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LOVE & LIFE

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The 10 years of my life between 25 and 35 years old were bloody brilliant.

1993 to 2003.

I was earning money.

Listening to Oasis.

Not taking anything too seriously.

Exploring relationships.

Drinking

Taking drugs.

(I took drugs for about a month. 

I had to stop quite quickly though. 

I kept sneezing.

And it was working out about £4 a sneeze).

Four Poo Sue. 

One of my friends, Ady, was going out with Sue.

Sue, one day, told us that she had four poos a day.

Bad idea!

Not the poos.

Telling us that she had four poos a day.

From that day forth, she was ‘Four Poo Sue’.

Then, somehow, this got shortened further.

After only a few weeks.

Nights Out.

We went out as a gang occasionally.

Mike.

Karen.

Mark.

Kier.

Ady.

And Four Poo.

Sue really did end up answering to this.

Four Poo.

Ady!

Ady!

What do you want?

Stella?

Yes?

OK.

Four Poo!

Vodka Redbull?

Great.

‘Didn’t bat an eyelid.

Elwood.

Then there’s Elwood.

I’ve known Elwood for 30 years.

Since he and I were about 20.

He’s always been Elwood to me.

He went to a fancy dress thing in this teens apparently.

As one of the Blues Brothers.

And the name just stuck.

I was out with him last week and, occasionally – throughout the night – I’d think to myself:

What’s your name?

30 Years.

30 years I’ve known John.

But he’s still Elwood really.

Anyhow.

Isn’t it cool how some names just stick around?

Like lovely memories for us to carry around.

For ever.

Staring.

Not much mattered back then.

Not even my friend’s actual names.

So if you see me staring off into the distance.

Smiling.

Full of love.

Emotional.

Tearful, even.

And mouthing:

I love you Four Poo.

Now you know why.

PS. Four Poo Sue appears in the photograph that goes with this story at 50odd.co.uk.

‘Not telling which one she is though: https://www.50odd.co.uk/four-poo-sue/

It’s impossible to start anything again.

Well, in  the way that most people think about this term, it is.

Experience. 

It’s because whenever you do anything, you change.

You’re changed by the experience of doing it.

Each time you do it.

So you’re never really doing the same thing again in exactly the same way more than once.

Relax.

This is useful to remember.

Because of those ‘Aargh!’ moments that we have.

When we feel we are doing pointless or annoying rework.

Relax.

You’re never really starting over.

Creativity.

I get this feeling a lot with some of the more creative areas of my day-to-day.

I try something.

It doesn’t work.

So I try it again.

And it does.

I am, consciously and subconsciously – learning.

As I do these ‘same things’ more than once.

Smiling. 

So if you are frustrated by the feeling that you are doing things over and over – try smiling instead.

Because you’re getting better.

I was at an event last Friday in Newcastle.

Founders Friday, it’s called.

A business get-together most suited to the unsuited.

And where the generous feel more at home than the salesy.

Izobel.

One chap asked me about Izobel, which is nice.

And we got onto the subject of birthdays.

Now; Izobel is my first and only.

And she is 2.

When I tried to remember Izzy Willow’s birthday I squinted and looked up to the left.

I think that means I am accessing a memory.

(Fibbers, apparently, are more likely to look up to the right when they are asked questions about past happenings. Because that’s imagining, not recalling. Take note.)

I fed three numbers to my new friend.

6.

16.

18.

Then I mumbled on to try and make sense of them.

16.

2016.

Two years ago.

6.

6th month.

June.

The 18th.

Then I looked straight at him for the next bit.

Yes!

OK…

June the 18th.

Izobel’s birthday.

This guy was, I assume, imagining I was recalling information on a birth certificate or some such document.

Like all good, proud fathers might.

I was in fact trying hard to remember the last time I played Roulette at a casino.

Because those are the three numbers I always play.

Because of Izobel.

Funny how minds work sometimes isn’t it?

12, Bowker Avenue.

I visited 12, Bowker Avenue, Haughton Green last night.

In Denton.

In Manchester.

It’s the house I was born into in 1968.

And lived in until I was 15.

Rude Words.

Craig Pyatt lived next door when I was growing up.

He, when he was in his teens and I was 7, taught me my first rude word.

It was ‘pillock’.

Larry Grayson.

My mum’s car used to park outside.

The car that her dad Harry left her when he died.

It was a black Ford Anglia, the ashtrays stunk and it had the registration 9166 LG.

It’s funny what you remember isn’t it?

She tried to sell that registration plate to Larry Grayson once.

He didn’t want it.

4 Bowker Avenue.

And Mark Woodcock lived at number 4 Bowker Avenue.

I went to his house last night, too on Bowker Avenue.

His dad Keith is dead now and I am not sure about his mum.

He was my first best friend and his dad, my Uncle Keith, made us bacon sandwiches.

4, Bowland Avenue

I went to 4 Bowland Avenue, Gorton last night too.

To visit my grandma.

She died about 20 years ago.

The front garden looked pretty much the same.

