“Lots of Love, Milky” — Misbehaviour in My Formative Years

I hope you like tales of teenage debauchery, because they’re usually fun stories. This is not exactly one of those anecdotes, so if you’d prefer a more outlandish childhood venture then go read a Russell Brand book or something.

This happened when I was sixteen, which barely qualifies for formative years but I’ve made a theme for the week and I’m sticking to it.

It was the final year of secondary school and my friends and I had discovered alcohol. Other kids at school had discovered it much sooner (and subsequently were way cooler), but they weren’t on track to finish their classes, and so we felt as though we’d found a good balance between cool kids and total dweebs.

This story also happens to take place on the night I first watched professional wrestling, which means it was formative as all heck. I wish I could say I’d watched it since I was a kid, but no, just from a drunken night at aged sixteen — Exactly when I was supposed to be finding that sort of thing very lame.

After watching The Undertaker defeat Shawn Michaels in what I would later refer to as “an all time classic”, the four of us were still full of energy and alcohol at 4am.

We were looking for mischief, but didn’t really know what we could achieve. All of this took place at a friend’s house in early summer, a friend who lived on a housing estate far from my own.

This friend used to drink copious amounts of Diet Coke, at least fifty cans a day, which may be an exaggeration. I still love this friend dearly and so that’s why I can over-hype his soda consumption. Unlike Andy from yesterday’s story, whom I no longer know, and so will gleefully drag through the mud by recounting his attraction to a medical dummy.

(Also, Andy isn’t his real name. I love creative writing!)

On this estate, despite the fact that it was very modern, they still had their milk delivered by a milkman. This was news to me, as not even my grandparents had their milk delivered by a float/actual human being combo at four in the morning.

I was born in ’93, and had always bought pints of moo juice from the supermarket like every other self respecting millennial (well, until we all cut cow products out of our diets in the latter part of this decade).

Suckered in by a hilarious and archaic concept, I watched in glee as the milk float made its way around the neighbourhood. Idea!

“Hey, what if we took everyone’s milk and replaced it with cans of Diet Coke?”

“Why would we do that?”

“…For a laugh?”

“…Okay then!”

We gathered handfuls of cola cans and set about replacing the milk bottles in the neighbourhood. Now, I do have a mischievous streak (as you can bloody well tell, I mean, are you reading this absolute lunacy!?!), but guilt also hits me pretty hard. And most of the time it happens immediately.

As I placed my first cans of Coke on a neighbour’s doorstep, I got this pang in my stomach, and a thousand thoughts cross my mind.

“What if they need this milk for their breakfast?”

“What if they have a rare disease where all they can drink is milk and I’m killing them by taking it away?”

“What if they’re a family of literal cows and they’d ordered this milk in order to illustrate the brutality of the human dairy industry to their now of-age cow children?”

Admittedly, that last one wasn’t very likely, but the guilt was real. The problem was that I couldn’t back out of the prank, as I’d been the one who’d suggested it. What kind of super cool, mischievous friend would I be if I retreated now?

So I decided to hide the milk just around the corner of the doorstep of each house. That way they’d get the initial (hilarious) shock of the Diet Coke, but still be able to locate their precious creamy lactose.

However, this wasn’t enough, as I’d now gone too far the other way. It had turned from a prank into a mild inconvenience, and I feared that much of the impact had now been lost.

I needed an equaliser, something to balance this prank out to the point that I’d be a hero among my peers when I told them all about it at school, but also so that it would have the perfect flow for a blog post written a decade later.

And so we decided to write a series of notes to place between the two cans of Coke that now sat on several doorsteps across the estate. They mostly went something like this…

Dear Valued Customer,

I’m very sorry to inform you that all of the cows ran out of milk yesterday. And so I have replaced your order with delicious cola pop. I hope it still tastes good on your cornflakes — My son has this combination when I get to see him, every other weekend.

Lots of love,

Milky

cornflakesandmilk

My hope was that by adding the sign-off, nobody could possibly blame the actual milkman for our act of pure rebellion. As pangs of guilt started to creep in that we may have cost a milkman his job (which was still a bizarre concept to me, because I thought they’d stopped delivering milk in the 19th century), we made for the local field.

