1985 And All That – An Interlude

Ok, I think an explanation is due as to what the hell has happened to the next part of 1985.

You will remember that when I last wrote about it, I had just been arrested for the ever so slightly embarrassing crime of stealing four pairs of white socks. (Talk about a cliff-hanger, eh? Where’s my EastEnders “doof-doofs“?) The reason for nicking them was that they were needed for a forthcoming school trip to Norway. There is no justification for them being white, of course.

Anyway, I left you with the tantalising prospect of some stories about the trip to Norway, and it is this that has proved my stalling point; not that I’m against talking about it, but because I was trying to locate a prime bit of original source material.

I kept a diary of the whole trip.

The problem was, I couldn’t find the sodding thing. A few months ago I found that a large chunk of my most valuable vinyl had gone missing/been stolen, and when I couldn’t locate the Norway diary, I began to think that maybe it had been in the same box which had simply gone walkies somewhere on one of my oh-so-many house-moves.

Tonight though, that has been resolved. I clutch in my hands a red A4 binder with a terrible title (“7 Go Mad in Norway”) and my hand-written description of the holiday, which I’m currently trawling through in search of funny stories to relate to you. Unfortunately, all I seem to have come across so far is quite a lot of immature, slightly racist, slightly sexist guff, which, given that I wrote it when I was a fifteen year old boy who had never met a non-white person (apart from the one who had beaten me up at junior school for “sounding American”) and had no idea how to speak to, or of, women, isn’t really that surprising. Not that that should be considered a justification or excuse, just…well, I didn’t know any better at the time.

(I did seem to bloody love brackets back then too, mind.)

So, you will forgive me if I elect to pick the funny bits from the stuff I wrote back then, rather than just scanning and posting it as I had originally planned to. And not just for the reasons I mention above; at least one of the people mentioned in the diary, a lad I had known since we were about 5, has since died…so…y’know….some tact, diplomacy and respect is required.

Whilst I work my way through that, a little local history. Most of you will have heard of the Cheese Rolling at Cooper’s Hill in Gloucester, right? No? Ok, well, it’s an annual event where people…er…roll a cheese down a hill in Gloucester. It hit the headlines a couple of years ago here in the UK as there were a couple of fairly serious injuries (it is a fucking steep hill) and there was talk of them there Health & Safety folks stepping in and nixing the whole event. (Seriously, you have to love a website designed to promote the event which contains the text: “Meanwhile Chris…is helped down by friends, then treated for a suspected sprained ankle by the event volunteer medics. He is soon joined by another competitor with a sprained ankle” and with pictures to illustrate it.)

I imagine that promotional material like this helped them dodge the avoid the Health & Safety bods and the shut-down they were apparently angling for:


“You are strongly advised not to attend” I think is one of my favourite bits of advertising ever.

Happily, I can report that the event lives on, and all free-thinking people will be allowed to critically injure themselves again in 2016.

The more astute of you will know that I was nowhere near Gloucestershire in 1985, so will be wondering why I’m mentioning this. Well, it’s because there’s another cheese rolling event in the UK, a much more sedate one, a lot closer to home for me when I was growing up, literally taking place at the end of my road.

Up until now, I’ve simply said I grew up near Peterborough, and this is the answer I give in general conversation, because I can’t be arsed with giving the whole back-story about where I actually grew up, which was in a little village just outside Peterborough called…Stilton.

Yes, like the cheese.

And, no, it’s not from there.

(This plan of saying I was from Peterborough back-fired when I first used it, on an open-day at a polytechnic (remember them??) I had applied for, when a young lady said “Oh, the place with Roy Kinnear dressed as a roman in the adverts?” I had no clue what she was on about as, having lived in Peterborough, the adverts had never screened there. But here‘s an example, dubbed and with subtitles for some reason. I mean, I don’t imagine there were many countries crying out for an advert for a cathedral city within commutable distance from London, but who knows?)

Anyway, once a year, the High Street in the village would be cordoned off and the crowds would gather to watch two teams of four race to roll a (wooden) Stilton cheese down the road in the fastest time, and so on to the quarters, then the semis…oh you get the gist. The winners would get a barrel of beer and a wheel of Stilton cheese for their troubles.

Those who weren’t entranced by the sight of grown men and women in fancy dress chasing a block of wood down the High Street, which was most of the locals, would invariably do what locals do when their village is invaded by tourists: retire to the pub, get pissed and slag them off until they’ve gone.

And in 1985, that’s exactly what I did, joining my brother and his mates Rob and Phil in The Talbot, a less than salubrious drinking hole pretty much slap-bang in the centre of the village.

Regular readers of this blog will recall a little while ago my brother contributed to these very pages, talking about his dual life as an RAF recruit and a goth. Rob and Phil were his partners in crime in the goth-side of those two tectonic plates jarring against each other, all black clothes, studded belts, winkle-pickers and back-combed hair .

At some point, they decided that forming a band would be a good idea, not in the slightest bit bothered about the fact that none of them could play any instruments (“Well, if it was good enough for Sid Vicious, it’s good enough for us” seemed to be the philosophy) and so, as the only person they knew with any musical ambitions, (actually, that not strictly true: my brother had often either commandeered my electric guitars, or even bought one or two himself, but placed in the hands of the curious budding engineer that he was, they invariably ended up in bits, having been taken apart “to see how they worked” and then not bothered to be put back together again, much as he treated a lot of cars around the same time. Our driveway had a partially-disassembled Triumph Spitfire covered in a tarpaulin parked on it for years after he moved out) I was charged with teaching them to play. By them, I mean Phil, as he was the only one who was even vaguely arsed about their band having at least one musician in it.

So Phil would often be round at ours, with me trying to teach him the three chords I knew, how to play by ear, and one of the two tricks I’d learned at the time but have since forgotten.

For the record, they were called “Third Light”, which to this day I still think is a bloody good name for an indie/goth band, but what do I know?

Anyway, I mention all of this because sitting drinking in The Talbot, and presumably desperate to show I was cool enough to be drinking with these spiky-haired ne’er-do-wells, I had professed my love for The Cult’s “She Sells Sanctuary”, which, as previously mentioned, had hardly been off my turntable since I bought the single.

Phil told me that he had bought the album, didn’t think much of it, and I could take it off his hands for a fiver. This was a bargain in my eyes, as it would cost me at least that much in bus fare just to get into town and back just to see if there was a second hand copy in Andy’s Records basement.

So the deal was done, and soon afterwards I took ownership of The Cult’s “Love” album.

Phil was right. Apart from the singles (the rest of which will feature here soon enough) there was nothing much of interest.

Except the opening track, which I still think is a bit of a belter, and should have been a single (*checks Wikipedia…nope it wasn’t*)

I do love an album that starts with them being counted in by the drummer. The simple pleasures of life, eh?

And so here it is:

The_Cult_Love The Cult – Nirvana

More soon. Honest.