Thursday, 20 December 2012

The Comeuppance.

If only The Comeuppance had Comeup at Christmas, it would have provided a lovely poetic symmetry to my thirty year-old tale of love, betrayal and loss. But perhaps that would make it all too pat. In fact, my comeuppance came in the sultry August of 1985. It is commemorated by a single sentence in my diary: "Vidal Sassoon disaster followed by M disaster."

I had graduated from University a few weeks earlier, having felt quite ready for the last few months of my academic life to flee the confines of student-hood, which had come to feel repetitive and suffocating. I'd read all I wanted to read (for the time being), been on all the demonstrations I felt passionate about (ditto), taken all the drugs I'd ever want to take (pretty much ever), and shagged everyone I'd wanted to (more or less). Student life had nothing more to offer me, and though I cried on the way home for the end of my youth, I was actually ready to enter the Next Phase.

Quite why I felt that 'entering the Next Phase' should mean 'grotesquely altering my appearance' I still do not know, but the urge was upon me to reinvent myself in any way I could, and this meant a radical change of hairstyle. I'd been blonde throughout University (as I am now, and intend to remain), and it had served me well, but as part of my reinvention I took myself off to Vidal Sassoon one afternoon and begged an eager young man to 'change my image'. This he did by dying my hair the colour of a rotted plum, and by hacking into it with psychotic abandon, shearing off my fringe so that my head at the end resembled a hand grenade. I remember staring at my newly-ludicrous appearance in the mirror, mute with shock and horror, while he repeatedly asked me "are you ok, Kolley? Are you ok?". Of course being English I numbly insisted that it was all fine, and tipped him a fiver while my eyes filled with tears.

On the Tube home I kept my head bowed at a 45 degree angle, trying to hide his dreadful handiwork and redundantly tugging what was left of my butchered fringe in an futile effort to make it grow back. I knew my mascara had run in black rivulets down my face, but felt spitting on a tissue and dabbing at it - my only option for any sort of removal - would render me even more pitiful and crazed in the eyes of anyone watching than the 'post-lobotomy chic' haircut already had. It wasn't until I stood up to change trains at Stratford, and briefly brought my swollen eyes up from the floor, that I noticed M had been sitting directly opposite me for the whole journey, and had stood up like me, to change trains. For the first time in years, our faces were six inches from each other again. I looked up into those lovely brown eyes, that were visibly widening as they took in the full grotesquery of my appearance, and saw the lightening spread of vindictive, schadenfreude-driven, completely justified pleasure there. I couldn't utter a word; he didn't need to. The doors opened, we both got off, and I shot to the far end of the platform like the Hounds of Hell were chasing me. Which, in a sense, they were.

And I haven't set eyes on him since. But if he's reading this I'd like him to know that my hair looks lovely now. Really good. And I weigh exactly the same as I did at nineteen (which, if gossip is to be believed, he certainly doesn't. But let us not dwell in vengeance.).

I think there's a certain tenuous Dickensian Morality flavour to this whole fable, so maybe I can rope it in at this point, link it loosely to Christmas or whatever it is you're celebrating at this time of year - if you feel the need to celebrate anything at all - and counsel all readers to try and be nice to each other in the year ahead. Because it'll come back to bite you if you're not, you can rely on that. I'm the living proof.

Thank you to those who still read my crap, mysterious lurkers and bold commentators alike. I'm buying you all a virtual pint (of whatever you like best, be it beer, blood or beetroot juice), and I'm raising it to you. Mwah!

©Kolley Kibber 2012. MY drivel. 

Monday, 10 December 2012

No Tears (The Final Chapter)

Thurs December 9 1982

Just had my last seminar of the term and it was really good, though we all smirked a bit when Prof B broke off mid-sentence to wax lyrically about the beauty of winter sunlight on wet brick (we were on the 14th floor of Big Tower, so I suppose the view IS quite good from up there, but still, really). I'd got caught by the rain walking in, and my hair had been completely flattened so I wasn't really feeling the beauty of it all very much (that funny little Brummie who looks like Sting came up to me and said "yow look like a drowned rat, yow do." What a comedian.). Prof had brought in sherry and mince pies, which was nice of him even though we all had to force down the sherry a bit as it's disgusting. We were all polite though. He's a sweet old prof.

I was coming down in the paternoster later on when this Glaswegian bloke got in and looked me up and down, then pulled a copy of 'An Phoblacht'* out of his bag and waved it in my face. He was going on and on about "you're Irish, you should buy one of these, and you should be coming along to the meetings"... He really got on my nerves. The one thing I'm not going to miss this Christmas is listening to those bloody rebel songs as Dad gets drunker and drunker on Christmas night. It might sound awful, but even though I'll be missing Dad terribly I won't be missing Christmas with Kevin Barry or bloody Sean South of Garyowen. And that stupid paper just reminds me of all that. I've seen this Glaswegian bloke around a lot, he seems to fancy himself as Bobby Sands' reincarnation. I'm giving him a wide berth. And how he knew I was Irish in the first place is a bit of a mystery as I'd never spoken to him before today. Wanker.

Anyway I'm off out later - it's the Hall Christmas Ball tonight and Dr Feelgood are on so it might be quite good. I wish Gill** was here so we could go together, but of course I've no idea even of where she is now. I'm going to dress up a bit tonight, and give the children here something to talk about.

I'lll give M a quick ring if I get time after my bath. I had a letter from him this morning where he said he'd love to come up at the start of next term "although the last thing I want to do is come between you and your studies." We'll see. Maybe we can sort it all out when I go home (in four days! Oh no! I've just started to enjoy myself!!).

Friday December 10 1982

I'm lying here starving because I missed breakfast due to my pounding head. I don't know what time I got to bed. The Ball was great - Dr Feelgood were pissed out of their heads and looked rough (they're so old now), and they'd brought along these really slaggy women who were all sitting on the edge of the stage chewing gum in their lurex halter-necks (boobs everywhere), and glaring at all the girls in case we were going to try and take their lovely men away (you must be joking!). But despite being so pissed they still managed to play well (no shades of the Teardrop Explodes*** last night, thank god) and it was a really good gig - even the maths boys were dancing, though some of them really shouldn't have. I wore my gorgeous yellow dress and was very amused when one of the posh Longcoats tried to talk to me (the only one of them who's alright, really, but I'm not getting involved with any of them.). I was with Richie a lot of the time, having a laugh and annoying the DJ by asking for Theatre of Hate and Tuxedomoon, and then I ran into N, the "hearty lad from Halifax" who I met in the first week at the Freshers Ball. Shows how much I was listening to a single word he said back then, as he's not from Halifax at all but from Chester near Liverpool (which is the other side of the country and these things matter if you come from the North, apparently. Ha ha.).

Anyway he was completely different to how I remembered him. Really nice, in fact. He's in his third year doing Chemistry, plays bass in a band, likes all the right music, and looks a bit like Billy McKenzie. He ended up coming back to my room with a few others and we all finished off the bottle of vodka that K had been saving, then the others all drifted off to bed and I don't know why (yes I do know why, I really fancied him) but I let him kiss me. It hadn't been in my mind until right before it happened, and I had a split second to block out all thoughts of M before I went ahead and did it. Then I got upset, and he was very sweet and said he'd better go but he kissed me again for a while before he went (walking back four miles to his house in the freezing cold.). I sat up for ages after he'd gone, smoking and trying to make sense of what I was doing. In the end I went downstairs and tried to make tea without making any noise, and eventually J came into the kitchen as she couldn't sleep either - she'd finally got off with T, Richie's friend (the one who uses Sun-In!), and had persuaded him to come back to the house and have a bath with her, which he did, they ran the bath and got in (bit of fumbling first, apparently), then he suddenly burst into tears because he remembered his girlfriend at home. J said she sat there for ages watching him crying and feeling the water getting cold, and thought it might upset him more if she topped it up with more hot water (not sure why), so she ended up freezing and miserable. He apologised in the end and got out of the bath and left. She'd been after him all term so felt completely stupid, and I was feeling guilty and confused, so we sat up in my room for an hour being miserable before we crashed out.

J also told me that poor B, Debs' smelly room mate, had ended up in hysterics after some wanker from  another hall pretended to get off with her because his stupid friends had dared him. Apparently she was a bit drunk and was all over him in the middle of the dance floor, and Debs (who had seen what was happening) had to rescue her, which at first she didn't appreciate at all and then when she realised what he was up to was broken-hearted. I detest most of the boys here, I really do. He wasn't exactly a catch himself, in his horribly acrylic jumper. I hope someone does it to him some time.

It's the last night of the JCR tonight, and I know I invited N and I know he said he'd come. What am I doing?

Monday December 13 1982

I can't believe I'm writing this at home in my own room. The whole term is over and I would never, ever have predicted I'd be crying like I was as the car drove me away from the house and the Hall and everyone. It wasn't so long ago that I never thought I'd last a term there, that I couldn't survive without London and even more so, couldn't survive without M, and now I can't wait to get back. I suppose everything just started to come together in that final three weeks, just at the same time things started to go wrong with M, and I suddenly had this great feeling of how unique this time is, and how I'm living a life I'll never get to experience again, and for all its ups and downs how amazing that is, and how I need  to involve myself in order to get the best from it all.

