ambition

When I was young I had ambition, I had lofty designs for my life and I was pretty certain about what it was I wanted to do to fill my adult days. From 1969 onwards I wanted to be a spaceman, I wanted to fly to the moon, in a rocket, and come safely back to earth. It doesn’t seem like a lifetimes work now I reflect on it, but at the time I was positive it was the job for me. So much so that I even painted myself from top to toe with a tin of silver paint I found in my dad’s shed (parental supervision allowed more scope for experiential learning in those days.) Being wise beyond my years I obviously did not paint my clothes, I stripped off first. I still vaguely recall how uncomfortable the scrubbing was, and that it wasn’t possible to get all the paint off with a scouring pad. While this made me the envy of the boy’s toilets for a few weeks it did not win me any invitations to NASA.
Regardless, this career option was my number one choice for many years – until the day I went to the garage with my dad to get a tyre changed. (The tyre was on the car, not my dad.) From the first time I saw the big, loud machine that removed the tyre from the wheel and forced the new one back on with a loud ‘pop!’ I knew that was the job for me. I think I may have annoyed my Dad with the several months’ worth of tyre inspections and checks to see if it was time to return to the garage yet.

tyre-fitting
Soon after this, for reasons entirely lost in the mists of time, I changed my mind again. My new chosen career was to be frogman. It is possible I had seen Jack Cousteau on the TV, it was the obvious job for a boy who liked/loved swimming. It is to my shame and regret that to this day I have still never been diving, in spite of promising myself that I would. I just never seem to find the time to get around to it; consequently I feel I have somehow let down my younger self. (This year 10 year old me – I promise!)
Several other possible careers were planned in the following years, none with the same passion, verve and commitment that those early life plans commanded.
None of them really panned out, they all seemed pale and insignificant after my younger aspirations. So I found myself studying half – heartedly, for exams I was probably going to fail, at the age of 18. I was bored, loud, usually in some sort of trouble or other and going nowhere fast.
After one run-in too many with a senior member of the English Department’ the course director suggested (quite forcibly) that I should spend a week helping on a local primary schools residential week. I am sure the intention of this was to get me and the member of staff apart for a while to let things blow over. I am quite certain that he could not have foreseen the impact that this would have on me; I was bitten by the teaching bug.
Over 30 years later I am still teaching. The residential week spurred me on to study and work towards a goal. Like ‘young me’ I had ambition again. Sometimes it felt like I was reaching for the moon, sometimes it still does.

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Driving

car

I like to drive. Being a lazy, broke and inept teenager I didn’t come to driving until quite late in life. To be precise it was when we bought our first car together, after we got married, that I decided I might not get good usage out of it if I couldn’t actually drive. So my wife was forced to endure a nerve- racking, teeth-grating, eyes-tight-shut year of me learning to drive. (Her eyes closed – not mine.)
I managed to pass my test first time and was soon careering round London like Mr Toad – windows down, music on, rev hard at the lights. I really didn’t know why I hadn’t done this sooner. True I did have one or two minor dings in the first few years, but nothing a few days of rejigging the sub frame, replacing the bonnet, wings, bumper, headlights and a paint job couldn’t fix. (You should have seen the other – brand new BMW – car).
To date I have been given one speeding ticket by a humourless traffic policeman just because I was doing over 90mph, the injustice of it! Well I did think so at the time, after all, I was in a hurry to get home for tea. He excelled himself by managing to spell the make of the car wrong on the ticket, even though it is written on the car in big shiny letters that he could have copied.
The other offence was having my photo taken as I rushed from meeting to meeting. This was resolved in the peculiarly British way of sending me a court summons, and then sending a letter telling me I could avoid getting a conviction if I paid to go on a ‘speed awareness’ course for a day. They really should do this for other offences – shoplifting awareness training, not punching people practise etc. I took the latter option and was treated to a day of being told that driving fast was dangerous by two retired ex-policemen. To be fair, I did stick to the speed limit on the way home from the course so it had some impact.
My biggest grumble about driving is that I always seem to miss the announcement that tells me when it is going to be National Drive Like A Dick Day. Consequently I am unprepared for people driving at a nice safe 5mph below the speed limit, coming to a complete standstill before making any sort of turn at any junction, not using their indicators (it’s none of my business where they’re going right!), going the wrong way round a roundabout (seriously, all the other traffic came to a standstill as we watched this death defying feat)
Now I have actually put this in writing I realise that the reason I miss the announcements is because National DLAD Day is pretty much every day round here. I may have to just give up and join in.
Anyway, last year my chickens came home to roost. My eldest son was learning to drive, and as I wasn’t working I became the main passenger/instructor/idiot that doesn’t know what he’s talking about. I spent many happy months being driven in a haphazard fashion around the local countryside giving , largely ignored, advice.
The test is now passed, and a happy eldest son has several months of being able to get himself from place to place without having to ask me for lifts, arrange times around what I am doing or wait for buses (no trains here since the winter storms washed away our tracks.) He is largely happy, and I am just a little bit sad as my first born, who will always be a baby to me, starts to become an independent adult.

 

The picture at the top is the car I was pulled over in, I cannot imagine what it was that drew attention to me!

Movie night

Friday night in our house is an institution. Like many other families we choose to end the week in relaxing and decadent style.

I can’t recall when it started, but it was some time ago and happens with clockwork regularity. A missed Friday cannot be cancelled, it has to deferred to a different night. It is the perfect end to what are often (usually) chaotic and busy weeks in a home where our children attend three different schools.

Once everybody is home from school, work, wherever else they may have been the routine goes like this;
Cook tea (some of us)
Eat tea (all of us)
Tidy up (argue about who needs to do what)
Make sure things for Saturday are all ready
Into PJs/onesies (depending on preferences)
Turn sitting room into oasis of tranquillity, with blankets, cushions, bowls of sweets, ample seating and soft lighting.

