As a young teenager my passions swerved between football, and history. You can’t “do” history, or not easily if you’re a small boy, because people like Henry XIII are too busy getting married again to discuss their motivations with you, so, in the end, football became my sole obsession.
In my imagination I was quietly modest, but with a killing touch on the ball which would see me ease down the wing with lightning speed before swerving past the opposition defence and slotting the ball neatly into 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 career in professional football, and me surrounded by bathing beauties holding plates piled high with delicious sandwiches. 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.
I am reminded of another scenario where dreams were challenged. In days of yore during an English lesson, the teacher, a keen sports enthusiast, sets 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 shy boy with dark curly hair raises his hand and waits to be called. “Yes Shakespeare” says the teacher. “Read us your gem”
“To be or not to be” begins Shakespeare quite 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. Do not dither” Shakespeare tries to argue but it is clear his teacher is not going to be impressed. ” All right, sit down and have a go at writing something that isn’t so painfully indecisive.”… “Right who’s next”
“Ah Partridge, says the teacher, stand up and let’s hear what our bowls captain has to offer.” Partridge clears his throat and declaimes the following words ….”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 some of these boys went on to forge admirable careers in the world beyond the school gates. Shakespeare, unbowed by his teacher’s comments, went on to become a skilled carpenter who, among other things, worked on the revolving staircase at the Globe Theatre where his old classmate Partridge was busy forging a career as a playwright !