Old Haunt

The other day I made a trip to my gran and grandad’s house. Well, their former house. Earlier this year my mum and uncle got them to move house because their old one was far too big for them to look after. There was also the fact that it was starting to go into disrepair… so they moved to a new house.

Now the old house has been sold. Finally. It was on the market for ages, and after the first party interested discovered major structural damage, the only people who wanted the place were builders, keen to get it at a knockdown price so they can make a quick killing. So before it was turned over to the capitalist market, I went for a final visit.

My gran and grandad had had this house for nearly 40 years. I remember going there as a very young child, probably 4 years old, and watching Going For Gold with my gran. She was a game show buff, and it’s because of her that I acquired an unhealthy obsession for gameshows. 15-to-1 was also a favourite. I have since curtailed this side of my personality, but it still shows in my fascination with Deal or No Deal.

I have so many memories of the house, so many good ones. I would go there after school on a Thursday and hang around with my equally aged cousin, who was being looked after by my gran and grandad. He used to run rings around them, so it was interesting for me to see the differences between myself and my cousin. He was a lunatic, and I was always calm and a little boring as I watched another episode of Countdown. I can remember the food my gran used to make: small pizzas, beans and potato waffles with butter on them, and I would complain as I ate them that my mum would never put butter on my waffles. Of course, at the time, I had no idea how outrageously unhealthy it was, but it tasted good.

Then my grandad would tell me stories and give me either a Polo or an Extra Strong Mint, or two. Or ten. It was such innocent times. No computers. Just imagination. Some toy soldiers and some lego. I loved it.

So it was fascinating to go around this house as the memories came flooding back. But the memories were being shaded by – “oh, there’s some more subsidence”, “look at the damp there!” and “I don’t remember that window sloping down to the left…”.

It was quite depressing. It came home just how bad the condition of the house was. It was horrible to think of all these good memories and then to see what had become of the place that they all happened in. But it was clear that there was no choice – the house had to go. Just like everything in life, we have to move on in the end.

But many pictures were taken of me and my family in various parts of the house. My mum and uncle were crying – that was the house they’d grown up in. It’s one of those weird things in the circle of life, really. I guess it will happen to me eventually. I’ll be getting rid of my mum and dad’s house when it all becomes too much for them.

And that’s the sobering thought. This house, my home, is a real family house. You can see it everywhere in the mess, the toys, and the clothes. But in 10 years time, I guess that all of us will have flown the nest at some point. Then there is no need for a family home any more… and all it does is remain so that the memories can be preserved.

Life, eh. You can’t live with it, you can’t live without it…

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Aim For The Moon…

I was talking to teachers at the end of term barbeque, and it was great to be talking to Real Teachers – those who do it for the pure love of the profession. I distinguish Real Teachers from ordinary teachers because so many teachers put on a display of “this job is such a chore” in order to elicit sympathy and respect from people, when no one deserves respect for a title. Only actions deserve respect.

To a Real Teacher, it is possible to discuss the teaching profession properly. These people understand: when I tell them that I cried when I watched the school play, or when I said goodbye to them, their response is likely to be one of total understanding, rather than disgust as to how you could dream of being so emotional.

It is with these people that I am reassured that I’m not the only one who thinks it is worth slaving to help mould many hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals. They tell me that it’s OK to care, that it doesn’t really matter if you’re not as well paid as your peers who also went to University, because you’re Making a Difference. We all want to make a difference in some way… it’s something I am endlessly obsessed about, and have written about a lot… and there are very few other ways of influencing and shaping individuals than through teaching. It just seems like a logical step to me.

So why, when I tell anyone I’d like to be a teacher, particularly my peers, am I seen as some rogue, a freak to be ignored? It will be a tough job, but children these days simply are not as everyone likes to portray them – as aggressive, uncontrollable brutes. They are probably more spoilt these days, but that’s something a school can work to foster a more selfless culture. I honestly look forward to taking on challenges like that… they will be difficult, but potentially very rewarding.