On this field we ran around shouting Hulk Hogan’s theme music at the top of our lungs. Hulk Hogan had not wrestled or appeared that evening, so I’m not sure why that happened.

As we sobered up together, we watched the sunrise, before deciding to call it a night and get a few hours sleep. We didn’t want to be wandering the neighbourhood when people came outside to collect their Diet Coke, and read their well-written notes from Milky.

I wonder if anyone actually drank the cola, or if they tried it on cornflakes as the good milkman suggested.

This is not the most rebellious thing I ever did, or the least, but it’s very on-brand, and I still think about it whenever I have my cornflakes and coke.


Today is Thursday, January 10th and you can listen to the new episode of our podcast ‘Drinkipedia’ right now! On iTunes or here: https://drinkipedia.podbean.com/

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“Appropriate Behaviour” — Basic Capitalism in My Formative Years

I don’t know exactly what caused me to have an anxiety disorder. During my therapy sessions I elected to manage my mental health as opposed to find out where the darn mess came from.

On some days I speculate, and one of my theories is that it’s because I gained an understanding of how the world works during my formative years, only to be chastised for it. Then, after emerging into the adult world to see that it’s exactly how I thought it was, I get subconscious flashbacks to being told off for behaving like most adults.

Let me illustrate an example for you, using the power of my words and your imagination.

I’ve always been a shy kid. One who’s happy to live in his own world, but who still craves the attention of others like the rest of the damn species. After I started secondary school (age 11 for international reference) I didn’t really find confidence among my peers until I started selling chocolate bars on the school yard before and after classes.

A large supermarket chain, that rhymes with alfresco, built a store directly opposite my place of education. This meant that before school began I could go over to the store and buy ten multipacks of chocolate (candy) bars, in order to resell for a tasty profit.

It’s the classic get-rich-quick scheme for any twelve-year-old smart enough to use birthday money as investment capital.

Due to the multipacks of chocolate being so much cheaper than buying the bars individually (as low as 20p per bar), I could always sell them to my classmates for less than the price of an individually sold unit. Yeah, that’s right, I know the lingo.

Now, anyone who has ever bought a multipack of anything that’s individually wrapped will know that the external packaging has “Not Suitable For Resale” printed in big black letters on the wrapper. And had this been the reason for the shutting down of my hustle, I may have understood.

I began taking requests for specific items, and I would always oblige (providing that item was available in a multipack, if not you can sling your hook Mikey).

For months I enjoyed making a tidy 50% profit on most items, and subsequently saved that money for bigger ticket purchases in my own life — Video games, CDs, a mini fridge; The classics.

The cashiers at Tesco — I MEAN, thing that rhymes with… never mind. The statute of limitations must’ve expired here.

Well, the cashiers started to become a little suspicious, asking a question here and there. I would cover my tracks by saying that my pals gave me money before school and I do a solo run for all of our personal snacks that day.

“Well that’s an awful lot of chocolate bars.”

“I have a lot of friends.”

They’d always laugh at that one, which in hindsight I assume was because of my sickly/nerdy demeanour. Either way, it got me out of the situation and I was free to go about my morning business.

Eventually I started branching out into drinks, particularly as the warm weather started to hit. This meant I had to invest some of my profits into a new backpack, but it was worth it for the increased sales overall.

This little scheme helped me to interact with people outside of my friend group, as well as quickly perform basic maths. It also allowed me to develop my entrepreneurial spirit, which is a key talent to posses in a capitalist society.

I knew at heart that I was cheating the system, by purchasing items in bulk and reselling them as individuals, but even by age twelve I was aware of lying, cheating, corrupt politicians and businessmen. As far as I knew, I was just playing the game of life.

One morning, whilst carrying my two backpacks and one tote-bag worth of goodies, I was pulled aside by my form tutor for a chat. I felt like an unworthy kid at the chocolate factory, called out by Willy Wonka as I protested innocence, only for candy to spill from every available pocket.

homerbadman

See, I’d always been really careful to make sales between classes, so that teachers wouldn’t be disturbed by my transactions. Sure, I’d cut verbal deals in the middle of Maths if the sale were big enough. But no money or goods would ever change hands — The classroom is a place for learning.

