A second first for me this evening when I attend a 60th birthday party.

Where do the years go. Huh?


“Our lives might be getting longer – but they will always be too short.”

This is a good line and a much better way of saying the same thing; worthy of the inverted commas and maybe even the italics also. The words of one of our great thinkers? Oscar Wilde, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain…

Er, no. Me actually, a line I used in my other first of this momentous week; my Ted talk where this line and others failed to arouse the emotions I had hoped for.

But life goes on and this evening heralds a clear and distinct new phase in my life.

School. College/university. 21st. First Job. Marriage and weddings. Second/third job. Babies. Infants. Divorce. Second weddings…

…and now a friends 60th birthday!  So soon. ‘Where do the years go, eh…’

My memory is one of the least reliable tools in my shed and often I am struck with fear by what I have given up.

Even things very recent… like where we were last Christmas. I can get this at a push. Some gentle nudges and reminders. But the Christmas before last… not a chance.

And similarly with the big events in my life…

My twins first steps. Tom’s first words. My wedding day is blurry. My graduation has all but evaporated but oddly, my two disastrous reviews on the first Monday of the 1994 Edinburgh festival still loom large.

Odd then what we can recall and what we cling on to. The name of the boy at school who bullied me seems an unhelpful thing to store.

But then other incidental and innocuous occurrences can too become indelible and with good reason.

My career has been long and varied. Certainly exciting with some obvious highs. Six books. 4 BBC radio series. Selling movie scripts. Stand-up awards…  And many lows also which I won’t labour over here.

But of all the things in my working life, one of my most vivid and abiding memories is this…

Christmas Day morning. I am 16 or 17 and I arrive at the North Star pub in Ealing Broadway for my cleaning shift, from where I am due at Mass at Ealing Abbey with my family.

The pub is a mess and particularly so the toilets. More specifically, the men’s toilets are a complete disaster. The Ladies loos are pristine by comparison and I wonder if advocates of gender neutral toilets have really thought things through.

A couple of hours later, I am done and I am about to leave the pub when the landlord calls me back. He is a tough Irish man, mid-thirties I guess but at the time, I thought he was ancient.

He was standing behind the bar with a neutral look on his face and giving nothing away.

“You’ve done a fantastic job this morning Dom. Thank you.”

And with this he opened the till and peeled off a ten pound note and handed it to me.

Back in the day, when I was appearing regularly on TV, I was paid enormous amounts of money for shows; just a few hours work of being a hero and which didn’t require rubber gloves and yet memories of these shows are hazy at best. And like the memories, the money too, has now gone also.

And yet, more than 30 years on, my memory of that Christmas morning is still with me and as vivid as ever. Not to get too misty eyed but what he gave that morning was much more than a tenner. And I wonder if he realises this? I suspect not.

To end and talking of giving…

I need to get a present for my mate this evening.

A wealthy man who wants for nothing apart from a different waist size.

And so difficult to buy for then. But I have the perfect present.

Long retired already, he plays a lot of golf and so a dozen premium golf balls is an ideal present, although given his golf ability, it is a present that he will quickly lose.

But no matter.

He will enjoy trying to keep possession of his golf balls – and this is what we must all do with our lives. Enjoy ourselves and take nothing for granted.

Happy Birthday, Mike.

30 thoughts on “Memories…

  1. Paul says:

    Loosing. Loosing golf balls, loosing the battle of the waistline, and even loosing time. But the most painful loss is loosing the memories – both good and bad – for those are what truly make us who we are today.

  2. Megan says:

    I always look forward to your blogs ! Especially when they’re so thought provoking . Life will always feel to short but it’s funny how when you look back it’s always so long so much and why people feel so old. Very ironic

  3. Pamela says:

    Those are the special memories that impacted our lives and shaped who we are. I’m a teacher because of my fourth grade teacher. It’s not because of what subjects she taught but because she would go outside at recess time and play with us. She was really good at kickball. I want to instill those kinds of memories with my first graders! It’s always rewarding when former students come see you especially at graduation time to tell you how much of an impact you had in their education and their life.

