by Anton Wills-Eve

<a href=””>Youth</a&gt;

we’re only young once, thank heavens.


I am often accused of wasting blogging space reflecting so much on my often boring or dreary youth.

Well it’s not my fault if Clive was both boring and dreary. I mean, he just was! What a plonker. From the age of thirteen to seventeen he could have won the world ultra anti-charismatic championships every year. Easily! What do you do to help a bloke who behaves like that?

Carrie was quite a cute girl and she actually felt sorry for the slouching, shambling rather over weight wreck whom she so often saw left to his own devices at school. We would all have let him join the team – if he’d wanted to. We would all have drawn him into fun parties and let him take part in occasional amusing pranks. But he couldn’t have cared less. It was not even as if he smiled when he declined our advances, he just shrugged and shuffled off in his ill-fitting unfashionable clothes. And his hair was a positive mess, front to back and ear to ear. And he wore glasses. Okay lots of us do, but not that shape.

As I say, Carrie was fourteen and a half to Clive’s just fifteen when she made a really kind effort to cheer him up. She really thought he was getting badly depressed, or maybe worse.

“Clive, I’m not doing anything after school today. What say we go for a walk across the common and you can have tea at our place. Mum will love to meet you and it might just get that terribly fed up, sad look out of your eyes?” He just stared at her. He looked as though he thought she was mad, but Carrie wasn’t accepting this. “Come on Clive, for heaven’s sake. Has it never struck you you might be cheering me up?” His expression made it clear it was the last thing that had occurred to him. Carrie started to get cross.

“Well, okay then, loser, be a sulking oaf if you like but at least be nice enough to tell me why. I hate to see people give up on life, and boy Clive have you given up!” She had struck a chord at last. Clive had taken his self-imposed unattractive personality just one step too far. He had to speak to someone. It was making him ill and Carrie seemed as likely to know what he was talking about as anyone. After all he had no brothers or sisters so his natural loneliness was not totally inexplicable. Carrie jumped back in surprise when at last he mumbled

“Sorry. I know I’m a pain to everyone, but Carrie I don’t understand something and all the other boys seem to. They just never talk about it.” Her eyes widened.

”Talk about what, Clive? What’s getting at you?” He blushed furiously, stood on one leg and then the other and finally said,

“I think it’s called puberty. I think that’s what dad said. Something sounding like that. What is it Carrie?” I can’t think of any other boy I’ve ever known at that age who would have made a remark like that to a girl. And a pleasant, attractive one too. She was literally lost for words. How the hell would she know how it was screwing him up. In what way, for crying out loud? Her brother had never mentioned any problems concerning it and he was sixteen. She hadn’t a clue what to say. So she picked up the only thing he’d said that she could sensibly ask him about.

“What do you mean, ‘you think that’s what your dad said?’ What were you talking about, and why didn’t you ask him to explain what he was saying to you?”

“Oh, Carrie it’s so hard. It was three and a half years ago and dad came into my room one afternoon and said he’d like a chat with me. Quite an important one , he said. And he’d just got to what seemed a difficult bit, I hadn’t a clue what he was on about, when he clasped his chest, passed out and died of a heart attack right there in front of me. Mum had left us when I was four, so I only had one aunt left alive of any close relations. But she was petrified of me and barely spoke to me. She fed me and gave me money for clothes occasionally, but otherwise nobody cared about me at all.

“You see, I know lots of you all here think me odd, I do myself, but I don’t know what to do. This shy silent world I’ve built round me is killing me. Carrie. I’m only telling you this much because I really do feel like killing myself. But I wouldn’t do that to you all, you’re all too nice to me.”

As you’ve guessed Carrie and I were good friends and she almost dragged Clive over to me in the school playground. “You’re good at this sort of thing”, she said to me, “please help him all you can and let me join in if you think I’m needed. I may be.”

It took the pair of us a month to straighten out Clive’s total misunderstanding of his physical development and mental confusion. But Carrie was the real heroine, making him feel just like all the rest of us fairly quickly. But on his insistence we promised not to mention his troubles to any other people at all. We knew that trust and confidence were now the most important things he needed in his life. And we gave them to him.

I saw Carrie yesterday and she happened to mention that day, nine years ago. “God knows how we said the right things,” she laughed, “but Clive’s so normal and happy now we must have done something right. And Sarah is really very good for him. But I know one thing. I’ll never take up counselling as a career. One lucky shot in the dark was enough to last me a lifetime.” I grinned back as we walked arm in arm towards the house we were going to have a look at, we desperately wanted to buy it.