Looking back, moving forwards…….

January 19, 2008

I’ve been talking a long hard look at myself recently and I’m trying to be more aware of how my actions might affect others. I catch myself thinking bad thoughts all the time. Not like murderous or criminal stuff, just little things.

Mostly its cruel jibes about a persons physical appearance or even the way they’re dressed. These are things that I wouldn’t have thought twice about when I was younger. Recently, I’m more aware than ever that these strangers are actually people, they have feelings too.

I’ll see a young woman dressed in a mis-match of colours or wearing a silly hat and I’ll be thinking “What is she like?” Then the little voice will break in, “that’s someone’s Sister, imagine if someone was being cruel to my Sister?”

Or, there’ll be some old lady dawdling along in my path and I cant get past. I might open my mouth to proclaim something like “I’ve all the time in the world, dont mind me!” Again, I’ll stop myself with a “that’s someone’s Nan, that is, dont be so cruel.”

Maybe its an overweight, greasy haired frump with terrible skin. Previously, I’d sneer or make a joke, now I wouldn’t. You get the idea.

Writing just those few lines above, gave me quite an uncomfortable feeling, that is probably the best indicator of all that I know I was doing wrong.

When I start to think back over my early years, I hate to admit that I’ve not always been the nicest person. You know the sort of stuff that even many years later, just thinking about it makes you blush with a private embarrassment?

All of this ties in quite nicely with something that happened fairly recently. I was shopping at a local DIY superstore and after a bit of brain-scratching, realised that one of the Greeter/Trolley collector types was a boy that had been in my form-room in School. Lets call him Michael, for no other reason than that was his name. This was a bit unusual in itself since I now live about 30 miles from the town I grew up in and he is the first Mexborough person I’ve ever bumped into over here in Sheffield.

Now Michael wasn’t the brightest kid, more than a bit overweight and rather short (even when compared to me!) He was also a ginger, albeit very dark ginger, had a home haircut courtesy of the pudding basin and to top it all off, he was adopted. Oh, and those eyebrows which always seemed to be in a state of stubbly re-growth, we speculated a lot about that one, punishment from adopted Mother was our conclusion.

So, Michael did get teased a lot and I’m ashamed to say that me and my friend Chris did as much of this as any others. We were the ones tripping him, hiding his things, cheating at cards to make sure he got “slaps” for losing.

It’s true that Children are our future, its also true that they can be cruel little bastards too.

Fast forwards back to the present and I’m now feeling totally shitty. I’m doing OK, after a few early years struggling to find my way, I’ve had a decade of happiness with my Paul, I have a reasonably paid job, my own home that will be paid for this year, I holiday 5 times a year and life is good. I really do have a lot to be thankful for.

Michael, On the other hand, is greeting people as they arrive at the DIY store, collecting trolleys from the car park in the wind and rain, he is Obese, possibly morbidly so and looks like he doesn’t have a lot to smile about. That may all seem to be a lot to have noticed in one visit and it is, in fact I’ve now seen him on 3 different trips to that store. Each time I visit I promise myself that I’ll say hello to him and see how he is. Each time I chicken out.

I guess I’m worried that if I did approach him and say hello, I may just hear some things I dont really want to know. I suppose that I really ought to leave well alone forget about it. I mean, its not like I’m going to re-kindle a friendship we never really had in the first place. The most I’m looking for is a hello, how are you, nice to see you again and by implication an “its not your fault.”

Is it terribly egotistical to imagine that my actions may have had some effect on his later life? Did we destroy his self esteem or did his adoptive parents do that alone? (you should have heard the stories he told us!)

Perhaps, despite outward appearances and my interpretation of these, he is very happy, enjoys his job, has a loving partner and maybe a kiddie or 2. Maybe.

I think I’ll think about it some more………

Buyer’s remorse.

August 30, 2007

Buying the laptop the other day got me thinking about something that happened years ago and which I hadn’t thought about for years.

