Life can turn on the twist of Rubik Cube

Monday 7 December 2015

Most lives have fundamental turning points, key events that shape our destiny.

Sometimes it’s only when we look back, through the wrong end of the telescope, as it were, that we can identify them.

I had a “telescope” moment this week.

ITV got in touch to ask if it was OK if they released an old archive clip of me from the year Rubik’s Cube mania swept the planet: 1981.

I was a 24-year-old reporter for Yorkshire Television’s nightly news programme (hosted by the late, great Richard Whiteley).

They’d sent me to York University to cover an international conference on the cube, a fiendish puzzle only maths geeks could solve.

Multi-coloured squares had to be twisted so that each six sides were a different uniform colour.

It was virtually impossible.

I signed off my two-minute report by talking directly to the camera, doing some jokey stuff with a cube.

The piece went out that evening on the Yorkshire bulletin.

I went home for tea.

Then fate stepped in.

The first of a tiny-trip-trip of coincidences that would lead directly to a total change in my destiny: marriage, the birth of children, a new career.

That night’s ITN News At Ten was short of their traditional “And finally” item.

They took a look at my larky piece and decided to nick it. I was going to be on network TV!

I phoned family and everyone I knew and went to bed trailing clouds of glory.

But also watching that night was the head of news at Granada TV in Manchester.

He was looking for a new frontman for his nightly show and figured this London bloke might make a good fit and contrast with his existing presenter, 32-year-old Mancunian Judy Finnigan.

He offered me the job and I said yes.

So Judy and I met, fell in love, married and had two children together.

Less importantly, we launched This Morning and other shows, our book club and this column.

But when I watched that 34-year-old clip again this week I was consumed by “what-ifs?”

What if I’d been assigned to a different story that day?

What if ITN already had their “And finally” item?

What if my new boss had been pouring himself a nightcap when my report aired and he’d never seen it?

Of course one can speculate endlessly, such “what-ifs” are infinite.

Think of a key event in your life, something on which everything that followed rests like a bridge on its arch.

How many seemingly random factors had to combine in perfect synchronicity to shape your future?

And was it all sheer happenstance?

Or ordained?

And how and when will our dance with destiny end?

An anonymous 17th century verse, carved on a lichened gravestone in a Penzance churchyard, captures these mysteries.

Life speeds away from point to point Never seeming to stand still. Cunning by stealth is the fugitive Too subtle the movement to be seen Yet soon Man’s hour is up – and we are gone! Read Richard and Judy's column for the Daily Express here.
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