If I hadn't been ill I'd have gone to Manchester University instead of UCL. I wouldn't have met my future wife. I might not have entered the Time Out/Whitbread competition I stumbled on in my second year, so my first story wouldn't have been published. I wouldn't have had the editor of the LRB as a tutor, so my second story might not have been published there, nor my third which got into Fiction magazine because an agent saw my second in the LRB. I went to UEA partly because a mate who had a cricket match there picked up an application form for me, because of those three stories on my CV, and because of a good reference from another tutor, Dan Jacobson. Perhaps without all those factors I wouldn't have got there either. I wouldn't have written my first novel. Illness gave me a subject, a structure and a style for A CHINESE SUMMER. It gave me a bank of memories, impressions and sensations to draw on, and it gave me a mood-flavoured point of view which gave the novel it's voice.
It's like one of those episodes of Star Trek where they encounter a temporal anomaly, and find out how things might have been. I wonder about this life I didn't lead, those gaping holes it would have left. Would they have been filled by something I'd be equally sorry to lose? I doubt it, but then I would, wouldn't I?