Then one of the Real Teachers asked me if I want to teach primary or secondary, and they distilled it down to an intriguing statement: are you more interested in the child or the subject? This was such a wonderful shorthand for the decision I want to take. I’ve always wondered exactly how primary teachers justify working with such young children, because, to be honest, I’ve never been able to find the words why I would want to do such a thing. Yet, that teacher finally gave me some answer, and some clue about where I’m going. It’s a bit simplistic, but broadly secondary schools teachers teach the subject, and then, by proxy, are interested in children. Whereas, primary school teachers are broadly much more concerned with the overall welfare, progress and social development of a child. There is no proxy mechanism in it, through the medium of a subject as in secondary. It is simply direct.

It’s useful shorthand for me. Real Teachers are genuinely inspiring. Their enthusiasm is infectious. Those teachers that we remember as being “the best” tend to be the ones that would fall into the definition of Real. Such a small amount of them fall into this category though. You have to be an outstanding talent.

That is my goal.

I suppose it’s about time I set myself a big target. Now I’m a Proper Adult, like.

The Friendship Circle

It’s only when you stop and think do you realise just how many people you’ve left behind in life. The vast majority of contacts and acquaintances cross paths with us for such short periods of time that it just doesn’t seem important, and to be honest, it probably isn’t on the whole. It really is only a very small minority who are friends for longer periods. Friends move on. It really is rare to hold onto a friend for 20 odd years…

It’s this analysis that makes me wonder. Today I have just worked my last day in the primary school. I am quite sad about this as it’s been a fantastic nine weeks of my summer. It’s given me something to do, something to work for, and been such a great experience for me. During that time, I got to know many tens of teachers, and quite literally hundreds of children. Nearly 450 people in all, whose lives I have crossed paths with… and, in the grand scheme of life, just for a fleeting few moments.

But what of it? Friends make life bearable, and to me, children make life worth living. Yet all of these people, who I have got on extremely well with, have now been left behind. Our paths have diverged once again. No more of the Connors, the Michaels, the Charlottes, the Lauras, the Rachels, the Sophies, the Adams, the Jacks… all gone. Our lives are relatively unlikely to cross again, you would think. Of course, there is the usual Small World phenomenom, which I actually am looking forward to when I can say, “I used to listen to him/her read to me in school” … but in reality, chances are I won’t know anything of all these people again.

The simple fact of humanity is that it’s not that we don’t want to have hundreds of friends we can call upon at the drop of a hat. It’s that we cannot. We are not physically able to be in touch with so many people, much as we’d like to. I would love to have taken the phone numbers and e-mail addresses of all the teachers I said goodbye to today, because it would be interesting to know how they’re getting on a few years down the line. But the sad part of it is that either a) they don’t, or, worse, b) by then they have been replaced with new friends, and so, basically we don’t care any more.

And that’s the point. Friends are endlessly and ceaselessly replaceable. A lot of this goes on without us even knowing it. When I left Hull nine weeks ago, I didn’t really think I was saying goodbye to many of my friends forever. And yet, that is exactly what I have done, without even noticing it was happening. I have become so used to my friends going and being replaced that now when they disappear it is beginning to become second nature to me.

It just becomes something accepted in life in the end, something adults don’t often notice, perhaps only when they move from one job to another. Yet, when you’re a kid, it is one of the worst upheavals possible. I looked at the poor Year 6 kids today and in their leaver’s assembly yesterday, watching the tears flowing, and I think back to how I felt when I left the school gates for the last time, and it simply is one of the worst feelings imaginable. Such a massive hole, a gaping loss, and a sense of “what’s going to happen now?”. The feelings combine to force many a tear to be shed. Especially when you consider that a child in Year 6 has likely known their peers for seven years, and then they say goodbye to them…

I can now count the number of friends I’ve had for seven or more years and still count them as friends on one hand.

There simply is nothing quite like school. It is the biggest social experiment, engineered by society, that any of us goes through. That transition to secondary school makes you more of a real person, because it demonstrates to you, probably for the first time, that people and friends are not forever. That life is far more complicated than it seems.

