1960s: lying in the pram, discarding my socks, discovering bad design (if I rocked the pram in a particular way, it would keel over backwards), the best mum in the world, taking baths in the kitchen sink.

1970s: watching my brother play guitar with the likes of Bobby Thurston and Odyssey, disco dancing with my sister at TOTS and Zero 6, long walks, Vicarage Hill, thunderstorms, déjà vu in Pitsea, re-discovering bad design (picture, if you will: frail pensioners throughout This Sceptred Isle tearfully struggling with the evil sharp-cornered winged handles of stylish can-openers that invariably failed to open after more than two months’ use), Appleton, disappointment that the kitchen sink and I were no longer compatible.

Early 1980s: Thundersley Glen, glen parties, thinking about nothing other than the stars, Earth, Wind and Fire, Soft Cell and Donna Summer, climbing trees, scrumping apples, scrumping more under-ripe plums than Luke and I could eat, overnight covert decoration of Benfleet Police Station with a few hundred excess plums, suburban sewer exploration, sledging on TV screens, resigning myself to living with poor design (can someone please identify the dullard inventor of stainless steel teapots that dribble? — I wish to pin a dusty rosette on their bobbly acrylic pullover), SEEVIC, realising without caring that I lack the gay gene traditionally associated with fashion sense.

Mid 1980s: Westcliff-on-Sea, my first home from home, a 1950s front-loading washing machine and mum’s 1950s Creda cooker, Batchelors Savoury Rice and pizza, Benylin and coal fires, déjà vu in Benfleet, ghosts, Cat and Cat the cats (most economical when summoning them to dinner) and their best friend Rex the german shepherd dog, Cat gone missing, rent £67 per month between three of us, no commuting, no Council Tax, all of us in full-time employment and still I was short of cash.

Late 1980s, cycling through France: vendanges, freaky déjà vu, exquisite freedom and a head full of poetry.

1990s: love, naïveté, Medina Villas, damp, woodworm, five different types of rot but the most wonderful bathroom, Cat the cat, goodbye to Rex, hello to Max, Herbie and Rugs, sleeping in the back yard, honeysuckle-scented dreams, solar eclipse, coincidence, cycling in the sea and Rugs’s Rescue Coconut.

Post-2000, in my late thirties: rediscovering myself, partying, experimenting, camping, farewell to Cat, preferring other people’s mid-life crises to my own, having my cake and eating it.

New year 2004/2005: a few days and nights camping in a West Sussex forest, fifteen or more friends, bliss.

2005, aged forty: figuring it all out — in terms that only I could understand — but doing nothing about it, tending more towards the allotment and caravan than the forest (not camping as often as I’d like).

Summer 2006: Roedale Valley allotment, sleeping under, and thinking about nothing other than the stars, knowing what I want, wishing for much more, settling for much less, waiting for the balance.

Late 2006, ongoing: going increasingly barmy in my forties and beyond, wondering if I’ll ever sell the harmonium, finding a use for the accordion.


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