Deeply Uncool

22 Oct 2019

Are they still known as "Anoraks": those earnest men (and, I suppose, some women) who pursue a hobby nobody else can understand? We made fun of them as I was growing up, but maybe it's politically incorrect to do so now. Not only politically incorrect, but – I have learned over the years – unkind.

It's often something to do with trains, for some reason.

My family and I are taking a few days holiday in North Wales. We have wandered the awesome vastness of Caernarfon Castle, walked along some magnificent beaches, slogged up Mount Snowdon (and have the aches to prove we did it the hard way) and today travelled on the Ffestiniog steam railway.

It turned my husband into a small boy again. He almost ran to the front of the train to look at the engine and bounced in his seat as the whistle blew and we chuffed out of Porth Madog station.

I confess trains, even steam trains, leave me cold, but even I could not resist of the music of the panting engine and rhythm of the tracks; nor the stunning scenery.

What impressed my seventeen-year-old daughter was the good humour and obvious enjoyment of all the staff – even the ticket lady - and the way everyone we passed waved at us. Everyone at the level crossings, everyone working at the side of the road, everyone in their gardens as we passed. It was as if the whole of the Welsh population along the track wanted to make us feel special.

"It's absolutely not cool to wave," she said. "But isn't it lovely that they do!"

I've just asked my fifteen-year-old what it means to "be cool".

"It's the way you dress; the way you act; the way you fit in," she said. "It's other people's opinion of you."

I thought for a moment.

"So, would it be true to say that you can have more fun if you don't care about that?" I asked.

"Yes, absolutely!" she said.

This was the girl who, last year, was obsessed about appearing "cool" until the "Cool Gang" turned on her and made her life a misery.

Today she was smiling as we rode that train. She says it's the best day of the holiday so far.

I think it takes a long time for us to learn not to care what other people think of us and to find our own centre. Whatever we do, whoever we are, there will always be those who despise us and (hopefully) those who admire us.

Steam trains will never be my thing, but this holiday we've done Snowdon for my outdoorsy elder daughter, the beaches for my younger daughter, National Trust tree houses and the steam train for my husband and tomorrow the bronze-age copper mines for me.

If we can find our own thing we enjoy, let's concentrate on enjoying it and never mind what other people might think.

Well, so long as it's not kicking puppies, that is!


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