Life has to move on. We may not want to move on with it, but if you don’t, you tend to get left behind. Very easily. Friends are easy come, easy go. I’ve just had a damn good clearout of them… and while I’m sad to see them go, I just know that there was no other option, and that I’m resigned to it. They all have their own lives to lead. They will soon be replaced by new, fabulous people. It is a necessary process of life to conduct this sub-conscious pruning of the address book – there’re just not enough hours in the day to care about what happens to even a tiny fraction of all those people we encounter for more than just a moment of eye-contact.

It all sounds so utterly selfish. That’s because it is – the process itself is ruthless in its effectiveness and its efficiency, in order to keep us sane. But there really is nothing else we can do about it. Yet we shouldn’t feel bad about it. While the overall process may be selfish, the mechanisms with which it operates can be much less so. After all, no one makes friends through being a selfish, heartless bastard. So we must be doing something right to have friends in the first place. Just that, in the end, they all have to go to keep our lives – and we are the only ones who have “our” own life, so it is inherently selfish – ticking over.

So goodbye to the Connors, the Michaels, the Charlottes, the Lauras, the Rachels, the Sophies, the Adams, the Jacks and the others of this world. Good luck to them in their future. They’re all great people, but, ultimately, only they can look after their own lives. And I’ll keep looking after mine.

Sad, isn’t it?

The Waterworks

In this disgustingly hot weather, I made the critical error yesterday of saying that I would work an extra day in Year 1. Perhaps the heat of yesterday had addled my brain as I made such a bizarre offer, one which was made without me even engaging my brain.

But it all seemed such a good idea yesterday. I’d had another good day in Year 1, with the very small children in there proving to be endlessly entertaining to me, so I decided that I didn’t want Monday to be my last day with them, so offered my services for another day. Since the teachers are doing so much at the moment to prepare for the new class in September, they jumped at the chance to get extra help.

Monday night was also the school production. I had heard it was going to be well worth coming, so I went back in the evening to watch it. Suffice to say, I was thoroughly impressed. The play was set on a Carribean island, and the kids playing the steel drums and singing in the choir were just fantastic. The steel drums just have an amazing sound that makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up, and combining that with the singing brought several tears to my eyes.

Then, of course, there were the actors. Lord only knows where the teacher finds some of these kids, but the principal cast were simply inspired choices for the roles. I suspect they made one or two teachers proud that night.

I am quite an emotional person, but I think I try to keep this a secret from others. I well-up over a lot of things. Some may be little bemused over the fact that I shed a tear for kids singing, acting and playing instruments, particularly given that I don’t really know the vast bulk of them. But it’s such a complex mixture of thoughts: I’m really proud for them, whoever they are. They’d clearly worked so hard on it, and it was exuberating to see the grins on their faces as they put all their effort in, seeing it paying off in spades. Melts the heart it does…

The other thought is just what these kids have learned from doing this kind of thing. It brings me back to the youth reviews I wrote, and how I thought I’d missed out on a lot by not getting involved in things like this. I regret that, because I can see for myself now the great benefits it brings to those who get involved. Belonging, sharpening of talents, learning interpersonal skills, giving children a pastime that they may keep working on, and best of all, leaving them with fantastic memories of their childhood… they’re all things that I feel for them, which brings me to the edge of crying anyway.

Then there’s the other, more sinister thought. Where do they go from here? The sad thing is that our society is shaped as such that they won’t remain innocent children for very long. So many of them will end up failures on the scrapheap through no fault of their own. So many will not achieve their potential.

All the more reason to treasure childhood. It’s one of the messages I’d like to get across, but you can be sure that very few children want to listen to it. They end up having to figure out these things for themselves, and then are annoyed by the fact that no one had shared this experience with them when they were younger… even though they probably wouldn’t have listened at the time. The circle of life is complete.

With that out the way, I went in again this morning, and once more had a day filled with admin, searing heat and fans that aren’t very good. Plus kids. It hurt even more when, as I said I wouldn’t be in Year 1 any more, one of them told me that they were going to miss me. This from a kid who I’d not really talked to. It just goes to show you that they are observing a lot more of you than you think, and how everyone can be someone to look up to, good and bad.

So I had to fight back the tears again as I said another goodbye. I probably get too emotionally involved. I think that’s a bad thing if I want to be a teacher…

Then, while listening to Keane’s new album, I discovered that I liked the song The Frog Prince so much that it brought the tears flowing back again. It’s just so beautiful.

