John Walker's Electronic House

by on Jan.24, 2005, under The Rest

Every muscle in my arms and legs aches. I made a mistake. I did some running about.

I got back last night from a youth group weekend away. We took seventeen 13 to 15 year olds to an outdoor activity centre in Northhants, for reasons that escape me. I feel so tired that my face feels as though it might melt.

I loved weekends away when I was in church youth groups as a kid. They were always the best times, where you got to do activities that otherwise might never be experienced at 14, like abseiling, high ropes courses, and sneaking into girls’ bedrooms at 1am.

There’s one weekend away I always particularly remember, when I must have been 13, and I fell in love with Debs Thompson. I lay on the top bunk in my room, and like a Byron for the modern era, composed a poem about my love for her of such mature epic beauty that it wasn’t understood by those around me. My contemporaries poured scorn on my efforts, criticising the candor and eloquence of the piece through responses composed of fingers pointed toward the backs of throats and barfing noises. Perhaps a copy of the work still exists, which will be published and recognised posthumously (because if a copy of it still exists, I will kill myself immediately).

Of course, for a fourteen year old memory, it has lived mostly in broken pieces. The parts that stand out are the abseil tower, on which I performed what the instructors called “the Irish Crucifix”, which involved sitting on the verticle wall, lying backward until completely upside down, twenty foot in the air, and then letting go of the rope with both hands (dangling only on the safety rope); sitting around a campfire and listening to Debs Thompson sing; and walking at the back of the nighthike caravan sharing my fruit pastels with Debs Thompson and playing “I Don’t Spy With My Little Eye” in which we guessed things beginning with a particular letter that one couldn’t see. I forget anything else.

We are permanently short of female leaders for our youth groups, relying on generous mums who attend groups on a rota, and so depend upon dragging in female friends from outside the church to help us with weekends away. This year I asked Debs Thompson if she would be able to come along. Debs is still an awesome friend, and she’s an exceptionally good youth worker, and I couldn’t think of a better person to come along and help deliver the talks, hang out with the young people, and generally be fabulous all weekend, and amazingly she agreed to give up her weekend to come along. All salute her.

Graham, my line manager and co-leader of this group, helpfully told the young people of how Debs and I had been out with each other when we were 14 (I cannot remember whether this was around the same time as that particular weekend away), so from the very beginning there was much teenage giggling and implication that they would be spending the weekend setting us up. (They failed, the stupid, useless, idiot children).

My line manager is also the MD of a group of outdoor activity centres scattered about the country, and yet we’ve never used one of them for our weekends away before. This seemed silly to me, and so this year we chose one of his places. When we arrived the youthlings immediately dragged their bags down to the accomodation, leaving Debs and I to unload stuff from her car, meaning we were last to walk down to the site. As we walked Debs said to me, “John? Stop a second. Does this place look familiar to you?”

I honestly staggered backwards.

That sort of coincidence is most peculiar. The sensation of looking up and rather than seeing the place where we would be staying for the next two nights, instead I saw an enormously realistic looking large-scale 3D photograph of fourteen years ago. It was like in Dark City when Rufus Sewell thinks of the beach, and all the memories zoom toward him at tremendous speed.

So that was weird. It would have been strange enough to have gone there at all and realise that it was the same place (and this is a large centre on hundreds of acres with lots of different accomodation areas, and we happened to be in the very same one) as one of my own weekends away. But to have brought Debs along… Weird.

And now: exhaustion. My brain is currently confused about why I’m not hearing “Jo-oo-hhnn” every couple of minutes (genuinely this often, non-stop, all day long), as one of seemingly thousands of teenagers demands a question of me. And my arms and legs ache from playing three surprisingly violent games of Unihoc over the weekend, which involved actual running about.


3 Comments for this entry

  • David

    Without trying to sound *too* congratulatory, if you’re half as good as any of my youth leaders you do the best job in the world and probably don’t get enough recognition for it.

  • aaron

    He may be a fairly good youth leader, but he is a rubbish uni hoc player, as demonstrated by the aches in every part of his body. May it also be noted that he returned the teenage giggling etc by engouraging the same teenagers to giggle, wolf wistle and generally make loud comments while i was innocently chatting to a member of staff, who just happened to be an incredibly pretty and intellectually stimulating member of the opposite sex!!!

  • Victoria

    I thought Christian youths at Christian youth camps spent their time praying and clapping whilst singing hymns, not SHARING FRUIT PASTILLES and HAVING CRUSHES!!