Tomorrow I will have been on this planet for 21,910 days.
I was born on Wednesday February 27th 1957 into a world very different from the one we live in today.
Harold MacMillan was Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
He famously said ‘Let us be frank about it – most of our people have never had it so good.’
Research has shown that 1957 represented the peak of post-war happiness for people in the UK. Many had lived through two World Wars. They appreciated life, they appreciated what they had.
That’s not to say life was easy.
Only one in five households had a washing machine, there were still toilets in the back yard, and central heating was rare.
The average house price in 1957 was £2,330, about 5 times average earnings. Today prices have multiplied by 100 and are now 6-10 times average earnings.
Life was simpler and quieter back then. But things were changing.
The BBC was just about to revoke the longstanding ‘Toddlers Truce’. This was a scheduling policy that required TV transmissions to stop for an hour each weekday between 6pm and 7pm so that young children could be put to bed.
TV had two channels. Elvis and Bill Haley were on the wireless bringing rock and roll into the world.
The Russians launched Sputnik 1. It was the worlds first orbiting satellite and it started the ‘Space Race’.
There were about 6 million cars on the UK roads as compared to some 37 million today and some 15 million less people. That Austin A35 in the photo would have cost less than £600.
I could go on but you get the idea.
The day to day lives we lead today are almost unrecognisable. All the knowledge of the world is at my fingertips. I can communicate across the planet instantly. I have opportunities and tools beyond the imagination of previous generations.
If I’d been born sixty years earlier in 1897 then by the time I’d reached 1957 life expectancy statistics would have given me about ten years to live.
In reality it’s unlikely I’d have made it that far. Not least because I’d have had to fight in those two World Wars.
I’m glad I was born later. I’ve had an easy life.
Today, according to those same statistics I should have another 20-30 years left on the clock. Seven thousand days, maybe ten thousand.
Then again it’s anyone’s guess eh? I could drop dead tomorrow or live to be 100.
What I do know is that for as long as I’m alive I’ll stay curious about life. I’ll keep learning, I’ll keep improving.
I’ve already learnt the most valuable lesson. American pastor and author Chuck Swindoll summed it up perfectly.
The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company…a church…a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past…we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our attitudes.
In 1957 I was born into a country where people seemed to understand that. They had the right attitude and values to match.
I can’t think of a better illustration than this one; A clip from The Bridge On The River Kwai released that same year.
This was me exactly ten years ago. This was ‘Gleda’ exactly ten years ago.
I’d only just learnt that lesson about attitude.
A few months before, my life had seemed empty and without purpose.
For 22 years I’d tried hard to play the game, to fit in, to follow the crowd.
I’d given it a damn good shot. After losing my boat ‘Mor Gwas’ I’d settled down. I fallen in love. I’d married, had a daughter, got divorced, become an absent father.
I’d been close to becoming an alcoholic. I’d been depressed and suicidal.
I’d found love again. I’d had my heart broken again.
I’d lived in 5 different houses none of which I’d owned. I’d got no savings, no car. Everything I owned would fit in a couple of suitcases and a few boxes.
I was approaching 50 years of age and what had I got to show from trying to be ‘normal’?
When it came down to it the only significant reward I’d got for 22 years of doing what everyone else was doing was Nicole my beautiful daughter.
It’s fair to say I’d let life happen to me and my attitude stank.
All that changed at the back end of 2006. It didn’t happen in an instant. There was no flash of enlightenment.
It took time.
It took time for those drip drops of realisation to permeate the bedrock of my brain and encourage growth.
It took time for me to learn that lesson about attitude.
When I took that photo above I’d changed. I’d taken charge. I’d had enough of letting life happen to me. I’d started building my escape.
So today is another waypoint.
Last night I slept my 1000th consecutive night aboard the the boat I built.
One thousand nights without a single night ashore. I don’t need one. I have everything I need right here.
I’m living my dream.
Ten years ago I found a quote by Arthur Ransome that perfectly described how I felt;
The desire to build a boat is the desire of youth, unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final resting place….
When it comes, the desire to build a boat is one of those that cannot be resisted. It begins as a little cloud on a serene horizon. It ends by covering the whole sky, so that you think of nothing else.
You must build to regain your freedom.
A decade later I’ve sated that desire and regained my freedom.
But the roots of that desire remain strong.
I remain unwilling yet to accept the idea of a final resting place.
Older, yes. But I’m also bolder and wiser
I refuse to be defined by my age. Now, more that at any point in my life so far I’m in a time of adventure, opportunity, and change. I’m grateful for that.
It’s easy to forget what’s gone before. Easy to complain, to blame others, to take life for granted.
I’ll do all of those things now and again. We all do.
But when that happens I’ll try to change my attitude.
I’ll keep whistling ‘Colonel Bogey’ as long as I have breath.