THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
The uses of Law
New Year, Old Story

Thoughts at year end

It's easy to identify wrong choices after the event but it's important not to lose your life to regret. Every door you choose to open, leaves not one but many closed. Who is to say which of the others would have led to better paths? If real life gave us a video game's opportunities to go back and make other choices, even three lives might still not be enough.

At dark times in my marriage to the late Mrs P., I sometimes remembered a time at university when I considered ending our relationship to pursue another woman. In those fantasies, the alternate Mrs P. and I lived happily ever after in fairy-tale style. In truth, that potential relationship would have had its issues too. I might well have married the other lady and found myself fantasising that I had chosen Mrs P. instead.

In a way, the last six months of the late Mrs P's life were the best of our marriage. The problems that had often made us miserable were put into perspective. Faced with the real problem of her cancer, they hardly seemed worthy of the name. Just as we'd grown together in the struggles of our early lives, the shared focus on her survival brought us close. As I took care of her in ways she'd never imagined I could, her insecurities about my love disappeared. Focusing on her care made me, for a while at least, less selfish. Things that might once have made me angry suddenly seemed far too trivial to fret about. Some of that perspective never left me. I am a calmer man than I was if not a wiser one. 

When Mrs P. died, I discovered how complex grief is. Among many things, I grieved the loss of my hope that one day we'd solve the problems of our marriage. It may well have been a forlorn hope; clung to rather than embraced. Perhaps if she'd survived her cancer our new perspective might have made for a perfect marriage? But she didn't. In these matters, as in so may, you just can't tell, so why waste time speculating?

In the month since Mrs P. the Second left me, I have experienced grief again. I have wished I never met her. I have cast aside every happy memory in dark thoughts. Yet the truth is she may well have saved my life. In my grief at the time I met her, I was taking no care of myself. That I lived to experience this new loss is painful but without her I might not be here to experience it – or anything else.

We don't learn much from success in my experience. It tends to make us complacent and stale. It was the success of the Kodak company – proprietor of arguably the world's best-known brand – that made its leadership dismiss digital photography when one of its employees invented it. Off he went to a competitor and off they went into the dustbin of commercial history.

When I look back on my life, I realise it was the errors and losses that helped me grow. In fact all that was best in my career arose from my very worst mistake. I have often used that story when counselling friends and colleagues worried about career choices. I tell them "make the best choice you can, but don't worry too much. The bad choice might lead to great things too."

With that positive thought I wish you all, gentle readers, a very happy new year. I hope that 2022 will be a better year for all of us.


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David Bishop

I can only echo the heartfelt comments above.

I'd also echo the recommendation to visit Japan - when it opens up again. There's so much for you to photograph I was there for the RWC final in November 2019 and was massively impressed: clean, efficient, polite et al. My son has made several visits he likes it so much, and I'd go back in a flash if the absurd restrictions weren't in place.


A happy new year and many thanks for the time you gift to us through you work on your blog. Reading smart people reflect on the world is always time well spent and I am enormously appreciative of those with the skill and the ideas to contribute to the world in that way.

I shall now be an ungracious guest and disagree with something you say above. That you would mourn the missed opportunity for perfection surprises me. We are all complex beings and as such conflict seems inevitable. You could have a partner who completely subsumed their desires and beliefs to follow yours, but that would avoid conflict at the price of them sacrificing much of what makes them them (and vice versa). We can learn to manage conflict, we can learn patience and to view the benefit of the overall relationship rather than audit interaction by interaction. It is not clear that perfection is even logically possible, and as with any absolutism I would question what would have to be sacrificed if that was the only goal.

I do not wish to diminish the love you had, but I think this is a false dream and not something that you have really been denied.

For the rest, I wish you the very best for 2022. I have always liked the saying "to those that hath shall be given, and to those that hath not will be taken away". When one part of life is going well it is easy to do the things that make the rest of life go well. When one part of life is hard, it is hard to do the things that would make life better. Recognising the truth of this virtuous/vicious cycle is important motivation to break it.


I too enter this year with even less optimism than you I think. My life is about to change dramatically as I am about to lose my spouse/best friend/ companion of 60 years and my home of 45 years. Life has a funny way of upending one's plans and it is our job to deal with whatever it presents as best we can with dignity and grace. And make new plans, in time. It seems to me you have two already so that's a start. One foot after the other!


Thank you my dear friend. I am sure you are right. If I am honest though, I have never entered a new year with less optimism.

Yesterday I decided I must start exercising again, having sulked in my tent for too long to detrimental effect. I am staying with my parents so I went on a familiar walk from my youth. Nothing will make you aware of how unfit you are as that! I struggled up hills that were flat in my memory and ended up so exhausted I had to call for Dad to come fetch me. It was a wake-up call. If I am metaphorically to put one foot after another and keep living, I need to do it literally to recover my strength.

As my soon-to-be ex-wife is due to come recover her stuff this month, there's more grief ahead. All I can do it put it all behind me as fast as I can, I guess. In the meantime, I need to focus on my health. I hate physical exercise with all my heart, but sadly I just can't continue as I am.


Others above have given you very good counsel, I have nothing useful to add. At this stage for me life is about putting one foot after the other, remembering the good things from the past, the lessons learned and having no regrets.

I spent a mere two weeks in Japan quite a few years ago and would return in a heartbeat. You will not regret a journey to that wondrous country, I can assure you.

Happy New Year to you Tom, may it be a better one for us all.


Do not dwell on regrets and past choices, it is our life experiences that make us who we are 'today'. We learn from our mistakes and successes.

I hope that 2022 will bring you happier times. With regards to travel, in restricted times... Embrace the window of opportunity!

Happy New Year, I hope it is a better one for you xx


Thanks. That’s a door I will never open again. I could never give another woman the power to hurt me. If government will get back in its box however, there are places to go and people to see. My grandfather told me on his deathbed he regretted turning down a chance to visit Japan, for example. I’ve bought enough of their wonderful lenses that the least I can do is go point them there.

Lord T

It is always difficult after breakups and you always think about the bad parts and choices you made and then positively about the alternatives, the path not taken, but you have the sense to know that they don't all work out as you hope. Life is all about choices and we all made the right choices at the right time for you. Mrs P was one large chapter followed by Mrs P2 who was just another experience in life and one that gave you happiness for a period. Now it is time for another chapter in your book. Start next year off positive and look for that new chapter and it doesn't have to have a woman in it. There as so many other letters on the alphabet now. :) (Only joking) If you feel you need a woman to make your life then go for it but however you decide to move forward you have our support and best wishes. Good luck for 2022.


Happy New Year to you too.

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