The hap­pi­est days of our life?

Lancashire Life - - JUSTIN MOORHOUSE -

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?

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