Is it wrong that children tell lies? I did. They weren’t malicious, more like embellishments to make life more interesting. When I was 5 years old I had, what can only be described as a creative imagination. This made my ‘show and tell’ stories rather different from other children’s.
My classmates would stand up and tell stories of visits to the zoo or some such. However there are only so many times you can hear about otters before you get a bit bored. I thought it would be more exciting to jazz the stories up a bit. Of course the world of your average 5 year old isn’t that exciting so this meant delving into the fascinating realms of falsehood.
One morning, when the teacher asked if anyone had any stories to share with the class, I immediately shot my hand high in the air. I was bursting to share with the group the exciting events that had happened to me over the weekend.
As was the custom in the 1970s (health and safety executives look away now, this is likely to give you heart palpitations) I proudly stood up on my chair and announced to the class that over the weekend I had swum across The English Channel.
For any 5 year old, this was a hard sell. It was made even more unbelievable by the fact that I couldn’t swim... and everybody knew it. In fact I didn’t even like swimming. My Dad would often take us swimming on Saturday mornings and I used to dread it. I wasn’t very tall for my age and the shallow end in swimming pools then was 3ft. I was about 3ft 4”, which meant I never really gained the necessary confidence to simply whoosh off and start swimming.
Nevertheless, I was so convinced that I’d swum the channel that I stuck to my story unreservedly. What I found incredible was that once the story session was over, some of the other kids actually came over and asked what it was like. Was it cold, did I have to put all that white greasy stuff on me – “oh no” I said, “I wore a wetsuit”, another whopper. I didn’t have a wetsuit. Of course I didn’t, I was only 3ft 4”.
It was all in the delivery. I don’t know where my self confidence came from but I learnt something very useful that day. I realised that if you sound convincing enough, some people will believe you. If I ever find out how to teach that sort of self-confidence to my children, I’ll teach them. You need a bit of chutzpah these days. However I do feel that I’ve somewhat wasted my talents; I clearly should have been a politician.