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Posts Tagged ‘Youth’

Never Grow Up

May 24, 2017 31 comments

Watching and reading the news yesterday about the suicide bomber who had killed 22 (mostly) young people in Manchester, I was struck by how incredibly sad it all was. The images of those who had been killed or were missing included so many who were children and teenagers. The youngest victim so far identified publicly was only 8 years old, and seeing pictures of her adorable face was heartbreaking.

It brought back for me the memories of the first pop concert my daughters went to. It was 29 March 1998, when Katy had just turned 12 and Ruth was 6. They went with their Mum to see the boyband 911 at Wembley Arena and, as in those days I worked near to the Wembley complex, I drove them up there and we had a pre-show picnic in my office. I have two abiding memories of the day: Ruth taking great delight from the open plan offices in a square building and running laps around the desks, and the way both girls were so vibrant, buzzing with delight when I picked them up after the show. The date is an easy one to check, as it was the day Chelsea played Middlesbrough in the League Cup Final at Wembley Stadium, adjacent to the Arena. I hadn’t realised that on big match days the short road linking our office to the Stadium became one way only, away from the Stadium, to help clear 80,000 supporters as quickly as possible. So, what was meant to be a two minute journey became an absolute nightmare with three very impatient passengers getting ever more nervous as we inched forward in heavy traffic going the long way round and the concert start time approached. In the end they had to do the last two hundred yards on foot, as it was far quicker, but at least they didn’t miss anything. I took Katy to a couple of other concerts there, but we didn’t have anything like the drama of that first one. Given the ages of those we know about from Monday, I suspect that for some of them it would have been their first pop concert, and they will have been going through all the anticipation and excitement that our two enjoyed leading up to their first show. But their parents won’t have been able to share in the after-show excitement, like I did, even though I didn’t actually go to it myself. My memories of that are stored away in my treasure chest of happy moments, and the victims’ parents have been robbed of that.

Somehow, as the memories came back, this song came into my head, and I couldn’t shift it:

As you can see from the lyrics, the song is about how we have moments when we wish that youngsters could be preserved exactly as they are, in their innocence and beauty. Sadly, many went to a pop concert – a joyful event – and a cruel murderer decided that their lives would go no further. Taylor Swift may not be to everyone’s taste and she often gets a bad press, but the simple beauty of that song is, I think, a fitting tribute to those whose lives were torn away from them in such a horrible manner. They will never grow up, and all that their parents, families and friends will have are memories of moments like those in the song. That can never be enough to make up for the terrible hurt they must be feeling now, and which will stay with them forever, but I hope it will help them. Time passes, and memories fade, but I’m sure they can hold onto as many as possible and will treasure them. That is the least they deserve, to try to fill the huge void in their lives. None of us who has children can begin to understand how those poor families are feeling, and it would be wrong of me to guess – it’s not something any parent should ever have to deal with. I just hope they have happy memories of those ‘never grow up’ moments.

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Born To Be Wild(ish)

August 26, 2016 25 comments

Do you ever find yourself looking back at earlier versions of yourself, and wondering about how different life was? As we get older, we have a lot more to look back on and while some might contend that we should always look ahead, and never look back, I think we can learn from our past. As I said in my post Summer of ’69 that was a momentous year for me. It was also the year that the movie Easy Rider first graced the screen – in June in the US, a little later in the UK – and it opened up the eyes of impressionable teenagers around the world to a way of life that was very different from our normal, humdrum existences.

If you haven’t seen the movie I’ll try to avoid spoilers, suffice it to say that it doesn’t end well! But for most of us at the time, that wasn’t the point. What we saw in the film was a lifestyle based on doing what you want to do, free from the constraints of regular life. Sure, it was fuelled by an illegal drug deal at the very beginning, but did we care? I know I didn’t! The concept of road movies hadn’t really been explored much until then, and the idea of watching 95 minutes of two guys riding motorbikes around was very strange to my parents: “what’s it about?” “that sounds boring” and “you aren’t old enough to see it” being just some of what they said. It was rated ‘X’ in the UK, which meant that you had to be 18 to be allowed into the cinema, but I somehow managed to raise my short, just-turned-16 frame enough to get past the prison cinema guards. Or maybe they were just glad to take anyone’s cash that they could!

