Ten implausible years

After dinner yesterday evening, in the final hours of the decade, the conversation turned to fiction that is based on counterfactual history (Fatherland and so on). Someone pointed out that this has an inherent limitation: it mustn’t surprise you too thoroughly, because of the need to keep the story plausible. Reality, on the other hand, is not constrained in the same way. And over the last ten years it has been taking full advantage of this freedom. As someone else said last night, since 9/11 we all seem to have been living in some kind of parallel universe.

My personal experience of the 21st century so far has been rather implausible, too. Most of what I was doing at the turn of the millennium could reasonably have been predicted at least 15 years before that, by extrapolation (not the details, of course, but the broad trends). The disruptive event in my life was the dotcom bubble, right at the start of the decade. I was just sitting there at my desk, minding my own business (or rather, my employer’s), when it picked me up, whirled me around, and then—pop!—deposited me, a bit shaken, in a delightful spot on the bank of the river. The consequences of this are still working themselves out. It was the start of a journey, and I don’t know yet where I’m going.


At the start of 2008, I thought my life would continue in the same way forever – husband at work, me contracting for cash and writing for fun. And then the depths of the redundancy, the death of a friend and the dog catastrophe led to the highs of our own business getting funded. (And an interesting couple of months living at the end of your garden!)

My life was very placid and a little boring at the start of 2008; now it’s stressful but also more fulfilling.

I hope I’ll try to enjoy the moment a little more in the next decade, knowing that even the most settled lives can change in a matter of minutes.