As a young teenager my main passions were football, and history. You can’t “do” history, or at least not if you’re a small boy, because it’s all in the past, and Henry XIII is too busy getting married again to discuss his motivations with you, so football it was. I used to rush around my garden kicking a ball and providing a commentary on the match at the same time. Resting between matches provided ample opportunity for daydreaming, and soon I was walking onto the pitch surrounded by my favourite players while the vast crowd cheered us on.
I was quietly modest, but with a killing touch on the ball which would see me ease down the wing with lightening speed before swerving inside, past the opposition defence and slotting the ball neatly in the back of the net. The real star players seemed to have little to do but stand around and save their energy for applauding me as another of my goals was marked up on the scoreboard. Not a bad life really. Sadly these daydreams did not end with a real life in professional football, surrounded by bathing beauties and men wearing designer sun glasses. Life in the guise of realism and common sense tactfully advised me that a future as a professional footballer might not be available to a boy whose other hobbies included bumping into furniture and wearing odd socks. Must calm down and make a sandwich.
I am reminded of another scenario where dreams may become sidetracked. Some years ago during an English lesson, the teacher, also a keen sports enthusiast has set his pupils the task of writing a poem. Twenty minutes are allowed and then a selected few can offer them up to the critical skills of their master. “Ok then”, says the teacher, ” Whose first out of the starting blocks.” A small and normally shy boy with dark curly hair raises his hand up and waits to be called. “Yes Shakespeare” says the teacher. “Read us your gem”
“To be or not to be” starts Shakespeare, admittedly a bit nervously. “No No No “ says the master. “To be or not to be” What are you talking about boy ?. ..Either it is or it isn’t, Make up your mind” Shakespeare tries to argue but it is clear his teacher is not going to be impressed. ” All right boy. Sit down and have a go at writing something that isn’t so painfully indecisive.”… “Right whose next”
“Ah Partridge, said the teacher. stand up and lets hear what the football captain has to offer.” Partridge cleares his throat and declaimes the following words in a calm and steady voice….”Custard was a clever Boy,…. He liked to eat a lot….. One day he bit off far too much,…. and found his throat was blocked”
“Brilliant” says the teacher. “Short pithy and with an important lesson on greed. Just what the man on the go needs to read in these days of gluttony.”. “Ah there’s the bell. We’ll have a few more poems in the next lesson boys.”
Despite these gruelling examinations of talent,and unlike my experiences in the football industry, some of these boys went on to decent careers in the wide world beyond the school gates. Shakespeare, unbowed by his teacher’s comments, became a noted carpenter, most famous for building the revolving staircase at the Globe Theatre.