Such a waste of precious water. I’ll be dehydrating in this heat if I carry on like this.

Party Time

For some strange reason, everything is occuring at once at the moment. Obviously I turned 21 last week, which is something I’d like to forget about, but my cousin turned 18 the other day, which led to a rather large party. Next weekend another cousin is getting married, and then shortly after it is my mum and dad’s 25th anniversary.

So this is leading to many parties. My family seems to do parties fairly well, and they always end with a good old fashioned barney. Or at least they seem to. The tension always seems to come from the same people as well, as they are in a permanent conflict mode. I recall a drunk argument at my 18th birthday party between an aunty and uncle, followed by much vomiting, and it just so happens that the same two people were at loggerheads at my cousin’s 18th as well. This time, the argument was over whether said uncle was going to join the almost-aunty (for they are not married) on the dance floor. It gets very tedious eventually…

Nevertheless, it didn’t stop a good night. I tried not to think about the fact that three years had passed me by in the blink of an eye. On my 18th, this cousin was just a few days away from her 15th birthday, so even then we were jointly celebrating two significant birthdays. On Saturday night we were doing the same again. Time flies. The other thought I was trying to get rid of, but failing, was that we will never again have such a co-occurence of significant birthdays.

My favourite part of Real Parties (for mine last week was not a real one) is having a dance floor. I don’t dance properly, and don’t pretend that I’m a dancer, but I’ll go up there anyway. When everyone else around you is drunk, they tend to not remember, so I can enjoy the music safely. This time, there was an added bonus that in the middle of the dance floor was a large ceiling fan. It was very warm last night, so this was a great help. I tried as best I could to hold the fan, but it was inevitable that my convenient arrangement would be rumbled and others would try to elbow me out the way. I could always sense it, as some other “dancer” would approach, slowly getting closer, in the end forcing me to move to the side. I’d rather not hold my ground against drunk, aggressive distant family members. And they are very distant. This cousin’s dad, my uncle, is notorious for inviting people to parties at the most tenuous link possible. That guy who sold them a budgie last year? No problem.

Of course, the old classics are always the best. My family’s favourite tunes are Real Gone Kid and Dignity, both by Deacon Blue and Whole of the Moon by the Waterboys. They have a habit of filling the dancefloor with even the most ardent of anti-dancers, including my dad. It’s always an odd sight to see him making his way over as the tunez begin to pump. Still, it’s remarkable for me to think that I used to have such confidence issues and now I couldn’t give a damn about the latest daft dance moves I’m inventing on the spot as I pretend to be enjoying a dance to Drop It Like It’s Hot. Such fine lyrics in that song, I’m sure you’ll agree.

So all in all, a very good night. It should have been for the money that my uncle claims to have spent on it – over £1,000. But my cousin always was an attention seeker, wanting the biggest party possible. My 18th was an entirely house-based affair, costing just the food and drink my mum and dad put out, no more than £100.

I’m tired this morning though. Dancing as I did, singing like I did, has really taken it out of me. My voice is still recovering. I’m sure it will be back to normal by the next party though.

The next party will also include a small celebration for the end of term at school too. My last day of “work” will be on Friday. That has also gone by so quickly. I’ve been home from Uni for 8 weeks now. Just ridiculous…

Losing Touch

To me, one of the reasons why I want to go into teaching is that I think I am pretty in tune with the youth culture of today. Of course, this is a totally subjective call, so it’s only natural that I will then look for ways to disprove it.

Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for me to feel inadequate again. The briefest of conversations with a Year 5 kid had rather more impact on me than it should have done. I was asked the dreaded question: “What music do you listen to?”

I have trouble answering this question normally anyway. I listen to a lot of music from a lot of decades from the Beatles up to the Zutons… in general it can be described as rockish, poppish, guitarish, but mixed with orchestral and piano driven music, plus other weird stuff. It’s a horrible description, and it’s bad enough trying to tell adults, but to tell a child is even worse.

So I reel off as many artists as I can to try to illustrate.

“James” I say.
“Never heard of them” comes the reply.

