Saturday, January 10, 2009

Post 200 - A tale of existential loneliness Kanye West could write a crappy 808 track to

My late 80s move from the cosy confines of Penguin - the most pressing issue in Penguin in the late 80s was whether or not Claridees charged too much for their ice cream sundaes - to the wild moors of Ayrshire was a scary and uncomfortable prospect. Even though I was 10en, I was entirely required by Ayrshire law to have opinions on music, literature, art, sex and a million other subjects, and all of my opinions would of course instantly be dismissed as shite, and since my only musical opinion was that it was all downhill for Peter Combe since Toffee Apple, I had to mature very quickly. 10en year olds discussing oral sex with the casual air of a drunk Oliver Reed on an episode of Sin on Saturday was a mile away from Burnie, where my peer group would still be discussing such hot button issues as caterpiller or fort, you decide. The school I went to was absolutely horrible, a wasteland for lost souls who would pick on the merciless, with teachers hudded around bins on supervision duty counting the hours until they could get into their Skodas and drive home. The school policy for new children was an interesting one as well, as the new kid would sit in the staff room like a guest waiting to go on Parkinson, and then on cue would walk from the class room through an open plan hall to their assigned class room with everyone watching them make their walk. If someone had cued up that jaunty Parkinson music and I had a special anecdote about cricket, I'd have been set. I survived the initial weeks mostly by claiming I knew Alf from Home and Away and that Kylie Minogue wasn't that big in Australia - I'd never heard of the woman so I thought this was a good opinion to have. The only other advice I got was don't cry, which wasn't very helpful since my Burnie school was pretty much a hippy commune where we would talk about our feelings, and if we didn't feel like doing, say, maths, we could off and paint the 9x table. Didn't really work in Ayrshire - the first few weeks I was there, I was punched in the face by a 6ix year old with the head of a potato. I'd never been punched before, not least of all by a hard headed mutant spud child, and it was only the quick thinking of my next door neighbours kid in telling me not to cry that prevented me from passing out from sheer shock that someone had hit me - and spudregus wasn't even doing anything wrong, it was just how they played. I remember standing in the middle of the concrete, watching a violent game of British Bulldogs on one side of the quadrangle, while on the other girls and boys ran around playing a game of catch and grope, and there I stood in the middle, staring up at a grey sky, miles from home, thinking about how badly the place needed a caterpillar. David Byrne was obviously singing some kind of song in a big suit, or at least he was trying to, but a 6ix year old was giving him a nipple cripple, and he couldn't get in tune...

In the requirement to suddenly mature, I totally lost my identity as over emotional but intellectual boy. My Mums solution to the problem of my identity crisis was to dress me up in any kind of fashionable clothes I wanted and hang the expense. Now, my Dad, having been thoroughly lied to by an august and supposedly respectable Thatcherite era school board (I know, a Thatcher appointed board dishonest, I'm shocked too), didn't get the full time job we'd all moved to Scotland for him to pursue, so he had to trip and travel around bolthole schools on the fringes of West of Scotland society, teaching 14 year olds to keep their knickers on and boys that knifes were only a sometimes weapon. So I don't know how my Mum found the money for, say, my orange FILA boots or my vintage Scotland shell suit, but she always did. In a very real sense it was nice clothes shame about the self confidence though, as I traipsed through a series of social events in church halls listening to Stock Aitken and Waterman hits and trying to look suave and failing miserably. It was during one of these events that I had a really awkward social moment. For some reason, I had put a leather jacket on, and the circumstances are desperately vague, but for some reason we were in some sort of nightclub during the day, at least somewhere that was playing music. This would prove in my brain that in the middle of a desperate patch of homesickness I had friends, but I don't know that that sounds right. It's a little bit like the start to Weekend at Bernies 2 - you can't work out how that would possibly happen. I was trying to redeem myself socially, I know that because during the slow song at the end of our Irn Bru and winching disco, when Eternal Flame came on, I shut my eyes and sang along karaoke style, and when I opened them again everyone was staring at me. So as I was trying to look cool in a leather jacket Mum had no doubt bought at Oxfam but to keep my face straight she probably told me cost 200 pounds, one of my friends noticed that, on the inside of the jacket, there was a map. What a map was doing on the inside of a leather jacket god only knows, but it was like a sewn in map of Belgium in, which makes me think it was some kind of World War II genuine bomber jacket. Needless to say that my identity, if it was missing, was now Biggles, especially when my friend helpfully suggested that we go and get some goggles from the science lab to round off the outfit. The wind up, as it was, enabled my companions to start a conversation with some birds, and I had to walk home from wherever the hell it was, with nothing more than a can of Tizer and a complete sense of deflation. Meanwhile, a drunk at the Village shopping centre rolled over in the gutter with his pants around his ankles, singing Old Man River. Needless to say, that never happened in Penguin. Maybe if it was The Gambler...

