Sunday, 15 April 2012

Once Upon A Time...


It's 1998. 

You've just finished a book about an eleven year old wizard called Harry. Your new favourite film is The Parent Trap (did you know the twins are played by the same girl?!). You're wearing pedal pushers, holding your Furby close and clutching your Pokemon cards, desperate to get hold of a Charizard because he's the coolest one.  

There's music playing in the background- not the repetitive music coming from the Family Computer where the rest of the family are crowded round, fascinated as they watch one person play The Lion King game (Paint but with a picture of Simba).  Different music. Music that makes you want to grab your Baby Born and Tiny Tears, line them up on chairs with your Furby to make an audience and dance your heart out.

Dance like you're at Wembley. 

Dance like you're a member of the best band ever. 

Dance like you're Faye, Claire, Lisa, Lee or H. 

You can hear that music and see those dance moves, can't you? 

You've just remembered Steps. 

This was me. 

This time last decade. 

This time last year. 

This time last week.

That's right. My gorgeous Irish Prince not only flew one of my favourite people of all time out to Ireland to see me, but also paid for us to see my favourite band of all time, in my favourite city of all time (if you don't know what that is- read my last blog) whilst she was here.

Standing in the O2 arena strutting my stuff to Love's Got A Hold On My Heart like it was only yesterday that I was in my bedroom practicing the moves (which it obviously wasn't....), singing those well-rehearsed lyrics at the top of my voice and seeing out of the corner of my eye that my mum was one step behind everyone else, I felt like I had been transported back fourteen years.

My current life disappeared from underneath me. I forgot about my job, my travels, my degree, my Prince, and my ability to drive, purchase a lottery ticket and eat sweets without asking.

I was nine again.

I loved it.

Remember being nine?

Everything's organised for you: meals are made, you're driven around, you dance/swim/trampoline, play football/hockey/basketball; you have endless toys, imagination and ideas, and there's always someone around because, unlike at age twenty-two, most of your friends live within walking distance and, in many cases, your siblings can't go anywhere without you.

I could probably quite happily still pretend to be a dance teacher in my front garden, or put on shows to my family, but, much to my disappointment, there seems to come an age that that's no longer socially acceptable. I came to that realisation quite late. Which is perhaps why I'm in my current job. Only in a holiday resort is it acceptable for a fully grown adult to dress themselves in a skull and cross bones hat with matching waistcoat and face paint, gain a suspiciously Irish-sounding accent and march around searching for pretend treasure whilst singing 'A Pirate's Life For Me'. And even then it's only really acceptable if you're doing it in the company of children.

Unfortunately I can no longer follow my pirate fun with back-to-back episodes of Sabrina The Teenage Witch and Kenan and Kel before a voice calls that dinner's ready. I imagine that if I knocked on my best friend's door this weekend with an old buggy carrying my favourite dolly (Charlie) and a picnic of Dairylea Lunchables and Sunny Delight, she might be ever-so-slightly less pleased at the sight than she was fourteen years ago.

And what about parties?

When you were nine, instead of vodka- there were Flying Saucers. Instead of Redbull-there were Smarties. Instead of doing shots- you ate Skittles. Instead of falling about shouting that you love everyone- you ran around, shouting that you were batman. Instead of singing badly at the top of your voice to a song you don't know the words to- you...well actually you did do that but somehow it's seen as cute before the age of eleven. And, of course- when you're nine, instead of a hangover- there's a party bag.

I think that last one is, in itself, quite a good reason to be nine.

But think of your life now- really think about it. Think about the people you have in it. The relationship you have with your friends, family and yourself. Think about the way you saw yourself then, and the way you see yourself now. Think about everything you've been through to get here. Think about your daily routine now, and compare it with your daily routine then.

Actually, being nine isn't all it's cracked up to be.

I know I loved it at the time, but I wouldn't swap where I am now for anything.

Seeing Steps made me compare my life now to the life I had the last time I saw them live. I have been through so much since then, and it made me think about what advice I would give to my nine year old self. Naturally I came up with exactly one million things, so I thought I'd write the top ten here....

1. Never worry about being popular. You'll probably hear this a lot but honestly- one day the girls that are looking down their heavily-made-up-ten-year-old noses at you will be shouting at their three wild kids to be quiet in the library as you print your one way ticket to Greece....

2. You will make a lot of friends. The ones that count will stick around. Don't worry about the others. Plus one day there will be this thing called Facebook that you can- just kidding.

3. The boy that you're heartbroken about, that isn't going to the same secondary school as you? He's going to sing in a rock band, cover himself in tattoos and get a lot of things pierced. He's not the one for you.

4. Nineteen is actually quite young to get married, and two children by twenty-three is a little ambitious. Make some other plans.

5. Mrs Tucker's a big bully. Don't listen to her. You'll be able to cook just fine. And one day you'll meet a lovely Irish Prince who will cook for you anyway.

6. Make the most of your family. Don't take them for granted. You're so lucky to be part of a cereal-ad family: remember that every time you laugh at the dinner table together or have an extended-family buffet at Nanny and Grandad's. It won't always be like this- savour it while you can.

7. Choosing your options ISN'T important. No matter how many times Mr Knox says it, it is not true- choosing Food Technology over Woodwork is not going to impact on the rest of your life.

8. Sometimes, relax a little bit. Have your shirt untucked, eat some chocolate and take a day out from revision. Maybe even leave your bedroom without all the ornaments perpendicular and facing the door....One day you're going to meet someone who will make you chill out and it'll change you for the better forever.

9. Sport is not just for boys. One day you're going to love it. There's so much more out there than dancing- try it.

10. You are going to meet so many people who will have a huge impact on your life and personality without even knowing it. Remember that you're probably having that impact on the majority of people you come into contact with. Make it positive.

Now think about what your list would look like.

Then ask yourself: what would your fifty year old self be telling you to stop worrying about now?

Makes you smile, doesn't it?


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