In a world awash with TOWIEs whom I see on the train once a week – beyond reason and in some cases, beyond decency, certainly chock full of ignorance, yesterday I met the opposite extreme.
Too long out of my own family and that of school communities, it’s too easy to forget that a kid is a kid after all and can be brought up well or can be let loose and uncontrolled – something there is way too much of today.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that almost every child who comes into our shop is a brat. Seemingly, entering a shop is carte blanche for the little dear to go round grabbing things, banging them on the floor and making noise, with the mother occasionally half-heartedly muttering, just for good form, “Josh dear, don’t do that,” and Josh just goes right on doing it.
If there were ever a need for a “cuff round the earhole” father to be present, that’s it but this steady stream of single mothers continues and even when the father is present, he seems as bad as her. What the hell does this augur for 15 to 20 years from now – William Burroughs’ Wild Boys as we ourselves fall further and further into decrepitude?
At our shop, I seem to have been singled out as training officer as they increasingly send new staff through me for “training up”. It was once my field, I quite like it and have the patience, so the result is usually OK but yesterday I met my match – not in a beyond influence TOWIE but in a curious phenomenon – more further down.
First one up, one week ago, was a lad of 20 who’d already been pretty well trained by a colleague through the week and I just put some added touches to it. Talk about fish out of water – once he discovered I could talk football, he was on clover but it began badly through an action of mine.
You see, I grabbed the nearest mug to have tea in, an Etihad mug. How was I to know there was a badge on the other side saying Superbia in Proelia? Presumably that means Ain’t it Great being a Man City Prole?
How was I to know he was a mad keen United supporter and my job was to discuss the return of van Persie and Roons and Anderson loaned to Fiorentina? He was also knowledgeable on Doctor Who and I’m glad I’ve now brushed up on it as I can re-enter society somewhat.
Boys are easy – just get onto their favourite topic and you’ve a friend for life and so this young guy, already competent in general, took to the job like a duck to water and it seemed to me, also to the boss, that he could train up the new young man who arrived at lunchtime. Big fan of this method of training and I get to have a long lunch.
I’ve been in the habit of taking less than the half hour as there’s usually not much to do upstairs but yesterday she and the Sunday boss wanted me to stay awhile up there so banter time it was. Bit of flirting never hurt either with the power girls.
Back to work. The new young man was 19 and though the two were close in age, they were worlds apart. The latter was much younger in outlook and experience – in fact he was on work experience from Blackpool, a hell of a distance from us and that was dedication. So perhaps we’re not talking typical kid today but the more committed and often much nicer young person.
What struck me was that we don’t get to see this sort of person because they’re not on the street or train as a rule but off doing something and returning to the family in the evening, just as we once did. Now if that’s the future of youth in this country, then we might have some hope yet.
So, the scene was set for the entry of The Phenomenon. Master 20 and I had been discussing music and he recommended System of a Down, which I looked at on youtube when I got home. I recommended Can and Faust in return. Master 20 had departed and Master 19 and I had been getting along, finding common ground in his field of geography and GPS systems, when in came a mother – usual thing – but also daughter on a Duke of Edinburgh award.
Next thing I know, boss has brought her down to the floor for me to train up. However, when I went to put her on the till, no-could-do. Too young. Too young? She seemed 16 to 17 to me.
Nope – 14. 14?! What the hell can I do with 14? Not only that but she was a girl from a different world, a homebound world where mother is not tyrant but the loveliest lady imaginable, ticking all the boxes of lovely ladyship in my book but that in itself can be a tyranny.
And the girl, though eager for the adventure [away from mum?] is a bundle of nerves, clutching and reclutching her hands, on edge but smiling all the same. So, in the fading light outside, here are young Master 19 and Miss 14 and I’m thankful for the former because it would be heavy going with just her and me. And this one is the watchful type, probably with a great deal of naughtiness behind the visage but butter wouldn’t melt in public. Just as we were at that age.
Common ground is the thing so does she have sisters or brothers? No. Oh, I’m an only child too. Master 19 has a younger sis he adores but she gets away with murder sometimes. We’re doing well so far. What’s her claim to fame? What does she do? Plays French Horn at level 5, whatever that means – Master 19 says that’s pretty high. Oh, I’ll look up French Horn when I get home.
Where’s the French Horn on the scale? I understand it’s a lower instrument than the others – talking out of my proverbial of course. She says it’s a fourth below something, whatever a fourth is meant to be. Does she know about harmonics – 11th, 12th, 13th etc.? She smiles at my ignorance. Yes.
Hmmmmm, what else does she do, except talk of boys? Thought I’d try that and it brought a smile. She listens to music and mucks around with Instagrams. What are they? Webcam? No.
Master 19 uses those two – is it like Flickr perhaps? Do they both use Facebook? Yes. Oh, I understood young people were using it far less these days. Well, they use it. So, what are these Instagrams? Selfies or something? Smiles from them. Can be. Did I say something wrong?
I used to be up to speed on everything almost that young people did but here was I now, so sadly out of it. The word fuddy-duddy formed in the brain and I realized I’d been so long now with you lot reading this that I’d lost the youth connection. Parents at home amongst you haven’t, of course.
It becomes apparent that this artificial mix of him, her and me is a golden opportunity, a portal of understanding perhaps, a momentary window in the fading light to meet each other’s worlds. Pity because my world is so weird that they wouldn’t want to get the idea this is how all fuddy-duddies are.
Inevitably it gets onto Doctor Who and Master 19 brings up Capaldi. We’ve already agreed we stopped being interested with Matt Smith and Amy, that David Tennant really was the true Doc, that Rose was the best but we’d disagreed over Donna. I can’t stand her but he reminded me that to young people, she was quite familiar from her “comedy” act, so we leave it at that.
Miss 14 isn’t into Doctor Who. Well what is she into? Music. Makeup tutorials. I throw in. Ah, struck gold – she is, big time. How do I know about them? They infest youtube.
I realize now that not only is she super young, she’s also a girly-girl – you couldn’t get a world more removed from mine except perhaps in darkest Africa. OK, music – what’s her thing? McFly [I also checked that out later]. Master 19 likes something called Busted, which apparently is some sort of McFly.
Strikes me that McFly are a bit ancient now, so what’s she doing listening to oldies music? Discussion follows about what kids do today and Master 19 thinks kids today are not like they were when he was growing up. Eh? What does that make me?
Anyway – we’re agreed that, given that Matt Smith and Jenna-Louise Coleman had some sort of chemistry going, what is she going to be able to have with Peter Capaldi? Everyone hopes they find some sort of ground in which to coexist.
The kid was nice but there was nothing you could actually do with her. I tried having her come round and package up customers’ purchases and showed her how to fold clothes. She did one lot. Her hour was almost up and mum would come back for her.
When she left, it was with smiles and she seemed to have enjoyed it. Phew.
On the way home, I dropped into my local supermarket and the girl on the till was one of two I always go to. I had pizza and beer and she put them in separate bags. Then she told me she couldn’t sell me the alcohol.
Eh? You need proof of age? No, she said – she wasn’t old enough. I’ve never been good on judging age, which is one reason WN2 and I had come together years ago and this one now I thought was maybe 20. I’m almost 18, she said. Goodness, sooner I can get away from all this the better.
So here I am with you, dear reader – none of you are underage, are you? Oh my goodness, I just realized I gave them my site url and they’ll see the wimmin on bikes etc. Actually, you know, I’ve always half-suspected Moggsy was underage but that’s for another day.