Well lovely people, today I write to you because I've been inspired by a fellow northerner. Love her or hate her I cannot get away from the fact that we speak in the same sonorous tones, we both rock a pair of geek chic glasses and are blessed with the same delight in all things cake. No, no it's not Cheryl Cole / Tweedy / Fernandez-thingy (although I can see the likeness, obvs), it's the funny and downright lovely Sarah Millican.
I follow her on Twitter / have seen her on the tellybox many-a-time and she never fails to make me giggle. Not in the dirty, morally-wrong way that some of my other favourite comics do (the controversial Louis CK being the one that instantly springs to mind), but in a way that makes me feel warmth from head to toe and that everything is going to be alright. For that reason alone, I downloaded her book, 'How To Be Champion' on my magic Kindle (they do work with magic, right?) and got stuck into the story of her life.
Straight away I could hear her voice in my head. I mean, we more or less speak exactly the same way what with our little northern twangs and the ability to chuck 'geet' or 'canny' or 'haway' into a sentence without a backward glance. And not only that, but because she is about my age and from a similar part of the world, I could easily dream up the images she asks the reader to create. I KNOW what it's like to grow up in the harsh (but oddly comforting) cold and concrete surroundings of comprehensive school with boys jeering insults at you from all angles and girls throwing their best dirty and dodgy-eye-linered stares your way. I remember swear words stumbling on my tongue because they just didn't feel right (that's been sorted out since, by the way) and forever being locked in a battle between joyfully writing illustrated acrostic poems yet yearning for my acid perm to bounce around in the same sassy way the cool girls' did.
And it was this passage at the end of Chapter Two - 'What I Was Like At School' - that got me grappling for my iPhone and chanting to myself "I must share this, I must share this" in a demented twenty-first century type way.
I mean, she's right, isn't she? I remember - and please bear in mind that I had an awesome upbringing with loving parents and decent shoes - being surrounded by older people (teachers, parents, babysitters, librarians and random shopkeepers) who seemed to want to be gifted their teenage years back all done up with a bow. I couldn't understand why. All I felt was angst and a real, solid self hatred that revealed itself in cowering behaviour, scathing diary entries and a flirtation with self-harm. The absolute LAST thing I needed to hear was that things got worse.
School could be a dark, hostile place where it transpired that actually liking poetry was a one-way ticket to adolescent hell. It wasn't until I got to college and had the balls to choose the subjects that gave me my kicks (English Lit, Theatre Studies and Art) that the drum Sarah talks about here started to softly beat. Luckily that soft, distant beat was given the time and space it needed to work itself up into a hell of a clatter and by the time I was leaving college, I was involved in all sorts of artsy stuff including am dram that looked something like this:
And it seems that the urge I had to share Millican's words on my Facebook page came from a damn good place if the reaction was anything to go by. Almost instantly I got a message from a girl I used to go to school with. We weren't pals, exactly, but I was aware of her and her long-swishing brown hair and her rosy cheeks and her lovely smile. Let's call her Ms Lovely Smile, shall we? Yes, let's. Here's what she had to say . . .
Now I'm not for an instant suggesting that I was any kind of angel. I'm almost certain that I bowed to peer pressure more than once if it meant I got a laugh out of an eye-linered girl (yes, Geordie girls totally wear eyeliner in third year juniors) or a wink from a jeery boy (you don't want to know what they're up to by their third year). But I think in general I tried not to be cruel. And this sounds like something I would have said as words like 'sophisticated' and 'confident' would have felt good and proper on my tongue (not like those pesky swear words). If that's what I thought of Ms Lovely Smile, then I would have gone ahead and said it. Maybe that's when I started softly banging my drum in a gentle but oh-so-out-there-somewhere kind of a way.
So, in the true ethos of 'How to be Champion', let me tell you this. If you feel the urge to share some kind of wisdom that speaks to your heart and sings to your soul then bloody well do it - it might be on a digital platform or an actual platform of your own making but just get it done. You never know who it's going to touch, whose day it's going to change or how it might slip a little bit of light into somebody's spirit.
AND if you think something good of somebody then just blurt it out, will you? Whether it's in a cringe-worthy circle set up by a primary school teacher or a less obvious, everyday situation down the shops / on the school run / in a meeting / buying a scratch card / sneakily reading acrostic poems at the library. Who cares where or when? If you think somebody's cool then just TELL them. Life, as they say, is too short.
And finally, you've got to bang the big drum of you, ok? The sooner you start, the sooner you can share that beat with the world and get out there to make difference. Not only that, but you might find your rhythm unexpectedly grooves with somebody else's and that, my friends, is when the magic really happens.
Right. Having got all of that off my chest, I'm taking my kids to drama club so they can learn to beat their own drums nice and early. They're starting young and they're starting loud and I wouldn't want it any other way.
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