The happiest days of our life?
My daughter is 13 and can’t wait to grow up. I, of course, caution her against such wishes. You are a long time grown up we say, but actually, it doesn’t feel like that does it? Enjoy these days, best days of your life, be careful what you wish for – all of that, all of the time. Before realising it doesn’t matter because no matter what you hope for you aren’t able to alter time? You want the years to slow down to eke out as much fun and laughter as possible, but that wish is as futile as those hours spent sitting staring at the clock hoping for the hands to whizz round stuck in a job you hate.
We lament the passing of time as if it’s all bad but I’m often drawn to think nostalgically, daydreaming of hotter summers, snowier winters and long fun-filled days of my youth. Without cares and stresses that middle age brings, you imagine
childhood is this magical time – that’s not always the case. There are quite a few things no one misses from their youth. I still love the fact that I don’t have to do homework.
Even as a reasonably sensitive middle-aged man I still find it a nightly battle not to laugh in my daughter’s face as she struggles with extra helpings of quadratic equations, the intricacies of the periodic table and trying to work out the lineage of kings and queens of England. I strive to both not to laugh with joy and give her the nod that actually nothing she’s stressing about now will ever be useful in adult life. When was the last time you used Pythagoras’ theory or found it handy knowing how an oxbow lake is formed?
Many things from school baffle me still, can you still get mini bottles of milk and exactly how long and at what temperature do you need to keep it at it, so it’s undrinkable yoghurt? They say Margaret Thatcher was the milk-snatcher but honestly who misses that? I dreamed as a kid of going to bed and getting up exactly when I wanted. This is joy unbounded; I’m allowed to go to bed whenever I want, incredible. It’s more than three decades since I lived with my parents but knowing I’m in charge of my sleep pattern is fantastic. Of course, I fall asleep on the sofa more evenings than not, but still. Similarly, coming in and out of the house whenever I feel like it.
Growing up it felt like my mum was some sort of border guard. She was resolute in her position that we were either in or out. Her biggest fear was that we would end up traipsing in and out all day. We didn’t even know what traipse meant. Sounds Dickensian: ‘Oh, poor Ethel, died of the traipse she did’. We’d be allowed to play out, but it was a one-stroke policy if we came in, we stayed in. No movement on that. We were only allowed in the house if we needed to eat or use the toilet for a number two. What about if we needed a wee or a drink? My kids don’t believe me when I tell them my mum kept two bottles on the back-step, one full of water to drink and the other to use for number ones.
My brother is two years younger than me. He’s hairier, slimmer and shorter than me. Always has been, I suspect he always will be, especially the two years younger bit. I’m not sure if my mum had a dark secret and had given birth to twins and had them adopted, but she was determined that my brother and I would dress alike. I’ve asked around and it seems this isn’t unusual. My mate has a brother and a sister, and he recalls the horror of all siblings and parents wearing the same shell suit on holiday in France once. Like a really weird five-a-side team on a European summer tour. My brother and I found this arrangement ridiculous. It’d be even more ridiculous now if we’d enjoyed it and carried on, I suppose. He lives in London now so we’d have to Facetime every morning to decide. Funnily enough, he has twin girls, and they never dress the same.
The thing I’m most glad about the wisdom that age brings is no longer wondering if the girls at the bus stop fancy me. They don’t. I know that unequivocally. But it wasn’t always so. I know it’s hard to believe but when I was a young man I wasn’t confident around women. To be fair I wasn’t confident around anyone. I was a teenager, confident teenagers are few and far between, and you are always a bit wary when you meet one. I think they’re probably aliens sent to take over our planet.
Normal teenagers live in bedrooms and don’t speak. My whole teenage years were spent wondering if the girl who caught the bus at the same stop as me fancied me. Five years I reckoned I pondered on that until the day I decided to ask her out. She said no. In fact, she said she didn’t even like boys, she liked girls. I wondered now if she was being kind. Probably not, I mean I’m irresistible, aren’t I?
‘When was the last time you used Pythagoras’ theory or found it handy knowing how an oxbow
lake is formed?’
ABOVE: Please sir, will we ever really need to know this?