Metro column 32

By Richard Herring - 18th September, 2012

Richard Herring: Is eating a Cornetto in the sunshine as good as it gets?
Metro's resident comedian Richard Herring recalls an ice-cream oasis in the dessert-less desert of life.

Things have been pretty hectic this year, what with getting married and touring and having my house renovated, so I’m glad we’ve managed to have a break.

When I am on holiday I mainly like to lie down in the shade and read books and move as little as possible. I love to watch the world go by.

One afternoon I became aware of a three-year-old boy walking by our beach hut. He was concentrating intently on the Cornetto ice cream that he was holding reverently in both hands. He pecked at it gently a couple of times, seeming as content as it is possible for a human to be.

With a jolt, I realised that life doesn’t ever get better than that – being three and having a Cornetto in the sunshine. There’s no purer pleasure or indulgence in all that will follow in the journey from cradle to grave. You don’t realise that at the time, of course – you won’t even remember that Cornetto in ten hours, let alone 40 years. It’s the best thing that will ever happen to you but you won’t realise that until it’s too late. I envied that child.

Oh yes, I could still eat a Cornetto now, even though I’m 45. But no present-day Cornetto would ever be as awe-inspiring or perfect as that Cornetto lost in time. That fact alone means that any Cornetto I buy for myself is only sprinkled with disappointment and occasionally chocolate, depending on which flavour I am having.

Now that I am middle-aged I could consume a dozen Cornettos a day if I wanted – and I’m not saying I don’t. There’s nothing to stop me but my own heart exploding. But when you’re a child you have no money and no direct control over when the next Cornetto will appear. So when a Cornetto appears it is a wonderful and delicious surprise, an ice-cream oasis in the dessert-less desert of life. Plus it’s big and it’s yours and you don’t have to share it. You have no concept of it being bad for you and thus no guilt, no idea that there are better, more expensive, more delicious ice creams out there. You don’t even really realise that soon the Cornetto will be gone. You just have a Cornetto in your hands and it’s all for you and you are alive in the moment and nothing else matters. That child would never again have such uncomplicated happiness in his life yet he had no inkling of his good fortune.

Should I have grabbed him, shaken him and shouted: ‘Remember this instant! Hang on to it! Because life gets no better than this!’?

No. Partly because that would have somewhat soured his indulgent pleasure but mainly because, in this day and age, a 45-year-old man furiously buffeting a young boy he doesn’t know while shouting feverishly into his face about pleasure is seen as some kind of crime. It’s political correctness gone mad.

And, of course, had the three-year-old boy known the Cornetto was the best moment of his life then it no longer would have been. He’d have thought: ‘I’m three and I’ve experienced the zenith of my existence with maybe 100 years to go! That sucks. I can’t go on.’ It’s the fact you don’t realise it at the time that ultimately makes the moment perfect.

You can grasp at the rainbow but you will never hold it in between your fingers. You can hold a Cornetto but, like our innocence and happiness, it eventually melts into a gloopy mess.

Read more: