This week’s picture of the week is a little different. The grainy black and white shot was taken about 52 years ago in the playground of Dinting Methodist Primary School in Glossop, my home town.
The children in the picture are dressed ready for a school play, and the thin little child in the cowboy suit in the front row is me, aged about eight. I’ve not seen this picture for decades, but I can remember some of the faces in the picture. On my left as you’re looking at it is David Hinchliffe, on my right is Karl Lutener. You can laugh now if you want…
…then read on.
I found the picture when I was sorting through our family papers, and it really made me stop and think. The reason? Today is my 60th birthday and it feels like a good time to look back.
When I was eight I was a thin, sickly kid, with a passion for dressing up and a vivid imagination. I was always being criticised at school for daydreaming, but I was having a great time in my own head. I was fascinated by the past and stories: history and English were my favourite subjects and they still are now. My parents were always telling me stories about when they were children, and these further fed my imagination and gave me a fondness for my family’s history.
If anyone had asked me what I wanted to do with my life, I wouldn’t have had much idea. I loved making up stories and I do remember saying I’d quite like to be a journalist. I also said I wanted to be a teacher, which goes to show you shouldn’t always take career advice from an eight-year old kid. I ended up training as a teacher and I was totally crap at it!
So, the eight year old David was a daydreamer with a head full of half-formed ideas and enthusiasms. It didn’t matter though: he had all the time in the world – a whole lifetime – to work through them.
That’s plenty of time. Isn’t it?
As I looked back at cowboy Dave, I asked myself what he’d make of how things turned out. I think he’d be happy with most of the choices he made, okay with the way his career turned out and immensely proud of his family? I think, though, that he’d be disappointed that he hasn’t done much with his daydreams.
If he asked me I’d probably explain that that’s how life works: you generally do what you need to do and hope it turns out right. In the end reality trumps daydreams. I’d then try and play the old fart act and give him some sound advice.
If you Google ‘advice to your younger self’ it throws up 106,000,000 results. It seems that everyone is queueing up to burden their younger selves with advice they won’t understand or act upon. When I was eight I didn’t listen to one tenth of the advice that older people gave me. Ok it lead to some mistakes – getting that peanut stuck up my nose wasn’t a barrel of laughs – but why would a young dreamer want to listen to a wrinkly old realist?
So, what if I let my younger self give me some advice? Ok, I’m not going to go back into teaching if cowboy Dave suggests that, but I’m willing to hear him out. I think he’d say:
“Realism’s Ok, but they were good daydreams I had. Why haven’t you done anything with them? Don’t you think it’s about time?”
And he’s right. I’ve run out of reasons not to. I don’t have to earn a living, my children are grown up and left home and I’ve got a lovely big study to work in. So if most of the reasons for not following my dreams have gone: all I’m left with are excuses.
And excuses don’t count.
It’s not entirely true that my daydreams have disappeared completely, it’s more that they’ve taken on a more concrete form. My dream is to research my family’s history and write about their lives and the times they lived in. I like to photograph what I see around me: it’s my contribution to bringing the story up to date.
I know I’ve made a start with this blog, but it’s painfully slow. Like most eight year-old kids I rushed around in top gear: now I barely get moving. And time isn’t my best friend any more. ‘All the time in the world’ is turning into ‘what time you’ve got left’.
Now’s the time to make a proper start and make sure my dreams don’t fade away with the years. Keep an eye on this blog. I’ll keep you posted.
Don’t worry cowboy, I’m on it!