I have the movie on DVD and occasionally dust it off for a viewing. Mostly, it now looks incredibly dated, a real period piece. But there is still much to enjoy in it, especially the scene accompanied by the Byrds’ song I Wasn’t Born To Follow, which is such a joyous expression of youthful freedom.

At 16, we all have dreams of what we want our lives to become, and a release from a late 1960s Britain, with economic troubles putting a real dampener on all the Swinging 60s stuff that had gone before, was incredibly appealing. We all wanted to do it! If you have read my Summer of ’69 you’ll know that I spent that school holiday working to earn the cash to buy my first motorised transport. This was where one of life’s major lessons first hit home: I was never going to be able to earn enough to buy a bike like Peter Fonda’s! So, with reality dawning rapidly, I adjusted my ambitions – another early life lesson – and bought myself a secondhand scooter, a Lambretta Ld to be precise. It wasn’t even the most recent model made by Lambretta, but it was mine! In case you’ve never heard of it – and you can be forgiven for that – this is what it looked like:

The same colour as mine!

The same colour as mine!

Suddenly, a whole new world opened up for me. I could go anywhere I wanted, without the need to consult copious bus timetables, and I really took advantage of this new freedom. I joined the local scooter club, called the ‘Saints’ for reasons no one actually knew, and as well as club nights we went on group outings. We often went to a place called Camber Sands, which was pretty desolate, although it did afford a lovely view of the nuclear power plant under construction at nearby Dungeness. But that didn’t matter to us – we enjoyed the camaraderie of the ride, the wind (and rain, lots of rain) in our hair, and as long as someone had remembered to bring a ball we had a game of football on the sands when we got there. I have been thinking about this post for some time, and it feels very poignant to be looking back at my own youth, and happy times, when the sea has just claimed the lives of five young men who had gone to the very same place to have a good day out. As I said, we can learn from our past: that could have been us. There was never any sign of a lifeguard there, and apparently there still isn’t, 47 years on. It always takes a tragedy for something necessary to be enacted, sadly. In our innocent youth, we don’t really think about potential dangers, do we? Life is for living, we’re young and it is all stretching out in front of us. Why worry?

The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!

The ultimate fashion item, c.1969!

Going back to buying the scooter and becoming part of the local ‘scene’, where the cool kids hung out – as if, in my dreams, etc. – it amuses me that despite the fact that what we thought we were looking for was a freedom from normality, we rapidly adopted a style that became our new normal. If you had a scooter but didn’t wear one of these (look left), you were nobody!

I didn’t quite manage to copy Peter Fonda’s crash helmet either. Although it wasn’t at that time illegal to ride a bike without wearing one, we prided ourselves on being a responsible scooter club, so I bought myself another fashion accessory, just like this one:

Stylish, or what!

Stylish, or what!

But we were happy, that was the most important thing to us. We may not have been like Wyatt and Billy in the movie, but we had a sense of freedom, and I felt that every single time I got on the scooter, even if I was only using it to go shopping or to go to school. In those moments, the world was all mine, and I felt a kind of invincibility. Admittedly, I didn’t feel quite the same way the day I came off it and embedded a stone in my arm, but that was just another life lesson: don’t be a prat! Looking back, through what are probably very rose-tinted spectacles, I do feel a sense of loss, the loss of the innocence of youth. I hope my 16 year old self would have approved of the way my life has developed: I may not be riding the breeze on the open road, but I’ve learnt to recognise how to find the best in life, and to enjoy it.

And finally, for anyone feeling short changed by the edited version of the song in the opening video, I leave you with a full version of what is still the best driving song I know:

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