Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Dear Brutus

Well, my post about Max Beerbohm got remarkably few comments. Don't you like photos of literary chaps with handlebar moustaches? No?

Well, sorry about that. Here's another one, all the same: J M Barrie. How on earth would you eat porage with that decorating your face? Urgh.

I was musing the other day, as you do, about the things I haven't done. There are lots of these. I'm sure everyone knows the Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken" but the other writer who springs to (my) mind as having written about the alternative life someone could have had is Barrie, in "Dear Brutus". I haven't read it for some centuries, but as I remember, some chap gets to visit this other life and there he is with a daughter, whom he adores. At the end of the play, the dream-life fades away and with it his beloved daughter. Mind you, she ruins the pathos by calling out, "Daddy, Daddy, I don't want to be a might-have-been" as she dematerialises. But still, it's almost enough to bring a tear to my eye as I think about it, what with my beloved Daughter 2 being engaged to a chap who wants to live in London and all.

It's an intriguing thought, isn't it, what one might have done? I always quite fancied being a radio newsreader. I'm aware that lots of other people do, too, and I never did anything at all about it, partly from lack of confidence, partly because I had no idea how to go about it (be a reporter, presumably, and I wouldn't want that) and partly because teachers have such good holidays.

I wouldn't have wanted to be on tv - all that dressing smartly and doing hair - but I can string sentences together and read out loud. Possibly I'd have been too scared to speak or would have fluffed my lines. Ah well, we'll never know now.

And you? What's your might-have-been?


  1. Gosh, so many. The biggie, I suppose, is that my parents were all set to emigrate to Perth, Australia (I mean plane tickets booked and everything) when they discovered I was on my way and they decided to stay in Leith instead. So I could have been born on the other side of the planet and not actually met anyone I know.

  2. A very fun topic Isabelle! A radio reader? I think you would have been perfect for it.

    I often play the what if game. What if we hadn't taken that job? What if we'd had more children? Assuming I hadn't wanted a life and/or children, I think I would have loved to be a Dr. Ahhh, What if?

  3. I have thought of trying a volunteer gig, reading newspaper articles for the blind (there's a local charity that does this).

    There is a parallel world somewhere where I am a physician, possibly in the RAF. Whacky thought. Maybe not so whacky since I'm currently focusing my job search on US Navy public health civvy positions. Do I have a secret fetish for blue uniforms?

    If I had listened to my first boyfriend and stayed in Scotland to go to university, I might be in Edinburgh or Glasgow now, and never have met Mr Riveter.

    My parents could have lived somewhere quite different and I would have grown up devoid of haggis, neeps and Irn Bru.

  4. my eX had a mustache kinda like that one ... it was mesmerizing to watch him eat something slurpy - slurp, wipe to the right, wipe to the left, slurp, wipe to the right, wipe to the left, et cetera

    maybe mesmerizing isn't the best choice of words...

    in the mulitverse i am a doula, a trapeze artist, an herb woman, and a rocket scientist

  5. Sometimes I come over all Topol/ Tevye and ponder the If I was a rich [wo]man question. Imagine owning a house or not being anxious at the cashiers when I go to pay for my purchases! etc

  6. Anonymous8:21 am

    It's never too late, Isabelle! :-)
    But I think that actually the life we lived and the choices we made were just the right ones, in the sense that this is how we were able to handle things.Thinking back all I did was just what I could do. But there's one thing though which I wished having done better. I always wanted to be an important, successful person also outside my family and this I failed to do. I mean, I never tried so hard that it could have been a success. Too scared of everything and nothing, too sluggish, not ambitious enough....

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  8. I always get more comments on the very personal, heart-rending/self-pitying posts than on anything of broader or more intellectual interest. I presume (and hope) this doesn't mean that people don't read and enjoy the latter, they are just less moved to comment. The mixture you have here is probably the answer.

    I have reached an age where too much thinking about the paths not taken is rather painful.

  9. There are so many times in life where paths diverge - and did you take the right one? I could have been sent to s different children's home for my first job (I nearly was) and I'd never have met my husband, I could have stayed in either of the jobs I quit for good reasons or refused to move on several occasions. I could have accepted my sister's invitation to go with them to Australia when I was 18....
    In a parallel universe, perhaps I did all those things - and husband is a succesful actor or a university lecturer! Gosh, makes your headache, doesn't it!

  10. From an early age I wanted to marry a vet and have 5 children, to live in the country and be a stay at home mom. Fate had other plans..... I live in a city, struggled to have two children, married an office boy, and work in a job I hate in an office. It seems that I forgot to plan ahead, to think about how I wanted to achieve these dreams....I have just drifted from day to day.

  11. Vivien9:50 pm

    Ah, what might have been! If we hadn't had to move to Scotland for two years when I was twelve... I haven't really fulfilled my potential, but on the other hand I'm still here, a bit aged but not over the hill! And who knows, if I - or others - had pursued a more satisfying path, we'd have lived and worked in a different place and might have got knocked down by a car and ceased to exist! Well, that's some consolation...

    Maybe people haven't replied about Beerbohm and Barrie because people don't know much about them nowadays - I'm fairly well read but have rather a hazy idea about them.

    About men's facial hair: it's odd how in pictures of men of the later 19th century they have such huge beards that you can't really see what they looked like. What did Tchaikovsky really look like, for instance? I think there's a photo of him aged c. 20, pre-beard, but what he looked like in middle age, no-one quite knows. Ditto Tennyson and Zola etc. At least we women don't have to worry about beards and baldness (well, not usually!)

  12. I always fancied being an Archaeologist, got as far as doing an A'level but then life got in the way.

  13. I always wanted a handlebar moustache, but so far I haven't achieved this, for one reason or another. However, now approaching 50, and the menopause, there are signs that my ambition may well come true after all. Oh, joy.

  14. So many relatives on my mother's side had those fine walrus moustaches! Soup-strainers, we called them. I can remember talking with another little girl oh-so-many years ago, and both of us agreeing that we could never marry a man with a moustache, because we might have to KISS him! Yuk!

  15. Actress. (Movie.)

    Songwriter (I am one, actually, just not one that anyone has ever heard of).

    World Traveler.

  16. Not only must it be tough to eat porridge with a moustache what about an ice cream cone?! But, I think to be on the receiving end of kisses with moustaches would be just odd.

    And ticklishly.

    My might have been would have to be a world traveler.