The first was at the age of 11. A year had elapsed since changing schools from primary to grammar/secondary school and as an alumnus I went back to visit my old primary school - Beechfield Street Primary, Belfast. My favorite teacher and now Principal, Mr. Oliver, remarked "I thought you would have made a great soccer player. You could have captained the team, but I didn't think you were that interested!" Not interested, I would have sold my soul to have heard that when I was 9, 10 or 11! As it was I became a semi-useful breaker of legs rather than an ball-dribbling artist.
The second, and still on the theme of artists, was when at 16 I had to choose my university career path - arts or science. I opted for science - more money I thought! Again some time later I was speaking to my former arts teacher, I think his name was David Crone who is one of Northern Ireland's premier artists. He told me that he was disappointed when I gave up arts/painting. "You had promise." Why on earth didn't he mention that when I was 13,14 or 15 and thought I was pretty miserable at art? Maybe he did, and as with most teens it went in one ear and out the other.
The decision to forsake arts for science, however, has recently come back to 'bite me in the arse.' I was good at history in grammar school. I mean I was the best. Straight 'A's with little effort. On reflection, I have often thought that had I to do it all over then I would have stayed with history. In the end, maybe I have returned to that 'first love' as an author of historical fiction.