France 1982

There he is, just on the edge of the photo

Can you can admire and hate someone at the same time? Such was the case with Foxy.

I was 11 and it was my first trip abroad, a school trip to France. We set off on a coach from our school, Belmont in Durham at a quarter-to-early o’clock in the morning and headed south. Somewhere in the Midlands we stopped at a public school to pick up some older kids, presumably to share the cost of the visit. They were older than us, probably even as old as 14. One of them was a ginger curly-haired boy called Foxy.

The coach got onto the ferry at Dover. I felt queasy so couldn’t eat any breakfast. We were back on the coach in France and my travel sickness continued, fueled by the potent smell of teenage cigarettes that fumigated the coach. We stopped at some service station for lunch, but I couldn’t eat anything. Not even a salad, each of which was accompanied by a large green slug. Later we learnt it was a gherkin. We didn’t have gherkins in the North-East.

We drove on to Paris and spent a few days there in a guest house, then onto Orleans where we stayed in small chalets. Me, Richard, Steven and Ian stuck together and enjoyed our adventure. We didn’t see the older boys and girls much. We didn’t buy fireworks and throw them around or get drunk or smoke. We did drink too much hot chocolate at breakfast though.

But occasionally I’d notice Foxy. He was just a little bit cool, a little bit self-reliant and a little bit confident. He didn’t care about peer pressure or the official tours.

On the coach journey back he’d acquired a girlfriend and with his arm nonchalantly draped around her, rested his head on her chest as he defaced the white cotton head rest cover in front with her pink nail varnish. In big sparkly pink letters he wrote the word, ‘Foxy’ and underlined it.

Can you can admire and hate someone at the same time? Defacing the coach paraphernalia riled with my sense of fair play. But the guts, or arrogance to not care about what other people think and do it anyway was something I admired. I wanted to be Foxy, put my feet up on the coach seats, get the girl.

I don’t know what happened to Foxy after that. Maybe he went from strength to strength. Maybe he’s out there now, driving around in a convertible Bentley, head of investments at a large hedge fund. Maybe he’s a successful raconteur, a mover and shaker in the film business, now living in LA. Or maybe he peaked age 14 and it was downhill from there. Maybe now he’s fat and old, been made redundant from the local car dealer, just divorced from his third wife, paying what money he can to the children he had with the first.  Or maybe he’s the same old Foxy, a free spirt, no-one can tie him down, always on the go.

That was the first time I recognised self confidence in action. I knew it was something I wanted. It took me another ten years before I could claim it for myself.

When did you claim yours?

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3 comments on “Foxy

  1. Ayd, your post reminds me of when our daughter, Catriona aka Cat, started her long journey home from her gap year in Australia. So I will share another travel tale that involves high emotion and self confidence.

    Let’s put this in perspective, here we have a young 19 year old, who travelling alone for the first time. She has checked in and customs is ahead; preparing herself for security checks when the customs officer says,

    “We need to take you to immigration”…and this is where the story really begins…

    Cat knew that her working visa had expired. However, she had been in touch with the immigration authorities by phone on several occasions to get the facts explained to her; you see she planned to go back to Oz, so she obviously needs to get it right. The dilemma? immigration’s interpretation was very different to Cat’s understanding… and as they began to read her, ‘Her Rights’ prior to escorting her to the interview room she was in a state of shock! Especially when they told her she was entitled to a lawyer…mentioned a delay of about and week…. she was beginning to panic thinking…’all I just want to go home!’ ‘Do you have anything to declare?’ the officer asked.

    Cat burst into tears, as she thought ‘Oh my goodness at anytime they are going to do a full body search and get out the latex gloves!’ This extensive interview lasted over an hour, whilst immigration ran all sorts of checks on her… from the British Embassy to her Australian employers… and all the time she was thinking… ‘I am not a criminal, I just want to go home…’

    She regained her confidence and started to defend her situation. They told her that had she stayed just another 72 hours then she would have had a 3 year ban against her entering Australia! You see, no-one had mentioned that she would need a bridging visa… She burst into tears again! This was turning into a nightmare and little did she know the flight had been delayed and because of her 300 travellers were waiting for her to board! As she got on the flight, the cabin crew welcomed her; in an attempt to cheer her they announce over the public address system that the passenger sitting in row 3D is the only UK resident on the plane and had been held at customs for over an hour due to ‘Aussie Rules’… the passengers gave her a round of applause!

    You may be thinking the drama ends here…but you’d be wrong…when Cat got to Darwin, Qantas had not allocated her a seat – an administration error. By this time, she is in a state of nervous exhaustion yet, being an absolute star, she quietly stated to the check-in agent…’Can you help me please, I just want to go home… get me on that plane…’ And her attitude and personality won through, for at this point Miss Catriona Milnes was upgraded to First Class all the way home!

    It’s kind of spooky. I’ve always said that we travel through life with a First Class attitude… And here she was at 19 doing just that. She adored the lounge where she sat in luxury sipping champagne, the complimentary back massage, manicure and pedicure; the 747 where she had a seat that turned into a bed, pajamas, a personal sound and vision system, telephone and service from the a la carte menu – not to mention the champagne and hors d’oeuvres on arrival!

    Cat may well have friends who love and hate her at the same time – you could understand those feelings under the circumstances couldn’t you? However, all truly is well that ends well… as Catriona became an Australian citizen last Friday


  2. It’s balance again, eh? Do What Thou Wilt, vs Do What Thou Wilt (as long as it harms none). Lack of self confidence suggests a leaning too far toward the “(as long as it harms none)”. Too far the other way and aren’t you into sociopath territory again? Hmmm…


  3. Isn’t it interesting how certain people and situations make their mark on us, without our realising how they propel us into who and what we aspire to be? Perhaps unconsciously we aspire to be rule breakers…not following the norm…because let’s face it, what has following the norm brought about so far…? Innovation? Think not. It doesn’t say he became an innovator, but he potentially appealed to that aspect of yourself (and others).


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