I went out yesterday; it's been a while! Put on my lipstick (the colour of a pimento pepper, I just noticed that it's called 'Kiss of Life') and went out to meet my two old schoolfriends. We go back 40 years and I've written about them before here. And one of them was the friend who wrote the letter I mentioned a few posts ago on this blog too. She had no recollection of obsessing about Sham 69 and Jimmy Pursey in 1978, by the way, but the evidence was there in black and white.... We got the giggles.
Our rendezvous, as usual, was in the town where we all grew up together. The
town where we went to school, the town where we learned to ride bikes and swim, where we puffed tentatively on
our first cigarettes, where we had our first clumsy kisses, our first
pint of warm cider, our first naïve fumbles with dodgy boyfriends.
Our first of many gig experiences too – which we reminded ourselves about
when we'd finished our lunch and went on a mini-tour of our old
stomping ground. We pulled in at the old maltings building which
used to be our rather excellent little music venue, where we had seen
the Banshees in January 1978, Adam and the Ants the following year,
and countless other bands of varying degrees of notoriety and
ability. In retrospect we reckoned we were so lucky, growing up in a
rural town but only 45 minutes by train from London. We had fields,
woods and riding stables at one end, a rock/punk club (and jazz and folk if you wanted it too) plus the Granada cinema at the other... our homes on the hilly streets between.
The town has changed; like most places it's bigger than it was even
20 years ago, new estates on its perimeter have spread progressively
outwards like ripples on water, buildings in its centre have grown
upwards like plants struggling to reach sunlight in crowded beds.
But its heart still does have some heart, in spite of the increase in
boho-chic shops with French names and the ubiquitous estate agents.
The road by the market square still has its brick style paving,
overlooked by buildings dating back to the 14th century,
even though they now sport their Mexican and Italian restaurant chain
frontages. I never really noticed the beauty of the architecture as a kid - you don't, do you? - never thought about
the history of the half-timbered houses or grand Georgian facades.
But you didn't really want to read about all that, did you? No, well...
if you really must know, my first naïve fumble was with a boy called
John in the bushes by the playing fields behind my house, on a Spring afternoon after school. I really didn't know what he was doing, nor
what I was supposed to do either, everything felt unknown and daunting - my childhood had been so very innocent up to then. As I said to my friends yesterday: “It was hard...” Oh, I didn't mean like that! That's for me to know and you to wonder about. Growing up with lovely friends like mine, though, everything else really was quite easy, and picking up where we left off all these decades later always is too.