When I was 11

Happy New Year to you!

2011 and still a distinct lack of silver suits, levitating cars and meals in pill format.

I’m tempted to say ‘Fuck the future’ but I remember what Tony’s boss, Fusco, said to him in Saturday Night Fever:

No, Tony! You can’t fuck the future. The future fucks you! It catches up with you and it fucks you if you ain’t planned for it!

Well, back in January 1981 I had my 10th Birthday and, like Tony I wasn’t planning for the future. I was living in the moment and wondering when my vague interest in girls (especially Alison Walsh) would go away. It didn’t go away and if you check back in about 3 or 4 days you’ll see how the sex tinted vision of a teenage boy colours everything.

I remember two distinct things about my 10th birthday.

One was being told I was ‘no longer in single figures’. This was, apparently a big deal but I just thought it was going to be one of those excuses your parents had for telling you you weren’t acting your age.

You know the drill – you commit a minor misdemeanor and you get, ‘You’re 10 now, act your age and  grow up!’

This changes to ‘you’re 39 now, act your age and grow up’ and your parents are replaced by your wife in later years (lessons I never learned from my childhood #508)

The second was getting a green rucksack from my parents. This was a signal that I was going to be locked into the Scouts for years to come. Once your parents bought you anything back then it was a sign that you weren’t going to get out of it too easily.

The summer holidays were no longer the annual dream they used to be. The long hot lazy days of the 1970’s had given away to the dull wet summers of the early 1980’s and hanging around the ‘caravan park’ was about as exciting as it sounds.

The highlight of your day was often being sent up to the caravan park shop to swap over your freezer block so that your picnic box could be kept cool for another 12 hours. (Invariably your family name was written on the freezer block in biro on a piece of flesh coloured fabric plaster).

You would spend your day staring at the sweets in the shop and after pestering your mother and father for hours on end you’d eventually end up buying some blackjacks, fruit salads and aniseed balls.


no natural falourings or colourings


The most boring days of my life.

Around 1981 I was starting to develop two other tastes.

One was for the music of Adam and the Ants.

Great stuff to my young ears. (I was shocked years later to find out that most of them were gay. this was seriously uncool for a 10 year old and how I missed it is still beyond me)


This is what 'straight' looked like to a 10 year old boy!


the other was a growing liking for my neighbour’s mother’s ciggarrettes.

John Player Black – Tar in a box.


Made a man out of me

Only years later did I realise why the neighbour’s mother let us swipe the fags. She was one of those tragic stay at home mums who drank herself to death. I only found this out about 5 years ago but, looking back on it, it all made sense.(The major clue was the constant smell of gin and the premature death).

This liking for the tabs was short lived (until I was about 15) but it did make me realise that there was a world outside running. Not that I was ever going to make it anywhere but to the middle of the pack but I do distinctly remember thinking ‘everything in moderation.’

This then became the basis for most of the endeavours in my life –

Do your ordinary best

Not lazy bastard doing nothing but having the intelligence to know where the sweet spot is and understand the law of diminishing returns. Y’know – a certain effort to reach 95 % of your potential but it takes a doubling of the effort to reach 97%.

So if it’s something your naturally good at (sums in my case) you’ll do well with not much effort. If it’s something you’re not great at (speaking german) then know when to ease off.

Now, when I’m hobbling along on bloodied stumps trying to finish my first ultra in 2011 just point me back to the last paragraph.


One response to “When I was 11

  1. My standard answer to the “act your age” command is “I am acting my mental age”. She has yet to find a suitable response to that, apart from sending me to the dog house for several days.

    Speaking German is piss easy, btw.

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