Most of us would probably agree that living a good life is all about looking ahead, moving forward, and not dwelling on the past. Yet an inevitable part of getting older is looking back over the years and weighing up the highs and the lows, savouring the good memories and regretting the bad. Then there is the issue of legacy. As we hurtle towards our final departure that too creeps into one’s thinking: what mark will I leave on the world? It is not an easy question and what makes it harder is that the answer won’t sit still.
Take Christopher Columbus. Not so long ago his legacy seemed secure as the celebrated discoverer of America, a great man whose achievements culminated in the forging of the USA, a beacon of freedom and democracy. You can find his statue standing proudly atop a grand column near Barcelona’s seafront. Yet today, Columbus is more likely to be dismissed as an evil colonialist slaver prepared to subjugate and condemn entire populations for power and financial gain. It’s not hard to imagine that statue being taken down at some point. And even reinstated should society change its opinion.
Legacy is a slippery subject and I can’t help wondering how future generations will remember me when I finally shuffle off this mortal coil. I have no doubt there are some people reading this - cynics and smart alecs - who will say: “Neil, they won’t remember you at all”. Well let me tell those people - who I understand are probably dealing with issues - that one thing I have done to make a contribution to my legacy is change the very cultural fabric of the village where I live, perhaps not forever but without doubt for the better.
When I came to live in this village of less than a hundred souls over a dozen years ago, October 31 was just another day. It’s true that it coincided with La Castanyada, Catalonia’s annual autumn festival devoted to chestnuts, and don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of roast chestnuts, but they’re not particularly exciting, especially if you’re a kid. What kids like is dressing up and kids like sweets, which is why they love Halloween.
Our first Halloween in the village saw me taking my two kids, one dressed as a vampire the other as a witch, from house to house with a basket, knocking on doors and then threatening the bemused neighbours with mischief if they didn’t hand over some edible goodies. It was the first time anyone had ever tricked or treated in the history of the village. It would not be the last. The following year there were four or five kids, the year after that seven or eight, by the third year the score of kids who lived in the village were all dressed up and tricking and treating like the best of them.
Many Halloweens later, my children are now 19 and 17 and they no longer dress up or trick and treat, but come October 31 I can assure you that I will have plenty of sweets ready in the hall, waiting for the likes of Frankenstein’s monster and the Mummy to ring my doorbell.
I wouldn’t be surprised if one day I ended up as a statue on top of a column in the village square.