Seems quite apt that I’m drafting this blog in the place where the events I’ll be discussing took place, ‘Sunny Winchester’. I say ‘sunny’, more like a deep depression gradually creeping up on me. As with the next few instalments, I’ll be using a particular personal creative inspiration as a backdrop to put the events in some kind of context. The inspiration I’ll be making reference to in this month’s blog is ‘Don’t Give Up’, by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush. This song became my ‘Our Tune’ (for those who remember the great Simon Bates ‘Radio One’ morning show) in subsequent times of trouble.
Per my last blog, I was riding on the crest of a wave at the ‘special needs’ school I attended up to the old 5th Year (Year 11 in ‘new money’). On the face of it, I had everything going for me, academically, sports wise, and socially. However, as much as I was comfortable in this safe environment, I felt it was time to face the real world. This meant transferring to the local Winchester ‘mainstream’ sixth form college. It never crossed my mind that fitting in and socialising would be a massive issue, as this came so easy to me at my previous education establishment.
I remember clearly walking up the long steep hill on the first day of college, when reality hit hard. I would be ‘integrating’ with the same people who only four years earlier had bullied me, when I was last in ‘mainstream’ education. Would they still take the piss out of me? Memories came flooding back. To be fair, the people who remembered me were friendly and made me feel welcome. Most students came up to sixth form in already formed friendships, as they were at the local state secondary schools together. Due to my insecurities, I was afraid to impose in case I was rejected. I used to spend my break times stuck in a corner alone, trying to muster the courage to integrate. There was a female student who appeared to be in a similar situation to me, standing alone with no friends. If I was ‘Jack the Lad’ no doubt I’d have tried to smooth talk her, but I was more like ‘Norm the Psycho’, watching her every move, imaging all sorts of cheesy romantic scenarios. Before continuing, I need to stress this never went beyond my thoughts into anything more sinister.
At that age most people were out every weekend, getting down in ‘hip and happening’ Winchester – in reality it had a few old pubs and a seedy night club. I would have taken this all day long, to be invited on a ‘big night out’ with my peers. However my Friday nights were spent watching ‘Cell Block H’ and the old ‘Red Triangle’ films on a very fuzzy Channel 4. This situation remained for three years, as I did an extra year to increase the number of O’ levels I had, and two years of A’ Levels.
I never considered I was depressed until Xmas 1986, when a time came when I couldn’t see anyway forward. I had lost my ability for positive thinking, which had always been (and fortunately now continues to be) my outlook on life.
As, I guess, with many lonely people, the radio became an important part in my life. I was starting to take a serious interest in popular music (I shall be discussing in more detail in a future blogs). ‘BBC Radio One’ was my radio station of choice. One of my favourite programmes was ‘The Annie Nightingale Request Show’ 7 – 9 pm every Sunday evening. I have to thank Annie for introducing me to some fantastic tracks, including Peter Gabriel’s ‘Don’t Give Up’. Up until then I’d never heard of the guy, although he’s been around since the 70’s. Peter started off in the psychedelic band ‘Genesis’ and then went solo in the late 70’s. In 1986 he brought out ‘So’ (his 5th studio album), looking to capture the mainstream market with tracks such as ‘Sledge Hammer’ that had a ground breaking video, tapping into the ‘MTV’ audience. ‘Don’t Give Up’ was a duet with Kate Bush, a song about a man’s struggle with life. The words Kate sang on this track became a mantra as to why I should carry on living.
Over thirty years have passed since this time in my life. However, as dark as these times were, they became a reference point to overcoming subsequent difficult episodes in my life. The saying “There’s light at the end of the tunnel”, is something I’ve taken from this time. If I’m feeling down, I often put on ‘Don’t Give Up’. Although the track brings a tear to my eye, it inspires me to carry on moving forward even if it’s only one step at a time.
Over the next few blogs, I shall be discussing this time in more detail, relating different musical and other creative inspirational backdrops to this period. August will be all about ‘Love over Gold’ and ‘Alchemy’.