There are certain occasions which as well as being celebrated and enjoyed, leads you to reflect and ponder on things, and life, and other things. Today it’s my daughter’s birthday, and as well as singing ‘happy birthday’ in my usual terrible fashion, giving her cards and presents, I looked round at our little family and thought thoughts. I thought about my childhood hero, Steve McQueen and his troubled life, but more than that on something I once read about him.
Rather than tell the whole thing again, here is what I wrote some time ago:
When I was much, much younger, Steve McQueen was my favourite actor; I saw just about all of his films that were on at the cinema or shown on TV, but before the access we now have to media, there were quite a few I haven’t seen. I was amazed at how he had come from such a troubled childhood to being one of the top stars of the film world; now, his life and the problems he had including massive substance abuse, is known to all.
One of the things which I read about Steve when I was quite young, was his motto ‘You’ve got to make it happen‘… and for a long time I puzzled over this.
- I wanted to be an Olympic swimmer – how could I make that happen? I trained as hard as I could but this ambition was knocked on the head by glandular fever when I was twelve – off school for six weeks then a long, long recovery and it was over a year before I had caught up with my swimming times… by which time it was too late, I was ‘past it’ – except in fact I never would have made an Olympic swimmer! I didn’t actually have the temperament, I got very nervous, I was just not competitive enough, I was too good a loser – by which I mean I would whole-heartedly congratulated whoever had beaten me, instead of being angrily determined to beat them next time!
- I wanted to go to Cambridge University – how could I make that happen? I worked so hard at my studies, and however well I did in my class work, this did not translate into exam success; in exams, despite the mountain of revision I had done, once again temperament conspired against me. Although in every other way I was (and am) confident, suddenly in exams I would become almost paralysed by nerves; I was also really good at revising the wrong thing, misreading questions and lacking focus so I would write reams and reams on the wrong part of the question.
- I wanted to find true love – how could I make that happen? I had plenty of wonderful boy friends, but I always fell for the most unlikely and unobtainable people: a handsome German who returned to Germany to become a doctor, another someone who was probably gay, a different someone who was unsuitable in every possible way – and more, and then someone who had commitments elsewhere… Luckily in this case I did find my true love – my mum always said I would marry a tall dark handsome man, and nearly twenty-six years ago I did, and have been wonderfully happy ever since!!
- I wanted to be a best-selling author – how could I make that happen? I’ve mentioned here so many times that I have always told stories and written them for as long as I can remember. I have written so much over the years, stories, novels, poetry, and sent off manuscripts to publishers without number, more agents than I can count, entered every competition I come across… and apart from a few short stories in a magazine when I was twenty-two, no published success at all. I had no J.K. Rowling moment, I wasn’t picked from the top or bottom of a slush pile and launched to the top of the book sale charts…
So… back to Steve, ‘You’ve got to make it happen…’ I used to puzzle over this because I tried my hardest to make it happen in terms of swimming, going to Cambridge University, finding love, publishing a book… So was Steve wrong?
Looking again at those four things…
- through the swimming club I made some amazing, life-long friends, I had tremendous fun, I won loads of medals, cups and awards and broke club, city and county records. I had a life other than swimming and training, and the swimming and training I did I loved… would I have loved it if I’d had to go further? Would I have left my friends behind? Would my school and family life have been disrupted? Probably! So what did I make happen through swimming? Friends, fun, success, fitness – and I learned to keep going when things were tough, physically and mentally – and that must have made a big difference to every other part of my life! Also… I probably won’t drown!
- I didn’t go to Cambridge University, I didn’t get into any university, in fact I didn’t even make it through ‘clearing’. However by some fluke, and I have no idea how, I was invited to Manchester Polytechnic. I did a fantastic degree which has been of benefit throughout my life – English, history and French subsidiary. It was taught by some wonderful teachers and lecturers, and the three course ran parallel so when I was doing C19 English. European and social and economic history, I was also studying C19 English literature and poetry, and French literature and poetry. I made some fabulous friends, one of whom is still my best friend and the nearest thing I have to a brother, I fell in love with Manchester and the northwest and lived there for longer than anywhere else in my life. if I had gone to Cambridge – the city of my birth and childhood, I’m not sure I would have got a very good degree – not being good at taking exams! I’m positive I wouldn’t have met such a broad range of different people from different backgrounds, parts of the country and actually different countries. I wouldn’t have become as independent – we had to find out own accommodation, no halls of residence for us, and Manchester in the 1970’s was such an amazing place with far more life, and a much better music scene! Not going to Cambridge University changed my life much more and for much better than going there!
- There’s nothing I can say about not finding love when I was in my teens, twenties or thirties… I found my true love at the perfect time, my tall dark handsome prince! And we have a great family too!
- Not getting published – this let me live my life outside of an ivory tower; I’ve done some amazing things and met some amazing people, which has given me the stories I now write! Yes, I still want to see my books in book shops – but what I’ve achieved so far with my books I’ve published myself through Amazon as e-books on KDP – Kindle Direct Publishing, and now as paperbacks – well, they really are my own work, all my own work, and, Steve, I made it happen!
Here is a link to my books: