Don't ever try to tell a 17-year-old girl how to dress | Alun Newman

I like to think I’m pretty ‘down with the kids’, although even typing those words it looks as though the writing might be on the wall...

Monday, 22nd November 2021, 8:09 pm
Updated Monday, 22nd November 2021, 8:09 pm
How Alun envisaged his daughter and niece looking at interviews.

For many years, I was a youth worker and I think with that comes a degree of understanding.

Maybe it gives me an extra insight into how young people ‘process’.

Perhaps it means that where other adults become irrelevant and a bit ‘past it’, I can still connect to the kids of today.

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So with that in mind, last week, my 17-year-old niece came to stay to have a day at work with her uncle.

She’s pondering a career in the world of media and I was happy to oblige.

She’s a lovely girl. Keen, polite, idealistic.

She came to stay the night before because I get up for work at 4am and thought it would be easier.

I briefed her about my morning routine and explained what time we needed to leave the house in order for my somewhat religious routine to stay intact.

I suggested that it would be sensible to go to bed early but this was widely ignored.

I realised this when, while in bed, I heard a pizza delivery driver turn up.

I also heard a lively debate about which film to watch.

As the night flew by at lightening speed and before I could sit up in bed panicking that I'd missed my alarm, it went off, as it always does

I actually run a three-alarm system that my wife thinks is over the top and an indication of being neurotic. I think it’s a well-oiled fail-safe.

As I get ready for work, I hear no other soul getting up, so I do the parental duty of whispering around the door of the spare room to see if I can raise a 17-year-old from the dead.

To her credit, we leave on time but during the drive to work I get a sense that she is thinking ‘if this is the world of media - I’m out’.

We had a fun morning together and when the show finished, we walked into town to meet my daughter.

Once we were all together I suggested a bit of shopping as it would be fun before lunch and I’m keen for my daughter to get some ‘sensible’ clothes, suitable for a job-interview/funeral/wedding/baptism. No leggings. No hoodies. Nothing with writing on!

At this point, I’m dumped like a sack of potatoes in the north Atlantic.

Before I suggest that ‘I’ll just hang around in the background’ I’m ushered to a coffee shop and told to sit tight like the driver in a bank robbery.

I kid you not, one hour and forty-five minutes later, after I’ve left the coffee shop and walked around so much, I can’t feel my feet, they reappear.

I buy them lunch. They have bags, this is good.

We do the ‘reveal what I’ve got'. Face masks, a small clutch bag, some plastic storage boxes, another scarf, a super soft fluffy heart-shaped pillow.

The list for landfill goes on and on. There’s no COP26 anxiety with these two.

Of course, there was not a hint of the sensible clothing requested.

Apparently in this behemoth of a store, there was nothing that fitted ‘right’.

It became all too clear that I have become what my parents became to me – a taxi driver, a walking bank account, food provider and a work experience uncle.

I drove my niece back up to London.

I had the last laugh though, because by Fleet Services she’d fallen fast asleep and at one point her head was banging the window in time with Coldplay on the radio…


I was thrilled to see the research that claimed more people than ever are watching TV with the subtitles on. This habit is reasonably new to me, the past two years or so.

Of course, I knew they existed but I didn’t realise how brilliant they are.

It removes the need to crank up the TV to 11 to understand what on earth is going on.

The family stops moaning at me for making it impossible for them to hear what they want to hear.

At first, I only used them for the shows and films in which there was much mumbling. Surely in production or the edit, someone must put their hand up and say: ‘Do you think we should shoot it again so we can understand them?’ ‘No’, says the producer and director, ‘they’ll put the subtitles on’.

Now I can’t live without them. Indeed, it’s annoying when they’re not an option.

The data suggests the age group that loves them most are18-25-year-olds, with four out of five saying they have them switched on all the time (BBC Survey). Sure, it’s probably so they can have three scenes on at once but I bet they stick with it.

There are downsides. You can focus so much on the words you forget to look at what’s going on in the pictures. And most irritatingly, you get some information in advance. If you’re watching a thriller, when Inspector X does the big finish ‘I can tell you the murderer is…’ The suspense is ruined because the subtitles have already told you it was Keith.

If you can cope with these spoilers, give it a go.

A message from the editor, Mark Waldron.

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