All it takes to change a person’s life is just one moment. One question asked in one moment leads to one moment of passion leads to one moment where you’re told you’re going to be a father. That’s a pretty big moment. That’s a moment that can change many people’s life the moment you share the news. All it took was a moment for me to find this out.
Yesterday I was walking to get a train. That in itself reads as a fairly nondescript sentence and, of all the amazing moments that transpired over the weekend, it certainly wasn’t even in the top ten best walking-to-somewhere moments. I sauntered along with tunes in my head and warmth in my heart as a result of spending 3 days with some of the most special people in my life. Lost in happy daydreams, I suddenly decided that the only thing to possibly add to such contentment would be to nip into the garage and treat myself to a ham & cheese sandwich (sometimes I have a tendency to get lost in unadulterated indulgence, as you can probably tell). It would be a stop off that unquestionably changed my day.
The reason I began this very blog – Here’s What I Have Learnt Today… – was because silly little random moments seem to fill my days more often than not. Often I don’t really think how bizarre they are; instead I focus on the small, inconsequential things to fill these pages with ramblings. It was only as I was about to explain the reasons for walking to the train that it dawned on me exactly how often these random (for want of a better word) moments occurred. Please, figuratively walk with me whilst remaining in the exact same position you are currently in as I give you some examples.
I arrived in Nottingham on Friday afternoon and immediately proceeded to walk to the oldest inn in England (Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem) to meet my friend for a drink. I know her because she is an elf. (She is an attractive elf too; elves seem to largely be attractive from my experience.) Upon my arrival, twenty grown men dressed as cowboys (except one who was dressed as a Native American Chief) greeted me by singing a song I had never heard before. A Swedish man asked me why one of “your English cowboys” was wearing leather chaps which revealed women’s hot-pink French knickers. I didn’t really have an answer, aside from, “It’s in our blood and is what makes our blood instantly detectable to giants.” Which, obviously, it is.
The next day, on a walk with friends through the centre of the city, we witnessed a group of Morris Dancers who, for some inexplicable reason, had “blacked up” and were running at each other with big sticks. We stopped to watch because, well, seeing is believing. It was odd. In as much as everything that I have just explained was actually happening. There wasn’t anything about the little dance (if that’s what it was) that wasn’t odd; although it was oddly captivating. I imagine these men are accounting of being lawyers as I type this today.
Saturday evening was the reason for my being in Nottingham. My friends had worked so hard to put on an arena tour and Saturday was the launch of all their hard work and dedication; as well as the very real coming true of a dream. It was also an evening whereby a very talented performer learnt that she’d gone from playing local gigs – and a charity event my friend and I hosted a month back – to a European tour supporting a massively successful boyband; all this as she was preparing to play her first ever arena gig. I’ve not asked her but I’m pretty sure it was an evening worth missing You’ve Been Framed for.
It was certainly an evening for proving that talent shines through and that good things happen to good people who work flippin’ hard for it. (I discount the Morris Dancers from any of this.)
For one of my closest friends, Saturday night was her debut as a creative producer and I felt an enormity of pride that I don’t think I’ve ever felt a level of in any of my own achievements. (I trivialise my own achievements in blog form or silly Facebook updates instead. Then I have a cheese & ham sandwich as a treat.) I think it takes a real man to unashamedly shed a tear (and to pull off wearing pink) and the moment the show began, my heart swelled and my eyes welled. To be able to enjoy and celebrate the successes of people you care about is a truly special thing. It was an evening filled with special moments.
Ah, yes. The special moments. The moments that change lives. Whether it be the moment a Swede witnesses his first cross-dressing drunken cowboy on a Friday afternoon or the moment your dreams come to fruition; special moments are as rare as they are varied.
On Sunday I went to see two more close friends… and their brand new baby. I used to work at a radio station with Rich and Kristina: in fact, that is where they met.
The first I knew of Rich was in 2006 when my boss told me that he’d had to have a word with him to “quieten down in the office a bit”. The first time I met him was later that week when he asked whereabouts I’d moved to in the city. Upon telling him, he decided he was going to move out of home because “it sounds quite good”, and by the end of the week he was living with two men and a Somalian soldier in a semi-mansion with the fattest cat anyone ever did see.
