Friday, 25 September 2009

Back to Life... summer of '89

It happened on an innocuous morning. Moseying to work, radio on, flicking through the channels. Madonna's 'Like a Prayer' came on and bam! I was back in April 1989, my 16th birthday. I can't remember who bought me the cassette album, but it stank of patuli oil and featured Madge with all new long dark hair. I remember it was a Friday; after arguing with my Mother (who had bought me a rose gold cross which I wore on a piece of worn leather and thought I was ultra cool) and her booting me out of her car, I strolled into her ex-boyfriend's house (I lived with him at weekends).

I didn't care that she wasn't speaking to me, because tomorrow was my celebration! A bunch of us hitting Harveys pizza place in town and then the smokey dingy Empire pub with our fake IDs. At the restaurant my best friend presented me with a god awful cake she had cremated in the microwave - but she had filled the middle with party poppers and balloons that I doled out to all there and proceeded to stand on a chair to make a speech. I remember it being the year I bucked the trend and invited those I liked - even the geeks - rather than the 'in' gang to my do - I had had enough of having to like ignorant rugby boys because it was the done thing. I was making my own rules. The thought still makes me smile.

Later at the dive pub, I met a cute boy called Mark (crucially aged 21) and I pretended it was my 18th; he gave me the birthday kiss to end all birthday kisses. I think I swooned. Our 'romance' continued when I went to his house a few weeks later to help him babysit his kid sister. I crept around trying not to wake his sleeping Granny while he spent the night trying to get in my innocent virginal pants and even made me stand on the opposite side of the road from his house when my cab came to pick me up. I found out via a phonecall with his brother (Mark no longer returned my calls and it was long before mobile phones) a few weeks later, that his kid sister and Granny had been at an ice skating competition in Dublin and I had been there as a lamb to the slaughter...

The DJ (irritating twang, nasal voice) announced next up was 'Back to Life' by Soul 2 Soul. Tune! All of a sudden I was lying on my back on an itchy woollen rug, celebrating the end of my GCSEs, hoicking up my top for the merciless sun to tan my oh so flat stomach. There had been a helluva party at Blair's house the night before - we'd had to break in as his parents had locked it up tightly before they disappeared for the weekend. But we had celebrating to do. The exams were over, the world was our oyster and I already knew I had bagged a much coveted A in art. I hitched a ride with some older boys to grab beers at skanky Laverys off license to take back to the party - I think hoping I would bump into asshole Mark - and that night we camped out in my Dad's back garden (he lived near Blair and was also away for the weekend - but having been caught for having an illicit party there the year before, I wasn't going to offer it as a place to hold the party).

I woke the day after the party in the sweaty smelly tent, desperate to breathe in fresh air. I threw open the tent entrance, took a deep breath and gagged as my friend Emma had vomited right there. My other tent buddy was nowhere to be seen. Our other friend (god knows how we hoped for of us would sleep in this tiny tent) Caroline had already christened the abode with her own puke and had scuttled home - or maybe had crept into her boyfriend Colin's house... Good times. Breakfast was a Burger King thick shake and then home to sleep off the hangover in the sun... Listening to Soul 2 Soul and Prince's Batdance.

Then it hit me - like a fucking bullet - that was 20 years ago!!! 20! Oh my god. Where did all those years go? Because I know every word to Like a Prayer and if I close my eyes I am 16 again, I'm so full of hope and determination. How can I now be thirty fucking 6?? And what would my 16 year old self make of me now?

I reeled as I went up the stairs to the office. I was mulling over the fact I was a devout viewer of the show I now work on, in those days - never missing an episode even though my Mother regularly told me I should be revising instead of watching a soap. I mulled over how unbelievably fast those years sped by. I missed my life then: the tight bubble of friendship, the incestuous school affairs, the feeling that everything happening to me was so BIG in my little world. My desperation to escape Ireland and have adventure. I wish I'd known I was having great adventures even then. I still see my school mates all the time. My same best friend lives 5 mins away. Us gang of girls (the tent pukers) got together only 2 months ago. Yet I miss those carefree days. When we ran to the store that would sell us single cigarettes, gossip and smoke in little booths in Delaneys coffee house after school on a Friday and neck half pints of cider and black while listening to tuneless bands in the Empire every Saturday, hoping to kiss wrong boys and life, well it was for the taking.

There was something so new about it all. Lt reminds me of the film 'The Outsiders' when Ralph Macchio says that everything is 'gold.' I wish I'd appreciated it more. Like in 20 years I wish I'd appreciated now more....

The upshot of all this is... well... I'm not gonna worry so much. It never gets me anywhere anyway. I'm not gonna worry about losing my job in April - things'll work themselves out - they always do. I'm counting blessings and enjoying the here and now. I'm determined not to let a single second pass me by - and unless he/she/it is worth it - I'm just not investing in it any more.

Maybe the turtle in Sproglet's 'Kung Fu Panda' movie has the answer: Yesterday is history, tomorrow a mystery - that is why today is 'the present.' I intend to grab it with both hands.

Now where the hell is my best of Soul 2 Soul CD?

1 comment:

EDW said...

I totally and completely love this post. Yes, yes, and yes. Why didn't we see that it was all an adventure? But now I know, that every night, every is one...and things turn out in ways we can't see from here, and that's okay. Sometimes brilliant.