Saturday, December 09, 2006

Je Ne Regrette Rien?

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.

Er.....

Socially awkward.

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.'

Pause.

'What?'

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.

23 comments:

la fille mariée said...

Non, rien de rien
Non, je ne regrette rien
Ni le bien qu'on m'a fait
Ni le mal
Tout ça m'est bien égal.

Can't believe this gorgeous Edith Piaf song has been quoted in two different blogs that I read during the same week. Coincidence? Yeah, probably. Nevertheless, one of my favourite songs. I'll be humming it (with a lovely Piaf quaver) all day.

Anyhow -- let it go, young Jedi. The best part of your impulse to pass along your collection was your feeling of connection between you and the next generation of your family. Had they not told you the truth, you would still be luxuriating in that feeling, despite the reality. What one believes always trumps what is true, right?

Z said...

I so feel for you. I hope that writing it down will have helped. The only consolation is that your stepsister, finally, realised what she had done and, with any luck, it haunts her too. Not that she can understand the real depth of the hurt.

As for the drinks, I trust they will be on Cas all next year. Even if he thought it was a work tab, it wasn't up to him to use it buying drinks for other people.

Shoshana said...

I feel for you but....Star Trek??? Come on, couldn't you have made up something a little cooler for the blog audience? Especially if your goal is to get laid? No offense, but Star Trek figurines are not exactly babe magnets.

Ok, back to being my usual nice self - I'm very sorry for your loss. Just think about how happy those figures probably made the homeless kid who was searching through your nephew's trash can.

Shoshana said...

Oops, I meant Star Wars. You can see how little the genre appeals to females - we don't even know the difference :)

la fille mariée said...

Au contraire, Shosh...

I might agree that Star Wars is a bit of a boy thing (especially Episodes I, 11, and 111 -- as opposed to the older episodes, where there was lots of swashbuckling and Harrison Ford (Fjord?)).

On the other hand... the many incarnations of Star Trek have wide appeal to both men and women (okay, to both male and female geeks). The single lifted eyebrow of Mr. Spock. The William Shatner school of overacting by pausing for reaction. Jean-Luc Picard(sigh), the Starfleet captain I'd most like to boink. There are the joys of learning Klingon vocabulary, the holodeck fantasies, Captain Archer's cute puppy (no euphemism intended), and what man or woman didn't want to see what was under Seven of Nine's skintight uniform, complete with the very practical stilleto heels.

Had Fweng's collection been Star Trek instead of Star Wars, my reaction would have been much more sympathetic (although the collection itself probably would have been worth less). :)

Z said...

I hate to say it, by the way, but my daugter-in-law, who's your age, has loads of Star Wars stuff from her early days. In its original boxes, most of it.

I'm not allowed to play with it.

Ordinary Girl said...

Hunt him down to his sunny place... shag his girlfriend... then say... "but you had so many I was just helping you have a clear out!!". Hehehe!

Erm, that sounds a bit melodramatic. Maybe not the best plan!

Track down Z's daughter in law instead!

Denim Boy said...

Yeah, don't ever give anything to anyone. Ever.

CP said...

You know, this post was pretty poignant to me. We just moved into our new home. I was cleaning out my sons room (he is now 11) and stumbled upon all his Star Wars and Transformers memorabilia. He, like you, has dozens upon dozens of action figures. I was considering boxing them all up and giving them to Goodwill (a charity organization) to be passed onto other children at Christmas. My son is deeply into HotWheels cars now and never touches his figurines any longer.

However, when I was boxing these things up he said to me, "I am going to give those to my kids someday, like dad is giving me all of his HotWheels".

I continued to box up the Star Wars toys...but instead of giving them away, I stored them in the attic. Those toys are HIS to give away someday. Not mine to toss out.

You did a wonderful thing passing those toys onto Alex. It is just sad that the gesture wasn't appreciated. The thing with random acts of kindness, Fweng? You can only appreciate your gesture and have to pay little mind to the decisions of others. Your gesture was kind and thoughtful. That's where you have to end the thought process.

