If you had a crystal ball


When you were twenty, if you stopped to imagine the future, what would you have seen?

My twenty-year-old self would have imagined life in London, because after 2 years away at university she missed it so much she couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.

My twenty-year-old self would not believe she’d have moved as far north as Manchester, but she might have believed she would live in France, though she would have imagined Paris not the unfashionable east with its rural life and unforgettable battlefields.

She would have refused to consider that she might spend 8 years of her life in Amsterdam, not so much because of the prostitution and the cannabis, but because it was never really on her radar.

Though that twenty-year-old self didn’t yet dream of being a writer, her 34 year old counterpart swore that she would one day live in the Peak district, work part time and spend the afternoons working on her novel. But would have believe that she’d spend all the day writing – the mornings reporting facts and the afternoons shaping fiction?

The twenty-year-old wouldn’t have believed that she’d spend the next ten years of her life in a relationship that wasn’t all that good for her, nor would she be able to comprehend that she might finally meet the illusive right person just five years later. Relationships weren’t on her radar either.

Though she liked walking across the fields from University to the tearoom in Kenilworth, she would never have believed that someone like her, with a fear of heights, would climb mountains and cross glaciers.

She would never have considered that a bereavement could break her heart and at the same time set her free.

And if she had been able to convince herself that she would leave not just London but England altogether for ten whole years she’d have laughed if I told her that coming back would be so easy.

And would she have believed that this week, two friends from those days have got in touch with her after a more than twenty year gap?



  1. I don’t know if I’ve ever made this clear, Debra, but I really, really, really like your blog. Thank you for writing.


  2. I like this one alot. I like the way you hold that twenty yr old tenderly, not laughing at the naivite, just observing.

    Kenilworth: did you run into Vicki Goodwin or David Rand? I’m the only one in my family (including my wife) who hasn’t been there several times.

  3. Thanks Debra – having shared so many laughs with you over 20 years ago (including the great Scritti Politti moment – “Scritti who?), it is amazing to think back. I cannot remember what I wanted to be then, but I do know that I had absolutely no concept of the chance encounters in a foreign country that would shape my life for ever, give me a beautiful family, and take me away from England, almost certainly for good.

    Your writing is wonderful – never stop.

  4. Al, you don’t know how pleased I am to hear that. Thank you for reading.

    Kip – though I wrote it that way, I didn’t realise I thought of her as another person. Such another person, when I think back to how I was I find it hard to comprehend how much I’ve grown. I don’t recognise those names, but I’ve never been good at names, I’m afraid.

    Richard! I had completely forgotten that “Scritti who” moment until now. We did have a lot of laughs, but for complicated reasons I had put my university days from my mind almost completely. Thanks for reminding me, you and Mark (Young) helped me look back on those days again with a new perspective. I love that life is so random and wonderful that it’s given you great things when you least expected it.

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