Monday, 14 November 2011


“Youth is easily deceived, because it is quick to hope.” - Aristotle

I was in the train yesterday, coming home after a full day at work. A group of teenagers in school uniform came in and stood next to me, I seated and reading the paper. They were full of exuberance and verve, laughing and exchanging pleasantries, mock insults, telling jokes. I looked at them and half-smiled into the newsprint, remembering my own school years a little nostalgically. But nostalgia is a poor judge of circumstance as it often looks at the past through rose-tinted lenses and the unpleasant memories magically disappear…

I observed the group of students and became aware that their manner was a little forced, there was a tension in their interaction. Their eyes were full of insecurity, their body language showing unease, their voices mirthful yet all too anxious, and their stance betraying their nervousness. A young man with a face full of pimples who constantly brought his hand to his face, as if to shield his spots self-consciously. A girl with braces was afraid to smile lest the dental equipment showed too much and a rather plump boy did not dare say anything, lest he draw attention to himself. A handsome young man was too much aware of his prodigious height and his back was humped as he tried to bring himself down to the level of his interlocutors. A flat-chested girl crossing her arms in front of her breasts, hoping to hide their non-existence.

Youth: How often we yearn for it and when older we forget the ferocity of adolescence, the anguish of early adulthood, the insecurity of that transient period when we shift from youth to adulthood. What to do with our life, what path to choose, how to establish ourselves in this strange new world of adults that we so yearned to enter. And when with the wonderful key of our coming-of-age we open the door that leads into this marvellous new universe, how terrifying it all is!

Today’s Magpie Tales reminded me of this experience. The woman surrounded by chairs finds herself in a plenitude of parallel universes, with a superabundance of seemingly identical choices, but if the wrong choice is made the life ahead will be bitter, the right choice assuring a better outcome. Once again pardon my whim of tampering with Magpie’s image, but I had to belabour my point and drive home the meaning behind my rather sibylline pome today.


There is a gravid moment,
An expectation
Full of prospects,
An endless row of possibilities.

There is a hope,
A skein of wishes
Plaited into the loose pigtails
Of youth yearning to grow up.

There is excitement,
A wild elation
But also apprehension,
As the road ahead is hidden, treacherous.

There is insistence,
A compulsion to choose
But also diffidence –
For a wrong choice will be regretted…

There is much offered,
A plethora of promises;
Each choice must be weighed
And compared with its companions.

A seat selected tends to bind,
The wood sprouting viscid tentacles,
Imprisoning unwary limbs:
Once seated, one may soar – or stay put, unseated.


  1. i had a litterature teacher ones, an old grumpy guy, that used to say : youth is wasted to the young...

    your posts always make my thoughts fly : )

  2. This is a fine exposition of a time of life that whether we remember it with such clarity or not, is with us for the rest of our life. It is all there in the image, but it needed your write to bring it out for me.

  3. What a very thoughtful commentary and poem too. Interesting, I never went there in my thought, but I'm glad you took me there with yours. So, if you could, knowing what you know now, would you go back and do it again? I don't know you age, but it also brings to mind the song lyrics, 'If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.' Anyway, really good write sir.

  4. very that you found other art with the chairs as well...very open it up in a unique way...and very thought provoking...

  5. well written sir... I love your take on this prompt..


  6. ... you took me to a place, another time, a chance to reflect. Thanks for that. Good poetry will do that.

  7. A very thoughtful reaction to the prompt.

    I am glad I'm not young any more, are you?

  8. very eloquent poem and how did you manipulate the image- wonderfully done.

  9. Wonderful!

    The art, the essay, AND the poem.


  10. Thank you for your comments everyone!

    Demie, your grumpy old teacher was quoting Oscar Wilde: “Youth is wasted on the young.”

    Dave, thank you for your kind comment.

    Other Mary, I am happily middle-aged and would not wish to have to go and do it all over again. Each age has its charms and the earlier we realise this, the better our life is.

    Brian, thank you - there are so many chairs, aren't there!

    JJ, thank you!

    Helen, you are most kind.

    Friko, yes indeed!

    Kathe, I used Photoshop and transparent layers, as well as some custom filters. It was fun playing with the image.

    Sue, thank you!

  11. This is a wonderful post. I love everything about it.

  12. What an insightful post. A pleasure to read your observations.

  13. I love your description of loose pigtails and youth. Brilliant.

  14. such a delight to read
    now this thing called choice...that is for adults
    no matter what age
    if you don't choose...that is your choice...hmmmm

  15. Love your observations, Nicholas, and your talent with photos - "very cool", as Brian says:-)

    It would be interesting to discuss the topic of choice, which chair we choose, and how much it has to do with our final destination, which is the same for us all.

  16. This is wonderful post, Nicholas. The image, your introductory comments and poem all come together very nicely to give a picture of that terrifying time when we pass from adolescence into adulthood.

    Like you, I would not go back and do it all over again. Learning to appreciate the gifts of each of our ages is something that we should all do.

  17. Beautiful...I especially love your line "Plaited into the loose pigtails
    Of youth..."

  18. i loved everything about your magpie....your observation of the teenagers at the start was so spot know i remember being one of those guys oh so many years ago and sometimes think i knew more then than i do now...funny that..xx

  19. Insightful, cogent and very well written...

  20. I loved it. I feel like publishing at my blog because I'm thinking a lot lately about my own age.
    Middle age... it is very strange.
    Loved the way you observed the teenagers and it seems to me that what I'm experience is related to that somehow.
    Having trouble to figure out.
    Stopped 20 years of therapy in 2008 but I don't think that what I feel is something to be said sat at the cough - never could lie.
    I believe that this great image of the woman surrounded by chairs has to do with all of that.
    I look at teenagers too and the last time I saw a group in a bus coming from school was a happening for me.
    Great post, as always.