During one radio show I was presenting, Rich came into the studio dressed as Spiderman, jumped on the desk whilst the mics were live, then jumped down and walked back out. Neither my co-host nor I mentioned it at any point. In fact, this may well be the first time that anyone outside the three of us know about that incident.
Kristina and I became friends on the basis that she was also from Yorkshire and new to the city of Nottingham. We declared that Sundays would be “Yorkshire Sundays” and that we would have “Chick Flick Thursdays” which largely consisted of drinking wine and watching rom-coms. Actually, that definitely needs to come back…
Rich and I later became flatmates where he’d tell me he’d fallen for Kristina. I went on his stag do where he’d tell me he was excited about marrying Kristina. I went to both Rich’s and Kristina’s weddings where he got married to Kristina because they were both my friends and it was the same wedding. I didn’t go on the honeymoon, which was understandable (although a shame as the photos have shown it to be a really beautiful holiday).
This weekend I met Rich & Xtina’s newborn baby for the first time. Again, seeing people you’re close to so happy is an amazing feeling. The moment you first see a friend’s child, you realise just how special they are. They are brilliant friends, a brilliant couple and now they’re going to be brilliant parents to Max (they once went out dressed as a giant hot dog and accompanying bottle of mustard; how is he going to have anything less than a fun-filled upbringing!?!).
Moments change lives. Whether it’s seeing something or being involved or something, all it takes is just one beat of a heart and the world changes forever. It isn’t always something that we notice and maybe not everyone would write 2000 words about it. You’re probably too involved with making such moments happen that you don’t have time to write 2000 words about them. I call you “busy people”. Well done on that.
So it was, as I walked to the train, I reflected on the weekend which had allowed me to see so many lovely faces, share in so many happy experiences and feel so much pride for my friends. I also felt quite proud that they wanted to make me a part of their treasured moments. Very proud, in actual fact. That is why I decided to treat myself to a cheese & ham sandwich.
Little did I know that I was about to have my own moment that would change my carefree moments almost immediately.
I trundled my suitcase and sandwich over to the man behind the till at the petrol station. I observed that he was about 20, he had a diamond earring and, judging by the amount of gel in his hair, he earned enough money to buy hair gel by the vat load. In terms of observational skills, I was on fine form. However, if we were to have an observational duel, I had met my equal. Looking down at my case, he nonchalantly revealed he was also on his A-game when he came to noticing things.
“I see you have a case,” he said.
It was at this point that I also looked down. I had had that case next to me for the best part of three days but such was his confidence, he left me doubting my own. I did have a case. At that moment I pitied any shoplifter who attempted their slight of hand on Hawkeye’s watch. He continued.
“I’ve just been to see Rich and Kristina. They’ve just had a baby,” I stated in a way that was both informative and factually correct on every level.
He didn’t know who Rich or Kristina were (or are). I wasn’t going to just assume he didn’t know though. His observational ability was clearly such that he may well, for all I knew, have some sort of sixth sense for this sort of thing. Anyway, I was buying a cheese & ham sandwich; he clearly knew there was a reason for that.
“Congratulations!” He offered.
I wasn’t sure whether to accept this or not. My joy wavered with good, English uncertainty: a trait that is as English as fish & chips or wearing hot pink French knickers under leather chaps when you’re a pretend cowboy. Could I personally accept such congratulations?
“Thank you…” My voice somewhere between acceptance, happiness and aforementioned uncertainty.
“Was it planned?” He asked, matter of factly. For someone who was clearly an observational expert, his knowledge of the family planning between two strangers was very much amiss.
“I believe so,” I told him in a way that displayed a confidence which fully contradicted my reaction to his previous question. (I’d probably be quite good at police interrogation, I imagine.)
This was the last moment that I would remain in my world of calm. The feeling of love and joy that had enveloped me all weekend was, for the first time since seeing an elf in the midst of a gaggle of cowboys, to be tested. One of those moments that can change the world in a heartbeat was about to come.