Not a good start. So I go for something more modern.

“Green Day”.
“I hate them”.

Oops. Just like with anyone in life, the small talk has to be good before you might consider talking to someone again, becoming friends with them. I can’t make much small talk if we can’t even find an artist to agree on. I go general, going backwards a long way…

“U2”
“My dad listens to them”.

A tactical blunder, leading to the kiss of death for any respect I may have had. Kids are generally very positive people, and will give anyone respect to begin with, they will trust anyone until they demonstrate otherwise. I seem to get bonus marks for being not too old, and quite tall (strange as it may sound, kids have a strange sense of mystery/discovery where tall people are involved). Being a man also gives me extra points because the kids in school barely see any. There are just two men (not counting me) in a school of 36 teachers and assistants. All this adds to me not having to try very hard to “make friends” with them.

But my foolish suggestion that listening to U2 could possibly be a good thing to a 10 year old was a grave error. I tried a rescue, but they hadn’t heard of almost all of what I suggested.

I left the conversation feeling a little bruised. It’s important to stay “in touch”, because I see so many teachers who are failing because they can’t relate to the kids of today. Of course, music is probably one of the more trivial sides of keeping up to date, especially as there’s no way in hell that I can learn to love bands like Slipknot, Marilyn Manson and Alkaline Trio. That’s not a price worth paying to keep my finger on the pulse.

I’ve always hoped I don’t stop listening to new music. My uncle once told me that all new music is rubbish, because there’s nothing original left now. But I couldn’t disagree more. I do think that there is a very high level of derivation at the moment, but there is still some great music. Just that my tastes are increasingly departing from the mainstream of music. Oddly enough, my music interests would have been considered very mainstream in the mid 90s. Now they are quite distinctive. They’re not even part of the culture/counter-culture that kids manage to simultaneously maintain.

But this tiny conversation has only just made me realise this. It doesn’t seem that important in the grand scheme of things, but it’s never nice to get a small reminder from society that I’m well on my way to obsolescence.

Lesson for today: avoid small talk about music where children are involved. And definitely don’t mention U2. Instead, bathe in the glory of acceptance by telling them you enjoy nothing more than a good wrist-slashing session to the hallowed refrains of Korn and System of a Down.

Youth Review: 20-21

OK, so my post is a little late. I wanted to post on the Sunday – my 21st birthday – but it was always going to be difficult to find the time with so much going on. So here begins the review of my final year of “youth”…

Of course, last time, I had just became 20, and was too busy to really notice. It was unexpected that I would get so many wishes of happy birthday from everyone who was at the summer camp, but it was also rather strange to have spent the whole day working my arse off. You see, Saturday 9th July 2005 at camp was the final celebration, involving a banquet and a recognition gathering, something which I had to organise myself with only a handful of campers to help me setup. It almost made me forget about my birthday. Almost…

Soon afterwards, the kids of first term at camp had gone. I was incredibly sad about this at the time. They had been such great fun, and we’d shared a lot of memories. They were good company – and better still, I knew all their names. Suddenly, they were gone. So as one load of campers were replaced by the next, inbetween stopping for one day to collect a nice cheque as payment and a rather forgettable party, I had to deal with yet more change.

The new campers were not as good as the old ones. At first. I eventually grew to like them as much as the first batch, but it took a while. The rest of the staff were so jaded by then that their negative attitudes were probably why the campers were so full of aggression too. It took a long time for everyone to settle down and back into the routine. I had to organise everything all over again. It was a little repetitive, but it was easier that way. Why invent new things to do of an evening when I could just reuse 90% of the stuff from last term? To the new kids, everything was new, even my old material…

The term disappeared as quickly as the previous one. It taught me a lot… perseverance for one. It was only through continued attempts at making something out of the second term, which I wasn’t enjoying at first, that things began to get better. Much better, in fact. I was sad to see the second lot go. Added to that the fact that I was almost at the end of my American adventure, it was a rather difficult time for me. I couldn’t accept that it was all but over. Even worse was the fact that I just had a week left with no interesting kids to talk to… just a week of work getting the camp in order. Not good. Painful in fact. The amount of times I had to move railway sleepers to fix the surface water drainage system was horrendous. But the cheques at the end of it all provided a small comfort…

