I was in Suburbia this weekend. I had to go for my contact lens aftercare and for some reason I haven’t moved opticians down to London. I actually live above an opticians…
Anyway, I ended up spending notable amount of time in the town centre. I got a new mobile phone thanks to a very helpful young man at the store, who spent ages making sure that I wouldn’t lose the photos off my old phone (they include pictures of Granddad). I even think he’d have been that helpful if he wasn’t my brother… Thanks, kid. I then went to Starbucks where I tried and failed to write. Mikey then joined me during his break. Then I wandered up to Blockbuster where I rented two films I didn’t watch and bought four ex-rental DVDs. Am watching Frost/Nixon right now. Also got Benjamin Button, The Young Victoria and Quantum of Solace, all of which I’ve seen and didn’t care much about but figured I’d like to own them cheaply.
I moseyed around the town centre a little more – went back to say bye to Mikey and went to Marks & Spencer where I replaced most of the underclothes I fucked up in the laundry recently. Not content with that, I went to Waitrose and bought some more stuff, including a bottle of Guinness Foreign Export to try. Then I walked back to my mummy and daddy’s house.
It is a place I spent twenty years, on and off. They moved us there when I was three years old, for one of those ‘better lives’ you hear about on TV. Back in 1985, it was a nice little place, very leafy and green. Now it’s just like any other chav-tastic town and I can’t say I miss it. I spent the most miserable time of my life there. I clung to our house as a constant and place of some safety and solace. I remember breaking down in tears in the Northampton branch of McDonalds when I discovered we were there so my dad could have a job interview. To this day, I am eternally grateful we didn’t end up in that Midlands shithole… but at the time it wasn’t that I disliked Northampton, it was that I couldn’t bear the idea of leaving our house.
Now I know differently. That place wasn’t a haven of peace. It was a prison and a hell. Here where I am now in London, in my Granddad’s flat: this is my haven, my safe space and my world. It always was. This was the constant in my life, the happy place. The genealogy work I’ve been doing recently has taken me back to 1798 for one twig of the family tree and they were in walking distance of where I am now. This is my world.
The parentals broke the news recently that they intend to move back to London. They’re going to do the opposite of many and retire to the city, not away from it. They’ve missed the place, I think. Ours is a city family and has been for countless generations on both sides. I mean, Ireland comes into it (of course)… but it turns out my people are pretty much resolutely urban. I thought I’d be upset that they were intending to leave their house, but I don’t care really. My bedroom there isn’t my bedroom anymore: aside from the purple walls and carpet it bears no resemblance to my old cocoon/batcave. They even got rid of my old bed recently (without telling me), which they apparently owned since they were married in 1972. I cared more about that than I did the house itself. Maybe when the time comes that they actually leave, I’ll care, but not today.
The happy times I spent in that town are so far away, so long ago, that they are now only the fuzziest of memories. They’re dearly held memories that I cling to, but most of the good times are at least sixteen years gone. The dark times that followed have had too much of an impact on the good memories, too much of an impact on me. I walked a slightly different way back yesterday and saw a few places I haven’t seen in probably years. I didn’t feel anything, I just kept singing along to the Irish music I was listening to.
I don’t care that my parents intend to leave Suburbia. I mean, I hate the place. No, I don’t hate it. Not that town specifically, just suburbia generally. I hate Slough, and Reading, and all those towns where people go to become Sheeple and shop at B&Q and Comet on the weekends. It wasn’t a life I ever wanted, not when I was in Suburbia and definitely not now. If you’re happy in Suburbia, good on you. You’ll likely be happier and more content than me.
Wherever life takes me from here, I’ve accepted that I am one of those people that needs to be in Zone One to be comfortable. That, or the other end of the scale: rural Ireland. Now there, I could probably be happy.
While there, I also recalled something I’d forced myself to forget about. The local theatre had a banner up for their latest play in the shopping centre and I suddenly remembered the time my friend took me along to the youth group there. I was so excited: I wanted to act, man! I wanted that, and I thought I was at last moving towards the dream. I was excited, which in me at the time probably manifested itself as annoying and manic. I recall being part of a group activity and a couple of the group shut me down or said something to upset/anger me. So, when it came to our turn to perform to the rest of the group, I upstaged them. I can’t remember exactly what I said or did, and it probably wasn’t cool… but they’d lashed out at me and I returned the favour.
