It seems to me that there have been two occasions in my life when momentous decisions have been made without any real thought for what might lie in the future. If either one of those decisions had been made the other way, if the coin had come down tails instead of heads (and it seems to me now that those decisions might as well have been made by tossing a coin), the effect on my life would have been . . . Well, I'm not sure that there is a word to describe just how enormous the effect would have been.
The first of those decisions was not really mine to make, but nevertheless both I and my brother had a voice. It was when my father retired after 22 years serving in the Royal Navy, getting on now for 60 years ago. Certainly more than 50. Dad applied to join, and was accepted into, the Civil Service, specifically the District Audit team, although which branch of the Service that might be in is something I have never known. But that is by the bye. Quite how it came about that he was offered a choice of three postings is something else I have never quite got to grips with. (Yes, I know. That sentence should end, "with which I have got to grips" but that sounds very formal, almost stilted.) But he was. Perhaps my parents could not decide which to accept, but for whatever reason, Dad asked my brother and I - mere teenagers - which place we would prefer to live: Bath, Brighton or Truro. We may very well have tossed a coin as neither of us knew anything about any of the three towns, except that Truro was way down in Cornwall, Bath was also a fair distance away in Somerset, while Brighton was within striking distance of Gillingham. We were living in Gillingham in those days, as were my grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and many others of my extended family. So Brighton it was.
Whether or not the second decision would have been made if we had moved to Bath or Truro is obviously a matter of conjecture. What cannot be gainsaid is that if that second decision had been made, and if the decision had been the same, it would have led to a completely different result. It happened like this.
During my last year at school I had no idea at all what I might do with my life. The only career path that held any interest for me was closed to me, or so I assumed. Partly to postpone the day when I would have to make a decision, I applied to several universities. It was only after I had left school that I received the results of my A level exams (not as good as I had hoped) and the universities advised me the results of my applications. I had been turned down by each and every one of them. At a loss as to where my future lay, I continued with my job stacking shelves in a supermarket. Dad obviously talked the matter over with his boss, who suggested that as my arithmetic was good I should think about working in a bank. I didn't then and still don't understand quite what arithmetic had to do with working in a bank, but I acquired recruitment packs from all of England's major banks. My choice of which bank to apply to was based simply on my liking for the name of the bank and what I saw as the quality of the recruitment pack.
It was only because I was accepted by and worked for the bank of my choice that I met the girl who was to become my wife and with whom I have now lived happily (well, for the most part) for nigh on fifty years. She worked for the same bank.
I do sometimes wonder what my life would have been like if Dad had chosen to work in Bath or Truro instead of Brighton, or if I had chosen a different bank to which to apply for a job. And then I wonder, was it all pre-ordained anyway?
All the same, what if . . . ?
Time goes by so very fast and it seems hardly possible that it is nearly two years since we spent a holiday in the Auvergne region of France. Here are a couple of pictures i took at St Madeleine's chapel just outside the town of Massiac. As you can see, the chapel stands high on a rocky outcrop.