  4. Kayla says:

    I recall pleasant memories & then encounter with someone who broke my heart will pop into my head. Then remembering the dates of when my grandma fail ill & then eventually passing. My cousin being adorable at four years old at a pumpkin patch & now on the cusp of being tween & my fears are right in check. I have many successes so far. Many triumphs & goals achieved but some are still trying to find their way to the light. It just amazes me on a daily basis what are minds go through.

  5. A.J. Goode says:

    I think this may be my favorite bit of your writing. You’re right; life will ALWAYS be too short. I lost my husband last year, and my warmest memories of him are of the “little” moments we shared. The landmarks without him are the hardest: kids’ graduations, 21st birthdays, future grandchildren that he’ll never meet…

    That you for this very sweet reminder to treasure life’s little moments while we can. It’s exactly what I needed to read today.

  6. Regina says:

    I remember being in college and, drunk on lack of sleep, asking a good friend what the point of doing things was if we weren’t going to remember them. Ironically, he had a much worse memory than I did. I don’t remember his answer (oh the irony!) but I do remember that he laughed at my consternation. And that stuck with me. So now, losing memories doesn’t bother me so much because I figure I’ll make new ones and when I stumble on the old ones, it will be like reading my own history with all the detachment of reading others. And for some reason, that idea appeals to me.
    Great post (as always). Thanks for helping me reminisce.

  7. Melody says:

    This made me cry…my Dad is turning 70 this December and we’re all quite far from him. I’m in the Middle East whilst my Brother and Sister are in Australia. Though we’re all going to see him in the Philippines for his birthday, we all dearly miss him. Our lives brought us to different parts of the world but beautiful memories with our Dad will always be with us. I still remember the first day of Uni when he dropped me off and gave me an advise that I follow to this day. Thank you for sharing this beautiful moment.

  8. Erin Hayward says:

    The little memories always seem to stick longer than the big day ones. I remember when I was younger being at my grandparents house and my grandad let me try out his Polaroid camera, and making a Spirograph for him and my grandma. It’s been 10 years since my grandad passed and I miss him every day, I only got to spend 10 years with him but I still think of the little things we did together!

  9. Sydney says:

    I’m sorry your Ted Talk did not go as planned. I’m sure I would have thoroughly enjoyed it. I have to admit my heart sunk a little as reading this because due to my fairly newness to this world(I’m still in my late teens) I did not realize memories like that could disappear or fade away. It’s quite sad…

  10. Lila says:

    This week I realised that the Dutch have a weird sense of humor. I really enjoyed your talk, sadly I missed the chance to really talk to you. Anyway, thank you a lot for making a lot of people smile that day. The young man who you were talking to during the dinner break is a huge fan of Tom and meeting you did not only make his, but his parents and even my day.
    Your Talk was very inspiring and even though the puns didn’t quite work, the message successfully came across. It was a pleasure listening to you!

  11. madsonali says:

    I wish I would remember yesterday meeting him in person for the first time, what I remember is total blur and sometimes his eyes, and then time flew off. and I don’t even know if I will ever meet him again when I want to spend the whole lifetime with him and have so many dreams. Happy birthday Mike!

  12. Karen says:

    Thank you for sharing. I’m 60. 5 years ago I had to retire early . My Dad needed assistance in caring for my Mom, who is in the end stages of Alzheimer’s. Your story has inspired me to finally do a task that I have been dreading…going through an old box of photos found at my grandparents’ house. I’m concern of how many photos I will come across that no one will recognize of who it is, where it is and why it was taken. Another a big concern is what kind of insects are in that box.

  13. Michelle says:

    So glad I waited to be off of work before reading this! The young nurses around me would have rolled their eyes at the emotional old lady. Your post hits home with me as my oldest will be 18 in February and will graduate in June. My youngest will be 13 next month. I don’t remember a lot of their early milestones, but I celebrate each new one with them. I may steal your quote for my son’s graduation card if that is ok. Thank you yet again for sharing your lovely words, and cheers to your friend on his milestone! May those balls last longer than any of mine ever do!

  14. Maggie MacKenzie says:

    Thank you for this post! A close friend of mine passed suddenly last week and we had her memorial service today and there was a lot of remembering the little moments I had with her. Its easy to take things for granted and to always think there will be a tomorrow but that is not always the case. So thank you, this was helpful to read today!

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