Once, in an old job, I went on a residential training course for a week. The company must have been doing OK at the time as it was at a swish hotel in Sandbanks, Dorset. The point was working in a team. Not just team building but understanding the different types of people that make up a team at work.
The hotel had a gym and a heated outdoor pool (though it was January) and a bar. It did a very good cooked breakfast. At the end of a day’s training most of us headed to the gym. I did a desultory 15 minutes cardio and went back to my room. The trainer and one or two others did full work outs. After dinner we went to the bar, most stopping for a drink or two. Me and another couple of guys would move from beer to gin and tonics and still be in the bar at midnight. Everyone tried the excellent cooked breakfast once but then most moved on to fruit or cereal. I had the Full English, every day for a week. It came as no surprise when, early on, we did a personality test and mine came out quite childish.
At first I wondered if this would harm my career. Luckily the senior manager I was reporting to at the time thought the course was a load of pretentious old bollocks and had behaved much worse than any of us. Also I was about to head back to a project in India that no-one else wanted to do but that I was really enjoying. I got to keep my childish personality AND be a company hero. Yay me.
Eventually the wife and I had children and I moved on to a couple of other jobs where I was the guy in charge rather than part of the team. This has booted the inner child right out of me. Children make you grow up instantly (or at least they should). In bed by 10 every day because you’re shattered. Fry ups an extreme rarity. Suddenly you have this other life to look after and keep safe and happy. You have to try to be there till they are ready to fly the nest themselves and that suddenly means looking after yourself, finding money, generally knuckling down, understanding form filling, systems. Finding them schools. Teaching them with love and respect if you can for frustration leads to failure. Lord of the Flies shows us what happens when children look after children.
So if I did that test today I bet I’d be a lot less childish. But I haven’t lost it completely.
I have a few days off at the moment. We are not away, we’re just having some family time. The first bit of this was at my sister in law’s and she happens to know someone who hires out bouncy castles. There was a bouncy castle waiting for us in the garden. The kids howled with excitement and piled on, along with their cousin and her friend. I sat in the sun with a cold drink, watching and keeping them safe. And what I was thinking was ‘hurry the fuck up – I want a go’.
Two minutes on a bouncy castle is all it takes. Sure there are other stress relievers. Sex. Alcohol. Sitting in a stand full of football fans going mental for your team. But after two minutes on a bouncy castle you are 8 years old again and all you want to do is find your Mum and ask for a Zoom.
The other great childish love of my life is a water slide. Water parks in general really but flumes in particular. When we went on holiday to an all inclusive place one of the things that made up my mind on the resort was ‘quality of water slide’. When I was about 12 they built 3 slides at my local pool. The fastest of these was called the ‘black hole’. It was red outside and black inside and had two massively steep descents. I would spend whole afternoons just going on the black hole. And here’s the thing. If you’re a fat bastard like me you now go EVEN FASTER and make an EVEN BIGGER SPLASH at the end. Sure there’s a greater chance of you getting stuck in the tube but what’s life without risk eh? We take the kids 10 miles outside town when we take them swimming because the pool is more baby and child friendly but, like our holiday, I am enormously impressed with their water slides. And the kids just happen to be getting to an age where they’ll enjoy them.
When I was a child I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child. Now I’m a parent I have put away childish things. Except bouncy castles and water slides.