My Story

Here I am Around Five Years Old

With everything before me and very much a blank canvas. Not yet wise to the world nor hardened by the hazards that will inescapably arrive later. For now I am protected from all of that by my parents. For now all I need when I doubt life or if it ever doubts me, is a reassuring hug to confirm that everything is going to be alright. Innocence with an open heart is a truly wonderful island on which to live. Shame that adulthood slowly but surely ‘rescues’ us from such transient paradise. Disney’s Peter Pan seemed to have other ideas and offered some hope for me to cling to, if only for a while before inevitability kicked in.

My imagination has always been so vivid and I was allowed to be totally free to explore it. Free to conquer the world and to hear all about those that had managed to get there before me from my cherished Ladybird books. I’m pretty sure that at least one of these would be on that beach with me somewhere here. With the light license that should be within every child, I would absorb every fact and detail about the adventures of Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Nelson from my other passion, history. Back then I wanted to be an archaeologist but rarely told people because I thought it sounded far too pretentious, although at this stage I wouldn’t have understood what that actually meant. The idea of sifting through the lives of those now of that ‘undiscovered country’ and discovering their own personal treasures that they had actually touched long ago, completely enthralled me despite the idea of lying in the dirt to get to them wasn’t particularly relished.

I was always fascinated by cameras even then and adored how glamorously photography was portrayed in the movies and on television. I wanted to be like the sophisticated, cool looking guys that were flown to far away places to photograph beautiful women, although at this stage I was yet to be beguiled and intrigued by the latter.

What I did know was that whenever I was around one of these dark, magical boxes, I felt special somehow. Still do.

But all of that would develop and evolve many years later into the passion that will surely stay with me until my last breath. For now I was far too absorbed with the many other hobbies that filled the endless hours back in the days when life seemed to move at an entirely different pace.

These times were so special to me. The unquenchable excitement that kept me awake for my early Christmases, that only eventually yielded to utter exhaustion and the fear that if I didn’t sleep, I ran the very real risk of being passed over by the great man. Would he REALLY do that to me for such an innocuous indiscretion? He always seemed so nice when I was taken to see him at the Coop grotto, to even contemplate such an outrageously disproportionate response.

A virtually identical but then strangely different burning excitement for those endless summer holidays on the beach in Kent, that being from landlocked Derby was every bit alien and different as any of the more exotic locations visited later in life.

I can even remember this picture being taken, or at least I think so. Dad always looked great and was always very handsome and I can see him now in his summer t-shirt with the camera up to his eye. Then a pause, a curiously protracted anticipation eventually resolved by that almost imperceptible click. Almost nothing. Always such a surprise. Surely that was never enough to create such magic? Maybe it was the exciting, rapid sounds of the motorwinds from the sleek TV shows or the blinding bursts of the flashbulbs exploding in the old movies. I really don’t know.

My mother still carries this picture with her and whenever I look at me waving back, there is still a piece of me that hungers for those innocent days when my only real concern was what I was having for tea. Later and as a father, I would fiercely protect my own children from anything or anyone that even remotely threatened their right to have the same experience. I would make sure that I would take upon my shoulders all of their problems and pressures and that was absolutely fine by me. I always liberally administered those precious reassuring hugs too, so that they were both free to discover themselves and free to do absolutely nothing if they liked. Didn’t Winnie the Pooh himself say that “Doing nothing often leads to the very best of something”?
If you want confirmation of this, just ask the child waving back at you in the picture.