These days I guess I take it for granted that I can pretty much have anything (within reason of course) I want. When I was younger things weren’t so easy, I mean to say that we weren’t totally poor but neither were we affluent.

I’d been given a Commodore VIC-20 for Christmas of 1982 by my Mum and step-Dad and I loved it. You could “make” your own games by typing in code published in magazines. You could borrow games from friends and even Video Libraries and copy them using 2 cassette recorders connected together. The possibilities seemed endless and from then until now, I’ve been hooked on computers.

A year or 2 later I was hoping for something new and had decided I wanted a Spectrum Plus, this was basically just a Spectrum with a new case including a “proper” keyboard.

My Dad took me to the Woolworths store in Rotherham, where they had some good deals on offer, to get my Christmas Gift.

So far so good, I’m a very happy boy and in great spirits, looking forward to having my new computer for Christmas. However, it wasn’t to stay that way, in fact this day was to change me forever ( please excuse the drama.)

We spent some time in the store looking at the deals and I chose the one I wanted, then had a couple of rounds of Dad confirming if I was sure, it would have to last me, I wouldn’t get any other gifts etc etc.

So Dad found an available salesman and to my surprise we were led to an office at the back of the store. this felt a bit odd, a bit like something I’d seen on TV about a shoplifter taken to the Managers office! Of course it wasn’t that at all, it was because there was paperwork to be done. The paperwork
was for a credit agreement or maybe it was called a hire purchase agreement back then.

Whatever you want to call it, I didn’t like it. Back then, credit wasn’t as free and easily available as it is now, only the rich had credit cards and most ordinary people could only access credit at expensive rates or even worse through some other dodgy means. At my Mums house I was trained in the
“save up for it, if you want it” school of thought. At Dads house it was more common to order things from the catalogue and pay it off at 32p a week for 48 weeks. I think that because I spent most time living with Mum, that’s the side that had most dominance for me.

So back to the store. The man is going through the paperwork, speaking to Dad about Interest rates and repayments and I realised that this was not a good thing. This was the time of the Miners strike (Dad was a coal miner) and things were hard money-wise.

The thing that changed in me was that I realised two things, on a concious level, for the first time.

Sometimes the things we are given come at an unseen price.

People will make sacrifices for those they love.

The trouble was that as soon as I realised this, I also realised that I didn’t want him to make this sacrifice. The hard part is how does a 14 year old boy tell his proud working-class Dad that he doesn’t want him to get in debt for the sake of a Christmas present that he cant afford.

I couldn’t think of a way to do it like that without wounding Dads pride. The only thing I could come up with was, to say that I wasn’t sure it was what I really wanted after all, maybe there was something better. It came across as petulant and spoiled, in short I was an ungrateful boy.

It is only now, looking back, that I realise that I made a sacrifice of my own on that day, I remained an ungrateful boy because I never told my Dad why I’d rejected the gift. I thought I’d tell him later but it never came up again. Its too late now of course.

I still think I did the right thing.

Another fear conquered***

August 15, 2007

I went to the Dentist today for a check up.

I needed a small filling.

I was very brave!

No, its not an excerpt from my diary when aged 9 & 3/4’s, this was me yesterday πŸ™‚

You see, I’m not very good with the whole Dentist putting things in my mouth thing. I had a few bad experiences as a youngster and it put me right off. I’d go as far as to say I was dentist-a-phobic.

In my life BP (Before Paul) I avoided going to the Dentist as much as possible. Now, dont get me wrong, I look after my teeth, being scared of going to the Dentist means that I do all I can to look after myself, just so I didnt have to visit my mentalist dentist. I brush twice a day religiously, even remembering before going to bed when I’m drunk πŸ™‚ So its not like I’ve got a mouth full of black stumps or anything. In fact, with the exception of my “dark” front tooth* they are pretty normal teeth, for British teeth** anyway.

I’ve only got 3 adult teeth missing so I dont think I’ve done too badly. The last extraction being sometime around 1997 and then I didnt go to the evil teeth doctor again for years! In the mean time, I grew up, met Paul and lived happily ever after.

