““The repetition was almost frightening…” You know I was thinking about that again the other day, and then John wrote me this note. He was talking about all those old movies we used to love. It was all there. The evenings when we would sit up and watch those Noir films, and the old kitchen sink stuff.” I glanced over at Chris, looking for some acknowledgment that she was listening. Sometimes it was impossible to tell what world she was really inhabiting. Her eyes would glisten suddenly and fade away, so it seemed like she was caught in some trap, but she would always smile and nod and eventually come back with an answer.
This time she was right on the same wavelength though because she rejoined immediately with ““and you said jokingly, my new name was repetition.”” Her smile lit up the room.
It is surprising the things that you can forget and then suddenly remember in a flash. Like that line. Like ‘Jean’s Not Happening’.
“We had that record on all the time that summer. It was a bloody awful summer. Rain every day.”
She was right. 1985 was a terrible year to be 16.
“We pretty much hid out in your father’s barn, listening to the rain on the roof.”
“There were some great records to discover though. The Go-Betweens. Felt. Hurrah! and Pale Fountains.”
She was right about that too. We were obsessed with those groups, and played them all the time on an ancient portable mono tape recorder. The Lovin’ Spoonful, early Dylan and The Mamas and The Papas from her dad’s collection, too. All the records sounded as tinny as that barn roof.
“All those kids in school who thought they were so cool were droning on about Morrissey and Marr though. Remember how they all ganged up on us because we had matching haircuts and refused to sign their ‘meat is murder’ petition to make the school canteen meat free?”
“And they all rode their ponies at the weekend and came to school in their parent’s Landrovers that were covered in cow shit.”
We really did hate everyone in those days.
I have a photo of the two of us in our school uniforms that year. We are on the wall beside the bus stop in the village. The old rectory is behind us, barely visible through the overgrown hedge. On my lapel is a tiny circle of colour; a Pale Fountains badge, though you could never tell from the picture. Chris has a different one on her own blazer. Our ties are done up neatly, shirts buttoned to the top. All the other kids thought it was rebellious to have their shirts undone and their ties all ragged and pulled aside. They would turn their collars up and roll their sleeves to their elbows, imagining themselves perhaps in some John Hughes movie. They all looked a state.
We, on the other hand would be meticulously neat and smart. Just because we lived in the country didn’t mean we had to dress like the fucking Wurzels. And anyway, we would look in the music press and see pictures of groups from the cities who looked like the hippies the farmers kept kicking off their fields, so where was the logic in anything?
And we really did get our hair cut the same. It started off as a Jean Seberg thing, and then Chris read ‘The Garden of Eden’, and that was that. In our dreams we drove around in an open top sports car and the landscape in our heads was the Cote D’Azur. Even so, the reality of boneshaker bikes and a myriad of Devon lanes to get lost in was not so bad.
“And there was one tape, it had ‘Jean’s Not Happening’, ‘Hip Hip’ and ‘Do You Believe In Magic’ on it, in one sweet sequence. We took it everywhere we went. Those songs became our summer.” I glanced over at Chris. She was flicking through some papers on my desk. Notes for a book that would never be written. Another novel attempt that I abandoned in a slow ebb of energy. Because nothing was ever the same after 1985. So many things happened that summer. Ghosts from the past cast themselves in shining new guises and re-established old ways of being, whilst the pure brightness of hope disappeared in ashes scattered from Lawrence Tower. The old ways out were suddenly the new ways in.
We never did get to meet in September, and I do not remember much at all about that final year in school. I do, however, know there are no more photos and that for years I could not listen to that Pale Fountains record. For sometimes the words that once propped up your world can just as surely puncture it.