Matthew Munson: A game of what ifs

Bryan and Matthew

My lad and I have been talking about “What ifs …” this week – how a life or a situation can change quite dramatically based on a flip of a coin. We both like the Marvel films (Captain America, Iron Man, the Hulk … my personal favourite is Loki, which could be quite worrying), and the current batch of films have examined parallel dimensions and alternate histories.

I’m quite obsessed with things like that; there but for a few fateful decisions, I might not exist at all. My paternal grandfather was a police constable in Rochester for a few years before passing his sergeant’s exam. As there weren’t any sergeant’s jobs going in his area, he looked further afield, and the first one that came was in Ramsgate Police Station. As a result, the Munson clan moved lock, stock, and barrel (well, the eldest son stayed behind for a while, but that’s another story) down to Ramsgate.

But what if my granddad got a job as a sergeant in Tunbridge Wells or Dover or Maidstone? I wouldn’t exist, as my dad – then aged 10 – would have grown up and, inevitably, not met my mother. My cousins wouldn’t exist. I wouldn’t be any the wiser as I wouldn’t be here, but it’s still strange.

Even closer than that – my parents met when they were in their thirties, as a result of their respective friends working together and setting my parents up on a blind date. My aunt was sure it wouldn’t work out, and offered to have the kettle on soon after the date was due to start, but it did – and I was the result. But what if my parents’ friends hadn’t played matchmaker? Again, I wouldn’t have existed, so my ignorance would be all-consuming, but it’s still a strange thing to consider.

Me choosing to become a single parent meant that I became Bryan’s dad rather than anyone else, and that sent my life down a particular path. It doesn’t concern me what my life could have been like – as I was once rather insensitively asked – because I rather like this life; being a dad is a privilege, and one I cherish. I’m glad I got to become dad to Bryan, and decided to become a dad when I did – I would have been far too immature in my late twenties to be even a half-way decent parent and, while I’m by no means perfect now, I’ve got far more life experience.

What if I had stayed on at university when I was 18 instead of leaving because I realised I’d made a mistake? What if I hadn’t lost a job at a particular point, or what if I had become a full-time dad during the pandemic as I’d originally planned? My life would have gone down subtly different paths; perhaps not massively, but I would have met different people and had different life experiences. Would I be a fundamentally different person? Possibly not – I could still be fundamentally the same, but with some different work and life experiences. Who knows – I’ll never know, but it’s fascinating to speculate sometimes.

On an unrelated note, I bumped into my fellow Isle of Thanet News columnist Christine this week in Broadstairs, and we spent a few minutes exchanging thoughts; I was interrupting her coffee with someone, and I was late to getting my hair cut (as Bryan rather tactfully reminded me), so had to dash off. But it’s lovely to see my fellow columnists about town from time to time; Melissa Todd and I used to write opposing columns about a particular issue each week. I’d be tempted to do that again, but it felt like we explored a lot of the local topics in depth, so we’d just be going over old ground. Maybe we’ll come up with another challenge one day.

I enjoy living in Thanet; there are familiar faces who I enjoy bumping into, and it’s home – I was born and raised in the area … but what if I’d ended up somewhere? Let’s not go too far down that rabbit hole – it’s enough to drive you mad.


  1. Doris Day once sang “Que sera, sera”. And that’s about the size of it.
    Looking back at choices we made or had thrust upon us won’t change anything.
    As I get older, I resolve more and more to let “Carpe Diem ” be my motto.

  2. Stay for a coffee next time! What a nice boy Bryan’s growing into. I just grumble about stuff, you’re raising the next generation!

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