When I was a boy I was never taught the facts of life. I knew it was something to do with birds, and bees, but that the birds weren’t birds and the bees weren’t bees.

That was about that.

It was a little confusing.

I assumed someone would put me right and furnish me with the facts eventually. Still waiting…although I’m reasonably confidently that I’ve figured out the main points for myself, now.

This was the 1980’s, and at a certain point in that decade TV adverts appeared on screen to warn about the dangers of HIV and AIDs. They were quite menacing and clearly about people dying. I think I was about eleven.

I asked a grown-up what a condom was and they said: “erm…it’s a tablet.”

Then they left the room to go and do something.

I had an inkling that HIV, AIDs and condoms were something to do with the facts of life but I wasn’t clear whether this was to do with birds, bees, or some other winged creature.

In hindsight, I realise that not only was I woefully underprepared for encounters with birds and/or bees but that also there were lots of other facts of life that I wasn’t hearing about.

People die and it’s sad. It’s OK if some people don’t like you. You only go to prison for serious crimes. When your country goes to war in the Middle-East it’s highly unlikely that bombs will start landing on the north of England. Condoms aren’t tablets and it is safer if you use one.

Y’know…those sorts of things.

The things that keep an eleven year old awake at night.

Now I have two boys of my own, and they have questions. Answers are given. I do my best. I also tell them a particular truth that the eleven year old me would have relished knowing:

A lot of the time, nobody knows what they are doing. People just muddle through. They make it up as they go along. Not knowing everything is normal. Not being prepared is fine.

It’s a fact of life.



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