Then I was on the flight home. It was now coming towards the end of August. I’d spent a horrendous day getting one internal flight to New York, and then waiting hours for my final plane journey home. I was going to be met on the other side in London, so once I had sat down, I could finally relax. It gave me much time to think. I wrote some notes on scraps of paper I had, talking about how I feel I’d changed over the summer. I’d become much closer to the person I wanted to be. I felt unconstrained by conformity to what society wants. I had grown in confidence as a public speaker… the things I had done over the holiday, singing, dancing, playing games to a large audience, would have been unimaginable to that 15 year old who had suffered panic attacks over his English speech in class. That really highlighted the difference in me. I just couldn’t help but feel amazed with what I had become. It was pretty good…

It was nice to be home again though. Most other people who do summer camps in the USA tend to stay there for some time afterwards so they can explore parts of the country. I just wasn’t up for it. I’d been offered a couple of times by fellow members of staff to go on road trips with them, but I just didn’t have the energy. I was ready to go home. So when I arrived, it was great to see my mum, dad and family again. But it was almost time to leave again, so late it was into August.

The university semester was about to start, and I decided to go back a week before the term began. This meant I had just one week back at home, and then was off again. I was quite eager to get back to Hull… the next academic year was actually going to count for something, unlike the previous, which was a great motivation. I wanted to get going, and get readjusted to life in Hull. Plus, I had loads of stories I wanted to tell my housemates. Even better was the fact that all of my friends would now be in the same house, as we’d arranged to all live together.

I had a feeling the year was going to be a good one. I knew there was going to be a lot of hard work ahead, but I just wanted to get it underway to feel like my life was carrying on moving in the right direction. I even told myself I should learn how to drive, as I was envious of the fact that everyone in the USA could drive, and I couldn’t. I wanted to learn so that I could go back to camp next year and drive the vans. This would make me much more useful as an employee… plus it would allow me to take control of more programs.

In the event, things didn’t turn out quite like that. The year started to pass me by as quickly as any other, and I descended into my usual state of inertia, prompting thoughts about how selfish I become when I live away from my family. I don’t like that side of me. I know it isn’t me. Without my family or other responsibilities around, I feel like I’m always looking after number 1, when I could be doing so much more. At the start of the term I toyed with the idea of becoming a student mentor, or a student associate at a local secondary school. My friend, doing a course which was much more lecture intensive than me, manage to sign up. And I wriggled my way out of it with silly excuses about not having enough time, just because I didn’t want to commit myself to something like that. As my mind changed over the year about my career choice, this would come to be a decision I would regret the most…

October arrived, and so did essay deadlines. I stuck my head down and slaved for weeks to produce a couple of decent essays, and then finally arranged my first driving lesson. I had already procrastinated away so much time that I was beginning to wonder if there would ever be anything in my life that I would say, “I’m going to do X now” and then do it exactly when I said I would. In the end it was OK, but nerve wracking. I picked it up pretty quickly, but would soon become very annoyed with my instructor.

November, then December… exams ahoy. Revision = dull. Again. But I was beginning to realise that these tests were nothing to fear. The mark scheme is such that as long as you answer the question, it is impossible to fail. My revision is normally pretty comprehensive, covering many angles, that there is no need for worry about what’s going to come up on the exam paper. Two exams later, I was home for Christmas, and then it was 2006.

So now we’re six years into this new fangled age of wizard computers, flash-bang electronics and sooper hyperdrive space ships. Well, that’s always what I thought it would be when I was younger. I read too many science books back then. But here I was, now just six months away from being 21, and life still was a long way short of those massive expectations of the future I once had. Still, I suppose that’s the point of being a kid: to dream, to imagine and create. Such activity is ceaseless then, and not tarred by the cynicism of adulthood. The best ambitions come from those you’ve held since childhood… but achieving them is normally the most impossible. How many of us wanted to be a firefighter?

