My mum was born on the 29th December. So was her older sister and her younger brother. She had a younger sister too but she was born in July. Mum was born in 1930, Auntie J was born in 1928 and Uncle J was born in 1934. Auntie J#2 was born in 1936. After 1934, the 29th December must have been a pretty big occasion in Mum’s family. Sadly, Auntie J#2 died in 1948 at the age of 11 and Uncle J followed the next year at the age of 14.
However, Mum liked to keep the 29th December a big occasion and when I was little, it was a big occasion. It turned out that Auntie A, my dad’s sister-in-law, had also been born on the 29th December and years later, my big sister’s mother-in-law also shared the birthday. Anyway, we’d be tidying, dusting, polishing, cleaning, cooking and preparing for hours, no days, in advance for the multiple birthday party she would throw every year on that date.
Mum used to like telling the story of the time she set me the task of arranging biscuits on a plate. I was pretty young at the time and I have no recollection of the incident at all. I can, however, state with absolute certainty that I love biscuits. She told me to eat the broken ones and left me to it. The next time she saw me, I was breaking biscuits and eating them. I can’t imagine I got off lightly but she laughed about it afterwards.
One year, my older sister and I made quiches for the party. We thought that quiches were pretty boring (and, to be honest, I haven’t changed my opinion since), so we added our favourite ingredient to them to make them more interesting – food colouring. One was blue and the other was green. Nobody ate them except us.
Mum used to invite loads of people to the parties. Aunties J and A, of course, were invited; the party was for them as well. All the other aunties and uncles and cousins were invited and so were loads of family friends. What was more, they would all turn up. She also invited colleagues and clients from work (she was a probation officer). One of her colleagues brought her son, Jason, one year. He was a similar age to me and my sister.
He was also into punk, like us and, also like us, was a punk and dressed the part. My sister and I had a great rivalry about him. He seemed to like me at first but later seemed to switch his attention to her. He was never really interested in a relationship (at least I think he wasn’t) but liked to hang around with us and discuss music and politics (his two biggest interests). He was also very artistic and did a beautiful picture of Siouxsie Sioux in pencil, which we had in our room for years.
The following year, he brought a friend, Dave. Dave was also a punk and had a punk name, like me, but I can’t for the life of me remember what it was. Dave was 11 months younger than me and therefore two school years below Jason. He was also amazingly mature for a 15 year old.
So we got talking and hit it off immediately. The party was in full swing when we went upstairs to my parents’ bedroom and got to know each other better. I’ve never really given it much thought until just now, when I was writing this down, but I’m all of a sudden gobsmacked that nobody walked in. Well, when we went back downstairs again, we were boyfriend and girlfriend.
I went out with Dave for 11 months. He was an intelligent and mature lad and even though he was nearly a year younger than me, at an age where a chronological year can equal 5 years in maturity, I never even noticed it or gave it a thought. We had a really good time together and, to use a phrase I really like, presented a united front.
We went to see the UK Subs together. This was when I saw the Straps for the first time. While we were there, some lads asked him if I was his girlfriend or if I was single. Dave was really chuffed about that and took it as a compliment about me. He made sure he passed it on to me as well.
He took me home to meet his dad, who made us dinner – sausalatas, mash and peas. Dave was a vegetarian. He was also a pacifist. Once, when his dad was away, he had a party. There were some skinheads there, who had been invited (the significance of this will emerge shortly). I impressed them mightily by playing Swan Lake à la Madness on the piano. Later on, some other skinheads gatecrashed the party, made an utter nuisance of themselves and smashed a pane in the back door as a parting gift.
One of Dave’s friends tried to sort it out and ended up cutting a deep gash in his arm. We tried to staunch the bleeding and then made the rather stupid decision to drive him to hospital. The person who drove had been drinking all night. Our cut friend got patched up in A & E and we left the hospital. Unfortunately, our driver turned on to the wrong side of a dual carriageway (he was drunk, after all) right in front of the watchful eyes of the Metropolitan Police. They stopped the car and breathalysed the driver and then took us all back to the police station. After they had gone through whatever they had to do (I’m particularly vague about this because we waited in some waiting room or other), they suggested we should go back home. One of the girls who was with us (we had gone to hospital mob-handed) asked if they could drive us home and a humorous policeman asked, “Where? Battersea Dogs Home?” I was not amused but I have since realised that you have to expect this sort of thing if you are going to wear a dog collar.
Our relationship started to fizzle out in the end. Dave never actually tried to end it but I realised that he was treating me more like a friend and less like a girlfriend and I wanted more than that, so I finished with him. He didn’t seem upset and took it very well. I determined to stay friends with him but nothing ever works out like you intend and I lost touch with him.
My sister didn’t, well, not for some time, anyway and the last I heard of him, he was out in New Zealand and working as a nurse. Which, to me, seems absolutely typical of him.