David Bouchier

Gzzz / Wikimedia Commons

As a child I had a rich fantasy life – too rich, I was often told. But my fantasies were important to me, especially the ones about what I would do or be if and when I grew up, which I was in a great hurry to do. In retrospect I can’t remember ever wanting to be a train driver or an astronaut or Superman. The fantasy I remember best is the dream of having a little shop. It sounds unlikely now, but it wasn’t then.

Annice Lyn / AP

Marooned in a doctor’s waiting room, I started reading a sensational magazine article about reincarnation. The article speculated on the past lives of some enormously famous celebrities I’ve never heard of. The author appeared to believe that every media celebrity must be the reincarnation of some past media celebrity, a theory that runs into difficulties as soon as you get back a few generations to the time before media celebrities were invented.

Nam Y. Huh / AP

Acting was once a marginal occupation. In Shakespeare’s time, actors were considered not much better than vagabonds, and even into the 20th century the profession carried a faint whiff of scandal, especially for women. It’s not hard to understand why. Acting, after all, is a form of deception, and an actor is a chameleon who can be a king one week and a brain surgeon the next. You never know where you are with actors.

Richard Drew / AP

Twelfth Night marks the end of the Christmas festivities. By midnight on that date the decorations should have been taken down, the greeting cards put away, and the final traces of the long party removed. Failure to do this is traditionally supposed to bring bad luck.

Kaique Rocha from Pexels

You may remember that twenty years ago, at this time in 1999, we were all full of anxiety about the coming 21st century. Prophets of doom eagerly fed the general sense of uneasiness with dire predictions. Terrorism, war, trouble in the Middle East, economic stagnation and political meltdown were all confidently predicted, and they all happened, as they always do, and here we are. Now those prophecies seem as inevitable and commonplace as death and taxes. The two big things that failed to happen were the end of the world and the obliteration of all computers in the famous Y2K crash.