Wednesday, March 14, 2012

1982: I can do without the sunshine

It's the summer of 1982. I'm in Bahrain for about two months. What am I going to do?

Spend the day at the beach? Go to the pool? Those would be the normal responses, but not from me. I wasn't a sunworshipper in the least. I would try and avoid going out in the sun if possible, hard when the temperature hovered around the 100 degree mark with almost 100% humidity. Thank God for air conditioning to within an inch of your life wherever you went.

So it was with pleasure that I should go and make my useful at dad's office. I had worked there the previous summer, and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I got to know all his colleagues and really liked them, despite them being somewhat older than me. There was a large mix of nationalities: Indians, Somalians, Filippinos, Australians, Americans and lots of Brits. It was enormous fun. I couldn't wait to return.

But it was different now. It was bigger, with more staff and some even my age. I was rather taken with a half-Japanese half-American art intern called Lesa. She was slightly older than me and was just killing time until she went back to university of Syracuse. She was impossibly pretty and was really, really into British music. I was working in the art studio where the radio would blare the hits of hte moment all day long. We especially loved anything from the current New Romantic stable: Japan, being a super favourite, but we also bonded over The Clash - yes they did actually play Rock The Casbah on Radio Bahrain, as they'dplayed Arabian Nights, with it's talk of conquering orifices of 'boys, goats and things', the previous summer.

Radio Bahrain was great for playing whatever was in the Top 75, so you'd get Ann Breen followed by Bill Wyman followed by a non-charting Visage hit followed by Kenny Lynch. It wasn't a joy as such, but it was interesting.

So we spent the summer mad about music. Not about each other though. She had a boyfriend in the US, or so she said. I adored from afar. We made endless compilation tapes for each other, and in my brief stopover back in the UK in August (see 1982: Enthralled) I had to get her Combat Rock, and one of those compliation albums with lots of hits on, this one being packed with the top alternative hits of 1982, including No No No by Nancy Nova and something by Fashion. It possibly included The Clapping Song, perhaps the song of the office that summer.

When the time came for me to start boarding school we said fond farewells. She gave me a hand-printed t-shirt, an armful of tapes and we vowed to keep in touch.

But then it all went sour.

My fault really. We used to give our tapes unusual names. Hers were original and inventive, but mine were nicked from songs and albums she hadn't heard of (yet). We exhanged tapes for a good six months, my only being able to afford to send things sea mail slowing the process down quite considerably. But she loved my Kissing To Be Clever and Taking Islands In Africa - utnil she found out one was the title of the forthcoming Culture Club album and the other a song by Japan off of Gentlemen Take Polaroids. In a Shattered Glass-style trawl through my back catalogue she was appalled to discover my plagiarism and lack of imagination and there the correspondence ended.

I think she's a food writer in Hawaii now. It was fun while it lasted.


  1. Oh crumbs, what a sad sweet tale! Couldn't she cut you any slack at all? Though I guess those were 'purist' times when originality was valued above all (despite the fact that everyone nicked all their ideas off other people all the time.). Take solace in imagining that she probably looks like a leather duffle bag now after a lifetime of Hawaiian sun and too much heavy food.

    Or she may just have had some really good cosmetic procedures and be gorgeous...

    And I'd NEVER heard that song before. Ouch. And let's hope that particular hemline never comes back into fashion. So unflattering!

  2. Missed that one at the time; it's like a modern parody, some commedienne doing Victoria Beckham doing Lene Lovich or something. It could have grown on me at the time I think.

    Re your erstwhile tape-friend, ISBW is right; nothing like youthful self righteous judgement, fuelled by over-thought justification to bring down the guillotine. A lack or perspective, one never sees it at the time though.

    Sometimes I miss being able to be so ruthless and guiltless in my decisions, but then I take a look at "The Apprentice" people and I think again. You notice the older they are the more awkward they seem to be, when peddling the old 'food chain' schtick.