Anyone who knows me will tell you that I never quite left the Eighties so I am going to indulge in a little nostalgia trip looking back to 1983 when I was fourteen years of age.
I lived in Dewsbury, a market town in West Yorkshire with my Mum and Dad. Our house was an end-terraced which was perceived as that bit posher than an inner terrace for some obscure reason. It was the standard 2 bedrooms and a boxroom affair with a lawned garden with bedding areas around the sides. We had moved to the area after a lad punched me in the stomach on the school bus. My ever-protective mum thought the best solution to bullying was to cut the school bus out of the equation.
We had a tumble drier and a fridge freezer so my friends thought we were well off! We also had a huge garden swing that my Mum insisted on buying after seeing my older brother’s at his flat in Kensington.
My bedroom had a desk that my Dad had made me filled with books including ones that came every month from the classic book club that Dad had signed me up to with their lovely burgundy and gold covers. I had a totally over the top mother of pearl type looking wardrobe that was far too big for the room really with double wardrobes, dressing table and top cupboards to boot. How they got it in there I will never know! I think it was somewhere for Mum to hide her new dresses that she got out of the Child Benefit money and told me not to let my Dad know about. I used the top cupboards to store my dolls from around the world collection which at 14 was still very much loved but perhaps not to be displayed in case a friend saw it and thought I was a big kid.
My room overlooked the garden and also C’s shabby house. C used to rant and rave throughout the night and we were warned not to go near him as he was “funny”. The braver kids used to pinch the apples off his tree and he would occasionally chase them with his stick. The house was inhabitable really with broken windows and was in a total state but he never moved. Nowadays, we would recognise that he has mental health issues but that was a term I did not know at the time. He could be kind sometimes giving me fruit from his garden for domestic science lessons at school. I often wonder what became of him and also what led to his crisis.
I loved music and my absolute favourite group was Culture Club. I approved of Boy George pushing boundaries and thought he was quite the philosopher. Of course, hormones were raging and Mum would sometimes find me sobbing my heart out over my music and be frustrated when I could not tell her what the matter was.
I went to the local Catholic school again seen as a cut above the other schools in the area. I enjoyed learning and did well. At that time, if I came second in any subject, it was a major tragedy. This is me proud of a mention in the prize-giving at school.
The telly was in the house all the time and Mum really decided what we watched. Soaps featured heavily and I remember blushing every time Nick Berry came on Eastenders and worrying that my parents would work out that I fancied him and I would be in trouble for impure thoughts.
I was very well aware that I was not the sort of girl that boys fancied. I would have happily swapped my good grades for popularity. Similarly, I wanted to be good at P.E. as I was useless leaving me victim to ridicule. I remember going cross country running and just going home for a hour and then turning up looking knackered at school later. It worked!
It seemed to me that I was liked and accepted at home but as soon as I crossed the football field, I became an oddity that people just did not get at all. There was mild bullying and people called me fat. Look at me!
I am the one smiling towards the camera. Wish I had known what fat really meant way back then and I would have enjoyed my slim figure.
Other nicknames were Thatcher (despite being left-wing), Clogger (after I battered 2 girls in hockey), Sherlock (self-explanatory) and “Horse” (which I never knew the reasons for).
Of course I did have friends usually of the sort referred to as “swot”.
I am on the right in this picture taken as we headed off for the French Exchange organised by school. They put me with an eleven year old, yet another sign that I was not with it! I remember going to France was such a big deal. I did OK and remember introducing Yorkshire pudding to the family I was placed with and tasting champagne for the first time.
The return visit did not work so well when my exchange girl told my Mum the English were rubbish at which point Mum started ranting on about the war and French people who had collaborated with the Germans.
If it was a weekday, Dad would shout me downstairs in the morning. I always loved my bed and it could be a struggle to get me to surface. I knew if he said “Your Ready Brek is ready now!”, we were running late. Dad told me that he had told Mum to stay in bed in the mornings. Looking back, Mum was struggling around this time with agrophobia brought on by Menieres Disease. Dad worked round it amazingly well and still worked full time in insurance in a nearby city.
I would usually walk to school and get through the day enjoying lessons more than the playground stuff.
I would walk home and make my Mum a cup of coffee and we would watch telly and she would get the tea ready. Monty the Jack Russell would be scurrying around. He used to sit on the back of my Mum’s neck. She also trained him to “sing” the Neighbours theme tune!
We would eat when Dad got home from work. Dad I would then wash up with him telling me “Watch that knife, it’s sharp” thus resulting in a lifelong inability to handle knives. We would then walk the dog up the park and I would babble on with all my teenage angst.
I can’t remember what time I went to bed but I know if I was told to go, I would not have argued. I used to sneak my radio under my duvet to listen to James Whale. Mum would come in and throw open the sash window – she always had a thing about windows being open whatever the weather.
