That soldier on a stretcher (1982) – As far back as I can remember I always wanted to be a soldier. Throughout most of the late seventies I could be found running around a local wooded area with a stick in my hand going “er-er-er-er-er-er” before bayonetting my best mate Robert Kelly to death, pausing only for a massive wagon wheel and a can of Quatro. This all changed when the Falklands war kicked off and I saw the striking image of a soldier on lying on a stretcher, with what looked like a piece of roast beef sticking out of his upper thigh where the rest of his leg should have been. The reality of war hit me in one striking image. This had never happened to Action Man or anyone on the A -Team. Just like the fallen hero on that stretcher our dreams of an army career both ended on that horrible day.
The raising of the Mary Rose (1982) – So I’m sat there in me ‘jama’ bottoms and vest with the saccharine sounds of the Saturday Superstore theme tune still ringing in my ears and the remnants of a bowl of Shreddies are slowly drying in front of the Ferguson video-star. My young brow furrows at moribund the scene before me on the TV screen. I’ve been sat for hours waiting to see Henry VIII’s favourite battle ship dragged up from the bottom of the sea, live on the BBC, only to witness what can only be described as loads of massive Cadburys flakes nailed together. This is a defining moment in my life. By the time the huge piece of disappointingly dog-eared driftwood is completely above the surface I have learned a valuable lesson…. That nothing in life is worth waiting more than a few minutes for. The whole morning had been a total waste of time. No cannon, no skellingtons, no treasure and not even a crow’s nest to be seen on that ‘ship’. What a bloody swizz. Three years later I was to be even more overcome with rage whilst watching The Goonies at the Davenport cinema and seeing the impressively high standard of treasure ships that American kids got to re-discover.
Minipops (1983) – Even as a kid I knew there was something very, very wrong about a five year old girl in heavy make-up and high heels singing Sheena Easton’s 9 to 5 on Channel 4 show ‘Mini-pops’. I don’t want to think about it any more. *shudders*
Muhlbach (1984) – The reasons why, as a fully paid-up vertigo sufferer, I asked to go on a school ski-ing trip are beyond me now but whatever the pull was, I got to go to Austria for a week. As our school was run by (sadistic) Christian Brothers we had to go to church the first day we got there before they’d let us anywhere near a piste. Maybe it was the combination of Tachini polo shirt, Pierre Cardin jumper, C&A salopettes and Kappa jacket or just the power of Austrian Catholicism but shortly after the priest started swinging his smoky hand-bag around I made a desperate, sweaty bolt for the door. I just managed to avoid the embarrassment of whiteying in front of my peers by escaping into the fresh mountain air outside to sort my head out. Eventually we did go ski-ing and I fucking hated it. Fortunately my earlier hot flushes were the early signs of tonsillitis and so I managed to avoid the fun of going up and down a mountain repeatedly on two planks of wood and spent the rest of my time in the hotel arcade (going up and down a motorway shooting people repeatedly) and throwing sugar cubes at Northern Irish kids, all to a memorable soundtrack of the Comanchero by Raggio Di Luna (youtube it), loads of Level 42 and that Rocksteady Crew record. The highlight of the trip for me did not include flying down a black run nor titting up an Austrian beauty. No. It was an en-masse shopping/robbing trip round the sport shops of Salzburg on the way back, with one of our group triumphantly displaying the Ellesse towel he’d recently liberated atop his shoulders whilst simultaneously/drunkenly head-butting a nearby wall as the rest of us sat and waited for our coach to pick us up.
The end was nigh (1984) – Without a doubt one of the scariest moments of my life was the time I sat at my school desk one sunny morning only to bear witness to a terrible, terrible sound. For some reason I was uncharacteristically early and the class was deserted when my ears detected the unmistakable sound of the nuclear attack warning sirens screaming their way down the corridor. This was the paranoid cold war era where the ridiculous ‘Protect and Survive’ leaflet, the scary ‘Threads’ drama and Raymond Briggs’ arse-twitcher ‘When the Wind Blows’ were all fresh in our minds and the threat of us all going up in a mushroom cloud one day was a frighteningly real prospect. So imagine what was going through my mind when I heard those evil sirens, stuck in a school room miles from home. It was an all boys school too so the idea of quickly trying to lose my virginity was out of the window. Well there was Mrs Edgar the French teacher but she was about 70 and had hairier legs than me. Rooted to my chair, I could hardly breathe. My hands gripped on to the desk as my whole short life flashed before me, whilst a scale model statue of Our Lady with her arms spread outward like a Chelsea head-hunter looked on, mocking my fear in a way that only statues of imaginary virgins can. “Where are you now God?” I thought to myself, in between some distracting flashback scenes of proudly getting my first Star Wars figure Greedo in Toy & Hobby and the sunny afternoon I repeatedly kicked primary school gobshite Steven Quinn’s head to a pulp on the rounders pitch. Oh no, the sound was getting louder, oh no! Oh no! This is it, oh no!
