Survey

Spectator survey: What would you tell your 14-year-old self?

Answers from Justin Welby, Joan Bakewell, Giles Coren, Jonathan Sumption, James Rhodes and many more...

14 December 2013

9:00 AM

14 December 2013

9:00 AM

Joan Bakewell

Broadcaster and journalist

Those early teenage years are a time of doubt and discovery. Take time to be alone and speak honestly to yourself. Weigh up what you think others — family, friends, teachers — think of you. Then consider what you feel about the world and your place in it. Read the world’s great books and see the best of theatre and cinema. Take time to be thoughtful, and then come out bold and confident in yourself. Aim for the good things in life, which are not money and property, or even travel and glamour. Instead learn to value friendship, the beauty of nature, kindness across generations and the deep pleasure of the arts. Then get on with enjoying life to the full.

(Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty)

(Photo: CARL COURT/AFP/Getty)

Justin Welby

Archbishop of Canterbury

Dear Justin,
You are rarely good at anything, a fact you know well and worry about. But don’t worry — it does not measure who you are. Keep on dreaming of great things, but learn to live in the present, so that you take steps to accomplish them. Above all, more important than anything, don’t wait until you are older to find out about Jesus Christ and his love for you. He is not just a name at Chapel, but a person you can know. Christmas is not a fairy story, but the compelling opening of the greatest drama in history, with you as one of millions of players. Life will often be tough, but you will find more love than you can imagine now.

With my love to you, Justin

Taki

‘High life’ columnist

My advice to my 14-year-old self would be to read more and play less. If I had paid more attention to my studies rather than trying to impress girls with dumb stunts, I would have written something of value by now. I cannot stress how important the right education is for a 14-year-old. But I wasn’t paying attention, despite the brilliant teachers I had. All I thought of was girls and to be captain of sports so I could impress them. Worse, I continue to do this today and have only arthritis to show for it.

David Cameron Visiting Oxford University

David Cameron

Prime Minister

I was a late developer — I only came good academically when I was studying economics and history and history of art, subjects I loved. My advice would be really -boring: keep on with science subjects, because understanding of science will be so important in your future life. I’ve held seminars in No. 10 about graphene and quantum theory, which I love doing. But I have to read up a lot before I get started. So: a little more on the physics and chemistry, please, David.

James Rhodes

Pianist

The drugs, the drink, the dodgy relationships — it’ll be a hell of a mess, so brace yourself. But hold tight and stay alive for the next 25 years and think of them as a dress rehearsal for the real thing. Then you can relax and start living sanely, promise.

BBC One Strictly Come Dancing 2011 - Press Launch

Edwina Currie

Former MP

On the whole, kid, be confident. You’re not going to be stuck in Liverpool for much longer. You’re right to follow your heroines: Marie Curie, the great woman scientist, and that other intriguing scientist, Mrs Thatcher — in Parliament and a government minister even with a husband and two small children. If she can do it, so can you.

Hard work and determination will get you anywhere, especially combined with a total lack of interest in football. Once you escape you’ll find rugby players much more to your taste. And don’t worry when your mother says: ‘Boys don’t like clever girls.’ You’ll find a clever boy who does. In fact, during a lifetime, you’ll find several.

So look up, look forward, and enjoy your life.

giles

Giles Coren

Journalist

[Alt-Text]


What my 14-year-old self would have wanted for Christmas was comics. Specifically, American superhero comics published by DC, featuring The Flash and dated between 1956 and 1970. He had nearly all of them and was missing only about ten for a full set. The 200-odd he did have he paid about a pound each for, but in total they are now worth something like ten grand. So now I cannot afford to complete his -collection. I especially cannot afford Showcase #4 in ‘near mint’ -condition, because it would cost around £50,000. So in an ideal world I would advise my 14-year-old self to buy the copy that he saw on the wall behind the till at the old Comic Showcase on Monmouth Street in 1983. Not only would this make my 14-year-old self the happiest boy in England, but it would enable me, now, to go upstairs to the loft, where it would be gathering dust with the rest of my comics, bring it down, dust it off, sell it, and buy a Range Rover.

kirstie

Kirstie Allsopp

Television presenter

I have lots of advice for you, but I’ll try to only give that which you are likely to take or believe. You are competitive, hugely so. Embrace this now while you are still able to channel it into doing well academically. The world is far bigger than you think and the life your parents lead is a good one. But it is not a blueprint for your life, so don’t waste too much time trying to emulate it. Your mother is right about a lot of stuff but by no means everything. Children are not the be all and end all; it will happen in good time. Have patience and don’t wreck your twenties trying to find a father for your children. Never cut your hair short. Follow your instincts about drugs, you’re on the right track. If he doesn’t call, forget him. And one day you will have every pair of expensive shoes you have ever desired.