“I just found out my girlfriend is pregnant.” He said in a way that was neither said in remorse nor joy. I waited for him to continue but he didn’t. The English uncertainty crept into my very being again. I was going to have to offer a response.
“Congratulations…” I was quite proud of myself for managing to affect a tone in my voice that was both congratulatory yet also sympathetic and understanding. I had earned that sandwich.
“It wasn’t planned,” he confirmed. “I was saving money for a boozy lads’ holiday.”
As he stood at the till of the petrol station, I looked over his shoulder. You may not have the same observational skills as myself or Hawkeye so I’ll give you a little description to help you envisage what is kept behind the till at petrol stations: cigarettes, booze and condoms.
Now, I am not going to assume I know this man’s precise actions on the evening of his girlfriend becoming pregnant but, given that he was outside smoking a cigarette when I walked in, and that he just told me he wanted a “boozy holiday”, I’m pretty sure the evening may have involved booze and cigarettes. If I were him – and I only bear a close resemblance in terms of observational skills alone – I’d have looked behind me before leaving work and seen everything I needed for that evening. Just worked my way from left to right (I don’t even smoke).
Maybe he did and maybe there was a manufacturing fault or something. It happens. I pinned a JLS condom packet to my work noticeboard the other month (I can’t recall why; it seems an odd thing to have done when written down) and I really hope nobody uses that. JLS have split now anyway…
That said, and this is something which has genuinely baffled me for years, I don’t understand how a man can accidentally get someone pregnant. I appreciate that sometimes situations occur where passion runs high and occasionally people don’t have access to the back of petrol station tills or boyband merchandise; even then, as a man, it’s quite easy not to get someone pregnant. Whether or not you do have access to prophylactics (I love that word), as a man, it’s easy not to get someone pregnant. In recent weeks I, myself, didn’t get someone pregnant. Mind you, I did get a letter for filing a tax return late so it’s swings and roundabouts. One man’s achievement is another’s accounting fault.
(I really wanted to use the analogy that if you drink and then get into a car, you know you’re risking an accident. So it’s best to get a lift with someone else. But then I really didn’t know what I was advocating there and I got lost in my own analogy. So I have left it out.)
Before I continue, I would like to point out I am not judging anyone who ends up in this situation. I have enough faults and insecurities in my own little head/world that I wouldn’t ever dare to judge others. I believe that only God can judge others; and I’m an atheist (which may be fairly ironic given that I may have just accidentally realised the difference in Catholic and non-Catholic contraceptive methods).
Anyway. In one moment, this man with his gelled hair and sparkling ear had created a baby. He had also discovered in another moment the news that had happened and he was going to become a father. Two big moments. He looked a little lost on telling me his news. He looked at me and, presumably observing that I was buying a cheese & ham sandwich to bask in the glory of my friends’ achievements, he confided in me.
“Can I ask you something?” I was unsure as to why he decided to ask if he could ask me something now. I felt that was probably a question which should have come at the very start of our conversation. Being sensitive to the moment, I decided I wouldn’t bring this up.
“Of course.” I replied in a way which probably sounded less wise than the tone of voice I had adopted.
“Do you think I should go on the holiday with my mates?” He questioned as promised.
“When is it booked for?” I thoughtfully considered.
“October.” He fired back.
“And when is your baby due?” I quizzed.
“November” he confided.
“No.” I concluded.
Picking up my sandwich I explained that I needed to dash off because there’s nothing worse than realising you’re late.
“You don’t need to tell me,” he announced, “That’s how my girlfriend broke the news!”
And with that, I left.
Actually, he didn’t really say that. Although he would have if this was a BBC Three sitcom.
So Here’s What I Have Learnt Today…It is just as important to celebrate the things you haven’t personally achieved in life. I am very proud of my friends and what they have achieved in their lives. I am proud of the people they are and the person they make me want to be. I am proud that they’ll be there to share my achievements too in whatever form they take.
Then, when those times are such, I look forward to bringing them all together so we can all share cheese & ham sandwiches!
- JLS to split up after farewell tour (bbc.co.uk)