Oh it’s a lad from the six form with a ghetto-blaster playing the 12″ version of Two Tribes by Frankie Goes To Hollywood, oh I’m going to live, oh OK, shit I’ve got a geography lesson now.
Arthur Scargill’s rubbish hair (1985) – When people talk about the miner’s strike nowadays it’s all ‘What that bastard Thatcher did’ this and ‘those bloody coppers’ that. For my sins the only thing that really riled me up about those riotous scenes was the sight of Arthur’s terrible comb-over flapping in the Yorkshire wind. If any hairstyle would have benefited from having a truncheon across it, it was his. He made it even worse when he started wearing a baseball-cap and a blazer, like some kind of Costa Del Sol Grandad. This is class war mate not a Donkey trek round Mijas! As a side note, I recently heard that back then lots of coppers (rich on overtime pay) used to taunt the impoverished miners by wiping the condensation from their mini-bus windows with fivers, what a load of fucking bastards.
Barbican Mike (1986) – I envy the youth of today. They’re never more than two clicks away from the highest quality porn available in the world whereas back in the 80s we had to coerce a mentally ill, ex-alcoholic, gentle giant, graced with a child-like naivety to do our dirty work for us and go into the local newsagents to purloin a sacred copy of Knave or Fiesta.
Not only were we irreversibly corrupting our own minds we were adding fuel the fire that ‘Barbs’ was a bit of a perv, as suggested by the local estate’s rumour-mongering cognoscenti.
When I was thirteen, porno mags were like crack (excuse the pun). You’d sell your soul for ten minutes with a couple of readers’ wives or reading all about a group of nymphomaniac air-stewardesses and a photocopier salesman from Cheam.
Teenage faux-pas (1987) – I’ll never forget the day I bounced into my mate’s girlfriend’s house and glanced at the catastrophic scenes of womens faces pressed up against the fences of Greenham Common on the six o’clcok news. Merrily I said “No way! You’re watching ‘Day of the Dead’ I love that film!” only to notice that said mate’s girlfriend’s mum who was sat in the corner knitting a wicker cardigan (probably) was clearly not impressed with my comic entrance, partly because she herself was a veteran protester of the common but more so by the fact that I’d also just walked a load of dog shit into her spotless flat. Believe you me it took a fair few bottles of Olde English cider to block out that one.
Hot-knives (1988) – I wonder who was the first person to see the potential of a nugget of sputnik resin, a milk bottle with the bottom smashed out of it, two butter knives and a naked flame? It was probably somebody who wanted to enjoy all the illicit thrills and spills involved in the elaborate drug paraphernalia based rituals of a heroin hit but without all the overdosing and burglary. Whoever created the hot knife phenomenon be it ancient Egyptians or Scouse urchins, they certainly knew how to get their money’s worth out of a sixteenth. Listening to Soul Mining by ‘The The’ just doesn’t sound the same without a good knife induced coughing session beforehand.
Having my heart broken for the first time (1989) – She was older than me (by about two years), she bought me an eighth for my seventeenth birthday, she got me into the Wonderstuff (only the first album), she smoked Embassy Filter and she worked in Boots. Yes indeed, this was love.
Despite us only going out for about a month I was devastated when she dropped the bomb-shell that it was all over. I was inconsolable and thought I would never love again. This malady went on for at least two weeks, though it seemed like four.
Years later she tried to snog me and I denied her advances purely on the grounds that I was a changed man and being a man of the world she was well below my standards plus I could afford to buy my own cigs now. Revenge is a dish best served accidentally (at a party in Marple).