So I was surprised to be pulled aside one morning and be told to stop selling chocolate bars. It was that damn cashier, I just knew it. She didn’t know my name, but she must’ve said something to the school about a sickly/nerdy looking kid, and all the teachers rushed to me for some reason…

I asked why I wasn’t allowed to do it anymore, and I wasn’t given a suitable answer. As I mentioned above, if the multipack legality issue had been brought into the conversation, then I would’ve held my hands up and surrendered my candied wares.

However, I was simply told that I couldn’t, because “it’s not appropriate”, and as a child I took this as gospel. The entire world seemed to be hustling to get by, but I guess if an authority figure tells me that it’s not the done thing, then I should probably stop.

I asked my form tutor how he’d found out about my schemes, and he said that another pupil had brought it to his attention. To this day I still have no idea who grassed me up, but something tells me it was the other kid who had been trying to start a rival business for weeks beforehand, to little success.

Low and behold, the second I close my metaphorical doors of business, he swoops in and collects all my old customers. This included a habitual snacker, who would regularly drop £5 a day on confectionary. He’d harpooned my whale. (This isn’t a fat joke, the kid actually had a fast metabolism, it’s a term used in gambling I swear.)

But this was fine, because I had done the right thing, I was now “appropriate”. Except that my confidence gradually dropped, as I’d lost my outlet to interacting with people outside of my friend group. And I became fearful of any business ventures going forward.

To tell the truth I even became suspicious of the concept of Maths as a whole, as I’d replay scenes of being told off for practicing basic maths outside of the classroom. You know, I bet this is also the point where I started to subconsciously criticise capitalism — We’re unpacking a lot here.

Then I entered the adult world, and found that everyone is cutting one corner or another in order to get by. Even if it’s just a petite, “white” corner-cutting.

I guess my point is that I have no idea why I get such bad anxiety in most regular occurrences, but it’s fun to blame this formative experience because it doesn’t effect anyone who I love and respect.

I suppose the positive to come from this time in my life is that I easily see corruption and corner-cutting in world leaders or respected members of the community. Because I’ve played their game, I know how it is on the rough streets of white collar crime. Don’t mess with us, or we might just sell you something for twice what it’s actually worth, whilst breaking several national wholesale laws in the process.


Today is Tuesday, January 8th and I wanted a .gif of all of the candy spilling from Marge’s coat but I couldn’t find one.

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“Have an Alby” — Reward Systems in Formative Years

I can never work on something without seeing the meaning behind it, or without a proper incentive. I’ve chipped away at this habit over the last year and I’ve managed to turn myself into a somewhat productive person by instituting rewards for working on (as yet) unpaid creative projects.

I blame the need for my reward-based productivity on a system implemented at school during my formative years. It’s likely my own fault, but you can’t get a 1,000 word story out of introspective self-punishment. Only professional authors can do that.

This reward scheme happened in Primary School (or Elementary School but not quite, to any American readers), and was in place between the ages of 6 and 10 — Important years for development and the prime years for being on a bouncy castle.

These rewards were tokens, called Albys (pronounced: Al-bees). Albys were handed out for good behaviour, hard work and achievement — The big three.

Albys were little white slips of paper that you’d write your name on before placing it into a raffle box on the teacher’s desk. At the end of the week, in front of the whole school, each class would draw an Alby from their respective box, and the winning good-child could choose a reward from one of two glass jars.

I have no doubt that other Primary Schools had similar systems in place — It’s a simple lottery-based rewards system that’s akin to modern-day loot boxes. Although you earned the in-game currency through hard work and intelligence, as opposed to draining your parent’s bank accounts by screaming in the aisles of Target until they get you a million V-Bucks.