Back to university once more. Yet this time, it was filled with an odd feeling. “This academic year is fast running to a conclusion”, I thought, “and then I will have to think about what on earth I’m doing with my life.” Oops, was my next thought – I don’t have a clue. So I sat down at the end of January and wrote this post which let me consider exactly what I was doing at the moment and where I’m going. It was at this point that I effectively made the decision to stop driving lessons once my current booking had ran out, cancelled any plans I had to go to the USA that summer, and decided, once and for all, that I should be a teacher.

I had thought about being a teacher before. After I’d applied for Hull Uni, and while I was still in denial about the fact that I was going to university, I had a change of heart and thought about doing a B.Ed degree instead, which would lead me to teacher status in three years. I’d already wasted a gap year, was my train of thought, so I should do this as quickly as possible, rather than do a degree, and then do a PGCE. But I did nothing about it, and in the end it went West like everything else.

So now, in 2006, I was back to where I’d started. It was then I realised that I should have done that mentor scheme back in September. It would have given me a real insight into teaching, maybe helping me to make my mind up before now. Either way, it was the beginning of a vocational call, as I think it is now.

February arrived, and my driving instructor was sent packing. Yet at the time I had big plans for learning how to drive back at home instead over summer. That hasn’t happened. Looking back at my blog is an interesting lesson in how many times I tell myself I’ll do something, and then I do nothing, leading to a decision either losing all momentum, or non-decision leading to unintended but entirely predictable consequences.

Then things began to take their usual end of semester crescendo. I did my essays, my fellow housemate on the same course as me didn’t do his, preferring to do numerous silly things resulting in a trip to the hospital. This was very disconcerting to me at the time, as it was such an added burden to me to try to deal with someone with serious depressive tendencies. Yet it was entirely expected. Only a week before I had warned my other housemates that they were so wrapped up in their own little worlds that they had missed the fact that The Depressed One was drinking extremely heavily of late, and how we were hardly noticing his existence. My worries were noted, but it was only days later that things became more dramatic, before anyone tried to engage with the problem. The symptoms of communication failure are often catastrophic.

We were lucky it wasn’t, but it wasn’t far off being so. I had never had to go through such a situation before, so it was now something else brand new to deal with, and to chalk up to experience. He went home, and it let us all concentrate on the work we needed to do.

It felt selfish, but as timing went, it couldn’t have been worse. We all had so much to do at the time, and we just couldn’t afford to lose it, babysitting someone. It was only fair on all of us that he went home. It gave us the time and space to distance the problem, as well as letting us clear all of our workloads so that we could look out for him on his return.

In the event, by now it was Easter. I’d worked as hard as I could under the circumstances, and now it dawned upon me that after Easter, I would have just three weeks left before second year of university would be over. Then it would be off to London for third year – yet another event I’ve been in continual denial and deliberate ignorance of. Plus, it would be the end of what had been, on balance, an excellent year living with my wonderful friends. It had more than made up for the hell of the previous one…

I must have been spectacularly busy over Easter, because I failed to post between the 5th April and the 19th of April. Of course, the chances of this being true are very slim, but I’d like to at least pretend that things were lively and fun. All I recall is that I made a definite arrangement with my old primary school to come in and help out as often as I could. This would finally give me a chance to work out if I like kids or not, and if I want to work with this age group. Plus, it would make sure I wasn’t going to waste my entire, enormously long summer holiday which was scheduled to start on May 15th.

Back to Hull for one final time. It was a great effort… I just couldn’t be bothered any more. I don’t think I could have been more annoyed with the fact that I was going back for three exams across four separate weeks, but there was nothing I could do about it. I just had to revise, and enjoy the final few weeks I had with my housemates before I had to move on again.

They were good times. Friends make all the difference between making a good thing great and a bad thing bearable. It was a shame as I left them for one final time in the middle of May. I said goodbye to Hull… knowing I’d be back next year.

However, it was good to come back home again. I had my work in primary school lined up, and I haven’t looked back on it ever since. It seems that my decision in February to go into this as a career could well be rewarded. I’ve enjoyed it enormously, despite the fact that I’ve been doing mostly menial jobs. It has told me that if I do not do this now, I will likely regret it for the rest of my life. I could choose to ignore my feelings, just as I have done in the past, and see what happens if I decide not to decide. But that course of action has never done me any favours.

