Long ago, in a county far, far away…
Only kidding, but it does seem quite a while ago. I was born in 1966 and a few good things happened that year. The first episode of Batman was screened, the Russian spaceship luna 10 first orbited the moon, England won the world cup and I was born. Okay, so the last event is not on Wikipedia and maybe proves that every silver lining has a cloud! Still, despite the fact that I was born into it, the decade was a great period, an explosion of art, music, mass protest and general cultural change that has changed the world. It’s a pity that I was in nappies, drinking milk and eating Farley’s rusks at the time.
I didn’t exactly grow up in the stone age. By the sixties, Cumbria in England was at the very least bronze age. Maybe this explains my unease where computers, blogging and tweeting are concerned. At school we played football, shove-ha’penny and tag (Yes money was worth so much we still had half-pence pieces). We had no calculators, video recorders or computers. At home we had a black and white TV for a while. Talk about the dark ages! It was good, though and I learned the value of money, respect and kindness. I used to walk my dog for miles in the countryside. Despite the fact that his legs were much shorter than mine, I was merciless. He never complained, though. I was already becoming somewhat solitary, even at that young age. Walking in the middle of nowhere with my dog, the burbling river, rustling trees and birdsong was a beautiful experience, every time.
My interest in music began early, even if I wasn’t too keen on Mum’s choices all the time. I did quite like The Shadows and even Cliff Richard, but when I finally got my own ‘music centre’ that I had in another room, my interest blossomed. I was in my teens then and Mod music had made a resurgence. I listened to Two-Tone and Ska. I even bought a parka with the long tails and adorned it with union jacks. I stayed on at school to do A-levels, concentrating on science and maths. At this time I made a more lasting switch to Rock music and Heavy Metal. This continued at university, where I read Mechanical Engineering. Night clubs, pubs, curries and Motorhead concerts were what I filled my spare time with. To be honest, I also filled time that should have been devoted to study on these things, too. Maybe that was why I only got a 2,2 as my final grade…it certainly didn’t help. To be fair to myself, I passed up the chance of a Pink Floyd concert in Manchester in my final year (1988). Now I wish I’d gone.
Bradford University was an eye-opener for me. I revelled in my freedom there. I saw people from all different class, religious and ethnic backgrounds. This was all something of a culture shock to me. Coming from a relative backwater, I had scarcely seen any skin colour than the pasty white of Cumbrians who were drowned in rain for most of the year…it’s not called the lake district for nothing. I suddenly realised that everyone was the same, generally speaking. Whatever your colour or creed, you can be good, bad or indifferent. After a particularly embarrassing incident in a bikers’ bar, I even got over my homophobia.
I left Bradford University with a new outlook. I was more rebellious, confident and the world posed no problems. I had a job in an engineering design office. I had very long hair, so long and silky (I used VO5 hot oil on it) that most women were jealous. My parents hated it, of course, but surely that was half the reason for wearing it that long? I was an individual. I went back to my home town feeling like a prophet. I could change everything. Never again would I bow to convention. As the Irish say, I had become a given man.