Simon Callow

Actor and writer

Play, I would say to the hypermanic 14-year-old, trapped inside his imagination and his uncontrollable and largely incomprehensible body. Play games, play sport, play music, play parts in plays. Fortunately, and rather surprisingly, I ended up doing the latter for a living, which saved my life. But I never learned to play music, which I have always bitterly regretted; I never found a sport that I was any good at or that I wanted to follow; I never played chess or draughts or cards or scrabble or charades or even snakes and ladders. They made me feel oddly self-conscious, these games, forcing me to pretend to want to win. I could never bring myself to care. Maybe I thought my opponents would always be better than me.

The truth is that I thought all of these things were substitutes for art. Something which I believed, even then, was better left to the professionals. And now after a lifetime of playing for a living, I look forlornly and enviously at chaps who fill in the few minutes of a break on a film set by kicking anything spherical they can find, at people eagerly whipping out packs of cards to play bridge, or, above all, at those who sit down at a piano and knock out a tune. Playing for play’s sake. So, young Callow, get over yourself and join in: be playful. It’s what makes life bearable.

Niall Ferguson

Historian

1. Never, ever drop maths.
2. Start supporting Arsenal now. Scottish football is doomed.

Griff Rhys Jones

Comedian and actor

Do 14-year-olds want advice, let alone take it? Only a few casual maxims remain from my teenage years. ‘Don’t sit on radiators, they give you piles.’ ‘Always step in the middle of a boat.’ ‘Lime green trousers don’t suit you.’ I probably still follow them all. I might throw in ‘sugar makes you fat’ and ‘you will grow out of nearly every belief you have now, so don’t base your life on it’. All else was ‘instruction’ and I ignored it.

My main advice to me should be ‘become a lawyer’. Lawyers are universally convinced they are doing the only worthwhile job in the world. They are self-satisfied, assured of their own intellectual detachment, morally patrician and wealthy. All qualities indicative of middle-aged happiness. Mind you, quite a few of them are bored. But there will always be a downside. That’s a good maxim to remember.

Roger Moore Honored With A Star On The Walk Of Fame

Roger Moore

Actor

I should say: now listen son, save your money, respect your elders, and do not make the same mistakes that I have or will do. Happy Christmas!

Fraser Nelson

Editor of The Spectator

Learn stuff. Consider the possibility that your life might not be a complete failure, and that you may one day have use for the stuff you’re being taught at school.

Failure to learn the basics now will mean you’ll spend your adult years reading books like Gwynne’s Grammar. And don’t worry about not enjoying your teenage years too much. If school days were the best days of your life, then your life started heading downhill at the age of 18. And subscribe to The Spectator. Life’s too short not to.

Jonathan Sumption

Supreme Court judge and historian

Don’t give up the piano too soon.

marco

Marco Rubio

Florida senator and presidential hopeful

My first piece of advice is do everything you can to avoid student loan debt. My second: don’t be in such a hurry to get to the future. Even now, I’m always thinking about what I am going to do next week, next month, next year. I’m 42 now, and when I look back to when I was 32, I see that I was always in a hurry to get to where I am now. When I was 14 I was in a hurry too — to finish school, to go to college. Sometimes you allow life to pass by so quickly.

