Monday, July 23, 2012

1979: Try some, buy some

I've never been a big risk-taker. I've taken risks like, with my career, walking along the edge of a high-rise roof while drunk, and going for tea instead of coffee, and they've paid off. But I think I know when and when not to do so.

So when I came clean to Dad that the friend with whom I was having a joint 14th birthday party with (his was the day before mine in June) had hidden two Party Seven-size cans of Hoffmeister in our garage, I knew it was the right decision, even if it meant that this would be the first nail in the coffin our friendship.

Not only had I not really had a drink before, but also my friends hadn't either. And if it all got a bit rowdy and ended up with piles of lager sick behind the greenhouse or someone having to have their stomach pumped in the dead of night then my life wouldn't be worth living. When they discovered I smoked cigarrettes at 17 mum was convinced - in her words - that it was 'pot' withdrawal symptons. I did the right thing.

But it didn't go down well with my friend, especially when Dad confronted him and made him take the cans back to VG. I can't remember how he'd laid his hands on them, but I think he'd got an older boy to buy them. He kept going on an on about how brilliant it was going to be, but I just felt a sense of dread.

The party was a barbecue at my house with all the boys from our class but with a couple of extras, and everyone who wanted to sleeping out in tents in the back garden. We'd planned this for months, and got very excited about it. Perhaps over-excited. Always one for appearing to be rather racier than he really was, he thought he's struck gold with this idea.

We'd been friends since he arrived a few weeks late into the first term of the first year. A novelty, he'd come from Hull via Liverpool, and had an accent so strong I could barely make out a word he said. But unlike me he was super-friendly, confident and a laugh. We hit it off immediately and for the next three years became firm friends, bonding first over our love and music. We sat next to each other all the lessons we could, spent all our free time at each other's houses and thought we'd always be mates.

But as time goes by people change. One day I rang him and I heard him tell his mum to tell me that he wasn't in. She made him speak to me, but he fobbed me off that he was busy making a rabbit hutch. He didn't have a rabbit. He never got a rabbit. Our bromance was coming to an end. Besides, in pursuit of a more exciting life that would eventually be his academic undoing, he was falling in fast with the school's bad crowd, and all this only a few months after we'd stumbled across them in the woods and they'd chased us into the river! But that's another story...

When the summer holidays of '79 came I didn't see much of him, and when the new term started we we'd kind of moved on. One day his mum called in tears to ask my mum if I'd have a skinhead haircut like her son had. I knew nothing about it. His mother clearly thought we were still pals. But now we were moving in different circles.

I look back on our friendship fondly but nothing last forever and I had other friends. He's now boiled down to musical memories like most other parts of my life, and it's always a pleasure to give them a spin. The party was a hoot by the way. This song figured large (It remains my favourite TOTP clip of all time - I love the way she keeps catching his eye). We didn't need alcohol. Not that any of us really knew what it was. Now, if I don't have a drink at a party I may as well not go.

But as I say, no regrets. I can only imagine the carnage of the beer at the 14-year-olds' birthday party, having been a part of that sort of carnage when I did actually start drinking later on. It was a risk I wasn't willing to take.

In 1986 I bumped into his mother at our local post office. I was back for the holidays briefly and I couldn't resist making myself known. She wanted to know all about what I was doing then asked me where it all went wrong for her son.

I do hope he's having the rip-roaring life he craved. 


  1. Have you Facebooked him - you must have done surely?

  2. I tried, but there's nothing. His mother died about 10 years ago so bang go any chances of my mum bumping into his mum in the supermarket. I did hear rumour he worked on a sheep farm in Australia, but nothing concrete. That would be quite exciting if he was.

  3. I know someone who spent ten years working on a sheep farm in Australia. She said they are all full of waifs and strays ("and weirdos"). It may well be the case that he ended up on one.