My cousins solution to this identity crisis, apart from getting me to toughen up by calling me a wee shite every time I saw him, was to get me to get me a girlfriend. It was pointless explaining I had a girlfriend of course - although that was another social disaster, as we barely even spoke and only kissed for a two pound fundraiser for Comic Relief. I went for a lift in his car once through the confusing traffic lights system of mid town Ayr, S Express booming out of overloaded speakers, when he suddenly came to a complete stop at the traffic lights and invited two sisters, one his age and one my age, to get in the car. They both had big 80s hair, were clones of each other in spite of the age difference, and were clad in the mandatory Ayrshire uniform of denim and ten tons of hairspray and attitude. Because we were in a relatively quiet period for serial killers and scare campaigns in the Daily Record, they were happy to accept the lift, and my cousin set about his usual patter to the older lassie, most of which involved him being about to sign S forms for Motherwell and buy a castle in Lanarkshire...meanwhile, in the back of the car with the suspect hydraulics, my date and I were engaged in the most uncomfortable conversation since R Kellys lawyer had to tell him just which tape had been leaked where...it got off to a good start as well, since we both liked Gloria Estefan. And who didn't? Her big hair covered her big Ayrshire eyes, and her Nolan sister make up job was glistening in the light as she made her big, 10en year old move with her killer question, what did I want to be when I grew up? Ah, that'd be the end of our budding relationship, because I didn't know who the hell I was, let alone what I wanted to be. I could tell my disinclination to talk about myself in any kind of meaningful way had upset her when she began looking out the window with a moody poetic but covered in concealer stare. For some reason, this would become a repetitive theme in my life in Ayrshire life, girls who seemed to know what they wanted to do pressing me into making big decisions while I sat around thinking about whether I preferred Salt or Pepa, in this case Nolan sister got out enough disdainful words to tell me she was going to cut hair, and I needed a plan...in the front of the car though, my cousin was having similar bad luck in the front of the car, since the older sister had begun a long and boring conversation about the relative merits of different hairsprays. Needless to say, we dropped them off at the next Poundstretchers, and last saw them approaching a group of harried looking biker types outside Krackers, trying to get themselves a smoke, and praying that the presence of matches and lighters near all that hairspray wouldn't prove combustible, which of course, the conversation certainly hadn't been...

