As a youngster with just one parent to navigate me through those choppy waters of adolescence, my dear old man decided that the pen was mightier than the sword.
Rather than dictate the right and wrong way to behave to his lad, he simply gave me a book.
Ironically enough, that Life’s Little Instruction Book by H. Jackson Brown was the only paperback I studied religiously as a teenager (as I opted to dick about with my mates instead of study like my sister).
I still flick through those 500-odd tips on a regular basis. And as Rachael Heyhoe Flint was laid to rest in Wolverhampton today, I can’t help but think it could have been written by her.
‘Treat everyone you meet like you want to be treated’ was one pearl of wisdom. Number 33 in fact.
I only met Rachael once, and it was safe to say that she did precisely that. My good mate Paul Robinson, just a kid back in 2006, was returning from his first tour of duty in Basra, Iraq.
I really, really missed him while he was away. More than that, I really, really feared for him every day he’d gone. More than he will probably appreciate.
So when he returned home I wanted to do something for him. As a lifelong Wolves fan himself, I wondered if the club might do something for him to welcome him back. I wrote an email to the club.
And within 5 minutes, Rachael Heyhoe Flint was calling my mobile, no less!
She rolled out the red carpet for Paul for a Friday night league game against Sunderland and left no stone unturned.
Paul and his family arrived with me at the main reception where Rachael was already waiting.
16. Be the first to say hello
6. Have a firm handshake
7. Look people in the eye
128. Remember people’s names
107. Smile a lot. It costs nothing and is beyond price
That was Rachael, causing me to well up with pride for being a Wolves fan at that very moment, whilst simultaneously regressing me back to my youth, when Dad handed me that book.
“Sir Jack has so much time for anyone serving in the Armed Forces, particularly a Wolves fan like Paul, so it would be the least we could do,” she’d say.
Rachael then led us pitchside where Bully was waiting – with a replica shirt she had evidently got the players to sign.
94. Make it a habit to do nice things for people
Again, that was Rachael. As Jenny Wilkes so beautiful paid tribute on Radio WM the other day, she’d have a very persuasive way of getting people to do things, whether they wanted to or not!
So there Bully stood, chatting about his favourite ever Wolves goals (I monopolised the conversation here, with a left footer against Bolton at the North Bank end featuring highly in Div 3.) Rachael, meanwhile, asked about Paul’s life, family, and six month experience in a 40 degree shithole known as Iraq.
133. When someone is relating an important event that’s happened to them, don’t try to stop them with a story of your own. Let them have the stage.
145. Be enthusiastic about the success of others
After meeting the two legends, Paul met another one, as Thommo was thrust in our direction, while injured players were also instructed to meet the main man of the evening – my mate Paul.
287. Promise big. Deliver big.
We adjourned to our seats and watched the game in our bubble of unbridled, fuzzy joy. It was a largely forgettable 1-1 draw featuring an utterly memorable Jemal Johnson 30 yard screamer. But that evening will live with me forever, as one special lady went the extra-mile for a family she’d never met – nor ever meet again.
As was the case with just about everything she put her mind to, Rachael Heyhoe Flint brought so much happiness to people’s lives through her own selfless actions.
274. Leave everything a little better than you found it
God bless xx