Fulfilling Parental Hopes and Dreams with What if’s Wannabes and Hasbeens

You’ll never be exactly what your parents want you to be. Most parents though seem to accept what their kids become. They may not have fulfilled the parental dreams but the kids are doing all right, they seem happy enough. What did mum always say to me?  « I want you to be happy » – I daresay many parents repeat the same well-worn phrase to their offspring. Of course many parents are only happy if their kids have chosen a destiny that makes the parents happy, that being the destiny that the parents would have chosen for themselves if life had turned out differently. If they had met someone different. If they had worked harder, studied more, been in the right place at the right time as opposed to being where they were when they were.

Mum always told me that she should have been an actress. (Lord knows she was a bit of a drama queen) She was a member of the Citizen’s Theatre in Glasgow during the early 1950’s. Her drama tutor said she should go to drama college, she could even get a grant, but my grandfather refused to sign the grant form on the pretext that he didn’t accept charity – and mum followed the « family tradition » – a career in journalism. This wasn’t a tradition though; it was simply that my grandfather – chief photographer on the Scottish Daily Mail, wanted his daughter to be a journalist.

So in 1956 mum headed south to be a journalist and then met dad (also a journalist) in the early 60’s, got married and had to kids and then started looking for a job that would give her time to bring up two kids – teaching – which was far easier back then than it is today.

« Don’t be a teacher » she used to say to me, but on arriving in France, I fell into the teaching trap – a newly arrived ex-pat looking for a temporary job before embarking upon his chosen career – journalism in my case.  Twenty-three years later, I am still teaching (and enjoying it). As for the journalism – well unless you make it on to the nationals, it’s a hard and often boring life eking out an existence as a provincial hack. I’m quite happy doing my freelance work.

But what if …

Retro speculation – a game for malcontents who would rather be somewhere else than where they actually are. However, gazing over the fence, I’m not sure that the grass is any greener on the other side of the Channel. Had we stayed in London, we might have had a bigger house or better salaries, however life on the other side of the fence just seems just a little crazier than on my side, and I am quite happy to be here. Over here, I certainly have little l « luxuries » that my London friends don’t seem to have – the main one being time. Time to think, time to breathe, and time to write. Time to write this.

The choices were the right ones – those choices made for the best at the time, and now, with a teenage daughter, I hear myself using that well-worn phrase « do something that makes you happy » and in later years I know that I will say to my daughter what mum said to me « I did it for the best at the time. ».

Bringing up kids – no better way to finally understand why your parents made the choices that they made – and the worst realisation – I am now the age that my mum was when she was the age that I am now, and, my daughter is the same age that I was when my mum was the age that I am now –

In reflective mood because I have finally decided to take the publishing plunge. Those pages that I have been writing for three years since mum died that have finally (though not intentionally) built up into a disjointed book.  Now, with time permitting, I shall take the first  faltering steps into the publishing jungle, knowing that the trail is long and tortuous and by the wayside are the remains of those who never made it – the discarded manuscripts, the tons of self-published books or the hundreds of unread e-books sitting up there in cyberspace.

What if … I make it? Well I can’t answer that, but if I don’t make it?

When explain that most difficult of English tenses – the Present perfect – to bemused students, I often say « you can’t be a has been if you haven’t been a wannabe. » I would add, better to have tried to be a wannabe than never have been at all. (Hope you are managing to follow this twisted reasoning)  I suppose it’s a bit like Scottish military and sporting history where a glorious defeat is better than a slim victory.

Okay – any book publishers out there? Here’s what you’ll be reading about.


  • Personal hygiene
  • Washing machines
  • Smelly shirts
  • Underwear
  • Claggy relatives
  • Ironing
  • Thoughts on travel writing
  • Directions for burial
  • Blue skies
  • Female undertakers
  • Muscovite minicab drivers
  • Old ladies at bus stops
  • Canaletto
  • Seurat (Bathing at Asnières)
  • Turner
  • Japanese art students
  • Robert Doisneau
  • Edgware road shisha smokers
  • Double decker buses
  • Tank tops
  • Cyril the newsagent
  • Thread bare lounge furniture
  • Deep sea divers
  • Suggestions on home improvement
  • Outside loos
  • Absent fathers
  • DIY skills
  • Philip Larkin
  • The Bay City Rollers
  • The Magna Carta
  • The 13 times table
  • Richard the Lionheart
  • Izal medicated toilet paper
  • A Datsun coupé
  • German doctors
  • Spanish Costas
  • A Renault 17
  • Camping holidays
  • A Parisian brothel
  • A WW2 tank driver
  • Sacha Distel
  • Chopper bikes
  • Deauville in 1932
  • Dettol
  • Vomit
  • Wax ear plugs
  • M&S Cornish pasties
  • Smelly Channel ferries
  • Breton aircraft mechanics
  • The Eurovision Song Contest
  • A one night stand in Rouen
  • Jean Gabin
  • Denis Healey
  • Advice for the recently-widowed in awkward social situations
  • Instructions for British Servicemen
  • Airfix model kits
  • Cheap chocolate
  • The Brownies
  • A DC-47 Dakota
  • Hook-a-duck
  • Travel pills
  • Paroxetine
  • Omeprezale
  • Valium
  • Smarties
  • Beermats
  • Miniature jams
  • Shower caps
  • Viagra
  • Surgical gloves
  • A weekend in Wales
  • Sex for the elderly
  • Power tools
  • Norfolk
  • A Morris 1300
  • Hammocks
  • Nicotine
  • Strange men in flasher macs
  • Dogfight Dixon (WW1 Fighter Ace)
  • Advice for primary school teachers on preparing art and craft lessons
  • A spotty Elf
  • Rolf Harris
  • Lesley Crowther
  • Lego
  • Salmon
  • Advice on holidays
  • Everything a woman should know
  • Advice on packing
  • Dysfunctional grannies
  • Beatrix Potter


… and much more