A Hole in Their Bucket

26 April 2016 Helen Razer

A Hole in Their Bucket

Photograph by James Braund

There is little doubt that you have heard of that catalogue of mortal hope, the ‘bucket list’. If you have not, you are very fortunate and I urge you to read no further. If you’re a stubborn masochist, however, here’s a crib: it’s a written tally of the things an individual longs to do before he or she carks it.

Considered in itself, the bucket list is not an especially foul practice. Considered within the culture that informs it, the thing has become dull work for chatty braggarts. Also for terrible publishers: at last count, there were 1001 books itemising the 1001 Things to Do Before You Die.

Advice on how to risk one’s life before it ends is everywhere. If one is not careful, the average day will upturn commands to jump out of a plane, join a cult and/or run naked through the middle of Pyongyang screaming “pants on fire!”

For the sake of all that is decent, SHUT UP! My goals for the remainder of my life are modest and I’d like to keep them that way, thanks. If I can manage to get my tax return into the ATO on time and have a thorough dental check-up in the same financial year, I’m ecstatic.

Recently, I poked myself in the face with a gardening implement and found myself in the rooms of my general practitioner. Shickered on pain-killers to the point where even a seven-year-old copy of New Idea seemed a great literary undertaking, I flicked through a deck of cards modestly designed, I presume, to appeal to the drug-affected. It was a mere ‘52 Things to Do Before You Die’.

The first card suggested I “swim with a dolphin”. This thought might have been briefly entertaining if: a) I hadn’t previously read this proposal in a thousand cheap pieces of media; and b) we could suppose that anyone had bothered to consult the dolphin population about this inconvenience. Does anyone stop to think about the thousands of poor sea mammals that must cater to the greedy whim of unfeeling publishers and TV producers who have pushed an entire generation headlong into their flippers?

The second card suggested I “dance like no one is watching”. This oft-heard Hallmark nonsense never fails to piss me off and make me wonder about the utter lack of foresight demonstrated by whoever first wrote these awkward words. Further, my poor skills as a dancer should not be further compromised. What if someone is watching? A dolphin, for example. Flipper would spend years in therapy.

Number three? Have Your Portrait Painted. WHY? Photography is an art and documentary form that has been honed these past two centuries, PLUS it costs virtually nothing these days.

No. I will NOT support a form of expression that has, artistically and technically, long since outlived its usefulness. More to the point, why on EARTH would I BOTHER sitting still for six hours when I have an annual dental check-up to attend? Frankly, I’d rather have root canal work than the attentions of the sort of crap artist my budget would allow.

Actually, I quite liked Number Four: Participate in a Police Line-Up. I called my local constabulary to make an appointment and they said, albeit politely, “What do you think this is, lady – CSI?” Apparently there’s no great call for unusually fair middleage women who fidget in forensic photography.

I don’t want to climb a mountain. I do not wish to write poetry. (I spent my late teens doing just that and I’m surprised I wasn’t put in prison for violating the copyright of Sylvia Plath.) Skinny dipping at midnight? That’s just ASKING for a painful mosquito bite in an inappropriate crevice.

Besides which…I have a tax return to complete. And a wisdom tooth to conquer. And figs to harvest and a partner to giggle with and cats to cuddle and lemon meringue pie to master. I wish people would shut up about this list. I have 1001 things to do before I die.

by Helen Razer

The 'Razer' column is featured each fortnight in The Big Issue. So if Helen Razer makes you hoot, make sure you grab a copy! 

This article first appeared in Ed#402 of The Big Issue.