Jeremy Clarke

‘Low life’ columnist

Everything is at least as unfair as you think it is. Most people tailor their perceptions to fit their beliefs rather than the other way around, so you can discount most people’s opinion. Bobby Moore, however, is as noble and great as you think he is. If you are drunk when you first have sexual intercourse, remember it’s the second hole from the back of the neck. And if you really must put all of your eggs in one basket labelled ‘West Ham United’ you would be wise also to dabble in a little Buddhism or stoic philosophy. Everything changes except the avant garde. Freedom is a slave word. Wine after beer, queer. And you really are all right, you know. So chin up, old son.

rory

Rory Bremner

Impressionist

Life is full of opportunities and possibilities, but take the time to look around you and take in everything that is around you. The people. The buildings. The landscape. The changing seasons. Talk to your dad about his life: he’ll be gone in four years, and much of his story will die with him. When the time comes that you want to know where you came from, he won’t be around to ask.

And don’t try and do everything at once. On second thoughts, do. You’ll never have this much energy again. Keep taking those piano lessons, and stop cheating by copying the teacher instead of reading the notes.

(Photo: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty)

(Photo: Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty)

Alexandra Shulman

Editor of Vogue

The music you listen to, the books you read and clothes you wear at that age will probably influence your taste for the rest of your life so have as much fun with them as possible while you still can.

Michael Heath

Cartoon editor of The Spectator

Good God, look at you! Stand up straight. Get your hair cut — you look like a girl! Take your hands out of your pockets! Bring back national service, I say; my old sergeant would put you right. Stop lounging about! What is so funny? Why are you laughing? A good day’s work wouldn’t do you any harm. And stop talking into your phone when I’m speaking to you! And take Mr Punch’s wise advice about not getting married.

Clare Asquith

Deputy literary editor of The Spectator

Forget Mr Darcy’s formidable expectations of a young woman. If you can do just one thing well, master one subject, however obscure, it will make you happy. As for shyness — it is just you thinking about yourself. See it as insensitivity, even as bad manners, on your part. And wherever you go, look upwards. There’s nothing interesting on the pavement. Strewwelpeter’s cautionary tale of Little Johnny Head-in-Air — who half-drowned because he loved to watch the clouds, and ‘the swallows trying/ which was cleverest at flying’ — got it all wrong.


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Show comments
  • rtj1211

    1. Are the drivers of success in your generation the same as those for your parents, who claim to know what’s best for you?
    2. Sacrifices over a decade can only be made if you are passionate about the goals which require those sacrifices.
    3. Don’t get passionate about fantasies. Be passionate about things you have a chance to succeed at.
    4. Let the girls get humped and dumped by the rugger buggers. When they want some brains, your market entry opportunity will have arrived. Until then, focus on how to earn a buck and take sex lessons from a high class hooker.
    5. You can’t hold true beliefs to please your family. You can only hold true beliefs if they come from your soul.
    6. Don’t sacrifice your life chances for family stability.
    7. Become a UK export as soon as possible.

    • George Smiley

      Not really very relevant if you are not “inclined in that way”.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      Disgusting. If you can’t discover sex with someone you love you won’t gain entry to the right souls…or bodies.

      • George Smiley

        Only have sex with someone that you love is a bit like agreeing only to drive a Rolls-Royce (or at least a BMW, an Audi or a Volkswagen).

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          Yeah, but men aren’t sufficiently attractive to be worth it without the love. Mazdas are great cars, by the way (American editions, you understand).

          • James Allen

            Ah, shucks…

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Yes, I’m not giving a very complimentary view of men here, am I? But I do think that sex gives more to men than to women, and yet costs women very much more. That film Philomena is a fine illustration. If the young lover had pulled out at the right moment he would have had 99% of what he’d cough come for, and she wouldn’t have had the years of agony afterwards….

          • James Allen

            I think you’ll find pulling out is one of the biggest let-downs known to man.

            A poor guy is normally pretty stuffed when it comes to finding girls. A poor girl… nowadays, no problem. The whole sex/relationship/love thing between men and women; it’s pretty much swings and roundabouts. But when it’s done right, it’s good for both. Trust me.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Oh I know. Or did, about a thousand years ago.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            An imbalance in supply and demand; was that your point? And who needs that, “When will I see you again?” routine? Cut to the chase, it`s cheaper in the long run. See it in the same light as getting the car serviced. Have you seen what those Porsche main dealers charge for a full service? Arm and a leg doesn`t come close.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            I don’t do routine, Jack. Is this poetry you’re writing or what?

