Today is my 25th birthday. Happy birthday to me.
That’s a quarter of a century, which feels like quite a long time, and I’m a little nostalgic. I thought I’d share 25 memories from my first 25 years.
The first 5 years
I don’t think I can do one per year here because exactly when things happened will be hard to work out. But here’s five memories from those early years.
Memory 1: My earliest memory is being in a pram with a rain cover over. It was raining, and I could see all of the drops running down and joining with one another. I felt trapped and cut off from everything.
Memory 2: Accompanying my mum on her weekly food shops (I think every Thursday?) after dropping my brother at school. I would sit in the trolley and everything was piled up around me. It was fun.
Memory 3: On holiday, ‘sun-bathing’ fully clothed, the sun shining on my face.
Memory 4: Playing with my friends who my mum child-minded.
Memory 5: In reception year at school, doing PE just in my pants and feeling no shame whatsoever.
The last 20 years
I think from here on I can probably manage one per year.
Age 6: At school, asked to think of words starting with ‘U’ but told only to put hands up if we had one ready. I put my hand up, was called on, and confidently said ‘Um’. Was told off for not having one ready and wasting time. First time I felt the pang of injustice.
Age 7: Being told by mum and dad we were moving home to another town (Reading). Ran through to dining room, got under the table and prayed it wouldn’t happen. It did though, and I’m so glad!
Age 9: Year 4, crying because I had to do swimming at school and didn’t want to. The pool was freezing, and I’m not a strong swimmer.
Age 10: With my friend Ian Crombie, pretending all of primary school was Starfleet Academy and we were being trained to become Starfleet Officers. Big fan of Star Trek at this point.
Age 11: Starting secondary school, deeply nervous on my first day, was almost physically sick. But it got better!
Age 12: About 6 weeks before the big annual production at my drama group, being asked to stand in for the lead because he’d broken his collar bone. I remember being handed my new script with deep pride, joy, honour and nerves. I put it by my bed and looked at it every time I woke up to confirm it hadn’t been a dream.
Age 13: Getting baptised on 14th March 2002, proud to boldly declare that Jesus is my Lord and Saviour. Sometimes I wish I still had that boldness and enthusiasm. Sometimes I do have it, and it’s great!
Age 14: Learning stage fighting in drama lessons at school, and using what I learned to trick one of my favourite teachers into thinking I had got into a full-blown fight. Sorry Mr. Cooper.
Age 15: Getting my first job, and doing my first Saturday, at Vantage Chemist. I made some good friends during the 5 years of working there, and learned things about drugs I’ll likely never have any further use for.
Age 16: The first planning meeting for the first children’s holiday club our church ran. I was put up front because I was loud and confident. Holiday clubs would go on to become a massive part of my first experiences of leadership, and so many things I learned from the wonderful Sally Pettipher have served me very well since.
Age 17: Putting on the play Dealer’s Choice at school, the most fun I’ve ever had acting.
Age 18: Meeting Mel for the first time. She was jet-lagged. I was very focused playing snooker. There wasn’t much to say. It was a little awkward.
Age 19: The deep embarrassment of sitting on a man’s face at a cricket match in Oxford because I thought he was a chair.
Age 20: Getting down on one knee and proposing to Mel in a place called ‘Chalfont Park’ in Reading. Given how important Chalfont has now become in our life, this has been filled with even more significance for us both.
Age 21: Seeing Mel, more beautiful than ever, walking down the aisle of my home church in Reading, about to marry me.
Age 22: The mixture of tiredness and joy after the first few days of bringing our adorable little puppy Ralph home to our place in Buckingham. He was such hard work, but worth every second!
Age 23: The stress of our first move as a married couple. A combination of sadness at leaving people and things behind in Buckingham, and excitement about what God had in store for us at Gold Hill.
Age 24: Shock, pain, sorrow and confusion on the horrible night that Ralph (our dog) and his friend Mishka were run over by a train and killed. Almost every moment of that evening is etched on my memory, and likely will be for a long time.
Age 25: I’ve only been 25 for a few hours, but I already have a memory: a beautiful breakfast with my beautiful wife!