Saturday, June 16, 2007

"You're weird"

I need some adult interaction (and no, that doesn't mean porn via the red button on your remote control. Just chat and stuff). I've just spent a day in the company of fourteen 10-year olds at my niece Caitlin's birthday party, where I was required to ferry a Vauxhall Corsa-load of youths from Ripon to Castleford and back in the Padmobileā„¢. We went there because the time-filling activity of choice this year was Laser Quest, and excitingly enough I was allowed to take part. It wasn't all a bed of roses though. I was nursing a surprisingly bad hangover from last night to the point where I felt fragile, weak and sticky, so the reality of being incessantly harangued for six hours by cocky people half my height was quite unwelcome. But still, Laser Quest was good. I hadn't done it in the last ten years, or whenever it was that the nearest one at Teesside Park closed down. Ten year olds are easy to shoot. While you might think they'd be evasive and fleet of foot, they're actually just cumbersome and a bit dim. I stood in a corner and took them out as they passed by, like shooting ducks at a funfair. Cock of the North.

It was strange being back in that ten-year old environment, and they all seemed such a similar group to my class at school. The same characters, the same politics. There was a bit of an issue today when it became apparent that three of the girls were splintering off into a group, seemingly in a bid to gain status and influence through solidarity in numbers. They wanted to rearrange the car seating arrangements so they could sit together. A big ask in anyone's book. But the only thing their faction achieved was to attract distaste and chagrin from the other kids, which just goes to show how shallow a commodity power really is. Everything seems so important when you're that age, and it's a very fast-moving world where sentiment and alliegance can change in an instant. I've occasionally thought about how I miss the innocence of being a child, but I certainly don't miss all that stuff.

As I mentioned earlier, the characters were the same as my class too. I think every group of ten year olds around the globe and over the decades is identical. For the boys, there's always one loud, cocky gobshite. One vain, insecure hair-pruner who boasts that his Dad's buying him a car when he's 16. Then there's the other end of the scale, the 'geeky' source of light ridicule. I managed to pinpoint the ten-year old version of myself amongst my niece's friends today. The reserved one who keeps himself to himself but engages when required, and in a manner that gains the overriding respect of his peers. The insightful observations. The knack of summarising a situation with just one sentence where others would use six. The fierce wit. I could go on...

I'm not really sure how my presence went down with the group. I didn't really have to deal with the girls because my car was full of boys, including The Loud Gobshite, and although I think they quite liked me they also found me slightly baffling. On the way back home in the car The Loud Gobshite was repeatedly letting the air out of the balloon from his party bag in order to simulate rectal gas, and giggling non-stop. When I told him I thought he lacked decorum, he looked at me and said: "You're weird". And then asked what decorum was. To my surprise, a detailed explanation of the word's history and semantics failed to alter his impression of me. He's probably right anyway, I am a bit weird. I wasn't happy though when I later discovered I was being referred to as "that weird Patrick person" by most of the kids. Little shits.

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