Each year since we’ve been together, when making his own appointments, Paul has said “We’ll have to get you to the dentist.” I would nod or grunt or something and then, bless him, he’d leave me alone and not nag about it. That’s usually the best way to handle me and do you know? It worked, so after only 4 years of that, I finally said “OK, make me an appointment too.”

I agreed to go on condition that it was to the same Dentist as Paul, on account of how gentle he was. The National Health Service is currently very short of Dentists, some people having to travel 100’s of miles to visit theirs, so I earned a couple of more years reprieve by this gambit.

Eventually, our Dentist took on some new patients and that was that, no more excuses. So about this time last year I went to see my new Dentist. I dont think he had to look too hard to see the terror in my eyes as I sat in his chair πŸ™‚ We had a little chat and he did his best to put me at ease. He asked if there was anything he should look out for, I thought I might have a crack in the top of a molar, it turned out that was ok but I needed a filling in the tooth in front of it.

So he says to me, “I’ll just clean up the cavity and smooth it out, just to get a better look at it.” That sounded ok to me, not too much trauma there. Except, half way through this “clean up” I started thinking that it felt a bit like a drill. Mr Dentist told me the tool was a “burr” and nothing to worry about. Next thing I knew he had packed some filling in the tooth and I was spitting bits of metal into a cup.

He tricked me!

“It’s usually better that way” says he. “You’re probably right” says I.

Now this year, I felt a little less apprehensive about going for my check up. On a scale of 1 to 10, somewhere around a 6. I mentioned that the tooth he filled last year was still a bit sharp and he smoothed it off for me so thats all good. Then he did that thing they do, you know the Dentist Bingo calling thing? 1,2,3 ok, missing 4, 5 ok, 6 occlusion etc… I think no.6 being that molar that I thought needed work last year. He sticks his little hooked spear thing into it and starts tugging, I just about manage to refrain from screaming and aiming a blind punch up behind me! Mercifully, he stops and asks if I can feel the pain spear catching in the tooth! I try to stay calm and nod that yes I can. So he says to me, “I’ll just need to give that a clean and smooth it out a bit.”

Can you see it coming? I didn’t, until halfway through the “cleaning” when it slowly dawned on me. Thats what he said last time! Once again, he’d done the filling and i’m spitting bits into the suction cup thing while he advises not to eat anything heavy for a few hours.

He tricked me again! Subconsciously, I may even have been slightly complicit in the deception πŸ™‚

The phobia I thought I had is now officially downgraded to a strong dislike.

So tell me, did you ever have a phobia or fear that just went away?

PS. What time do you go to the Dentist? At two thirty!!!

* another tale in its own right

** We know what you Americans say about us!

*** Thats Dentists and Wasps whipped, so its 2 down and just another 30 or so to go πŸ˜‰

More fave photo’s and some Closure

July 2, 2007

Ultimate catharsis alert, please indulge me or turn away now, your choice πŸ™‚

I’ve mentioned Chris before on my blog, if you havent learned already, he was me best friend at Secondary (High) Shool

1. Who was your best friend?

Chris Salt. We met on the first day of Secondary School when we sat next to each other in our first class. We became pretty much inseparable throughout the 5 years of School. In the 5th year we started to drift apart as our interest in girls (and boys) developed. In the 20 years since I left School, I’ve seen him maybe 3 times and spoke to him less than than that. I used to feel sad about this but now I just hope that, wherever he is, he is happy.

and then I said

I mentioned Chris in a previous post. Something I didnt mention then was how I had something between hero worship and a crush on him. So, it was quite a big deal, going to the β€œTheatre” getting on the train and going to the Big City and all……..

So here I am again, posting some stuff about Chris. Dont get me wrong, I’m not hankering for the past, what might have beens, that sort of thing. It just always bothered me how its so easy to throw away a great friendship, just because of a few narrow-minded comments by others. Now, with the benefit of hindsight, I can look back and make sense of things that have confused me for years.