Once a week, I would go to youth group. Girls would talk about “getting off” with lads and I would have no real clue about what that entailed. They would ask me to meet lads and I would say “What would we talk about?” leading them to snigger uncontrollably.
Saturdays were always fun with us going out on day trips to the coast or country. Often, we would stay at our caravan at Hornsea. Mum cashed in an insurance policy to get the caravan and also told me I would have to give up my piano lessons to fund it which I was more than delighted to do.
Occasionally, I would go to Leeds with friends on the bus. I found this traumatic as I could never work out where we would be stopping, what the right number bus was and all that sort of stuff. I did not go on sleepovers as I preferred to be with my parents really. I went on one and hated it as they did not do things like we did.
If we were at home, Sunday mornings would be taken up with Mass and the coffee morning afterwards. There was such a strong community spirit. Mum would have baked her world-famous scones and Dad would be carrying cake tins and driving everyone home.
How did I imagine my future?
My key aim was not to turn out like my Mum. Don’t get me wrong. My Mum was the most amazing lady but she was frustrated by not having her own education and career. The thought of being stuck at home with only housework and telly for stimulation was an absolute nightmare to be avoided at all costs.
I wanted to spend my twenties in London in a flat that I could visualize down to the tiniest detail. I would swan around in a white toweling robe (another sign of a glamorous woman in my teenage mind). I would have a career and go to lots of parties. I aimed to be a barrister because I liked Crown Court on the telly. My Dad used to take me to court hearings with his work and ask me my opinion on cases.
I thought I would have 3 sons and a daughter. I had no idea how I was going to facilitate this as the chances of a man actually doing the deed seemed most unlikely.
If I thought about getting married, I thought I would do it when I was 29. Married life would mean sitting around with a good-looking bloke reading papers, drinking posh coffee and debating the news of the day.
I also had vague ideas of owning a horse and driving a Yellow Mini.
So how have I changed?
I still live in Yorkshire but a different part entirely. I have lived in many areas of the UK.
I have a lovely bedroom with a huge wardrobe but more by accident than design. I have lots of books but the dolls are sadly long gone.
I still love Eighties music and play it every chance I get.
I work hard at what I do and blog awards have replaced school prizes.
My blushing days are pretty much over and that reminds me how Mum used to say blushing was a sign of innocence which makes me rather sad. However, I must confess to blushing quite a lot a recent parents’ evening suddenly finding the male teachers rather dishy. Which is a bit of a worry as it may signal a mid-life crisis.
I watch a lot of television which I never planned to do so perhaps I need to change that.
I am now officially fat and about twice the size I was way back in 1983.
Bullying has disappeared from my life although it did feature in some of my jobs.
I remain to be convinced of the joys of exercise.
As for boys/men, I don’t have a very big back catalogue at all (tiny in fact). On the whole, this pleases me especially the more I hear about men.
That sense of being the outsider has never quite disappeared but I know find myself supported by an army of twitter friends and bloggers. I am most comfortable when I have a role (or blog) to hide behind. I still struggle socially never knowing what to say or how to appear.
I now handle the school run, the housework and the cooking most of the time. My children argue every point with me in a way I never would have even thought of doing with my own parents.
I still think home means having a pet of some sort currently two cats called Razzle and Dazzle.
Weekends are spent at the coast or in the countryside although I have had enough of caravans to last me a lifetime.
I no longer go to Mass but do identify as a Catholic and wonder about going back to church. Part of me wishes I had stayed in my old town so I would have had that community thing going on but the reality is I would not have being happy there.
I never lived in London or got that flat. I think I did manage the robe at some point. The horse and the car are yet to appear too.
I did go to Cambridge University and got a law degree. I left that behind to pursue a career in the charity world in my twenties and thirties actually believing I could make the world a better place.
I have had days, weeks and months living a life like my Mum’s and now understand her more. I also had post-natal depression so can see that some of her less than ideal behaviour came from her being mentally unwell.
Married life is nothing like I imagined and did not happen for me until the age of 39! I didn’t expect to be a second wife, marry an older man or navigate step-children.
I was not far off with my ideas of children as I have 2 sons and a daughter. Something tells me another “son” will turn up but I have no idea how or who it will be. I just still see him in my mind’s eye.
Special K has changed for the first time since 1983. It was OK before but I love the new version especially how it retains its crunchy texture and has a certain nutty taste that I enjoy. Better yet, everyone in the family likes it. Result!
BritMums have a #SpecialK30 linky challenge to celebrate. I am not eligible as I am part of the BritMums team but I still wanted to have a little bit of fun writing this.
Check out Special K
If you have made it this far, you are one very committed reader as this is possibly my longest post ever. Still toying with the idea of uploading a pic of me in that bright red 80s swimsuit.
I wonder what the next 30 years will bring.