I’ve always wondered what aspect of energy (besides the God theory) decided to mix things up when my fragile being sparked into life.
At the point of conception, I was nothing more than a sparkle in my dad’s eye and a whim from my mother’s maternal instinct. They already had a daughter, now they yearned for a son. Me thinks they should have been warned, be careful what you yearn for!
That one event ignited a process as natural as the wind and the rain. Only nature has the secret to what is natural, yet to be shared with, or comprehended by, the species of man. Was it nature’s whim or sod’s law that presented me to the world head and feet first in a hospital corridor?
A breach birth does of course make delivery problematic. In those days, 9 months after the end of the second world war, it called for medical skill and expertise to rescue the unfolding event. My mum was paying hard for her yearnings and the doctors and nurses earned their deserved respect that night, for my mum and I could have easily perished.
But we didn’t. My mum had a long and slow recovery and stayed in hospital for several weeks. My dad was stressed about it all and no one knew what to call me, so the nurses called me Winston, after Winstone Churchill. I had weighed in at 8 lb plus.
My birth was the beginning of a sickly but happy childhood. I caught every infection going except mumps, which to this day I have never had. Should I now be worried? I was also rather backward because of dyslexia and a speech difficulty that mesmerised everyone but my mum. It gradually got better after my eight birthday but remained a stone around my neck well into my teens. To this day there are some words I cannot get my tongue round.
I was also saddled with a very early perception of my sexuality, as in the nine bob note variety. Gay is the common term but in those days the names were more brutal and prejudiced. That was unrelated to my slow education and speaking ability, but it did make me question stuff that I was being taught and my qualification for being me.
My grasp of the English language, God, religion and the assumed etiquettes of society failed to impress those around me. Equally, the same failed to impress me, bigtime. Yet by and large I was a happy child, easily amused and easily pleased. Innocence was my second name but I admit I played it up, for it was my crutch, my own early way of cocking a snook at authority and all the things I was told I should be. To this day, only a handful of people know what I got up to and likely, because they were my own age at the time, have forgotten it all. I hasten to add, it was all very innocent and mutual and likely what many kids get up to behind their parent’s back.
Until I was 14, I was considered thick, a slow learner who might not go far in life. Always near the bottom of my school class until my final year because I stuggled with comprehending the why, when and how, not the facts as presented. I failed to grasp what history and geography were about, stressed my way through religious education and Sunday school, couldn’t spell for toffee but had a natural ability with art and maths. If only those responsible for my education had been more alert, for the clues were staring them in the face.
I was a socially awkward teenager and struggled with social events. Even dating brought on nightmares many nights before it actually happened and yes, I dated the opposite sex that led nowhere except heartbreak for the girls who fell for me. I never got beyond kissing a girl because it felt so wrong to me, yet I never properly dated a guy until after my 18th birthday. However, I confess that by the time I reached teenage years, my inherent sexuality had led me into sexual exploits that took me way beyond the need to bluff in the confines of intimacy.
For everything else, bluffing came as an easy way out of people’s expectations. I found I could pretend and lie about stuff others thought I should know and became adept at bluffing confidence, especially with my limited command of my native language. Of course, bluff means deceipt, but I was a necessary charade and I harmed no one in the process as it supported my shaky self esteem.
I strolled into the world of work the day after I left school, a dream come true after leaving the hated world of classroom and playground bullying. But I was still a stupid boy at that age and mastering the skills of my new chef apprenticeship tested me to the limit.
I like to think I bluffed my way through it, but the reality is that I stumbled through it. It tested my social skills with temprimental chefs and the daily mayhem of a busy kitchen. Through all the food I burnt (and tried to serve) the sweepings I put in the stock pot, the over-boiled veg and the endless telling offs by the head chef, I achieved certificates in catering and achieved City and Guilds qualification. Naturally, to win any sort of recognition one has to have a certain level of skill, but mine went hand in hand with my self-doubt, my lack of self-esteem, my stupidity and my best friend, the bluff.
I didn’t stay in that business and went on to experience many jobs, all for which I was highly under qualified in one way or the other. What I didn’t know or comprehend I tried to learn, but it was much easier just to bluff my self-confidence. I got things done but in my own way and more often, not according to the book when no one was looking. The gift of the gab passed me by and to this day I cannot be relied upon to say the right things at the right time. Yet my sharply pruned knack of replacing words that I could not pronounce and assertively expressing a viewpoint to support my actions gave credence to my results. One of the many contradictions in my character.
Mainstream thinking went over my head, for I nearly always had an alternative view, one that grated with the minds of others. Authority and I were never on best friend terms, yet I never got caught crossing the line of the law. Not that the line I crossed was ever more than the odd misdemeanour, in my eyes anyway. Crikey, no point in a rule or a law if it can’t be bent from time to time.
My ranking in the world of business gradually rose until one day I found myself promoted to executive status and the manager of many people. Had I really bluffed my way to this? Maybe, with a large helping of strategic behaviour and putting my own slant on how I got things done. Sure I was shit scared, but I began to realise some of it was an ability that others were recognising.
I had yet to learn the difference between bluffing it and the real thing, for I pretended to know stuff that I made up as I went along. I respected people and valued them as individuals even if some were a pain in the butt. I trusted people at face value, too late to avoid the cut and thrust of being stabbed in the back in the workplace.
My successes were partly down to my thinking process. I never allowed myself to become programmed in following the rules or a tried and tested method. Much like when I cook, I never follow a recipe exactly.
I called upon my experiences to adapt and compromise. For me it was needs must, both in my career opportunities and my very personal life. I’d say I learnt much more about the challenges of life and the complexity of people by living on the edge of others expectations, rather than meeting them. Somehow and sometimes, the right people were impressed.
My own expectations of me are still shaky, still driven by a silent will to do my own thing and my absent competitive streak. Some might call that blatant indifference. If I’m up against the competition, I’ll let them race ahead while I find a short cut or an alternative route. Yet I could never call myself a cheat, for I have never cheated to win. On the odd occasion I have won, it is by fluke or luck, by bluffing my way to get where I’m heading, or from a skill I’m reluctant to acknowledge. I might even opt out of the race, for winning can be a state of mind and a perception of what is important.
We’re all capable of bluffing. Self doubt is endemic within each of us, yet we have no idea what we can achieve until we’ve done it. Maybe the driver of that is hope and a good dollop of determination and self motivation. In my case, the biggest dollop was hoping the bluff came off.
I’m now qualified to be who I am. Maybe I already was from an early age, but no one told me so I’ve been second guessing. Except for my innate sexuality. I’ve always been 100% sure of that and besides, that’s one bluff I would never have pulled off!
Now I must trick my way through a lemon cake. The recipe calls for too much sugar and some strange sounding flour. Like the way I’ve led my life, my lemon cake will be different.