Drop The Pilot

It may be my age but my wife now believes I’m more Slipperman than Superman. However, for those of you sensible souls who believe the latter, you may want to cover your eyes and avoid disappointment as I have something momentous to share. The news is it suddenly struck me this week that I won’t live forever.

I know. A life without

Paul Coia wittering on each week would be unthinkable but, dear friends, as sure as night follows day and chavs follow Jeremy Kyle, the time will come.

The revelation hit me at about thirty thousand feet up in the air on a British Airways flight to Switzerland last Monday when a bit of turbulence turned in to a very frightening rollercoaster as my body plummeted quickly to twenty five thousand feet while my stomach stayed miles above. I fly more often than Clark Kent but it was the first time I’d seen the calm, normally reassuring, air crew look as if a blind dentist was approaching them with a power drill from the Argos catalogue.

I first flew when I was seventeen and I guess over the years I have collected more air miles than a flock of migrating swallows, but even I had never been this scared in a plane before, at least not since a bald steward passed me his ‘phone number hidden in a clotted cream tea. I smiled and got extra cream back then but there was no hope of even a tea biscuit this time as everything was locked down – apart from my stomach.

I won’t say my life flashed before me but I did feel tearfully grateful after we landed, but then reflective and pensive, and this sad melancholy and realisation of the transience of life was fed later in the week by a couple of further events.

Firstly I cleared out an untidy box I keep in my office. The box was full of old cheque books and pens but also some fun memorabilia like my cloakroom ticket from 10 Downing Street and a hand rolled cigarette given to me by Peter Cook. The carton was also filled with obsolete currencies from countries I’d visited years ago and photos of a slim me before I swallowed a baby elephant. Also there, however, were about a dozen cards sent by friends and relatives following the deaths of my aunts, uncles and old friends.

I found it incredibly sad reading through them all and remembering those who have gone before, but I am pleased I hung on to them as it’s important to keep these things to remind ourselves that we are the sum of all these people who have influenced us one way or another.

The second history lesson that fed my wistful mood this week was when a friend emailed me some photos from my last day on a TV show called Pebble Mill At One. The friend, who I remember as a cheerful, barking mad, woman has now had a change of career and is a vicar. I bet she’s great at it too.

Looking at the photos and remembering all the old faces (none older than mine) made me initially hanker for those times to come back. I can’t remember then having any worries at all. I was a happy idiot blundering through life and taking no responsibility because I lived life as if it was a comedy show. But what happened to all those bright faces in the photos? Did they accomplish what they dreamed of? Did life treat them well? Did I treat them well?

So, it’s been a week of reflection for me and perhaps a bit depressing, but those who know me know I don’t do depressing. I’m always up. So, what can I take away that’s positive?

Rededicate myself to making the most of every day, look after family and friends, and contact old mates who I’ve lost touch with? Most definitely. But it’s more than that. I think I’ve also learned never to eat a fried breakfast before flying again.

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