“You’ve got me? Who’s got you?” or “The discovery as I grew up that all adults were bluffing it”


 

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As a child I looked up to adults with a sense of inquisitive awe.  I looked upon the many steps they had made as a species and could do little more than observe, open-mouthed, as they demonstrated that, not only had they mastered walking upright, but that they had also mastered such mystical arts as alchemy, wizardry and pottery.  They had invented a way in which a simple piece of bread could be placed into what they called a toaster and soon, out-popped something so magical, so delicious that surely the only way that this was possible is if its’ inventor, J. Edgar Toaster had indeed made a deal with the devil himself.  As I continued to grow further from the ground it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling to know that these creatures looked after me, that they clearly knew how the world worked and that they had everything safely in hand.

They used long fangled words like television and responsibility whilst I was left wondering, “Do they mean TV?” and “What is resplonsibibeelee?”

As I continued to grow even further from the ground I began to suspect that something may be very much amiss.  I began to become increasingly concerned, as the more I grew, the more I began to look like an adult…and it was with a heavy heart that I had to learn to accept that there was no escaping it, my childhood was quickly slipping away from me like a greased drunk on a banana skin and with it went any chance of getting through my life without ever having to accept resplonsibibeelee.

But…all was not lost for, though I was not the brightest of bulbs as a child, I was at least observant.  So soon I began to study their ways in order to be able to play my part when the time came.

It took me some years to realise how my Dad was able to control the traffic lights that faced us as we sat waiting for them to change until, as a driver myself I realised that he was never looking at our lights but was merely waiting for the traffic lights crossing us to change in order to quickly boast he was working his magic.

I was late into my teens when I realised how he managed to throw an invisible ball up into the air then catch it in a paper bag he was holding that then flinched as the balls landed.  For years I had missed his clicking fingers behind the bag scrunching it up at the right moment.

Put simply, I’d been hoodwinked.  I had been lied to.  For years leading up to me becoming an adult I was mistakenly convinced that, along with Smarties of course, adults actually had all the answers.  I couldn’t have been more wrong.  They had lied to me, they had lied to all of us children.  They had bamboozled us with smoke, mirrors and the invention of a tart that they implied actually popped when it came out of the toaster as they all sat there reading the funnies whilst all along pretending to be reading the latest news headlines.

But you know the really scary thing?  It turned out that my suspicions were actually completely wrong.  Erm…adults really don’t know what they’re doing either…

This is something I began to learn one day during a visit, while staying with relatives, to a medieval castle.  It lay in a part of Northern England and I remember it being absolutely vast.  An impressively fortified example of medieval architecture and engineering.  But time and missiles thrown during long since forgotten incursions had taken their toll and this became more evident as we entered one of the immense circular towers.  The huge steps that led to the top were made from stone and had no central column so each of the steps were secured onto the outer wall alone leaving the inner sides perilously exposed.  My cousins’ daughter was with us and she mentioned that she didn’t feel totally safe.  My uncle calmly smiled at her and said, “That’s okay, just hold Ned’s hand, he’s got you.”  I was only about 16 at the time and whilst I had been walking up the stairs by myself I had been wondering if I would ever actually see 17.  I politely nodded at my uncle and took hold of the hand of my cousins’ daughter.  My heart-rate began to rise ever so quickly.  After all, I had her, but who had me?!  Suddenly the heavy burden of responsibility was thrust upon me and it hit me like a tonne of medieval trebuchet-launched bricks!  All those years that I had misheard the pronunciation of the word, and had taken it to be resplonsibibeelee, I felt okay about it.  It sounded calming, almost a welcoming concept but here, halfway up the tower of an ancient castle I realised that it was not resplonsibibeelee but instead responsibility.  It was like that moment when you realise throughout the whole movie that Dustin Hofman’s character was actually saying Raymond and not Rainman.  The concept hit me and to describe it as having been a bit heavy simply misses the point.  This had a mass to it, a tangible almost physical mass and it would be a moment that would live with me for the rest of my…okay so certainly until I sat down to write this blog, but maybe for the rest of my life…who knows…

As I grew older I began to understand more of the concept and meaning of responsibility.  In order to ensure I was able to reduce the financial worries that I might potentially face in my retirement I began to regularly invest in bottles of wine.  I won’t reveal where I stored these as I keep them close to my chest but suffice it to say that just below my chest my burgeoning belly had started dragging me ever nearer to the ground again and I began to look even closer at those around me.  I had taken a job by then, a proper job with proper growed ups and, to be honest, it was a profession that many people look up to.  They think we know what we’re doing.  They think that we always have the answers…but the truth is…we don’t.  We’re blagging this whole thing just like everybody else.  And, as it turns out, no one really has the answers.  As adults, as a people, a species, we really have learned so many things about the world.  We have learned so many things about how our hearts continue to tick and how the world continues to turn every day.  But do most people who bumble through this life really ever get the answers they’re looking for?  No.  Do all of these government departments, emergency services, universities and ‘Smarties’ therein have all the answers?  No.  But then I guess, joking aside, that’s really the beauty of all of this isn’t it.  We, all of us, bumble through life as we tumble through space as we stroll through time scratching our heads and wondering what it’s all about.

I’m a fully qualified growed up now, it even says so on my driving licence.  I’m a pillar of the community and have a job which people look at me when they most need my help and when I have little time to react to their critical needs…and yet even I’m making all of this up.  But oddly, even with that revelation, trust me, you’re in good hands.  I’ve learned to bumble through this life pretty well and, like most people, I’m doing a pretty impressive job of convincing the young people around me that I actually know what the f**k I’m doing.

We are all of us standing on a small spherical island that is hurtling through the Solar System and we are all of us groping in the darkness of space and ignorance for answers. They might come, but very few of the questions we really want answered ever will be.  But in the meantime it is our resplonsibibeelee to hold the hands of our younger generation whilst they too transition into becoming growed ups at which point we can formally hand them the baton of resplonsibibeelee in this stumbling and ever changing assault course that we call the human race.

And besides, though few answers are ever easy to come by, if it were any easier, then where would the fun be in that, eh?

If you have any, questions, feedback or views, please feel free to leave them in the comments section or, alternatively, contact me via 

ned@thewayofthesquirrelbooks.com