12, Elford Grove

Then I went to 12, Elford Road, Gorton.

That’s just about 200 yards away from Bowland Avenue and it’s where my grandma lived with her second husband, Frank Cherry.

From Harry… to Frank.

She cried for years when her first husband Harry died.

I was 3 then, I think.

My grandma, Anne, moved from Bowland to Elford to be with Frank.

One of the reasons Anne fell for Frank after Harry died was because Frank tapped the barometer in the hall when he first visited 4 Bowland Avenue.

Harry had done that every day of his life.

Grandad Frank’s shed.

I looked at Frank’s Elford Grove house from the outside last night.

I spent many days and nights over about 6 years there, being looked after by my grandma and Frank as my mum worked.

I made planes in Frank’s shed as he patiently watched on.

Then Frank died.

Then my grandma died.

So I didn’t go there any more.

The Old Dog Pub

I wandered past the first pub I ever went into last night too.

‘The Old Dog’ in Haughton Green in Denton.

The Village Chippy

The ‘Village Chippy’ is still there too.

Amazing.

I looked at it from the outside.

Last night.

I felt very grown up when I was allowed to get pudding and chips and gravy from there when I was 10 years old.

I am happy it is still there.

The Fields.

And finally last night, I also found time to gaze across the fields that Darren McLellan lived the other side of.

The fields I used to walk past to go to school.

My mum didn’t like me mixing with Darren McLellan.

Two Trees School.

Darren McLellan went to Two Trees school.

It was a bit rough.

The Dead Man.

These fields are also the fields where my sister Debbie found a dead man.

She thought he was sunbathing.

But he’d died of a heart attack.

Shirley Frost’s Bottom.

I felt Shirley Frost’s bottom on these fields too.

She was 10 I think.

But so was I so I think that’s legal.

Time Machine.

You can try visits like this too if you like.

It’s emotional.

Google’s Streetview really is a Time Machine.

When I was 19 I went to Barcelona with University.

As part of my University Design Degree course.

It was an experience meant to be highlighted by Gaudi’s architecture.

But one of the most memorable things for me was seeing my fellow female course members in bikinis.

Moments. 

The broader experience was mostly a blur.

We drank a lot.

And messed about.

You see, I never really invested properly in my degree.

Life was superb and I made great friends.

But the course really didn’t fulfil me.

Anyhow, on this Barcelona trip, I had ‘a moment’.

Not just lying on the roof of a beautiful building with bikinied colleagues.

Something more memorable even than that.

Black and White. 

One evening, I found myself alone in a jazz bar.

(Not innuendo; it really was a bar playing jazz music).

I was sat right by the stage.

The music was not too loud from the 4 piece.

I had a glass of whiskey with ice.

Everybody was smiling.

I was 19 years old.

And the whole experienced seemed, somehow, to be in black and white.

It felt really lovely.

Memories. 

It was, I think, the first time I felt like a man.

(Not another innuendo, thank you).

…It was the first time I felt like the world really was my oyster.

Like I could do anything.

Nobody mattered at that moment.

Nothing mattered.

It was 31 years ago.

More than half of my lifetime ago.

And I still remember it.

I felt like anything was possible in that moment.

Lost In Translation.

When I watched ‘Lost In Translation’ 25 years later, I was reminded of my time in Barcelona.

For Bill Murray’s character Bob – Charlotte arrived.

For me, on that occasion in Barcelona, no one arrived.

Even though my scene was so beautifully set for such a meeting.

Maybe my Charlotte was there an hour earlier.

Or an hour later.

Or not at all.

Possibility.

I left the bar with no special new friend.

But I still smile today when I think of that night in Barcelona because fate sometimes creates things for you.

And sometime it doesn’t.

Nevertheless, unless you put yourself out there, it can’t happen at all.

Possibility is very seductive for me.

Clip.

If you’re reading this story in your email, pop to  https://www.50odd.co.uk/barcelona/ to see 3 minutes of one of the nicest and most beautiful looking films I’ve ever seen.

It reminds me of my moment in Barcelona.

But without the Charlotte.

 

I was in ASDA last Saturday and I photographed some guy’s underpants.

I don’t know who he was.

All I know is, when he bent down to look at things on a lower shelf in ASDA, his underpants were sticking out of the top of the back of his jeans by about 2 inches.

So I photographed them.

50. 

I’m 50 years old, yet I really wanted to ‘melve’ this guy.

When I was at school aged no more than 12, if anyone was unfortunate enough to have their underwear sticking out of the back of their trousers, they were in danger.

They were in danger of being ‘melved’.

This means someone grabbing the underwear and pulling them upwards so quickly and so firmly that they either tear or lift the person from the ground and up into the air.

The ‘melvee’ would scream of course.

And the ‘melver’ would laugh.

ASDA.

In ASDA in Byker (just in case it was you) I was transported back almost 40 years.

I really did want to park my trolley.

Look slowly right.

Then slowly left.

Then lift this guy right off the ground by his protruding underpants shouting ‘Melve!’ as we both fell to the floor and he wrestled to break free from my vicelike grip.