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Have you considered the Subaru B4 Legacy Sti? Great car providing you sell on well before 100,000km. But never touch the 2.5-litre engine version unless your hobby is changing head gaskets,

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            I like the Mazdas better, really, though Subaru is a nice option otherwise.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            But them B4 have got real big front calipers,

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            I’m not really in the market for a car. That IS what you’re talking about, isn’t it? I’d like a Jag but in England you’re not allowed to have that pouncing hood cat, which spoils a lot of the fun in my opinion.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Face it, a flash performance passenger attracts the unwelcome attention of Plod, whether or not you use the performance. So why not go the off-roader route as unsurfaced tracks are outside Authority`s jurisdiction? And when bad weather sets in, like now, you`re king of the road.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Trailers for sale or rent… rooms to let, fifty cents… no phone, no pool, no pets… I ain’t got no cigarettes : )

        • Jackthesmilingblack

          “I would never sleep with a gentleman I didn`t love.”
          “Presumably ma`am that does not include your husband.”

  • David Kay

    the only advice i would give a 14 year old me would be “have more sex”

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      At 14? You must be joking. Buddha has a lot to teach you, David. Besides which, I doubt that you were an erotic magnet at 14. Most men aren’t even at 40. It’s a woman’s job to avoid the undeserving self-serving, who are only out for their own gruesome pleasure. Sad, isn’t it?

      • David Kay

        thanks for the advice, i left school at 16 and joined the army and
        dedicated my life to the defence of my country. I sacrificed the best
        years of my life for idiots like you. what a waste

        i knew more about life at the age of 18 than you will know in a lifetime

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          Oh dear, my apologies.

        • James Allen

          Should have joined the navy.

        • Fergus Pickering

          And what good did it do you, Grandad?

          • David Kay

            i met your grandmother, well someone had to take what was left on the shelf

        • channel.fog

          ‘I sacrificed the best years of my life for idiots like you.’

          No David, you didn’t sacrifice your life. You did a job, like most of us did.

          • David Kay

            yawn.

      • Fergus Pickering

        He didn’t specify sex with women, did he?

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          You are technically correct, but his reaction seems to indicate that my guess was correct : )

          By the way, in the ‘of course I don’t have a drinking problem’ department, my husband, after a glass of this and that, has just offered to light the flowers before dinner. :^o

          Actually he was thinking of how close the candles are to the bouquet. Anyway, any inadvertent fire set by either one of us can easily be doused by the swimming pool and the hose I’ve just stuck in there to fill it up. Right, back to the bubbly. Cheers!

          • David Kay

            yeah u are an obnoxious idiot

          • Rocksy

            I’m guessing you’re still 14.

          • David Kay

            yawn

        • David Kay

          no thats why i didnt join the navy, but i bet you love sailors

      • Andy M

        You’ve revealed more about yourself than he did about himself, and from what I’ve read so far you’re lucky a man would have you.

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          Absurd reply! The whole point is that women with standards don’t want any old glass of ale to have them! And I assure you, since I know myself and you don’t, that yours is a minority opinion. Cheers.

          • David Kay

            you’ve got no standards

          • Andy M

            “Absurd reply!”
            It’s good to know you’re labelling the content of your own posts at the start.

            I assure you, since you gave more away about yourself than he did of himself, you’re the one who came off badly.

    • Weaver

      It’s not the ends you need to give advice on, it’s the means.

  • Chris

    Blow up the Labour party conference.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    “What would you tell your 14-year-old self?”
    -Graduate and fly the coop
    -Give private pension providers a wide berth
    -Don`t touch Brit chicks with a bargepole
    -The home comforts are a commodity, and variety is the spice of life.
    -Religion`s for the gullible Muppets that can`t handle mortality
    -If it ain`t broke don`t fix it, if it is broke, replace it. Applies largely to relationships

    Jack, Japan Alps

    • George Smiley

      And get a life. The Internet is full of saddos.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Who are the other two pin heads that recommended Jock`s pointless contribution?

        • George Smiley

          As the Americans would say, “blow me”!

  • Jez

    When i was 14 an elderly Trade Unionist acquired a ticket for me to see the end of election campaign Labour rally, at Leeds Town Hall. I went down on my own & Kinnock was brilliant…. to a fourteen year old.

