AS I thrust the spoon over the finishing line, egg rocking but still in place, I should have had the vision to see this as a potential life-changing moment. I didn’t.
I was as guilty as anybody in wrongly defining myself as shy when I actually suffered a crippling lack of confidence.
Teachers would say I was shy, my parents would say I was shy, as would family and friends.
I was actually just quiet. If I had nothing to say, I didn’t talk. If I did, well, I did.
“Aww, look at him. Isn’t he shy?” a well meaning auntie or uncle would say. The comment would usually force me to blush. “Look, he’s gone red now,” they would add, and after that there really was nowhere else to go.
Teachers would write on my school report: “Andrew is a good member of class, his work is of a reasonable standard but he could contribute more to discussion.” He’s shy, they meant.
No, I just didn’t have the courage to stick my have up and risk blurting out a stupidly wrong answer to a question put out to the group.
I did it once in English with the imposing Mr Gell. He asked where the Metropolis was. Thinking this was my opportunity to get an answer in which would lessen the chances of me being asked a more difficult question later, I replied: “Athens”.
Realising my mistake straight away, I quickly corrected my answer to “London”, but it was too late.
“Athens, Athens, ho ho ho,” he roared like a Satanic Santa, the cacophony of guffawing growing as the rest of the class seized on my Greek God-standard error to engage in what would these days clearly be seen as bullying. Indeed, at some point in the future I might cite this particular incident as being a major contributor to some self-afflicted low point in my life.
Everyone remembered this for years. A school reunion, the only one we ever had (at least the only one I was told/found out about), and everyone’s bringing it up. “You been down to Athens lately, Mosley?” “**** off,” I would think, but didn’t actually reply. I wasn’t too shy to say it, just lacked the confidence.
Everything I approached, I did so with negativity. Cricket — “I reckon I’m gonna be out first ball today.” Exams — “I’ve got no chance of passing this.” Writing/journalism — “I’m never going to be good enough to work on a paper.” I was probably right about that one (I thought I would add that just to save anyone else the time).
I can trace this right back to the fourth year at primary school when I fully expected to come last in every event on sports day but, after qualifying for the running final, in which I finished later than everyone else, I took a glorious third in the egg and spoon race, crossing the line, oeuf firmly in place on cuillère, glancing back at the dismayed field of overly-confident competitors I had left in my wake.
You can stick your sack race victory, I thought, internally waving my spoon at the crowd, but didn’t have the confidence to say or do.
When I look back at that pivotal moment in my life, one that should have propelled me on to a life as an Olympian (when did they remove the egg and spoon race?), I realise it was my time. I should have seized the momentum and walked tall among my peers.
I wasn’t too shy to bang on about my victory (third’s a victory of sorts, isn’t it?) for the rest of my time at school (it was a bit embarrassing by the sixth form), I just lacked the confidence to make it life-changing.