Sliding Doors. Ever seen it? Yes? Probably made you think a little if you have. The “what ifs,” the “I wonders,” the “if onlys.”
In the mid-1990s, I shared a condemnable terraced house in the historical city of Durham directly under the sweeping red-sandstone viaduct of the East Coast mainline. The landlord sold us the household contents for a pound (including all the flora and fauna that believed the property to be their own) which we felt was thoughtful and generous in equal measure: we believed we were true businessman to be able to negotiate such a deal. Alas, we knew little about liability back then, even though one amongst us was a trainee lawyer.
Our first foray into ‘dietary breadth’ stumbled early on, but we promised ourselves that every Sunday we would go out for lunch - our ‘feed for the week’ if you like, but a feed with a twist. The rules were simple:
Choose the car that had the most petrol
- Select the driver (normally linked to the car to avoid insurance issues…)
- Select a hat (any variety)
- Write the numbers 10, 11, 12 etc. all the way up to 40 on small pieces of paper. Fold and put in said 'selected' hat
- Select a second hat
- Write left, right, straight on onto pieces of paper. Fold and throw into hat number two
- Assemble housemates in car
- Check that everyone has means of payment
- Draw a number out of the hat
(I'm sure many of you will have done something similar by spinning a globe, closing your eyes and where your fingers lands, you go – unless it’s Siberia…or anywhere without wifi for that matter). If anyone has actually followed through with this though and then headed off, I'd love to hear from you!
And so it began. The number pulled from the hat detailed number of minutes we drove. At any junction or roundabout that appeared, we fervently followed the decision dictated by the random selection: left, right, or straight on. When the time elapsed, we stopped at the next establishment we saw for lunch. No excuses, no loss of nerve, simply "table for four, please" and "what's the roast of the day?"
Durham and the surrounding Tyne and Wear region has a rich and colourful industrial, religious and military history and every Sunday morning the excitement would build: petrol stations, working men's clubs, country-house hotels, local boozers (pork scratchings and salted nuts only) all fell into our gastronomic lap: it was brilliant. That Sunday dining experience opened our eyes to the spectrum of affluence and deprivation in this proud region, as well as the kindness and humour of people (the Fighting Cocks notwithstanding- I seem to remember that time stopped as we entered and we went hungry that day...).
More than that though, it embedded the embers of confidence to take risks, enjoy unpredictability and savour the moment. I see most of our pupils at LWC starting on that journey as they challenge themselves beyond the College gates. Our drive now is to get every single person to a point where they feel this is achievable, for you are only ever beyond your comfort zone for a minute before it becomes a space you recognise. Our staff are passionate about embedding this culture and regularly lead by example in their deeds.
Those days in the North East reinforced a mantra to live by:
You only get one life and it's your duty to live it as fully as possible. Live boldly.