Youth work is great.

Sometimes I wonder what I have to offer other people. I think that the best thing I can give someone is myself. And not just because I’m ace.

I can give someone my me.

My -ness.

My -ness is weird. Out There. Eccentric. I absolutely love it.

I too endured the joyous nightmare of growing up as a teenager; and when age befell me, I made the slippy step up to youth leadership. It had all started with the Piglets and the Porkers. With battered mars bars, and shiny stealable statues.

It all started at Oasis.

Oasis 2001.

I’ve always loved Oasis, and over the years I’ve risen right through the ranks to the top. The time has come though; for my retirement. This summer will be my final Oasis. My swansong. My sunset. My 89th minute Sheringham and Solskjaer. It’s only my sixth year so I’m not really expecting a testimonial, (it’d be against Celtic) but it’s the end of an era and I want it to be memorable. So I’ve planned something.

A secret surprise.

Oasis will never be the same.

The day has arrived and so have the kids. I am ‘Coach Leader’. Like ‘Coach Carter’, but without giving all the kids contracts and making them do bleep tests. I check to make sure no kids get carsick and we set off. This is exciting! This is exciting because I get to pick the movies! And talk to the driver. His name is Dave, and he once stolen Kylie Minogue’s knickers from a tourbus. “Impressive, isn’t it?”

I am disgusted.

“Yeah, definitely.”

‘Flushed Away’ finishes. John Motson in a film where England win in the world cup final against Germany! Perfect! I must have written it!

Hang on. I have written things before… Words, sentences, even lists!

Did I write it?

I decide I probably didn’t as I’d have made it England stick Celtic. Not that that makes sense. (Especially if you’re don’t know the word ‘stick’ – no Onion intended.)

I am a great coach leader! Nobody’s too badly scarred, although my attempt at an impromptu bleep test failed epically. Crucially, nobody has thrown up. We are minutes from our destination with no spew. I’m essentially in the clear. Youth work is great.

“EWWWW!!!”

Oh no!

We arrive and the kids scram. I pick up a sponge. I officially begin my final Oasis a scrubber. I look forward to my secret surprise.

——————————————————————————————————————————–

It’s bedtime, and the Chawn lads have dug trenches. I am sitting outside their door with Rich and our sleep-encouraging arsenal. The lads are in a bizarre set of rooms linked by a corridor of arches with low triangular peaks. Their anti-sleep antics have evolved into slapping each other’s backs while they get changed.

Classic. Youth work is great.

A few minutes later I hear my name. “DAN!!!”

Sigh. Just another one of their silly boyish games.

I walk into the dorm.

Oh.

It’s not just another one of their silly boyish games.

“Hello, emergency services?”

Stuart was changing when he’d realised his slapper friends had surrounded him. He turned and ran. Into the top of an arch. Now he’s out cold. I run outside to flag down the ambulance. Now I’m out cold. Well, outside. Outside in the cold.

The paramedics successfully revive him but insist that he be checked over by a doctor at the hospital. Someone from Oasis will need to accompany him. Somebody who’s reached the top of the ranks! Somebody not needed. Expendable. Rubbish.

A scrubber.

“Dan?”

I clamber into the ambulance behind Stuart. The hospital is 40 minutes away. I have no choice but to start a conversation with the paramedic, or sit through 40 minutes of awkwardness. I’m tired and want to go to bed. I really don’t have much to talk about. The paramedic has mad hair. I hope I don’t say anythi…

“Your hair’s mad.”

Oh no!

The paramedic hasn’t seen Father Ted and we sit through 38 minutes of awkwardness.

We arrive at hospital and Stuart is given a warm, comfortable bed. I am given a hard chair. A hard, broken chair. Stuart falls asleep. I try to do the same, but the chair’s trying to tip over. I overhear the nurses talking. The doctor will be here soon enough.

That’s not soon enough. I think ahead to my secret surprise. My masterplan. I think about how it’s a masterplan, at Oasis, and enjoy a nerdy giggle.

Hours go by. I have only slept for a few seconds and am growing increasingly jealous of Stuart. Stuart who wouldn’t go to sleep and now I can’t! This is all HIS fault! Surely the least he could do is let me have a little lie down!

I am measuring up the mattress for top and tailing when the doctor appears and wakes up Sleeping Ratboy. He asks Stuart some blindingly easy questions to see if he’s concussed.

Stuart gets them wrong.

Oh no!

The doctor sees my not-that-surprised expression and figures out that this lad probably isn’t the sort to tape QI. He asks a football question. Stuart is bang on, and we can go home.

It is 4:30 AM and I am sitting on a cold wall on a cold morning in cold Norwich waiting to be picked up by my ex-girlfriend’s boyfriend.

I can’t wait for the secret surprise.

———————————————————————————————————————————-

A couple of days later it is time for The Wide Game. Muddy. Violent. Legendary. Today I will finally reveal my secret surprise. This is going to be great! We arrive at the carefully marked out area and the teams are announced. I peel off to prepare something unexpected.

I decide that I’m far enough away and begin to undress. I pack my clothes into my rucksack and begin walking back to the game. An elderly couple are walking through the woods when I stumble across their path. I smile.

“Morning.”

“Morning!” They reply sheepishly. They seem shocked, and a little confused, but are smiling. This is going to be great.

I arrive at camp and the game is underway. All eyes are immediately drawn to the commanding figure before them. The leaders can’t believe their eyes. They all suddenly know me a little better. Oasis will never be the same.

The woods have fallen silent.

“YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!”

I am dressed as Gandalf.

I am thrown to the floor by a smoke monster of muddy, violent, legendary teenagers. I lie unable to breathe under a pile of bodies and I smile.

Youth work is great.

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