Which may be how I justified 'involving myself' in going to the JCR on Saturday night and meeting N there. And justified letting him come back to my room and stay until three in the morning (I haven't been totally despicable. We didn't do anything too terrible. But we didn't do nothing. He asked if I wanted him to stay and then answered the question for me by saying he didn't want it to be 'sordid' if it was going to happen between us, which I thought was really sweet, so off he went on his four mile freezing walk home again, though I have a feeling he won't be doing that next time.). Richie and his friends were all raised eyebrows and theatrical tutting at me the next morning, but I ignored them, though of course they're right - this is not good behaviour. But by then I was blocking my eyes and ears, and was focusing on the Simple Minds gig last night instead. It was the perfect way to end the term - they were absolutely brilliant, the best I've ever seen them, and once again I managed to get right to the front, this time with my camera, so I hopefully got a few half-decent shots of the frighteningly skinny but strangely alluring Jim Kerr. I did feel quite odd when they did 'that song' from New Gold Dream, and it got a bit painful for a while. but the rest was so incredible that I was able to put M aside from it all and just enjoy the gig totally. My ears are still ringing 24 hours later (is it only 24 hours?). It could have been the best gig of my life so far.

I now have the task of phoning M. It's ten days or so until Christmas (not that his family particularly celebrate Christmas - maybe that will help)**** and I'm just about to chuck him for the second time in a month. I may be making a terrible mistake here. But I can't mess him around any more. It's just not fair.*****

* Irish Republican newspaper/propaganda rag. Not something it was advisable to read in public at the time.
**My best friend from school. We used to listen to Dr Feelgood a lot together in her house in Romford.
***Terrible gig earlier in the term. The Teardrop Explodes were touring as a three-piece and Julian Cope was too fried to care about anything much. A lot of the gig was taped. They were awful. 
****This has to be the most crass comment ever written. I was going to remove it for reasons of shame and embarrassment, but decided it had to stay in. Forgive me, I was young and utterly stupid.
*****It wasn't fair. Nor was the way I mucked him around for another month, blowing hot and cold to him before he finally saw sense and gave up. Dearie me, I was awful. 

©Kolley Kibber 2012. My past, my embarrassment, my writing. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

If only you could see me...

Gentle reader, I promise you this sorry chapter of my early life is drawing towards a conclusion.

Weds Dec 1 1982

We seem to have arrived at an uneasy truce. I cracked and phoned M on Sunday, and we were both a bit wary and awkward, he presumably because he's now regretting pouring his heart out on paper to me, and me because I'm not sure I trust him anymore. It was hard to talk properly as there was loads of noise outside in the kitchen - Charlotte and K were having a childishly loud 'conversation' about which of their boyfriends is best in bed (don't know much about the ferret-faced weed who's squiring Charlotte, but R's certainly the noisiest, if that's anything to go by) - and then a bunch of idiot boys from Digby Hall turned up drunk and singing carols. So all we managed to agree on is that we won't be able to see each other until I get home on the 13th, as there's just too much on here. I've got two essays to finish and there's a lot happening socially, would you finally believe it. He sounded disappointed but too bad. It struck me as I put the phone down that if this keeps going I could be in for three whole years of this, feeling torn and distracted, and not quite knowing where my real life is. I'm not saying Robin was right when he gave me that lecture and I still think he's a prat, but there may have been something in it.

Saturday December 4 1982

I've had a great week! I'm getting really good marks for my essays, and one of the tutors took me aside after the seminar I gave on Thursday and said he thought I had 'the germ of a Phd thesis there' (he's a bit slimy, actually - thinks he's a lot better looking than he is and has been known to get a bit over-friendly in the Union bar (why would you want to go to the Union bar when you're about 32 and one of the staff, anyway?)  - but still I was flattered. Then in the evening I finally got talking to Karen's friend Richie* who I always thought was a bit of a joke (single row studded belt, pixie boots and cheap Bowie trousers, like a tall but cheap version of Marc Almond) and we got on like a house on fire. He's got an amazing record collection, full of really rare 12" Japanese imports (I was very impressed with his 'Dignity of Labour', which I've been after for ages), and he's really, really funny - he made me laugh for hours, like I haven't really laughed since I got here. We seem to like all the same things, although we disagree on virtually everything politically.  He's from Portsmouth which is a bit of a shame as it sounds like the sort of place you'd get beaten up for wearing eyeliner, and is desperate to come to London and go to the Camden Palace (he couldn't believe I'd been there! And that I didn't think it was that great!). I told him to come down one weekend and I'd take him there, and to Kensington Market if he likes. He'd be so easy to impress. Karen got the hump a bit as she could see how well we got on and she sees him as 'her' friend but what was I supposed to do - pretend we didn't really like each other? Anyway we all went to the Poly last night as John Peel was doing the DJ bit - it was brilliant. The Poly is like another world, it's where all the art students and designers go, so everyone looks fantastic and has made an effort. I was amazed I hadn't found it before. We danced a lot, and it was great to be at a student event where you knew you weren't going to hear any Shakin' Stevens or Eye of the Bloody Tiger. Today I went into town with Richie and bought a fantastic suede jacket** in one of the second-hand shops, then we went for a curry. We were laughing all the time. I'm so glad I've met him and he's so jealous I'm going to see Simple Minds next Sunday.
Some of the girls are on the landing singing 'Merry Christmas War is Over'. It sounds lovely***.

*He would become my very best friend. And no, we never 'did'. 
** I've still got it, and still wear it. 
***I hate that song beyond measure now.