Once our middle son (Who doesn’t like sweets, doesn’t like to watch films – except the Spongebob Squarepants movie, and there are only so many times we can all watch that – and likes to go to bed early most nights) has gone to bed we settle down for the evening.

Occasionally we decide beforehand what we would like to watch. Notionally we take it in turns to choose the film, although the rota for this seems to be quite flexible and come round to the youngest child with suspicious regularity. There is often some horse trading at this point as we scroll through the available movies, each of us discounting various options for various reasons; seen it, sounds boring/babyish/stupid/girly, don’t like Meryl Streep etc. This can be quite a protracted process as we whittle down the main contenders and move to a vote on the final options.
Once we have decided what we will watch it’s settle down time, occasional bottles of beer or cider if we are feeling reckless and it is movie night.

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Don’t misunderstand me, we love going to the cinema proper, but being able to pause for a break in some of the interminably long movies (hello Harry Potter and The Hobbit) is pure bliss, not having to arrange for a babysitter or try and get anywhere on time is also heavenly. Also, we can change the film halfway through if we choose one we decide we don’t like after we have started watching it.
Laying about in nightwear and rolling straight into bed once the film is over is about as much excitement and dynamism I can muster at that time of the week.

If you already do Movie Night in your house you will know all of these things already, if you don’t you should seriously consider it.

Treasure

me

I love a bargain. Everybody loves a bargain. What could be better than finding something for a fraction of the price that you would have been prepared to pay. Result. As a boy I used to love the regular occurrence of jumble sales in the small town I grew up in. I didn’t care if they were at the Methodist Hall, the Baptist’s place, Catholic, The Lifeboat Institute – I expect I would have gone to a jumble sale at the Church of Satan if they had had one. (And for all I know they may have done – if they did I probably went!)

Inside these events was a treasure trove, an Aladdin’s cave of precious things. For mere pennies you could clothe yourself, furnish your room, discover new music and purchase more books than you could carry in your Adidas shoulder bag. Of course, this was dependant on you not minding a few things;
You shouldn’t mind that the clothes came from an elderly (possibly dead) person who was not the same size as you
You shouldn’t mind that the furnishings and trinkets were probably from incomplete sets, usually damaged and often slightly unhygienic.
You shouldn’t mind that the music was not necessarily the things you would have selected from the record shop (yeah – ‘record shop’ Google it youngsters!)
You shouldn’t mind that the books may not be the latest editions of the newest books, but slightly more esoteric and sometimes so old they were starting to disintegrate before you even go them home.
As long as you didn’t mind these things, the world was yours, on a budget so tight it squeaked.

The things I enjoyed! I once had a pair of yellow trousers, a yellow shirt and, to top it off, a matching yellow lambswool jumper. Trilby hats, books, evening suits, bikes, a T Rex album, books, tartan trousers, books, a selection of mysterious electronic equipment that looked as if it might do something good – but never did – and more books.

Nowadays jumble sales are not as frequent as they once were. Their place has been taken by the plethora of charity shops on every high street in every town. These are not quite the same, but still do yield a fine selection of clothes, music, furnishings and books for reasonable prices.

Today I was reminded of those halcyon days, a trawl of some charity shops turned up a good selection of finds, all for minimal prices. As I did in my youth – I came home happy with my bargains. Just like my younger self – I have carefully examined the purchases, making sure they are complete and undamaged. Lastly, in a final echo of my younger self I have listened to my new musical purchases, in fact I am listening as I write. I don’t like it.

I will finish with a link to my favourite song about jumble sales, it is by Clearlake and is called Jumble Sailing; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fgm0NnJCkws

The photo at the header is me at 17 in a very fine jumble sale jumper.

play date

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The other night I had the grown – up version of having a friend over to play. This is very much like the junior play dates you may be familiar with if you have small children. Substitute the orange squash and biscuits for beer and crisps, instead of toys and videos have a box full of dusty seven inch singles from the loft and finally shut us in a room undisturbed as we probably won’t be charging around running up and down the stairs shouting as loudly as we can or watching SpongeBob Squarepants – at least not until later.
In preparation I had crawled into the loft space and retrieved a record player and some speakers, these have been living in the loft for some time, as record players and young children don’t mix that well and young children have been a defining feature of our house for many years now. The same loft space was also accessed to collect the aforementioned box of records, at great personal risk to my middle aged back that doesn’t really enjoy crawling around or carrying things up and down ladders that much.
The record player was set up, the amp was cranked all the way to 4 and I was set up. I have to admit that the last few years, raising small children and caring for a disabled child have been quite heavy on my social life; so I was a little excited that I was going to spend some adult time with someone who isn’t a family member or colleague.
My friend (actually, I may refer to him as my ‘mate’ from now on, it sounds a bit more blokeish) is the same age as me, he grew up listening to a lot of the same music and going to see a lot of the same bands. Whenever we have met up before, we have ended up talking music in the way that only middle aged men can. Rummaging through boxes of singles seemed like a logical thing to do, so we did.
Stiff Little Fingers, Carter USM, Hole, Siouxsie and the Banshees, they all got played at some point. More eclectic bands; Superchunk and The Jesus Lizard, Silverfish and even Whitney Houston (?!) got played. At some point, after the first couple of beers, the amp may have even been turned up to an outrageous 6. It was all good fun and over too quickly. There is only so much beer you can consume on a week night and still be able to function at work the next day.
It was all over too early really. On a more positive note, I still have several boxes of 12 inch vinyl to get down from the loft, and I haven’t seen my mate’s record collection yet. I sense some more play dates coming up.