“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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Youthquake

I was reminded of the word “Youthquake” on a podcast this week. It was a word used to describe the young voter turnout during the UK General Election in 2017. Whether young people are better represented or not is up for debate, but something that’s clear to me in the dying days of 2018, is that we badly need a youth movement in politics.

I’m sat watching highlights from a discussion in the Oval Office between Trump, Pence, Pelosi and Schumer and I’m embarrassed for a generation that has refused to hand over power to people in their forties and fifties, let alone my generation.

I’m sorry, I just checked — Mike Pence is 59 years old. Although given the fact that he just sat there like a barely sentient showroom dummy, I don’t think he’s doing any favours for the fifty-somethings of America.

The squabble, and it was a squabble, was over the approaching government shutdown. This shutdown is due to happen because Trump can’t secure funds for his wall on the border between the US and Mexico.

Trump was the least surprising of the group, given that he was just his usual self. His sort of wound-tight ego never changes — And why would he? It got him to the highest office in the land.

He’ll be at the end of all things and still be bragging about something he just did.

“I do the most solid s**ts — Nobody has seen s**ts as solid as mine. The nursing staff love dealing with my s**t!”

— Trump, aged 76

Pelosi and Schumer are still playing the game that Trump beat in 2016. They might be closer to my political stance than others in the room, but they’re still from that old-guard of politician.

The sort that see it all as one big game, complete with addressing the TV camera instead of your colleague because that’s how you best reach the people; The illusion of a strong democratic discussion.

They’re ill-prepared, with a lack of facts, statistics and case studies. Instead of explaining coldly, calmly and concisely why a border wall is a populist idea that’s designed to secure the votes of extremists and tear lives apart in the process — And that we see through it. We instead get…

“Your wall bad, you cause shutdown.”

“No I don’t, build wall.”

“Won’t build wall.”

“Then shutdown.”

“Your wall bad, you cause shutdown.”

And so on.

Those aren’t their exact words, I should point that out. Although the gaps between each of those lines could be the words of Mike Pence, because he said absolutely jack all in that entire meeting.

The older guard, the Pelosi’s and Schumer’s of the world, don’t want to challenge the status-quo of politics. They want to keep everything as a points-scoring system, so that they can read about how they won in the morning papers.

Trump claimed to play a different game in the 2016 election, and to an extent he did, but he’s still a part of the swamp he promised to drain. He parades around as though public service is a birthright and not a civil duty. And he still watches the morning news to see if he won.

For better or worse, the public can hear your political opinion and “winning” viewpoint via social media. What we want during official meetings is progress, otherwise cracks start to form in this whole illusion of power thing you have going on.

Can’t make progress by agreeing? Then have gritty, intellectual discussions and see who comes out on top then. These one-liners and childlike arguments are getting tiresome.

When the young elected officials are saying more in 280 characters than the four of you can in a televised discussion, then something is wrong with the way you’re doing things.

I just realised that I started talking to them directly, even though they’re not here. That’s how fired up this makes me.

Yes, we have members of congress and the house who will be in their early thirties when they begin serving the public. This is an excellent start, and probably also the point in the piece that I should use the term “youthquake” again.

I know it’s tempting to single-out specific names, because some are living up to the job description of elected representative of the people extremely well. But the way we change the game is to empower the ideas over the individuals.

If we want this whole social-democracy to work, in which people receive fair representation and treatment by the government, we can’t put individuals on too high a pedestal.

But what we can say, with confidence, is that one of these images looks more like modern American society than the other.

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 08.55.30

Screen Shot 2018-12-12 at 08.55.41These are the new members of the house of representatives for the Democrats and Republicans. I’ll leave it to you to decide who best represents America.

And to all the fragile caucasian men out there, we still make up the equal-biggest demographic in the top image.

Politicians should represent the views and will of the people. And while you don’t have to belong to the same specific demographic as someone else to represent their views, a democracy is healthy when people from all backgrounds are represented.

Now, back to the whole age thing. Youthquake and all that.

After watching four baby boomers squabble like point-scoring children whilst sat in the highest office in the land, I couldn’t help but see that four members of the same generation currently represent the entire county.

That feels wrong, and it sounds wrong when you listen to them. The vast majority of people born before 1961 are now retired, and they should have their views represented by a proportionate number of people.

Instead, most of the people in office are representing them and playing their old game on their behalf.

I don’t know, maybe a Youthquake is coming and everything will be fine. The point is that it should’ve happened already. The last four Presidents have been Baby Boomers — Let that one sink in as well.

It’s not that we don’t love you baby-boomers (I really do), it’s just that it’s time other generations had a crack.

We also need to find a better word than Youthquake. It was tedious to type out, and on top of that I’m probably going to make it the title of this flimsy and disjointed morning jumble of words.


Today is Wednesday, December 12th and my 2018 Spotify playlist has more new music than 2017 did.

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