For a couple of years in my twenties I lived with a group of blokes in Leeds. We were all working in the media and it was, in many ways, a fantastic few years. In other ways it was all a bit painful, if I’m honest, because I didn’t really fit.
The reason I felt a bit of a square peg in a round hole is a fairly simple one: I’m not cool. Never have been and, as I approach the age of 38, am beginning to realise I never will be. The lads I lived with – all very nice blokes in their own ways – appeared to have perfected that air of not actually caring about anything: the quality that appears to be the main pre-requisite to attaining the title of ‘cool’.
They all had down pat that sideways, ironic way of looking at life that appears to be the key to looking like you’re in with the in crowd: enjoying naff Christmas jumpers, but only ironically, never fully engaging with something in case you abandon all sense of poise and actually enjoy yourself. You always have to be at one step removed from anything in order to appear to only ever enjoy it at a distance through an ironic veil if you want to be considered cool.
It was all a bit practised for me and I never could get the look right. I like Kylie and Michael Jackson, I enjoy mainstream movies and I really don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying a Nick Hornby novel – and I don’t practice these tastes as an affectation – those are the things I actually enjoy. And I actually enjoy them fairly enthusiastically.
I’d sometimes look at the in crowd from the outside and wonder what I could do, if anything, ever, to get a pass in. Then I started meeting people in the arts world when I became arts editor for The Yorkshire Post and realised that not only was my enthusiasm for things not the Kryptonite I believed it was that prevented me from ever being super cool. In actual fact my enthusiasm was the cape that made me as “cool” as I wanted to allow myself to be.
Because, and here’s a secret that we really ought to reveal to people at a much earlier age: through an ironic sneer is not the best way to look at the world. Through the rose-tinted glasses of enthusiasm absolutely is.
I was reminded of this important lesson this week when I met David Pugh. An hilarious storyteller and gifted theatre producer, he regaled me with some of the most outlandish, libellous and entertaining stories I have ever heard in an interview. I’ll be able to share about 10 per cent of them with you in The Yorkshire Post in the coming weeks.
The reason David Pugh is such a successful producer of theatre with West End hits all over his CV, is because he is incredibly enthusiastic. You could never imagine him watching anything through an ironic sneer – the man bursts with positivity. As do the vast majority of people I meet in the arts world who are pursuing their life’s passion.
I reckon that’s pretty cool.