Yesterday in a small market town in Hertfordshire, two women were spotted looking at their reflections in the windows of a Toni & Guy. “Let’s check ourselves out!” one had suggested, laughing - and looking back at them, posing stupidly in the rain-spattered reflection, were two 55-year olds, smiling broadly under their umbrellas, both dressed in leopard-spot coats, dark jeans and black boots. A bemused customer inside having her roots retouched grinned in the mirror.
We did turn a few heads. I mean, I knew she had a leopard spot coat too – a bit different from mine in that it’s fluffy and a tad more golden in shade, but what were the chances of us both wearing them today? We only get together a few times a year, reuniting here in our old hometown, the place we rarely visit now, but where we first met at school. If it had been sunnier, I would've worn my green coat. If it had been warmer, she would have worn her black jacket. But it was cold and wet and we'd both dressed as big cats.
“Hey, but we’re cool! We’re rock’n’roll! We used to be in a band!” I assured my dear friend playfully – we were never in a band, at least not a real one, but somehow we might as well have been, as that’s how it felt to be part of our little punk scene here, forty years ago. You sort of felt like a someone; it was like a rural equivalent of the Bromley Contingent. And some of its regular characters who weren’t known then did go on to be bigger someones. It was as if there was something special about this town and its thriving underground music scene that nurtured its rebellious youth a particular way.
As well as catching up on news and views over lunch, we luxuriated in a little reminiscing, about a time when we might both have killed for the leopard spot coats we were now wearing, but wouldn’t have been able to get one anywhere. I'd been lucky enough to get a pair of tailor-made leopard print trousers (with a drawstring waist!) through a small ad in the back pages of the NME when I was 15. The young fashion student making them up to order on her electric sewing machine knew she was onto something. I loved those trousers like a pet - a rare, exotic pet. You just couldn’t buy these things off the peg in the late seventies – in fact the only women you’d see in this fabric pattern (a scarf, or a skirt, perhaps) were also likely to be in their late seventies. Okay, they probably weren’t, they were most likely only 55 too – but anyone over the age of 30 just got boxed into a category we thought of as ‘old’, didn't they?
Maybe that’s what the 15-year-old schoolgirls coming down the street thought when they caught sight of us as we wandered back from our reunion lunch with wine and garlic on our breath.... Oh - look at those two daft old ladies, both in leopard print coats!
(No! We're rock'n'roll! We used to be in a band! Almost!)