Her name was Vicky, and I thought she was gorgeous! I was a shy 13 year old; she was the vicar’s daughter.
My sisters sang in the local church choir. We weren’t at all religious as a family – it was more of a social thing: meet up with friends, have a laugh at rehearsals, sing a few hymns, that sort of thing. There was talk in the group about going to confirmation classes. Rumour had it that Vicky was attending.
This is a sad tale of those early pangs of what we, rather drily, call sexual attraction. Those awkward, angst-driven days with strange yearning feelings, but without the social skills or experience to know what to do. Confirmation classes: that sounded tempting. Lots of opportunities to sit in the same room as Vicky – perhaps a glance, a smile, and then what?
There was one problem: this religion business. The school I went to was run on traditional lines: daily assemblies, two hymns, a bible reading. I was beginning to think that this didn’t make sense: that the belief in something or someone “out there” was not for me.
I already had the evidence to bust the two main myths that parents tell children. As an older brother, I was in on the secret that the tooth fairy was really my mum. (Incidentally, she was also the fairy who left sixpences under turned-up eggshells on the kitchen window sill, for no other reason than we’d had boiled egg for tea.) As for Father Christmas, I can still remember the Christmas Eve when, pretending to be asleep, I saw my dad come into the bedroom, torch in hand, to place the stockings and Christmas presents at the foot of the bed.
There was no such evidence proving the non-existence of God, but still I felt uneasy. If I went along with the confirmation classes, I would be doing it for an ulterior motive. Worse, I would be a hypocrite. As you can guess, I didn’t go, and Vicky never found out about my unrequited love.
Or at least, that’s the way I tell myself the story went. Truth to tell, it was probably my shyness that did it for Vicky and me.
But that’s how I can remember exactly how old I was when I first had serious doubts about God.