Steve’s back off to France today, carrying a bottle of Pimm’s for our neighbours who are picking him up. Thus begins the end of our time in England. He’ll never be here for more than a week, now, God willing. I’ve got Jake with me, in his last two weeks of school in England, wondering if we’ve heard anything about where he’ll be in September. I can’t help thinking it’d be a whole lot easier to teach him myself! I’d really enjoy that. Not sure he would, though!! Plus, he’d end up lonely and friendless. We overlook the role of school in socialising.
I went to 3 primary schools, spending the most of my time at Lowercroft CP. In my class, there were only 10 girls out of a class of thirty, and you might have thought that the addition of one more would have made it odd. Not so. I can’t remember any girl I didn’t spend time with, or anyone who excluded me, even though I was the last to join the group. Vicky, Sarah, Sandra, Lisa, Nicky, me, Caroline, Dawn, Joanne and Suzanne: I spent time at all of their houses, can still remember where they all live, and it was only secondary school that split us up. Sandra, Lisa and I went to the grammar school, Vicky went to a grammar school in Bolton and the rest of the girls went to Elton. Of all of them, I was closest to Nicky, perhaps because we were similar in nature, and we even looked a little alike, with our long brown pony tails. I think we all had a wonderful time at primary school, and I certainly don’t remember any rivalries. I wish I still had that set of friends.
At Secondary, hormones kicked in, and friendships changed. Initially, I spent time with Sandra and a girl called Katherine, who was probably most like the 11 year old me – a little nerdy, a little out of place. I knew I wasn’t a nerd, like some of the girls, but very soon, I was part of the Holcombe Brook hardcore – girls who knew each other before, travelled together and were good friends already: Emma, Pam, Janet, Michelle and Susan. Friendships cut and changed, and one day I will publish some of my diary entries about these times, but not just yet – they’re a little too close to the bone, still! I was still the social butterfly, even then, when firmer friendships were being formed. Angela and Julie would let me hang around with them. Anna, Laura and Helen would do the same. I went to my first gig with Helen, uber-cool Helen, who is now a head of programming at ITV – we went to see Bjork in the Sugarcubes at Manchester Uni Student Union. I was 13 and it was about the coolest 13 year old behaviour I know!
I went to the pub with Angela first, as she had access to my first major league crush on Daniel Showman (now, unfortunately, not the dark-haired, doe-eyed beauty with the olive skin I fell in love with as a 13 year old) and we had many sleepovers and drunken nights about.
I think sometimes the in-fighting and best-friend-swapping got to me, a bit. I used to pine for the company of Anna and Laura, who were the people who kept in touch with me when I went to uni. I’ve lost touch with Laura now, which is a massive shame. We had epic letters back and forth when she was at Oxford. I miss her sharp humour and self-depreciation. Laura rocked more than any one I met. Anna and Laura were some cool girls, and no mistake!
When we’re advised not to worry about how we look as teenagers, I think that just about sums it up for me: we were cool indie-chick girls who didn’t care. I was lucky to be allowed to flit from group to group, and what I missed out on in terms of deep bonds, I made up for in being able to connect with many different groups. I looked back at my time at secondary school as if it were miserable and bitchy, but in fact, it ruled! I had good friends (those who never made it to my diary entries) although I seemed to be preoccupied with the bitches. It wasn’t til sixth form that I managed to get away from that preoccupation!
Big-up my school times with Anna and Laura, Liz, Angela and Julie… girls who knew there was more to life than bitching!
Laura, who introduced me to Depeche Mode and David Byrne; Anna who introduced me to early David Bowie: these were the girls who defined my musical tastes for years and years. Even when, as a little mosher, I liked Metallica, it was always good to know they stole ‘leper messiah’ as a lyric from Bowie. It was always cool to like Bowie!
I hope Jake ends up with the kind of friends I did. I hope France will bring him the kind of innocent friendship you can’t seem to find in England these days, when all that matters are iphones and PSPs and Nike trainers and Reebok tracksuits, and wearing £50 football shirts. I know that ET jumper I’m wearing on the PGL photo was dirt cheap from Bury market, but I loved it. I know we were poor back then, but all the girls – all of us – are wearing cheap, functional clothes, with the nod to Mr T and ET. I wish Jake at 10 was so un-bothered by fashion as we were!!