“I Thought, Because of the Hair…” — Walking Cross Country in My Formative Years

I’ll finish this series by telling you a story from aged fourteen, a most troublesome age to be, in the eyes of most. Hormones are doing their thing, and areas of life that were previously non-existent, were now the most pressing issues of the day.

You wake up to the agonising truth of the fragility of modern society, begin to question long-held institutions, and also relationships are now a thing.

If I don’t put my mind to something, then I’m not really interested in it. This means I’ve lead an intense life in some very specific areas, but a very passive one in most. In a classic example of this passivity, I got roped into doing the Duke of Edinburgh Award at age fourteen.

Most of the people I knew at school suddenly said, “Oh, we’re going to this meeting at lunch, you should come too.”

I didn’t ask what it would be about, I just went. For all I knew the freaks, geeks and cool weirdos of our school could’ve banded together to form a cult, and I’d just agreed to attend a meeting where I’d be sacrificed in the name of Alex Turner.

It wasn’t an Arctic Monkey’s themed cult, but a meeting about an award that involved a lot of walking and community volunteering. Fourteen-year-old me decided that I should be doing more of those things, and so I signed up for the long haul.

The walking portion of DofE was all anyone ever cared about. “F**k charity,” was a regular sentiment thrown out by half of the award hopefuls. You see, two types of people did DofE — Nerds who were looking to impress universities with extra curricular activities, and people who wanted to join the army.

No disrespect to anyone who, as an adult, serves their country in the armed forces (you’re much braver than I) — But the only people who wanted to be in the army at our school were absolute head-cases.

As an adult with a better understanding of mental health issues, I can point to a few people who needed some serious help, but who instead were thrown into light army drills where they were allowed to enact their bizarre sadistic fantasies.

The DofE participants were split into same-sex groups of about four, and so naturally a grouped up with some of the guys who were more my speed. None of this militaristic practice, just a leisurely walk through the country, followed by a night under the stars with plenty of jokes and music.

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We’d go on one of these weekend excursions every six weeks or so, and I really liked my first DofE group. We weren’t very good but we always made it to the campsite before it got dark, and we had a good laugh by the portable noodle cooker. (It had a proper name, but we only ever cooked noodles in it, so that’s what I’m calling it.)

I remember one time we arrived at the campsite before a group of the wannabe army kids. Their leader (he was the tallest and so I assumed) was absolutely livid. He couldn’t believe that a bunch of freaks had got to camp and erected their tent faster than him. He blamed and yelled at his own group, and I sincerely hope he has since received the professional help he needed.

As the months went by, and a couple of the kids in our group lost interest, the two remaining members of our squad thought we might have to call it a day on DofE. Then the leader (a teacher from the school) said we could stay if we found other groups to join.

Now, the only other boys groups were the army squads, who had now taken to calling themselves “The Walking Holocaust”, thanks to the tall one. Didn’t even make sense.

Some of my friends who were left doing DofE were girls, but joining them was strictly forbidden due to the fact that intimacy can only happen between people of the direct opposite sex… (that’s sarcasm, and it makes you realise how silly some of the rules growing up were).

I was also losing interest in DofE, and so I decided to ask the teacher if I could join the girls group. If he said no then I’d call it a day on my walking career, if he said yes then I’d continue goofing around with my friends in the countryside every month — A win/win thanks to my trademark passive nature.

“Sir, can I join this (all girl) group for the next walk?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“…(Upon hearing an unexpected answer) But sir, is that allowed?”

“Well it is for you.”

“…?”

“You’re gay aren’t you?”

“That’s flattering sir, but I’m not.”

“Oh, that’s a surprise. I thought, you know, because of the hair… Well let’s just say you are and then it’s all fine. Otherwise you’ll have to join The Walking Holocaust.”

“I’m a massive gay sir, and may I say you’re looking extra dashing today.”

“Get out of my office.”

He didn’t really use the name The Walking Holocaust, but you get the idea. Thanks to my constant inability as a teen to conform to a particular gendered fashion, and the stereotypes long-held by a person born in the 1960s, I managed to get into another DofE group that was full of likeminded friends.

Of course, the kicker was that I was dating one of the girls in the group at the time, so the exact arrangement the teacher was trying to avoid had actually happened.

We were terrible walkers, and we never completed a weekend walk successfully, but I had beat the flimsy rules of the system, and I think that’s what DoE was all about. (It’s not)

Although, in hindsight, I’m glad we never made it to one of the campsites, as the tall one from The Walking Holocaust would then know I was dating his ex. And given the way he berated his peers for failing to beat us to the campsite earlier in the year, I feel as though I wouldn’t have made it out alive.


Today is Friday, January 11th and please follow @drinkipediapod on Twitter, and maybe even give it a try.

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“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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