Albys, and any other systems like them, are better than V-Bucks. (Whatever they are, I had to Google them)

As far as I know, no other school used Albys specifically. I could be wrong, and there’s simply no record of this turn-of-the-millenium, North-East England, Primary School reward scheme left. Maybe every school in the country had an Alby, although if they did I think we’d see social media posts like:

“lol, so random but does anyone remember Albys!? Lol”

I’m actually hoping that if I type the word Alby enough in this piece, it’ll appear towards the top of a Google search and subsequently unite me with someone from a different Primary School who also remembers these little tokens.

Although I’m a little worried that I may be spelling it wrong, as there could be an ‘e’ between the ‘b’ and ‘y’. So I’m going to say Albey once, just in case.

Seriously, I’ll pay money if anyone still has an original Alby (Albey).

The nerds (me) would work really hard to earn Albys, just so we could get our hands in the glass jars and rummage for a prize. To really have something to show for all the hours spent being socially inept freaks.

There were two types of prizes you could receive in the Alby-system; Cool Kid Sweets and Geek Stationary. I bet you can guess which jar yours truly always put his hand in. That’s right, I am in fact a cool kid and I got all the sweets, all the time. Go suck on a lollipop losers, except you can’t, because I have all the lollipops! Ha!

No. Obviously I pocketed stationary at any available opportunity during my childhood. You can’t turn free pencils and notebooks down, not in this economy, I always told myself.

The more Albys you received in a week, the more likely you were to have your name drawn out of the box. It’s basic maths, which I know, because I got lots of Albys.

In assembly every Friday, each kid would wait with bated breath to see if their name would be drawn from the box. Even the kids who didn’t get an Alby that week couldn’t contain their excitement at the possibility they’d get to rummage in the sweetie jar.

(No self-respecting non-Alby earning school kid would EVER rummage through the stationary jar, are you kidding me? No way!)

When your name wasn’t drawn, you’d always hope that the Chosen-One would choose from the sweet jar, because if it was something shareable then there was a chance that you too could benefit from the Alby system, without your name even appearing out of the damn box. What a rush.

In what has become a trend for my entire life, I would always disappoint my peers by picking stationary — Something that you can’t really share with anyone else. Well, you can, I just didn’t want to.

Now, I know what you’re thinking — “But Matt, couldn’t you just take a stack of blank Albys from the teacher’s desk and write your name on them when nobody is looking, before placing them in the box before the teacher catches on?”

Yes. Yes you could. And we all did.

It was a victimless crime because most of the Alby-earning students did it, we all boosted our own numbers. Blank Albys also served as a form of playground currency during lunch hour.

“I’ll trade you my Mars Bar for five blank Albys.”

“Throw in that uncommon Pokemon card and you’ve got yourself a deal my friend!”

In hindsight I’m surprised the teachers didn’t notice that there were far more Albys in the box each week than they’d handed out to students. But as an adult with friends who’ve taught kids of that age — They didn’t care what happened as long as the clock kept ticking closer to 3:30.

If all the extra Albys had prevented them from pouring a glass of wine at the end of the day, then you best believe that box would’ve been policed like Buckingham Palace.

I also wonder which teacher, or member of the governing body, came up with the Alby scheme. It must’ve been someone with a penchant for light gambling. Some genius who recognised that kids get addicted to things just as easily as adults, and that if we all try hard enough with these Albys, we can get them addicted to learning!

The Alby system taught me, and countless others, how to work in exchange for some kind of reward. But it also taught us how to gamble, cheat, lie, swindle, barter and to expect stationary in exchange for good behaviour. And for that, I am thankful.

Years after leaving Primary School I still want to sarcastically say “Oh, have an Alby” to anyone who achieves something mediocre. But that’s a very niche reference, one that would be hard to implement to any friend group outside of the one I had between 1998 and 2004.

So now, in my early adult years, I’m half tempted to print off a batch of my own Albys, that I can give myself as a reward for productivity. My name will be the only one in the box, so I’ll get to rummage in the prize jars every week. Win/win.

I’ll fill one jar with sweets and the other with stationary (keep it classic), and the sweet jar will remain full and unrummaged for years to come, because if I’m anything, I’m regressively consistent. I can already see a pocket notebook with my name on it, because I put it there, and I’m an adult.


Today is Monday, January 7th and it’s time to mellow out and tell some stories (on most days).

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