Experiences in our childhood often retain the depth of emotion that was attached to them at the time, despite the distance in life and time they represent. The intensity of the first feelings we experience often never leave us. The same is true of regrets, no matter how trivial they are. As a child I often looked at the shelves in the one local book shop, now long gone. I would look at all the science fiction and natural history books and weigh up which ones to put on my list to buy or save for my Christmas or birthday list. Often I’d look at the bargain books in case there was something to tempt me. I occasionally found an interesting science fiction novel. One time, though, there was a natural history book in the sale. European Reptiles and Amphibians it said. I pondered it. I liked the illustrations; they were good. I worried about how much I would use it; Just how many reptile and amphibian species were there in Oldham? I also worried about the ‘European’ in the title. Would it have exotic species that weren’t native to the UK? It was reduced. Originally 85p.
I bought it and instantly regretted it. The book was a constant embarrassment and irritation to me. I thought about the other books I could have got if I hadn’t spent the money on it. I wondered about what I could have put the money towards if I’d saved it and bought something more ambitious. As every week went by where I still didn’t find a reptile or amphibian, I regretted it more.
I’m in Italy when I see it; the possibility of redemption. Here, finally, forty years later is my chance to take photographs of a beautiful green lizard and find it in my book. It’s enjoying the heat of the sunshine and although wary of me, still tolerates me getting close enough to see it. I already know it’s an Italian Wall Lizard, or Podarcis siculus, which means agile feet, because that’s what the big sign in the nature reserve says.
Back home I look it up in my European Reptiles and Amphibians book.
It isn’t in there.