    Then football and the allure of the terraces took hold and then quite associated; the acid house scene exploded shortly after.

    I would have focused earlier and properly on boxing and the newly introduced Thai Boxing definitely. Also, would have been looking into the organisational side of the Acid scene; e.g. warehouse parties and Dj’ing- instead of being a sheep.

    I’d also would have definitely written and tried to get in touch with Enoch Powell. A truly great Briton. Legend in his lifetime.

    Apart from that. No regrets…. much. :-))

    • Jez

      If telling me now;

      UKIP, the sacrifices of the fallen, the treacherous mainstream politicians and learn Chinese.

  • In2minds

    Ignore advice, that’s what I’d say.

    • James Allen

      Absolutely right. “Make up your own mind”….

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        How can you make up a mind that hasn’t been (in)formed yet?

        • James Allen

          When does one become (in)formed? We all develop at different rates! Frankly, AJ, the longer I live the more I realise the importance of making your own mistakes, not other peoples.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Mm, agreed. But so many people speak as if those that cannot have much experience of life must judge their own lives on the basis of their experience… and they can’t. You can’t go mountain-climbing without cleats and a rough idea of where the mountain is!

          • James Allen

            You have to go with the information that is available at the time. How can you know when you have all of the information? Life ain’t climbing a mountain; a fixed goal with a clear route mapped out. It’s more of a hike through a snow-storm, trying to work out which way is home… sure you can ask fellow travellers, but how do you know if they’re pointing you in the right direction?…

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            This is beginning to sound like astrology. Let’s just say that when you’re young and ignorant, you’re too young and ignorant to know what the best decisions are. Some are lucky, on account of birth/education/parents/connections/immense wealth. I wasn’t, particularly.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Astrology is junk science.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            It’s not even science. It’s storytelling. But people find comfort in stories that acknowledge the mysteries of life. Science as de-mystifier doesn’t always keep you warm at night.

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    To the young Cameron: a little more of the political history and political philosophy, Cameron. To the mature Cameron: read any Thomas Pangle lately? Jan Blits on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar? I’d say it would do you a world of good, but you need a mind that can be receptive to it.

    • James Allen

      I think Cameron needs a job in the real world, not more political theory (you get enough of that doing PPE at Oxford)…

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        It’s not actually theoretical, James. It’s the basis of our modern dispensation. Cameron’s problem is that he doesn’t understand it. He doesn’t understand the basis of freedom and therefore is ill-equipped to defend it.

        • James Allen

          I think most of these lessons you learn through experience, not through education, but I could be wrong…

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            It’s a mix of both but there’s no substitute for the education to begin with.

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    Joan Bakewell: I *so* like your advice — not only for your young self but for anyone. I was a ‘dreamy’ young teen in the summers: spending langorous days immersed in my dad’s library, and among his music (then all on vinyl discs); and my mother criticized me to her parents. She shouldn’t have done so: I owed no explanation to anybody, and I had no obligation to prove myself an Action Girl (god knows my mother never was, young, mature, or older). There was nothing wrong with me, but more than that — because I took time to reflect on the world and digest it, I was considered (rightly) unusually composed and mature for my age, up to adulthood. I was never someone that could be dismissed as an ‘adolescent’. In that way I have always been superior to my mother. (And unlike her I have a good physique as well.)

    • James Allen

      You mean you worshipped your father but your less intellectually impressive mother resented you for it? And so you feel the need to put her down to strangers, even though you’ve blossomed and can finally take pride in measuring up to her more basic expectations?

      But do you understand that in criticising your ‘bookishness’ etc. to her parents she was really apologising to them for her own lack of achievements (being a mother notwithstanding)? And by criticising her you are simply perpetuating the same insecurity that plagued her, albeit perhaps manifested as a different set of perceived ‘failures’?

      My advice to you (assuming you’d want it) would be to find it in your heart to forgive your mother and to seek to understand why it was that she felt a failure. Did she fall in love too young and have kids before she’d had a chance to have a career? Did she fail to make her mind up about what it was she wanted to do in life?

      p.s. … apologies for the intrusion into your personal life!!

