I have been thinking all week of the many different Ways In Which I Would Not Like To Die, a grim preoccupation brought on by the fact that my wife and I have finally taken the first steps towards making a will. To do this one is required to provide contingencies for several undesirable outcomes, including If I Die First, If You Die First, If We Both Die At Exactly The Same Time and If You, Me, The Children And Everyone Named In The Will Goes Over A Cliff In A Specially Chartered Coach, in which case funds are to be earmarked for a haunted bench in the park over the road.
There are, of course, an infinite number of Ways In Which I Would Not Like To Die, because there are no Ways In Which I Would Like To Die, but I think it's possible, after a week of finding myself in situations where death might conceivably arrive without warning, to list my current top three. They are:
In A Car With My Wife, Having Just Chosen Who The Children's Guardians Will Be In The Event Of Our Untimely Co-Deceasement
After 13 years of doing nothing to safeguard our children's future, my wife and I finally managed to have a simple conversation, at some traffic lights, that ended in total agreement on the names of two responsible individuals who could look after our kids if we were to die. "Well," said my wife, "I'm glad that's sorted out."
"Yes," I said. "Phew!"
"Oh God," she said, "now we'll probably get killed on the way to this thing." I suddenly felt terribly powerless, imagining a nightmare scenario where, through a series of legal blunders, sole custody of our children is accidentally awarded to Nicholas van Hoogstraten.
Falling Off The Flat Roof At The Back Of The House While Attempting To Reposition The Aerial Using A Giant Pencil
I have to perform this operation once a year or so, usually after strong westerly winds twist the rusting aerial eastward. It involves climbing out of a third-storey window and dangling a little bit, but it's the getting-back-in part that is always the most precarious. Last Wednesday, I sat down on the roof halfway through the project, as is my custom, to look over the edge and reflect on the profound lack of judgment that had got me this far. This time, the most regrettable element was undoubtedly the 4ft pencil, which I made myself as part of a book-week costume for one of the boys. It is, without wishing to boast, very convincing, and could have come straight from the set of The Borrowers. It was also the perfect length to reach up and bat the aerial in the right direction, but as I sat on the roof, I realised it would lend only an undesirable note of the ridiculous to a situation that already felt like an obituary waiting to be written. In fact, it would probably raise my death to the level of macabre news item, accompanied by a photograph of a policeman leaving my house with an enormous pencil sticking out of a bin liner.
After This Column Has Been Written, But Before It Has Been Published
This would be so exquisitely ironic as to seem a little contrived. Besides, I don't want the Daily Mail to run extracts of this piece under the headline Fateful Last Words Of Death Plunge Journalist or Bizarre Final Column Names Van Hoogstraten As Guardian. Above all, it will be too soon. People will end up believing that I had so much more to give, and I deserve the chance to prove them wrong. But if anything should happen to me between now and then, I'm not joking about that haunted bench.