I know you must be eating your heart out though. My mother threw away all my Barbies when I became an older teen, thinking I wouldn't want them anymore. Now, as a woman of 40, I am an avid collector and would have loved to have had those dolls from way back when.

Sucks getting older, doesn't it?

CP.

fwengebola said...

LFM - To be honest, since the little pecker's grown up with little or no interest in anything, I rue the day I ever gave them to him to throw away. AAAARGH!

Zed, thank you. Writing does help blunt the viceral, searing pain. Although I have a sneaking suspicion my stepsister thinks as little of this as young Alex. (I'm not close to her either.)

Wait, who the hell am I close to in my family?

And Cas is a top man. He's merely doing what I'd've done had I suspected a free drinks voucher doing the rounds.
Except I'd've used it on me.

Shosh - there may be no female equivalent for this, so let's just say it's like losing a leg.
And please don't confuse Star Wars with Star Trek. One is cool, and one's for geeks.

Oh, LFM again - ignore that bit about geeks. Live long and make it so... Ah, you know what I mean.

Zed again, that didn't help. But thank you for thinking it might. (Or did you?)

Original Gangster - Now that's a plan. Except it might scare him on a whole multitude of levels.

DB - Simple, short, true. Apart from perhaps your genitalia for a while.

Thanks CP, and extremely poignant. As you say, the toys are his to give away. Although - hang on - I did give mine away. I think the lesson is, Don't let your son give his precious to a mong.

Damn this ageing!!

luna said...

The lesson is,in the future,make sure to articulate exactly what it is you wish to happen or not happen...
Both misunderstandings arose from the fact you didn't make your point of you clear enough.

fwengebola said...

Ah, but what if you don't know your point of view at the time and just have a vague desire? This is especially true of boyfriends/ girlfriends and the end of relationships.

I frequently bemoan no longer having se... I mean, splitting up with girlfriends who in retrospect I realise I had a tremendous amount in common with.

Farty said...

Star Wars vs Star Trek. One is indeed cool, while the other's for geeks. mmmm...Seven of Nine...

My daughter bought me Star Wars II when it came out on DVD. Still haven't watched it, I was turned to the Dark Side by Jar Jar Binks. Nuff said?

fwengebola said...

Because, Lun... sorry, Farty, Star Warses 1-3 (Return of the Merchandising) are shit.

I concur.

Farty said...

Apologies. Star Wars Ivy was of course ace.

My brother once asked if I had any pre-decimal currency for his son to Show-And-Tell at school. I gave him my entire collection, farthing to ten-bob-note inclusive, and told him to keep it. I think we get on so well because I have never, ever asked what happened to them. Out of sight, criminally insane.

Fussy Bitch said...

Star Wars did nothing for me. I'd do anything for Captain Picard though ;-)

la fille mariée said...

FB... you, me, and Captain Picard. Mmmmmm.

fwengebola said...

Look, this is not a Space gangbang. I was eight and entitled to like Star Wars.

Fussy Bitch said...

Gangbang? How very coarse. I prefer to use the term 'sharing the love'

;-)

Ordinary Girl said...

Lol at Original Gangster!! Who, little old me... :-) (smiling sweetly!)

Joie DeVivre said...

OMG!!! I am devastated about this. This is the type of shit that happens to me. I am sooo guttered for you, I woulda killed my stepsis, if I could see her through my tears!

Feeling ur pain, big time!

Eileen Dover said...

I'm jumping on the Joie bandwagon and coming over here to see what's going on.

I do feel your pain. However, for me, it was a stamp collection (points at self, uber geek), and not nearly as expensive.

Have you sought therapy for your issues? ;)

fwengebola said...

FB ~ Stop being saucy.
OG ~ I have long thought OG stood for Original Gangster, but then I used to listen to a lot of Ice-T as a teenager.
JD ~ Welcome. And bless you. Writing this down has certainly helped slow the crushing thoughts of depression. And thanks for the link, btw.
ED ~ Is there a Ben in your family? And has anyone said that before? But anyway, who needs therapy when there's blogs to vent through?