As not infrequently happens on Saturday (and invariably on Sunday) afternoons, I found myself alone. I decided to go down to the foreshore of the beach and tackle a cryptic crossword or read one of the second-hand books I’d bought the day before.

Once there, I looked for a place to sit; one with not too many people close by. I found a relatively shady spot near a tree, sat down and pulled out the crossword. I noticed a girl sitting about five metres away. She wasn’t doing anything except taking apparent interest in the proceedings for what appeared to be a beach wedding. She was wearing blue jeans, rolled up to show long, slender calves, and a simple white lycra top, under which the outline of her plain bra was visible. Her feet were bare: her nails were painted a light pink. She wore two turquoise rings on her right ring finger and a gold band on the middle finger of her left hand. She was wearing glasses with dark rectangular frames. Her thick, dark brown hair was, I think, quite short. Her eyebrows were neatly groomed, and dark like her eyes. A red leather handbag lay beside her.

If you hadn’t already guessed, I found her attractive. While I was puzzling over some of the questions – although my cognitive faculties weren’t fully engaged in the task – I tried not to look at her. She, I’m sure, had noticed me, for no other reason than I was nearby.

For about an hour she and I sat there, both of us alone. So why didn’t I unravel myself and lope across to talk to her? Fear: fear of rejection, of contempt and derision. I was safe in the refuge of inaction, which required only this payment for its shelter: to add another regret (“If only …”) to my overloaded psychological suitcase.

Confucius, in his Analects, said “To know what is right and not to do it is the worst cowardice.” I interpret this as a moral ethic (and I agree with him) but this pericope of my life deals rather with wisdom and happiness than with morality. Nevertheless, I was a coward: I knew what was best for me to do but I didn’t do it.

[insert regret here] *sigh* If only …