Ultimately though, my identity would be forged, my reputation in fact would be forged, in the combat theatre of Platoon re-enactments that was the playground. There was a clear chance to establish my social status when I was challenged to my first fight with a younger but quite chunky kid called Chris, with a big dopey face and the rather ugly haircut of a boy who had just tried to outgrow his mullet but hadn't quite decided to part with all of it yet. When we were playing soccer, he had kicked me in the leg, quite accidentally, but much like being slapped in the face with a duelling glove, my honour had been challenged, so I pushed him in the mud. As fights go, it was like John Inman fighting Jessica Mauboy, hardly a heavyweight battle, but it was a fight, the first one I had ever had, and I had to step up to the plate. I didn't realise this of course, as when people started chanting eagerly for a fight I must admit I was keen to see one myself...oh, they mean me. I had no idea what to do, I had no inclination if I'm honest to smack a dopey kid in the head, especially one who's coconut shaped head would probably break my fist, I had no real inclination to punch someone so already down on their haunches in the mud - obviously with this much thinking time the crowd was getting agitated, with all the deliberation time I could have written a pros and cons list if I'm honest, and yet, obviously, so lost was I with my identity, so confused was I, that I did something horribly out of character in the swirling midst of peer pressure, and punched him in the head...well, what I actually did was try and do a bit of a phantom punch, by pressing my fist against his chin and pushing backwards gently. Was it deliberate though or was I just really unco and didn't know how to punch? Only God and that kid will know the truth...of course, trouble was, either way he wasn't versed in the whys and wherefores of the WWF and faking injury to get out of a difficult situation and when my blow bounced off the husk of the coconut, instead of going down so we could have a good laugh, he sat there bewildered, which simply meant someone kicked him in the head for real, you know, so he learned his lesson. And in the confusion, a mythology sprung up instantly about the fight, with 1/2 the school thinking I was some kind of prize fighter and the other 1/2 saying aren't you John Inman...nothing was settled at all...it was a very upsetting time....

To some though my identity was thus established - he wasn't a lover, he wasn't a fighter, he wasn't very cool, not good at sport, not sure about future plans...er...oh well, he's a good laugh...lets run with that...as for the rest, see you at post 500...that's the next milestone, right?

9 comments:

Georgie B said...

Congrats on post #200.

Sorry to hear that you had such a rotten time with your blind date.

Sometimes though, blind dating can work out for the best. It did for me and I've been married for the past 19 years as solid proof.

Charles Gramlich said...

Growing up, I thought I was an interesting person, but no one else seemed to agree. Especially girls.

Baino said...

Congrats on the big 200. And the things we do to fit in! For me it was smoking behind the basketball courts and look where that got me!

Miles McClagan said...

Given my inability to make any kind of small talk, blind dates would be an immense struggle. I'm glad yours worked out, the set up person was obviously better than my cousin! Thanks for the congrats too!

I think in Ayrshire, you are quickly disabused of any notion you are an interesting person! It's called being Scottish, you aren't allowed any kind of ego! Tasmania is a lot kinder...

I don't think I ever did any smoking...not until the Grade 12 cigar phase...probably wasn't hip enough! It is a big 200, lot of words!

squib said...

That jacket sounds very cool

Miles McClagan said...

It not only wasn't cool, it was only useful if you were invading Belgium...

squib said...

I'd love a jacket lined with a map!

However I'm a complete nerd in the fashion department

the projectivist said...

i don't much like that Jessica Mauboy.
did you see her on telly on New Years?
it was rather tragic.
i can imagine that guy off Australian Idol telling her:

"Ok Jessica love, we're going to go for sexy here, ya know? seeeeeexy."

(i'm not sure why he sounds ocker, just go with me on this)

[Jessica nods her big over-hairsprayed-head silently, lips pouted in concentration, or just way too much damn lip gloss]

"i want you to get up on that stage and really WOW the audience with your sexy dancemoves."

Jessica appears curiously awkward, writhing almost in time to the music, like some sad extra from Countdown.
(a lone dancer the camera skimmed over as it tried to get a close-up of Molly's oddly shaped mullet-head)

i have no idea where i'm going with this or why i'm unleashing my pent-up Mauboy frustrations out on you. so that's all i'll say on the subject.

oh yeah
happy 200th post Miles!
can't we celebrate again when you reach 300?

Miles McClagan said...

If I still had it, I'd send it to you, I presume it went straight back in the cupboard never to be seen again, next to my Ace Of Base single...

No, I couldn't agree more, I can't believe I wanted her to win Idol. I'm embarrassed now. She was SO bad at the cricket...just bloody awful...worse than Courtney Act! I'm going by radio protocol, which is you celebrate 100, 200 and 500...but 300 I suppose will get a run!