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        Hello James, I welcome all intrusions as long as they are thoughtful, though rude ones can have their uses, too. I’ve clearly given the wrong impression about my parents, but never mind. Are your parents very similar? Mine are not and never were, except for both looking even younger than they were when they went to Butlins and had to be photographed with my mother hiding her nude wedding finger. I’ve never worshipped anyone, least of all anyone remotely related to me!

        What do you get when you cross a staid responsible principled somewhat unimaginative rational Taurean with a flighty, flirty, whimsical, infantile, intuitive, undisciplined, passionate, poorly educated Scorpio? Don’t ask.

        • James Allen

          I don’t go in for the astrology.. but… the answer is right in front of me!!!

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Heh heh. I like to think I’ve transcended my genes and upbringing. But some things you can’t leave behind. And what do you mean about not going in for astrology? One’s a bull in a trinket shop and the other’s a primeval creature with a sting! ;^)

          • James Allen

            That makes me a lateral-navigating arachnid with grasping claws… Like I said, I don’t do astrology…

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Fine. It’s storytelling about human life. I use whatever is at hand.

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    Rubio: “don’t be in such a hurry to get to the future”.

    Hear double hear triple hear with knobs on. Why was I in such a rush… to find another colour of thwartedness?

    • James Allen

      “another colour of thwartedness”. Only an American girl could speak like this!.. :)

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        I’ll take that as a compliment. So thanks : )

      • gerontius

        Not so James. It was a phrase in common use in Walthamstow in the old days, although the derivation has been obscured by the passage of time.

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          Cheeky bugger!

          • gerontius

            I remember that phrase as well.
            Hey Swanky, I was only trying to help

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            :^*

          • gerontius

            Why thankyou, and returned!
            I only got up for a slice of toast.
            I think I’ll fold while I’m ahead.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            You do this often? Poker and toast in the middle of the night…. Try not to dream of CamerClegg and the Coalitions. They sing out of tune and their dancing is naff.

          • gerontius

            Hey girl, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. You can never lose when playing poker with a slice of toast, It’s boring, I’ll give you that, and the either guy always seems to figure out what cards you’re holding – but, you never lose and you get to eat the toast.
            I’ll be careful about the dreams.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            : ) I like it!

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    ‘Master one subject’: yes, and no. Great for earning a living, I suppose, and distinguishing yourself from the crowd. A bad idea for happiness: all your eggs in one basket. Aristotle knew that the gentleman played an instrument well, but not as well as a professional.

    Obviously the fragrant Clare has never been to Manhattan. There you MUST look at the pavement, to avoid the dog turds and the tramps all scattered about….

    • James Allen

      In Aristotle’s time artists weren’t elevated to anything like the degree they are now; it was considered to be a bit of a waste of time to perfect a skill at something so ethereal as music or painting. But now, with the stock of human knowledge greater than ever before – and all of the original thoughts having already been thought (?) – finding a specialism is increasingly difficult and therefore increasingly valuable.

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        Yes I know, James: but first of all it has to be a specialism you love or else you’ll go mad. And secondly, the professionalization of everything is hard on the soul. There are few dreamy teen years any more, like mine (for all its obvious deficiencies): I lived for the sake of living whereas today’s adolescents live for their resume and to get a place in a prestigious university. Some of them are burned out, stressed like Type A managers, and unhealthily obsessed with image, as if they were CEOs in their 30s and 40s. That’s a sad state of affairs.

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        Perhaps they were elevated in a more elevated way. I mean: is Miley Cyrus ‘elevated’? Rich and famous ain’t the same thing.

        • James Allen

          No, I think they were just treated as another profession. Philosophy and other cerebral pursuits (plus athletics and fighting) were more respected. Times change…

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Yes, change is inevitable and often gratefully received. BUT to my mind the more remarkable fact is the good things that buck the trend by *not* changing. In a certain way, to the extent that we are still civilized (though fighting the barbarian within the gates), we are still Greeks. Those are my last aspra grammata for the night. See you again some time?

          • James Allen

            Hope so… :)

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            : )

    • James Allen

      I messed up your comment by editing mine just as you replied. What was it??

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        Which one? I’ve been all over the place.

        • James Allen

          Oh, to the one below. Nevermind, MUST go to sleep (UK time)!!! :)

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Nighty night, and make sure your hwb is screwed on tight : )

          • James Allen

            hwb? Am I being stupid?

