As you know (if you read this blog) I’m working on my new book which will feature lists of forthcoming historic anniversaries for the years 2008-2012. This requires a lot of fairly simple maths, but it’s the sort of maths that can easily “do your head in”.
Take the year 1887 for example. To you, living in 2007, that was 120 years ago. But since mid-January I’ve been advancing at the rate of more than a month per day and I’m now up to 2012. So to me 1887 happened 125 years ago. Do sums like that a few hundred times, and change the year every 10 days, and you start to forget how old you are.
In fact the years that are multiples of 5 aren’t too bad, it’s the 10’s I’m having trouble getting my head around. For example, the war events from 1942 happened 65 years ago for you, but for me they happened 70 years ago. I keep thinking “60” when I should be thinking “70”. That shift from 6 to 7 really slows you down.
And just wait until volume two (which covers the years 2013 – 2017) when I’ll be writing about the 10th anniversary of things that haven’t even happened yet!
Something else I’ve noticed while working on this book is how old (or young) people were when they died. Some of the people I’d assumed had lived to a ripe old age actually died very young. George Gershwin for example. I’d always pictured him as being old. He achieved quite a lot with his musicals, and he’s a household name. But he died aged 38. The Roman emperor Nero was only 31. And then there’s Elvis Presley, who I’d always assumed had lived to his mid to late forties but was only 42. That left me “all shook up”, because that’s how old I am. If you take the months into account then I’ve actually outlived him. I find that astounding.
These people (and there are plenty of other names I could have mentioned) achieved so much in their short lives. It makes me regret (even more) the many years I wasted in boring office jobs. I wonder how much I could have achieved by now if I’d pushed myself to get on with things. I wrote some great songs when I was in my early twenties. But I didn’t carry it on. I wish I had. I started writing books in 1987, but then stopped for 15 years. I wish I’d carried on with that too. Still, there’s plenty of time… Shakespeare lived til 52, so I’ve got just over 9 years left to catch up!