At the end, the woman running the group pulled me aside and in what I remember as an imperious manner, told me that ‘there are no stars here’‘ and went on to basically have a go at me. To a point, I deserved it: I didn’t deal well with what had been said to me (whatever the hell it was!) but I was crushed. Although she did me the favour of pulling me aside, it had been pretty obviously done and I felt humiliated. Just humiliated. I seem to recall attending the group a few more times, but my card was marked with her and I’d lost what scrap of confidence I’d managed to cobble together. This was when I was struggling through the Secondary School of Horror and confidence was sorely lacking in me. Truth to tell, I’d probably done what I did because I couldn’t respond to the people who were really hurting me. Those kids were mean to me and I sabotaged one short activity. In response, that woman humiliated me. I remember now how it felt. I hadn’t been trying to be a fucking star!
Of course, I wanted to be a star, but I wasn’t trying to be a star or a diva right then, I really didn’t think so. She humiliated me, just as countless others had done to me. I recall (potentially erroneously) that after that, I really tried to prove myself… but it presumably didn’t work. I don’t remember how I came to not join the group permanently, but I do recall going to that self-same theatre as an audience member and that same woman castigating me for noisy chocolate wrappers. Before the show had begun. The people in front of me made the noise during the show. How do you like them apples? She must’ve decided that I was just some oik, not worthy to be on her stage and that was that.
This would be an amusing anecdote if I’d truly risen above it and proven her wrong. But I haven’t, have I? I didn’t get back on a stage to act except for Theatre Studies, which I pretty well fucked up one way or another. It may just be that I can’t act – I truly don’t know. To a point, I think I’ve spent so long constructing and making peace with my own personality that I no longer want to relinquish it to play at being someone else… but I can’t help thinking that that one conversation with that woman played a bigger part than it felt like at the time.
I can’t help trying to wonder what my life might have been like if we never left London. So different that I can’t really wonder about it. It’s a possibility so far in the past that I can’t conjure it up. I can more easily imagine life with Maria than that… and she died in 1972. Maybe it’s how it was meant to be… just as I was meant to be wrenched from my best friend when I was eleven, just as I was meant to be tormented at school, just as I was meant to find the Beatles and the rest. It was probably all written… by that prankster God, who better have the good fucking sense of humour I think He has… because otherwise he’s a vicious bastard.
In related news:
Last week I took part in a training course to become a trainer. It’s just something I do at work occasionally so the managerial types thought I should go on the course. It was fascinating, actually. The question of ‘how to deal with Big Egos’ came up, and some of the others basically said "take them down a peg or two." I had to disagree. Trust me when I say that a lot of Big Egos are masking and hiding scared little children and the worst, the very worst thing you can do is ‘take them down a peg or two’ in front of everyone else. Maybe that’s why I remembered that theatre thing yesterday… because I’m one of those Big Egos, Big Mouths, Noisy People. It’s my Dalek armour, hiding a tiny, squalling child inside who got fucked over by the world too many times. And I remembered the feeling of being humiliated by someone who didn’t see it, didn’t look for it…, and killed me inside, just a little.
I went to see When You’re Strange, a documentary about the Doors (narrated by The Depp) this evening. I nearly got into a fist-fight with a guy who was barracking the rest of the audience as we all left. I have never wanted to fight anyone like I wanted to fight him. Then I walked home furious at the one it always comes back to, so furious that I walked home in a fraction of the time it usually takes. So furious that I had tears streaming down my face. I really thought I was past this, I really thought that I didn’t care anymore. I think it turns out that I turned away from the Doors in recent months/years precisely because I care a great deal. More than I should, more than he deserves.
The more I think I know about Jim Morrison, the more I understand that I don’t know him at all. I will outlive him in two days time. There are two bottles of whiskey in my cupboard and it’s taking true effort to leave them there right now. But I will, because I don’t want to become him. I never did.