So, after a few years of wondering, I recently found this on Friends Reunited, it answers a few questions and totally makes me happy.

What I’m doing now…

Hometown:Haitaitai, Wellington, New Zealand
Relationship status:Living with someone
Worklife:Working – happy where I am. Capital & Coast DHB, Nuclear Medicine Tech
Currently living in New Zealand. I work in Wellington Hospital Nuclear Medicine. Living the dream.

Like I said before, wanted to know that things had turned out well for Chris and now I know.

I suppose I’m quite envious now, after visiting New Zealand last year I am so longing to go back again. I am pleased to see that Chris is happy and is with someone, I truly hope that it is going well.

I started writing a whole load of other stuff here and then thought better of it and deleted it all. Lets just say I’m over all the stuff that made me angry at the time. The way our long friendship was severed was hurtful and unfair but that was that and Chris must have needed that level of finality to close off his feelings. I dont blame him for that any more.

So its closure of sorts and can stop wondering (and posting about it!)

Instead here are some photos from happy times.

Chris and Andy

Me and Chris clowning for the camera. This was taken in my Mum’s front room around 1985 ish. We used to leave school at lunchtime and get up to all sorts of stuff.

For the last 3 years of school, I had to take a Β£3 cheque every week to buy dinner tickets. This was a result of the infamous DM scandal.

Spending many lunch breaks over the wall in the cricket score box, smoking and on some occasions, poooing!***

Spending many lunch breaks at Chris’s house stealing his Mum’s Berkley Red fags.

Nicking bottles off the wagon delivering beer to the Concertina club in Mexborough, then getting questioned over smelling of booze in school.

I could go on but hey, who’s listening?

Chris and Jason on Bunks

This picture was taken on the Ferry to (I think) Ostend, we got diverted from the original destination which was Zeebrugee**. We were on a School trip to Germany and we were supposed to be upstairs on recliners but had gone exploring and found these "free" bunks. Chris and Jason are just about to be booted out of the bunks by the random bloke in the corner. Anyone would think we were causing a disturbance!

Happy Days!

* a very 80’s phrase, sorry about that.

** Sketchy memory of something to do with the “Herald of Free Enterprise” I also may be mixing up my timelines though, its a long while ago. Somewhere, I do have a photo of us boarding sister ship the “Spirit of Free Enterprise.”

***Chris was the first person I saw do a poo.

Our Day Out

February 3, 2007

Our Day Out is the name of a musical play I went to see around 1984, so I would have about 14 years old. Me and my mate Chris went to see it at the Crucible in Sheffield.

I mentioned Chris in a previous post. Something I didnt mention then was how I had something between hero worship and a crush on him. So, it was quite a big deal, going to the “Theatre” getting on the train and going to the Big City and all. Not like a date of course, dont get the wrong idea, nothing like that happened until some time later*.

I remember the feeling of freedom, independence and grown-upness at being out on the town without parents. Of course, all these years later I could’nt remember much about the play at all. Of course with Google’s help I do now πŸ™‚ apparently its a Willy Russell play.

Looking at the storyline it’s not surprising I identified with it. The kids are from a school similar to mine, the local industries and situations differ but the story is the same. For me this is 1984 and the Miners are on strike and in Mexborough either your Dad, Uncle or at least your best friends Dad was a Miner*. Things were bleak, even as a young teen I knew this, luckily Mum and Bob were working so we didnt have it too bad and they helped Dad so we didnt starve when we went to him at weekends πŸ™‚

So, the “Day Out” in the musical turning into a self discovery thing and even a break from real life for the kids, thats got to connect with most school kids hasnt it?

As it turns out, it is still the only time I’ve ever been to see anything at the Crucible, even though I’ve now lived in Sheffield for 8 years.

*Reading back over this post I’m concious that it touches on some personal moments and I’m wondering about the reason for writing it. I know that people I know in real life read this and I’m not uncomfortable with that. I think that writing this is more about catharsis than making any particular point.

The moral of this story is that there is no point to this story πŸ˜‰