I have to fight to get over that level of conservatism, to not want to change things in my own life because I fear what the conseqeunces might be. This means that if ever I do something different, I tend to think of it as a big event, because I’m not used to mixing things up a little. I have already fell behind everyone else with the gap year, and I have a four year course to do. My friends from 6th form college have all just graduated. I’m two years behind, and then I want to do a PGCE. People keep telling me about how difficult it is to get into primary education now, but I just have to give it a try.

This is a new me. I’m not one for lost causes. In fact, I’m not one to take on any challenge that has less than a 50% chance of success. I would say taking this course of action is probably going to be one of the most risky of my life. This will be totally different to anything I have ever done before… it is not the safe or easy course of action. That would have been sailing into a dull desk job once I’d collected a safe 2:1 from Oxbridge, where I could, with my A-Level results, have gone. I’ve already rejected that, so that decision I took when I was 17 seemed to have laid the ground for where I’m going now.

Now I’m 21. The culmination of all these competing pressures, decisions, individual will, environmental forces and genetic inheritance is here typing these words into his computer on a Tuesday afternoon. Reducing my life to a paragraph makes it seem so banal, but once you’ve gone through it there’s nothing you can do but move on from there. It doesn’t mean it hasn’t been important. I wouldn’t have documented it so exhaustively if I didn’t think so.

The real point was to finally put to words what has been an extraordinary journey through childhood and young adulthood. I’m not saying mine was any more interesting than any other person’s… because everyone’s journey through life is as fascinating and fantastic as the next. Going from a child to an adult is just a remarkable process, and the processes of sociology and psychology behind it intrigue me endlessly.

It’s been a funny old process of growing up. Yet I know I will never stop “growing up”. There is so much more to learn, so much more to do, so many more mistakes to make, so many wayward indiscretions to learn from… and much more. So much to live for, and I intend to keep trying to make myself live it. It’s something I’m still having to learn. So I definitely haven’t “grown up” yet. Perhaps none of us ever do.

So now the Youth Reviews are concluded, but the real journey of life is only just beginning.

The fun starts here…

Attention To Detail

For many years now, I’ve been dying to have a digital camera. So with my birthday being two days away, and with my mum and dad not having a clue what to buy me, I made a few suggestions.

However, it is extremely dangerous to leave such a difficult decision in a minefield of technology to one’s parents. So I’ve just spent hours and hours trying to decide if the camera I picked at the beginning because its price gave me an indication it should be pretty good for what I want. The research has been mostly fruitless, and I’ve changed my mind about twenty times, looking at all different models, and in the end coming back to exactly where I started because I can’t be bothered investigating this any longer.

Either way, I’m sure, whatever I get, I won’t like it. This is why I have always stopped myself buying a digital camera: because I know I will find something to moan about, and then I’ll be lumbered with a piece of electronics costing upwards of £100, and not being happy with it. When I spend a lot of money like that, I expect to be extremely pleased with it. But because there is a conspiracy of digital camera manufacturers to baffle the consumer with billions of the important details, while simultaneously trying to convince everyone that the only figure that matters is the megapixel value, which couldn’t be further from the truth, it makes the decision extremely difficult.

I don’t like to be this indecisive. I reckon I hesitate to much over most things, and I end up either missing out or getting bored of thinking what the right course of action should be. But this is now getting ridiculous. So I’m just going to hope that my first choice, entirely on a whim, was a good one. Of course, the next problem is that I won’t actually be able to get the camera in time for my birthday, because I’m buying it online, where it is £30 cheaper than in Argos.

The same problem has also been shown over the fact that none of us have agreed about what to do for my birthday. We were originally going to go to a restaurant – an utter rarity, but now we have left it far too late to book anything. Then we realised that my birthday is the same day as the World Cup final. So it might be better to go tomorrow instead, making it even more unlikely we’re going to find a restaurant.

So it looks like it’s going to be the local Two-For-One again. Oh well. Perhaps I can disguise it as a victory for not betraying my Humble Origins, remaining faithful to the working class and their fatalistic drinking establishments, just like our beloved Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott. Alistair Campbell would be proud of me.