If you could go back in time and change one thing, what would it be?

I like a challenge. So when @post40bloggers tweeted this suggestion for something to write about earlier on this week, I started to think about what my answer might be. After all, there must be something that I’d want to change about my past? It’s a dangerous game though. Consider, for example, the views of two fictional doctors:


People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint – it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly … timey wimey … stuff.

This first quotation is probably more recognisable than the second I’ve chosen, as it comes from David Tennant’s performance in the Dr Who episode, ‘Blink’ (the one with the creepy statue things in it). It’s an interesting, if scientifically illiterate view of time, neatly side-stepping the usual paradoxes that would occur if you were able to go back in time and change something in your past. It’s the impact of those paradoxes that I’m scared of – any change I might make to my history could have all kinds of unforeseen consequences. On the whole, I’m very happy with my lot – and I’m not a gambler!


Of course, I realise that it’s nonsense to think of one’s life as a meaningless detail rapidly receding into a mass of other meaningless details. But I confess that the thought has occurred to me from time to time.

This quotation is rather more obscure. It’s from Booker-prize winning author J.G. Farrell’s hugely underrated third novel, A Girl in the Head. I’ve chosen it because I partially subscribe to Andy Warhol’s view that everyone will have 15 minutes of fame. My contention is however that for most people, those metaphorical 15 minutes won’t come in a single lump. Instead, they will be found in moments here and there, spread throughout our lives. In my view, these moments are so small and fragile, that to accept an offer of travelling back in time to change something that might damage them is unthinkable.

I bet you’re guessing that I’m going to say that I want to change nothing at all. However, the question asked doesn’t specify that the change has to be something in my life. I freely acknowledge that I’m operating using a set of double-standards, but, my blog, my rules.

So my ‘change one thing’ is simple and incredibly self-indulgent. Forty years ago yesterday, Brian Clough joined Leeds United as their manager. That move didn’t end well. In my view, he should have stayed at Derby County and won us more championships and the European Cup, rather than doing so with our East Midlands neighbours and eternal rivals Nottingham Forest a few years later on in his career. I want to go back to 1973 and stop him from writing his resignation letter.

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Reader Comments

  1. thinkingofyouandme

    ahh, but it could have gone disastrously wrong at Derby and then where would you be? He could have wrecked your club, instead of Leeds.
    I speak as a Bournemouth fan who have had their fair share of dodgy managers and brilliant ones, and ones who have left and then come back again…. and who is doing amazing stuff…..Nice post though!

    • tim

      I don’t think Clough was at Leeds long enough to have wrecked them (!) and yes, I acknowledge that there’s a real risk that the second championship Derby won under Dave Mackay might never have happened. But my real target is Forest of course – office banter would have been so much more tolerable in the 80s when I worked in Nottingham had he never gone there … 🙂

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