When I was 8 years old, I used to go to my friend’s house to play football. They had a decent sized back yard so it was a case of ‘jumpers for goalposts’ and off we’d go.
We were keen and we were super-fit. In fact we had all the ingredients, except skill! Our game of ‘headers and volleys’ was particularly erratic and if you apply the formula of ‘enthusiasm minus skill’ it meant that the ball would occasionally sail over the wall into next door’s garden.
We were little people and it was a BIG wall. The rule was that whoever booted it over had to retrieve it. Which, more often than not, was me.
One of my mates would give me a leg up and then it was case of finding finger and foot holds, scrabbling upwards, like it was the Eiger. Then it was a case of swinging your leg over and lowering yourself down, holding on by your finger tips which meant the final drop was just about do-able.
Getting back was even more troublesome. With nobody to give you a leg-up you had to shimmy up one of Mr Gibb’s apple trees and then make a leap of faith onto the wall.
It turns out that once upon a time one of our tiny but clumsy feet (pretty sure it wasn’t me, honest!) must have trampled one of Mr Gibb’s prize sticks of rhubarb and so… we were literally in the manure.
Next time the ball sailed over the wall we heard Mr Gibb shout a couple of sentences that young boys’ ears shouldn’t ever hear, followed by a threat; ‘If any ball ever comes over here again, Mrs Wilson will be waiting.’
[For those up to speed with Art of Brill terminology, Mr Gibb was the local mood hoover. Single man. No friends. Mrs Wilson wasn’t his wife, it was his dog. Owners are like their dogs. I assure you, Mrs Wilson was a nasty piece of canine]
Thereafter the ball retrieval raids became even more dangerous. Scaling the wall was the easy part! Climbing down into Mr Gibb’s garden, retrieving the ball, volleying it back over the fence, scrabbling up the tree and making the leap of faith while avoiding the snapping jaws of Mrs Wilson… my mate Gaz (now age 56) has scarred ankles to prove that it wasn’t always possible.
But, one day, it happened. Our ball sailed over the crossbar and Mr Gibb was in his garden. Cue more bad words, then a hiss as he pitchforked the ball and his reedy, spiteful voice uttered, ‘You’re not getting that back.’
Our hearts sank; our stomachs fell. We stared at each other and tears welled up in our eyes as we realised that this was the end of the line. It was game over. Final answer.
There are so many messages in this humble story. Maybe the most obvious is about us, a bunch of school boys, trespassing in an old man’s garden. Or maybe it’s about an old chap who could have taken a different attitude and cheerily chucked our ball back over the wall every time it landed in his rhubarb.
But I’d like to direct your learning thus: How many times have you found yourself fretting about something to the point where you lose a night’s sleep?
How often have you lost a day because you can’t get over something that happened in the past that you have absolutely no influence nor control over?
Have you ever spent a silent evening because your pride won’t let you say sorry or be more resourceful about emerging from a row with your partner, kids or boss?
At Art of Brill we are always quick to remind people about the brevity of life. You only have 4000 weeks so remember to always look to be at your best and not lose one of your precious weeks to something outside your control.
Life is precious. It’s easy to waste a week in a grump. Even easier to let a week slip by in a haze of mediocrity. Our advice is to wise up because, as Mr Gibb would say, ‘You’re not getting that back.’