Elaine and I have visited Dublin and York in a busy, but much-needed week away from work. We’ve done a bit of sight-seeing, plenty of walking, thankfully not too much spending; and I’ve ticked off two more Time to Change challenges in the process.
The first (no.63) was something of an anti-climax and was essentially only completed because the specific wording of the task… to “sample Guinness in Dublin”.
Back in my illegally early teens, I had one sip from a can of John Smith’s—it made me feel very queasy indeed. Since then, I had never so much as tasted anything beer- or lager-related, and I must admit I was far from thrilled at the prospect of sampling Ireland’s finest.
Elaine and I ventured into the Stag’s Head, a traditional bar where the “tradition” even extended to staff with Irish accents (in our ignorance, we were surprised how few we heard…). I placed my order, waited a few minutes for the pint glass to be slowly and properly filled and returned to my beloved.
The Guinness neither looked, nor smelt appealing and, despite many people (my own mother included) telling me that it had a lovely taste which couldn’t be replicated on the other side of the Irish Sea, I was far from convinced as I clasped the glass in my trusty left hand.
And I was right….
The first gulp was genuinely unpleasant, the second even worse; there wasn’t a third!
Photo taken, “challenge” (such as it was) completed… time to order a pint of cider and get on with my life!
A couple of days later, we were back in the city of my birth to catch up with my parents, and also to visit my old school to recreate a photograph from many moons ago… challenge no.90.
The picture in question was of my Mum Anna, and I, taken on the steps of a boarding house called The Rise, where my Dad was housemaster for a dozen or so years during the 1970s and 1980s—which basically meant that school and home were one and the same place.
St Peter’s School in 2016 is far removed from the establishment where I grew up. I now need a visitor’s pass to walk round the place where I spent so much of my young life; so much of the school is secured by key-code-operated gates and locks; and a number of the buildings I remember have been replaced by twenty-first century equivalents.
I kept thinking back to “my day”, when things almost by definition were so much better; but in reality, my memories are just a snapshot of a time that will soon be all but forgotten by inevitable progress—and perhaps that’s no bad thing given how hard it actually was to grow up in such an unusual environment.
However now isn’t—and yesterday wasn’t—the time to dwell on the less pleasant moments and feelings that remain so fresh in my mind despite the intervening decades; yesterday was a chance to remember how things used to look, not necessarily how they used to be: the long-since demolished air raid shelter, the huts that had been the junior school classrooms, the conker trees that were felled to make way for the sports centre—I’ll wager very few remember those, the area where we played marbles (“hit one win the lot… your hard luck if it doesn’t reach”), Mrs Wrigley’s tuck shop, the squash court and maintenance workshops that were situated where the new science block now stands….
As for the photograph...
Well it wasn’t a faithful recreation as the heavens chose the worst possible moment to open, and Mum and I had to assume the 32-year old pose whilst sitting on a jacket instead of a sun-soaked step, and try to smile through the downpour; but hopefully the pictures show that Mum still looks amazing at 78. Me? Well I got old!
I do want to say thank you to Rebecca and Josh for their help in making yesterday happen. I seem to end all these blogs with a similar message, but I don’t think I need to apologise for stating once again that the purpose of all these challenges is to raise mental health awareness… to encourage people that it’s fine to talk, and it’s equally fine (albeit incredibly difficult) to ask for help because you are not alone.