Someone Else, Somewhere Else

Peter Clarke

  • Virtual History: Alternatives and Counterfactuals edited by Niall Ferguson
    Picador, 548 pp, £20.00, April 1997, ISBN 0 330 35132 X

Decisions, decisions – when are we free of them? Decide to vote Labour, get excited, get bored. Decide to ride a motorbike, get drunk, get injured. Decide to go to university, get an education, get a good job. Decide to get married, start a family, get a mortgage – no problem with a good job (see above). Decide no more Labour-voting, no more drink-driving, no more risks. Decide on safe family holiday in Florida, get mugged. Decide to fly home, get killed in a plane crash. Some good decisions, some bad decisions; some highly predictable outcomes, some wildly unexpected consequences. With hindsight, it’s obvious which is which. Now and then we may devote a sententious moment to thanking our good judgment or good fortune that we decided to do the right thing – right because it worked out so happily. But we surely spend far more time in rueful contemplation of opportunities missed, or agonised remorse about good advice ignored, or, worse still, numb incomprehension over the best-laid plans that nonetheless went tragically agley.

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