I try not to have too many regrets in life, if I can help it. I guess it's one of those things nobody wants to stockpile; missed opportunities, Freudian slips, misjudged endeavours, dating The French.
A few days ago, I visited a bar where a former work colleague was having a send off. Her and her new husband were about to embark on a year-long trip of a lifetime around the world, the bastards. I was tired and had no money on me, so I used my debit card to get drinks and had to leave the card behind the bar as it was below their minimum £10 charge. Moments later, I bumped into Cas. Cas is a very nice chap and generally very deserving of a drink, plus buying him one would get my plastic back when it was time for me to leave. Win/ Win.
I handed him my tab slip and told him to go downstairs and help himself. He got himself a drink and returned to chat to the other guests. About half an hour later, he shouts from nearby if he could use it again. Sure. I give my tab slip back to him. I watch with unease as he hands it on to a middle aged man with male pattern baldness who I've never met before. Man then walks off to the bar.
Man returns with a round of drinks. I grimace. I wait for a bit, then take Cas to one side to take the tab slip off him and threaten him with violence. He thought it was some kind of work tab I had access to and was spreading the love.
No. It was all my own overdraft and I still haven't bought my nieces their Christmas presents yet.
I regret this - not hugely in the great scheme of things - because when he asked me for the card, I had a feeling it was going to be used to buy a whole bunch of drinks, obviously, but I didn't want to embarrass him by saying 'No, you can't have it'.
I am, as I have no shame in reiterating, an idiot.
I was mulling this event over the following day as I took the tube to work. Suddenly, I was reminded of a dark memory, from a time long, long ago when I tried to be nice and ended up full of regret. I had kept this painful memory buried for years in the quietest, loneliest recesses of my mind, not far from where I keep my thoughtporn.
It still stings. It is horrible. It actually hurts to dredge it all up and even now, at 32, I feel a little bit sick at it all. It is my Behemoth of All Regrets.
1992 was a wonderful year, and a coming of age for me. I am 18 (*sniff*), and had secured a place at Bournemouth University by the skin of my teeth. Those halcyon days where the music was phenomenal and fresh and exciting, when raves were just beginning to make the switch into clubs and superclubs. I discover booze, and dope, and shed all my teenage flab and discover my abs too.
I become attractive to the opposite sex for the first time in my life and I had never, ever been that happy before.
Back in London one weekend, I am going through my room, the room of my childhood with cartoons on the walls and the toys in the cupboards and it dawns on me that I want to have a huge clean-out.
(Oh god, here it comes.)
My Star Wars collection was my childhood. It grew up with me. I would save up my pocket money and it would all go on Star Wars. And after years of collecting them, it was huge. I had hundreds of figures. I had the Millenium Falcon, an X-Wing, Slave One, an AT-AT, the Dagobah System, books, magazines, and a beautiful Darth Vader head that opened up to store figures in. It was a present from my Mum when she visited the States one year.
I didn't throw it away though. I couldn't throw it away. That was never going to happen. Instead, I wanted to bequeath it all to my step-nephew Alex. It made perfect, sublime sense. I have an older sister I've never been that close to, and my step-siblings, cousins and assorted relatives are all older than me. I felt generation-wise like there was no-one on my side. When Alex was born, I felt like I had a partner-in-crime waiting to grow up. I babysat for him on a couple of occasions. He was a lovely little kid and a cheeky little toddler. When I decided he'd get all my precious Star Wars toys, I thought of the sheer thrill daubed all over his little 10-year-old's mug, and the poetic gesture in passing them down to him.
I gathered all the toys together and told my Mum to pass them on to my step-sister, his Mum, which she duly did. I then went back to Uni and continued to enjoy myself (occasionally having to do some work now and again).
A year or so later, I saw Alex and my step-sister. I had been grinning pretty much solidly for the last twelve months.
'Hey, how are you getting on with my Star Wars toys?' I asked Alex.
'Oh them', he said with the casual disdain of a now 12-year old. 'We threw them away.'
My heart sank. I felt as if I'd just jumped out of a plane without a parachute. I became giddy and lightheaded. I looked at my step-sister in a state of complete confusion. She had her hands over her mouth from the shock of my finding out.
'Oh god, I'm so embarrassed!'
'You threw them away?' I was starting to feel quite sick.
'He's got so many toys. We had to clear things out.'
'Then why didn't you give them back to me? HAVE YOU ANY IDEA HOW MUCH THEY WERE WORTH??'
'I'm so embarrassed.'
Every so often, I am haunted by this event. I once caught a children's special of the Antique's Roadshow. One child had a Boba Fett figure with a little red backpack, just like the one I had.
It was worth £200.
In total, I'd estimate that my step-sister threw away about £1,000 in highly collectable original Star Wars merchandise from the Seventies and Eighties.
But it's not the money.
Ok, it is the money to a degree. But mainly, it's the fact that they didn't want them, so they simply threw the lot in the bin. That collection meant the world to me. I was passing on not just the physical toys but a legacy. A legacy that was basically never wanted, so it was slung out.
It was around this time that I was beginning to realise that Charity, paradoxically, is a selfish act as it serves to make you feel better about yourself. If the recipient of your charitable deeds is staggeringly underwhelmed and unimpressed, then your actions count for very little except in your own head.
As a postscript to this story, Alex and I have never been particularly close, and not because of this event. We just aren't, that's all. I am told that at this moment he is somewhere very hot and shagging his current girlfriend, and probably not thinking about Star Wars toys at all right now.