I’m here today making up for a bit of lost time, in that I’ve been so busy with other matters, like throwing my recently purchased mobile phone down the loo, last Friday, the day I’d hoped to write a blog post – instead I almost resorted to self-harm for my stupidity. The phone was an expensive replacement for the expensive phone of which I smashed the face a couple of weeks previous – you must be wondering why you’ve come back… Now, I know the phone shouldn’t have been in the bathroom with me when I was taking my shower, with the effects of steam and all – I’ve already ruined a phone like that; it looked like a cup of coffee by the time I’d done with it – but, pray tell, what were the odds of me whipping the towel from the radiator – upon which I’d placed the phone prior to my shower – and observing said mobile wing over to the other side of the room and dangle teasingly in midair, above the privy? It all but winked at me, before its somewhat sensational plunge…
I’m still not over it, evidently.
Anyhow, what better way to make a comeback than via sex and violence!
Well, maybe just the violence today; I’ll hold out a couple of days on the sex – all from a neutral perspective, please note.
I did state I wouldn’t return to Wood, Talc and Mr. J – the novel – in these blog posts, having gotten studying its numerous themes out of my system, by slotting said themes into 22 daydreams. And yet one theme persists in its call – ‘Write about me or I’ll kick your head in!’
You may have discerned in my previous posts what I intimate when introducing 22 daydreams: how things may have changed between then – Phillip’s day, in Wood, Talc & Mr. J; the 1970s – and now, in our cyber world. And yet I do appear to have ignored one of the novel’s major, darker aspects: that which Phillip himself when alighting on “our sacred turf from towns foreign”, via a Sheffield to Wigan train-ride on a late Friday evening, describes as “the violent 1970s”
What does he mean exactly? Does he believe those times were more violent due to his vulnerable age, and so the company he kept; the circles he moved in?
Or does he mean the ’70s actually were more violent, than today?
When writing a novel of an autobiographical nature – based on many personal experiences, direct or indirect – it’s only natural for a writer to get lost in his/her past; or as H.G. Well’s Time Traveller deems it, as floating along that 4th dimension for transient moments, lost in recollection. It was certainly the case for me; and I’d sometimes wonder how I ever made it out of my teens alive – incidentally, Sebastian Coe, the Olympic long-distance gold medal winner, went to secondary school in Sheffield, in the ’70s, like Phillip. He said, when asked what his secret was, that with a name like Sebastian, you either had to learn to fight or learn to run. He spent a large part of his childhood, then, running from the likes of Phillip and co…
The fact of the matter is that, having gotten that particular novel out of the way, I can still lose myself in, and become aghast at, just how violent Phillip’s days were, and what we took for the norm; “the mouthy streets of our early teens”; the times of “street roaming Skinheads and Boot boys displaying full colours”, et al.
In fact this is how I once began a detailed synopsis of Wood, Talc & Mr. J – the kind of thing a publisher was always going to find boring, and duly scoff at, thanks to its apparent deficiency in the erotic wiles of the vampiric.
* * * * *
It’s a time of great social and political upheaval – industrial disputes and bullying unions, racial discord and the National Front. 1978, it’s a Britain on the brink. It’s also a Britain of definite youth cultures, when the wrong attire on the wrong street might equal a beating for your blunder, often regardless of your football allegiance…
* * * * *
I recall having written those lines without the least effort, because I was telling the truth; that was “the norm” – which stretched beyond the realms of the so-called paranormal. And, ironically enough, the novel aside, I’m only ever reminded of the fact today via my repeated viewing of Buffy, the Vampire Slayer – although that isn’t the reason for my viewing habit, he coughs. But let’s face it, you just know that whenever Buffy steps outside The Bronze, that favourite student-haunt – heaven knows why, the music’s as deadly as the vampires – something’s going to kick off; she’s going to get jumped on by one of them, the undead, a fangy Goth, something not too dissimilar, coincidentally, to the “greasy sorts” of Phillip’s day: yetis; greasers; rockers… or if they had the bikes, Hell’s Angels.
However unimaginable I find the idea today, the above crowd first taught me how to hate: I loathed them, as naturally as the earth orbits the sun. You see, for good or bad, it was ok to hate pre-pc – political correctness and personal computer; makes you think, dunnit? I condone none of it now, of course, but, back then, you were either of one culture or the other. Or nothing at all; you belonged nowhere.
And it was more or less that way from day-one. Or at least as far back as infant school, as Phillip describes, having now moved up to junior class:
* * * * *
A year on, through my abhorrence for the pop group Sweet, I set up my own Slade fan club, of which I was the boss and in which no member was allowed hair longer than a number eight on the clipper-range. Unlike Sweet, Slade represented the masculine – head-shorn virility and not Hairy-fairy. We’d play the straggly ‘Sweeties’ at football in the playground, and if we lost, fights broke out leaving them wishing they had.
* * * * *
Football allegiance, indeed, came second, as a reason to kick seven colours out of each other… midweek at any rate – I’m looking at this chiefly from a British perspective, of course.
I know we live in violent times; it can’t be argued. But I can’t help believing that we always have, except that, maybe, what was once considered the acceptable landscape has changed; and that we’ve sanitised ourselves to the point of building homes of cotton wool.
Let’s face it, kids no longer walk to school but are taken by car; kids no longer play outside – unless it’s a question of some parentally organised activity; even conkers are banned from school playgrounds – but reside in front of pc screens.
It’s hard to conceive today, that, back in the ’70s, most streets, barring your own, were potential no-go areas if you were very young. That is, unless you felt up to ‘taking on’ that street. On a good day, you might’ve settled it with a game of football. Or you might have even been untouchable for a time, being the owner of the chicest shirt of the moment; the one we were all saving up our school-dinner money for.
Yes, Chris, I’ll admit that the ’70s were very violent years, I hear yet again, but at least, back then, people fought amongst their own; today, it always seems to be adults hurting children, or women, and the likes, and there’s no greater crime than that.
Granted, we do hear a lot about those kinds of crimes today, half of which happened back then, in the 1970s, and are just coming to light. And that alone is indicative of those tough times; when it didn’t pay to complain.
Might it be, then, as above, that because we have “all the info we’ll ever need”, that that is the problem? It is that which has us deem these to be truly violent times? I mean, are we not, today, persistently assailed by ‘news’? Admit it, rather than being out-and-about, are we not eternally more intrigued by what is happening elsewhere, anywhere, simply because we have access to such information at all times?
We’ve become a collective body of car-crash voyeurs, because it’s much easier to be so today.
I argue that times are no more violent today than they were, say, in the 1970s. On the contrary. Oh, to own that there machine of Wells’ Time Traveller. Perhaps just for a Saturday home game, for instance; any football ground you care to mention. Any street you care to mention; any pub; any playground, park….
You’d know then what Phillip’s going on about, I’ll tell you.
Your literary, soulful friend