I originally only wrote this as a daily post, but upon reflection I like it too much, and it is the spiritual successor to Success which is probably my favourite post on the blog. As such, I felt it deserved a place here instead.
While in the pub on Friday, I took it upon myself to try and stimulate some more interesting conversation amongst my male friends, instead of the usual soporific chat about work or cars or boats or some shit. In an effort to coax something vaguely resembling vulnerability out of them, I turned to my favourite source of disarming queries, the 36 questions for love. I decided to have a crack at number 18 - “what is your most treasured memory?” - but was met with no substantive answer from any of the parties present. I find it hard to believe that it’s possible for somebody to have no treasured memories, so decided that they were perhaps merely reluctant to be forthcoming about them, and maybe if I offered some experiences of my own, they might be more willing to reciprocate. So, here are 10 of my most treasured memories, in vaguely chronological order:
Skiing in Wengen/Jungfrau Region with Fleur
I went skiing with my family every Christmas for 15 years or so in Wengen, Switzerland, and did most of it with the English speaking Downhill Only club, where I was lucky enough to meet Fleur. Both our families would spend the same weeks there for a few years, and so I got to know her pretty well, and I have some very fond memories of skiing and chatting with her. Her cynicism and dry wit, combined with painful intelligence, were all things I sought to emulate and I think she likely had a significant effect on how my personality developed as I grew up.
First kiss with Rozelle
Everyone has that one person they fall hopelessly in love with when they first go through puberty, and it’s all a bit of a mess. Rozelle was absolutely that person for me, I was as besotted as only a teenager can be, and I still remember the first time she kissed me, up against the sadly-now-removed swing set outside the Peninsula Hotel, at goodness knows what time in the morning. I’ve been chasing the butterflies I felt then ever since, having success on only a handful of rare occasions.
Beating Toby at chess, 10th March 2009
When I think of all the games of chess I have played in my life, this is fairly comfortably my favourite. At 14, playing in the top division of Guernsey’s chess league, beating Toby was the first time I’d beaten a titled player (admittedly he’s ‘only’ a candidate master, but that counts in my book). My chess trajectory was at its highest after that game, and I still remember the feeling of anticipation when I won a pawn, then a second, then liquidated into an endgame with such a big advantage I knew there was no way I was going to mess it up. I was shaking, it was incredible.
Beating Fareed and Ben in the Debating Cup
My school-long rivalry with Fareed was pretty disgusting when I think about it, and something I am gently ashamed of, although I don’t think either of us could really be blamed for it. We were of course products of our environment, and that environment very much encouraged competition and egotism, so we went to war, determined to show our teachers and peers that we were the quickest thinking, most silver-tongued pretentious twats in the entire school. One of the greatest victories I ever scored against him was beating him in the semifinal of the senior debating cup, having lost to him the year before. Sadly I can’t remember what the motion was, but I do remember shouting ‘come on!’ in celebration when our names were announced winners, as a true testament to my lack of composure in that moment.
Seeing Foo Fighters with Jack
On the last night of Reading Festival 2012, I was lucky enough to watch the Foo Fighters headline the main stage with Jack. A few beers in, totally exhausted but determined to enjoy the dying hours of our weekend, things suddenly became very emotional when the rest of the band momentarily took a backseat as Dave Grohl strummed an acoustic guitar while recounting stories of being in Nirvana and knowing Kurt Cobain. As someone moved by Cobain’s story, that night felt like something special, as if we were all part of something much bigger, all connected through Grohl’s reminiscence, and it’s stayed with me ever since.
Beating York (including Higgs) at Roses
When I fenced for the uni, I was always the weakest member on the strongest team, which meant I felt a lot of pressure to perform. The sabreurs always had to carry the weaker foilists and epeeists if we were to have any chance of winning, and our annual varsity match against York, dubbed Roses after the war over 550 years prior, was no different. Lancaster won the toss and so got to decide the match order, and as usual the sabre match would be last, and would decide the outcome of the entire day. When it came down to us, we needed to beat the York sabreurs by 45 to 8 or more in order to win, with 45-9 being a draw. On home soil, with a Lancaster crowd cheering us on, I managed to fight through my nerves and helped the team win 45-6, the biggest margin of victory I’d ever been part of in a team match. For that night, we were heroes, and the party afterwards was electric.
Driving from Edinburgh to St Andrews with Nick
Having not had much experience with driving anywhere other than Guernsey, on our second Poole-to-Scotland road trip I really fell in love with cruising through the countryside, very much so while navigating the B roads between Edinburgh and St Andrews in the snow. The Scottish scenery is unbelievably beautiful, there was nobody else on the roads, and we were strictly adhering to the speed limit. Probably. It was a wonderful experience with one of my best friends, and I won’t forget it in a hurry.
Meditating at Cheesters with Ted and Mica
While living in Mexico in 2017 with Ted and Mica, we all at various points were engaged in some form of meditation challenge with one another. As a trio we were all determined to do at least 30 minutes a day, and so when an evening downpour trapped us beneath an umbrella in Cheesters restaurant, we elected to simply meditate there and then, until the storm had passed. The feeling of closing one’s eyes and remaining completely still for 30 minutes in the middle of a public space was exhilarating, I could feel my cheeks burning bright red and my heart pounding. I had never been more aware of my place in relation to my surroundings, arguably the point of meditation. It was a unique experience which I would highly recommend.
Seeing Car Seat Headrest with Fi
I got the chance to see Car Seat Headrest live in Kentish Town on my birthday last year, with one of my oldest and dearest friends Fiona. CSH are a band that have meant a lot to me for several years, the music and lyrics of frontman Will Toledo are ones that I empathise strongly with, and have brought me a lot of comfort and hope during my time listening to them. To see Will and the boys in the flesh, with 1000 like-minded fans screaming all the words alongside me, alongside someone I love and care about deeply, was the perfect birthday present for me.
The Brass Monkey/some random sports bar in Manhattan/the subway and walk back to Astoria with Polly
My trip to New York earlier this year was a life changing experience, and picking just one moment from it for this list was very difficult, as I treasure the entire duration of the trip. Our last full day there was the pièce de résistance of our journey in my mind. Having spent 10 whole days together at this point, Polly and I had grown to know each other unusually well in such a short space of time, and already felt like best friends as we headed into Manhattan to sample more of its watering holes. The drinks flowed, radically honest conversations were had, we drunkenly held hands in the Brass Monkey, and she sung to me in the middle of the subway on the way home. It was the perfect end to the perfect trip.