Pans.

He was looking at pans at the time.

And I did imagine him laughing a good natured laugh and saying, ‘Ooooh – you got me!’ as his basket clattered against the saucepans.

The reality would have been quite different.

A punch to the face.

A police caution.

Or GBH charge.

Or at least two of the above.

We’re the same. Aren’t we?

Anyhow, I just wanted to let you know some of the things that cross my mind as I wander around Newcastle.

Because I know that these kinds of thoughts cross your mind too.

Don’t they?

So; we’re similar yes?

Aren’t we?

Hello?

Is anyone there?

Hello?

(If you’re reading this in your email, here’s the photo: https://www.50odd.co.uk/melve/).

The key ingredient in the recipe for an adventurous life – is confidence.

It’s powerful.

Yet transient. 

I am not sure where it comes from. 

Or where it goes.

Balance. 

It’s important to get the balance right though. 

So you don’t get a little too cocky or slimy.

Confidence, for me, is eye contact. 

And smiling. 

And listening. 

And being interesting and interested. 

And it’s an open posture with warmth and vulnerability and kindness and maybe even awkwardness. 

Because you are just being you – and you are totally happy with that. 

Awkwardness and vulnerability can be very engaging, actually.

Imperfect.

You know you’re not perfect.

Yet you show your full self. 

Confident people do that. 

Three things.

Here are three things that confident people do:

  1. They think first about how they can make people around them feel good. 
  2. They ask people how they can help them. 
  3. They ask for help themselves, when they need it. 

I mention these things because so many people seem to wish they were more confident. 

Or (as some frame it) ‘naturally confident.’

I think that, if you do these three things, you will be. 

Almost immediately.

Give it a go!

Today.

A Lifetime Guarantee is a promise. 

That something will last a lifetime. 

And it either will. 

Or it won’t.

Lifetime Guarantee. 

Here’s what I think you should do with anything you have that claims to have a Lifetime Guarantee…

Kick the shit out of it.

Use it. 

Bruise it.

Wear it… OUT! 

Share it. 

Stretch it. 

Test it.

Push it WAY beyond where you EVER imagined it’d cope. 

Why? 

Because you will get absolutely zero satisfaction, on your deathbed, if you squint across at your pristine leather jacket.

Hanging smartly on your wardrobe door.

With it’s Lifetime Guarantee certificate folded neatly in a pocket.

Then die.

Wear the fucking thing! 

And cook the hell out of that frying pan you have with it’s Lifetime Guarantee. 

Make crazy-beautiful flambéd meals that make your wallpaper, eyebrows and fringe turn dirty brown.

That make your friends scream that you’re fucking bonkers.

And that make the best goddam memories that any frying pan can.

Wear, wear, wear that belt or sweater until they twist and bend and bruise. 

The world’s greatest clothing makers can make clothes for anyone. 

But only you can make the clothing ‘yours’.

The point of a Lifetime Guarantee is NOT to give you the peace of mind that it’ll still be functioning when you die. 

It is a challenge!

WEAR!

IT!

OUT!

Because – and this is the real point of this story – there is only one thing you own that you know with absolute surety, has a lifetime guarantee.

And that’s you.

Now let’s see if we can wear the fucker out!

It is natural to feel sad that you didn’t meet that special someone sooner.

It is natural to feel sad that you didn’t start something, a business or a relationship for example, sooner.

And it is natural to feel sad that you didn’t end something, a business or a relationship for example, sooner.

However, it us unnatural to dwell on this notion so much that – now your time has come – you don’t embrace it or them with all you have.

1,000 Months. 

So in this 1,000 month life of ours, if we discover something or someone we love after lots of our months have been used – surely we should love it or them even more?

Because eventually.

Thank goodness.

They came.

This is a gift for your daughters.

From me.

It is, sadly, not a gift that I can gift to my lovely daughter.

Because I am her dad.

Daughters.

From what I have learned so far, and that is not that much because my daughter Izzy Willow is only 2, there is a very important gift that all daughters should be given.

Especially between the ages of 10 and 25.

It is:

Please – never worry about anyone else’s opinion on what you look like.

Following on from this, the gift includes:

Your difference is your power.

And:

Your beauty, though you don’t realise it yet, really is your above average sized nose – or your below average sized nose. Because real beauty comes from the extraordinary. Not the ordinary. Or the average. This is a theme that will recur throughout your life – in every part of it.

It is also valuable to help daughters understand how bullies work:

Bullies are lonely people. They know they are less good than you. They have to push those that are better than themselves down, because they don’t know how to lift themselves higher. That’s why the worst bullies tend to pick on the best people.

I think most daughters will be 25 by the time they start to realise these things.

And, maybe, 30 by the time they believe it.

For Your Daughters.

And as I said at the beginning, this is a gift from me, for your daughters.

Not my daughter.

Because just like your daughters won’t listen to you, Izobel won’t listen to me.

So if you see my Izobel, please tell her what I said.

(Just don’t tell her it was her dad that said it).