. So maybe I have DONE this one. Let's give it ½.
14. Drive a Formula 1 car. NOT DONE. Falls into the fly a fighter jet category for me. I'm not that interested (I find driving my own Renault Megane at anything over 60 scary enough) and can see getting into the cockpit will require quite a bit of admin and squeezing.
15. Go white-water rafting. DONE. In New Zealand. I quite liked it but was a little suspicious that actually I was white-water sitting and only the tanned man leading the trip was doing any actual rafting. Still, the water was white and I guess that's the attraction of the thing.
16. Walk the Great Wall of China. DONE. In China. I didn't walk the whole thing (I always think with walls, that you can just have a look at a bit of the wall to appreciate the wall. No need to look at every inch of the wall) but I did get my photo taken there, by a sign saying I'd done the Great Wall of China. And yes, good wall. No, Great Wall. Northern Lights, take note of the name.
17. Bungee-jumping. DONE. See No.6. Didn't enjoy it much. Glad I've ticked it off, would hate to have that hanging over me (or under me).
18. Ride the Rocky Mountaineer train, Canada. NOT DONE. Like the sound of this. I've never been to Canada and, more importantly, I've never ridden a train. I've sat in one, yes. I've taken one and caught one but I've never ridden one. I've ridden a horse. So I'm looking forward to riding a Rocky Mountaineer train.
19. Drive along Route 66, USA. NOT DONE. I have driven along some roads in America (can't remember the numbers but most of them were in Florida) and they were fine. They drive on the same side as us so that's helpful. I'm guessing Route 66 is a bit like the M40 here (good services, some nice views – red kites etc – and a good bit where the lamp posts are shorter than usual because of an airport.
20. Fly in a helicopter over the Grand Canyon, Nevada, USA. NOT DONE. Obviously. Has anyone actually ever flown in a helicopter? I doubt it. Of course I'd like to. Of course I'll try. But I'm pretty sure helicopters are fictional.
21. Take the Orient Express from Venice to London. NOT DONE. I'm hoping this is something the Orient Express normally does otherwise getting them to re-route could be a bit awkward. Doesn't it normally go somewhere eastish? More towards China? Perhaps the bureaucratic wrangling is what makes this particularly fun. Also, I live near London, so I'll have to get myself to Venice first. Can I get a return?
22. See elephants in the wild. DONE. See No.9. Who goes on safari and doesn't see elephants? They're huge!
23. Explore Antarctica. NOT DONE. I should probably start planning this one soonish. 'Explore' sounds a bit more imposing than 'visit'. I suppose I'll need a compass, some Kendal Mint Cake and some mittens, at the very least. Is there an exact definition of 'explore' that I need to meet? Can I have a guide please? All I'm saying is, I'd like to play a bit of pitch and putt when I'm there (see No.13 and the Isle of Wight).
24. Ride a motorbike on the open road. DONE. Ish. When I was in China I borrowed someone's motorbike for half an hour. I drove about 50 metres on a road. The road was not closed. So, yes; DONE. Ish. I think that'll have to count because my wife really doesn't want me to ride a moped, let alone a motorbike.
25. Have a go at cowboy ranching. NOT DONE. Cowboy ranching is really stupid. There. DONE! That was the first joke of this piece, on the last suggestion (it was a play on the words 'have a go at') (another play on words would be to pretend I'd read it as 'have a goat cowboy ranching'. This is called a charade. Another example, courtesy of Dave Auckland, would be to misread 'I can't believe it's not butter' as 'I can't believe it. Snot butter!'). So, at the halfway stage (of the list, not my life, I hope), I've DONE 11 ½ out of 25. That seems like an appropriate number. I've been getting on with things pretty well but I'm not too far ahead of myself. My main worry is that if I've not done things yet it might partly be because I don't want to do them. Still, don't knock em till you've tried em (and if you're called Em, avoid people who live by that motto). I'll be back next week for the remaning 25 and will, of course, let you know if I've flown a fighter jet or explored Antarctica in the meantime.