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            hot water bottle. I have two but there’s not much call for them in the subtropics.

          • James Allen

            Ah, I used one when I had a cold. But it’s not freezing here yet…..!!

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            I take it you don’t use a wind turbine for your energy production then. Very wise.

          • James Allen

            Don’t get me started… drives me mad.

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    Everything is at least as unfair as you think it is. Most people tailor their perceptions to fit their beliefs rather than the other way around, so you can discount most people’s opinion.

    I can’t believe I’m a member of the human race. Why couldn’t I have been adopted by a troupe of hyenas?

    • James Allen

      I was in Florida for a month this year. Not sure I prefer it to anywhere else I’ve been. And the tax situation is negated by the fact that beer is so bad and so expensive in bars. Sorry!! :)

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        What beer? You had the Timothy Taylor Landlord we can get here? You had the Sierra Nevada Celebration ale? What were you drinking, man? Don’t tell me Bud, or Bud Light. That stuff’s hemlock.

        You didn’t go to Orlando, did you? Please say you didn’t.

        • James Allen

          No. Went there when I was 12? and played with a windband in the park. Good times.

          This year I was all over the place, driving around…. enjoyed the parks in the middle of the country, the everglades not so much… oh, and st augustine was nice…

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            You missed the best parts, babe. Come back and see us some time!

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    Niall Ferguson: ‘never, ever drop maths‘.

    Quite right. I failed a math exam at about age 16 and my mum’s response was to buy me a pair of earrings. Enough said, really.

    • Jackthesmilingblack

      I take it you`re female.

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        With knobs on. But not in.

        • David Kay

          yeah you look like a hippocrocopig, thats a cross between a hippo crocodile and a pig.

          • Rocksy

            Did I say 14? I meant nine. Maybe you and your giant inferiority complex should have a nap.

          • David Kay

            think you’ll find its the other way round. if people cant take it they shouldnt give it.

            Maybe you should go back to primary school, get a bit of education you clueless idiot

    • George Smiley

      Niall Ferguson is not a good model. A Neoconservative historian like him is a contradiction in terms, a historian who has never actually read history properly, because Neoconservatism is ultimately anachronistic schizophrenia, of half-anarchism, half-Imperialism, being dressed up as something else.

      • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

        I Ilke Bill Kristol and Norman Podhoretz. To say nothing of George ‘Dubya’ Bush (whose young relatives my husband has taught in high school in Texas). Now what?

        • George Smiley

          Neoconservatives are no true Conservatives. They are basically Marxist friends of Israel. The two aforementioned both have all sorts of Pinko backgrounds.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            I’m afraid you’ve been misinformed, George. Don’t be too cross about that: neoconservatives are probably as misunderstood in nature as they are few in number.

          • Jackthesmilingblack

            Be advised, “George” in the Spectator`s token cyber stalker, the nutter it keeps around for laughs.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            Hmm, he hasn’t made me laugh yet.

          • George Smiley

            I am an UKIP-supporter and an High Tory, which is closest to an American Paleoconservative. The Neocons are the ones who are forcing England to remain in this EUSSR. I mean, what is Senator McCain doing with publicly supporting an attempted putsch in Kiev?

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            This is the Obama Administration, George. It’s the farthest Left of any government ever in this country. The neocons ain’t running the show.

          • George Smiley

            The Democrats may be Doves, by they are still essentially Neoconservatives.

          • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

            If you say so. I read a lot of black is chartreuse on the Internet, but try not to claim so, myself.

      • Zimbalist

        Are you lost? Grauniad is over that way……

        • George Smiley

          Neocons support Mohammedan immigration and same-sex marriage.

  • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

    Simon: Play Parcheesi or what you call Ludo (it’s the same thing): if you’re like me you’ll lose every time, incomprehensibly, but it doesn’t mean anything. Or play Stratego and win once in a while ;^)

    It’s what makes life bearable
    Creating is. A bit of song, a little Christmas wreath, a frisson on a blog, a tartan design (I’ve got two, and they’re official!), a flirt with someone nice. A kiss from the dog. I’ve given up on The Bigger Things.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Oh, and don`t waste your money on plated cutlery. Solid silver is the only cutlery worth having.

