We thought things could only get better….

Chirs-GayleAs I type out my 50th blog, kiss my virtual helmet and wave my imaginary bat towards the pavilion, I can’t help thinking about a wise, old friend of mine, Chris, who I first met at law school in 1993. In part, because he is kind enough to give me the occasional spare ticket to Lords for one of the summer test matches, but also because I’ve been thinking a lot recently about something he said that year.

I spent a lot of time at Chris’s house in 93/94 as I went out with one of his housemates and staying there was preferable to my house where my bedroom was next to the living room – not ideal either for sleeping or not-sleeping. As Chris lived with four women, he probably liked me being about too, so it worked out well.

As an aside, that year was an incredible year. Great weather, not too much work, my frisbee and cricketing skills came on a treat and, most importantly, brilliant people.

I was in Class D and have so many fond memories:

  • Pete W – The most generous and kind guy you’d ever want to meet whose dad sold a few TVs……to the Man U players!
  • Bradford Dave – A terrier in defence
  • Danny C – could have been better than Ryan Giggs if it wasn’t for a health issue at birth;
  • M-M-Matt B – better than Goughy at Yorkshire U-15s but since resigned to making really poor jokes about law; and
  • The Mighty Ola – simply a goal scorer extraordinaire

All great guys who also formed the core of our class football team – “The D:Ream Team” – unbeaten in the first term.

As and when this blog brings me fame and fortune, I’ll get Justin Lee Collins to organise a reunion.

Back to Chris.

There were actually two things he said from that year that I still remember today.

The first still makes me laugh from time to time. From memory , Chris was single for most of that year and didn’t have loads of success with the opposite sex, despite his four female housemates encouraging him and always trying to help him out. With hindsight, they probably scared off any admirers in reality.

Anyway, one night we were all walking back after a night out and Chris was getting on well with a girl we knew he liked and so the four girls and I did the decent thing and rushed ahead, heading back to the house, wondering at what point the next day we would see a bedraggled Chris making his way back to the house.

Accordingly, we were all a bit disappointed when about 10 minutes after we got back, we heard the key in the door and Chris wandered into the kitchen:

Us: “What happened, things seemed to be going really well with X?”

Chris: “Things did go well”

U: “So what are you doing back here…..alone?”

C: (In a rather pleased with himself tone) “We walked to her place; she asked if I fancied coming in for coffee; I told her I didn’t like coffee; and so I came home.”

We just stared at him in disbelief and it was a good five seconds before Chris realised what an absolute tool he had been and he fell to the floor, head in hands.

Brilliant stuff.

However, he also said something that I didn’t think much of at the time but 20 years on have recently adopted as my own life philosophy – I always was a slow learner!

I was comparing exam results with Chris one afternoon and his results in the 4 papers had been 50, 51, 51 and 60, the pass-mark being 50. He turned to me and said:

“I’m gutted about that 60 – what a waste of effort!”

At the time, I wasn’t sure whether he was serious as most people I knew were striving for distinctions, as was I, and wanted scores over 70, but looking back I’m not sure why as we all had jobs lined up already and I’m pretty sure the distinction I achieved has been an irrelevant footnote to my career.

I guess there’s something about a desire for external validation; for someone to tell you you’re a smart guy and doing a good job. But not sure it was making me any happier.

Well, after “striving for distinctions” for much of the last two decades, I’ve finally reached the conclusion that I think Chris had the right attitude after all. I guess the older one gets, one also can’t help but get influenced by tragic stories of people you know dying relatively young or soon after retiring.

Without getting too Pirsig on you (I promise I won’t mention the metaphysical nature of Quality – still no idea what he’s going on about), my current philosophy is about earning just enough to fund our lives and freeing up as much time as possible for me, V and F (and any sequels) to spend time together and also free up time for me to follow some of my other passions, such as this gender equality nonsense on a pro-bono basis – more on that anon.

As Chris explained all that time ago – doing anything more is just a waste of effort.

Now I appreciate that doing just enough over one’s life is a bit more complex in reality as one’s end date is unknown (we don’t live in The City of Domes in 2274, you know), but I’m working on the basis that I’ll make it to 85 and will just work back from there – simples!

Right, that’s enough philosophical musings for now – got any spare tickets for the summer, Chris?

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