  • Ricky Strong

    Listen to your Mum and do as she says.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      Christ! No.

  • Pepe Turcon

    Just don’t answer stupid questions like this one!

  • Sucarol

    My advice: spend less time online and on your smart phones. Live life, communicate face to face,
    rather than watching it on a screen! I teach kids and am saddened by how their life expectations are dictated by the internet, social media, online porn – not to mention tv crap like XFactor.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      My husband, a high school teacher (private here in the US) calls them ‘wi-fi zombies’. He says they seem less engaged with the world, less interested in the past or anything outside their own immediate ‘social media’, and less attentive than they were even a bare few years ago. And they are less distinct as persons. It’s a bit creepy.

      • David Kay

        yeah Skanky it is a bit creepy someone would marry you. Is he an alcoholic?

  • mrsjosephinehydehartley

    I couldn’t tell my 14 year old self anything. But I know she’d tell me a thing or two..don’t worry be happy, for example.

  • Daniel Maris

    A finger in the bot is not worth two in the bush.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      Translation?

      • https://www.youtube.com/user/loveunderlaw Loveunderlaw

        You totally rock Swanky! Thanks for defending the rights of children to be born without being sexually mutilated by some sadistic sicko that gets off on harming helpless boys or girls.

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          They might not be actually sadistic, L., but I’m glad to see that in America at least, views of circumcision are finally changing. Some will ask, ‘what about religious motives?’ and yes, that’s a tough one. But I do not approve of barbarism in the name of any god.

      • Jackthesmilingblack

        Never trust a Bush unless it`s burning.

        • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

          Good line but I can’t agree with the sentiment!

  • http://twitter.com/True_Belle True_Belle

    Think before you ink!

    • FuglydeQuietzapple

      If you want your keyboard covered in Quink Emerald Waterproof again ….

      • http://twitter.com/True_Belle True_Belle

        ‘Twas the inky ruler and soggy blotting paper. Never ever volunteer to be the ink monitor… Daddy was right after all!

        • FuglydeQuietzapple

          Ah Blot! Remember you well!

  • Terence Hale

    Hi,
    Spectator survey: What would you tell your 14-year-old self? Go back to the embryo.

    • Zimbalist

      Being an embryo is an extremely risky business in Britain these days, as attested by the some 200,000 that were “terminated” last year and thereby denied the chance of a life after the womb.

  • Efjay Dee

    I think I would warn myself that the future would be far more dystopian and crappy than I could ever imagine… and to play the Atari more.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Governments lie; that`s all governments all the time.

  • startledcod

    Don’t drink and dial.

    • http://ajbrenchley.com/ Swanky

      How about an update for the modern era? Don’t drink and blog.

      Oops, too late for me!

  • Zimbalist

    Beware that in Outlook, CTRL-S, when hit accidentally whilst trying to type very fast, sends the email !

  • zeltia

    well more rock and roll then if sex is such a problem…easy on the drugs and never spend more than you earn.

  • Jambo25

    Emigrate as soon as possible.

  • Rocksy

    I’d say ‘Rely on your instincts. They have always been spot on’.

  • channel.fog

    I’d tell my 14 year od self to eff off. I can recall being a right pain in the arse.

  • channel.fog

    I see Edwina says, ‘Hard work and determination will get you anywhere…’ Into John Major’s trousers, Edwina?

  • Keith D

    Be kind to all you love.

  • Shorne

    I would want to give myself something to look forward to so;
    “In real life, I assure you, there is no such thing as Algebra”
    Fran Lebowitz

  • Zimba Zumba

    This is my list:-

    (1) Don’t let people tell you are stupid or put your ideas down.
    (2) If you find something easy it is because you are good at it, not that it is trivial.
    (3) Evolution has made you attractive to the opposite sex. Don’t worry it.

  • Delgree

    “Shut up and never speak again.”

  • Terry Field

    SHAG MORE WOMEN!

  • Nicholas_Keen

    Work much harder than you think you need to now. When you find her, treat the one you love with care — one doesn’t come by love easily and taking her for granted may lead to years of regret when a love once thought unassailable is lost. Don’t believe the popular wisdom.

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