You really do not realise just how much stuff you have accumulated over the years until you see the amount of boxes in which your stuff has been packed – and by ‘stuff’ I of course mean crap. It was as I was unpacking one of these billion cardboard boxes that I happened upon my old diaries which span a near decade – from the ‘New Kids on the Block’ late eighties, to the ‘Blur versus Oasis’ mid-nineties. I am a woman who is very easily distracted and my absolute belief in the old adage ‘why do today what you can put off until tomorrow’ means that if there is any tiny thing that can take me off-task, I will leap at it with open arms and give it a big kiss. So, bored of sifting through my knick-knacks, I sat and read the diaries. Big mistake. I always thought I was quite a cool teenager; intelligent, witty, mature, gregarious.
Turns out I was actually a bit of an arse.
In 1989, I went to college to study for my A levels after five God awful years at a God awful school in Derby, where, rather than learning anything of any use, the majority of my time was spent sitting at the back of the class doodling ‘Leighton is fit’ on the cover of my maths book, and then going home to pester my parents to buy me a pair of Pepé stone-washed jeans and a Kappa t-shirt. Three GCSEs later and I was completely ready to leave school and branch out into the unknown and colourful world of tertiary education. I loved the freedom college gave me. We had a refectory and vending machines and you could skip seminars and not get caught and you could smoke and swear and wear whatever you wanted without fear of retribution. There were cliques; the Townies, the Grebs, the Goths, the Musos. We had college parties (they’re a blog all on their own) and went to charity shops in our ‘frees’, and it was the last time in our lives that we could swan around with that air of deluded self-importance , because we were young and ‘stoodents’ and we thought we were the bee’s knees. I, in particular, thought whatever I had to say was really important and profound, especially if I said it really loudly in the middle of the high street after drinking too many Newcastle Brown Ales. I was, as I have said, a bit of an arse, a Psychology-studying, Sartre-reading, floppy-fringed arse. However, no matter how high I scored on the arse-o-meter, I was very lucky to have a core group of friends who put up with all of my overly loud and obnoxious behaviour.
Examples? But of course…
I had a tendency to fall in love every other week with a plethora of different males; the one with the fur-collared bomber jacket, the Scottish one with Inspiral Carpets t-shirt, the one with the two-tone mullet, the one who was a lead singer and also, it turns out, a card-carrying sociopath. And every time they dumped me or were simply not interested, I would slump into a deep depression which consisted of lighting a joss stick, listening to Soft Cell and writing a poem, usually entitled something subtle like ‘Why Does Everyone Hate Me? – Part Deux’. I was also a bit pretentious.
‘But we were all like that!’ I hear you cry. Alright then…
I had a tendency to do very silly things that nobody else seemed to do. One night, when I realised I was running late for an evening of drinkin’ and dancin’, I decided to dry my jeans on the Calor gas fire in my bedroom. Ten minutes later, the inevitable stench of smouldering denim led me to discover that my jeans were, in fact, alight and gently setting fire to my carpet. Somehow, I managed to get the blazing jeans into the bathroom and into the bath, the only tell-tale sign a small scorch mark under the cold water tap.
I once showed my friend how good I was at dancing to Nirvana by bending at the waste and swaying my head vigorously from left to right. I had very long hair at that point, and the effect was quite a thing to behold, I’m sure. However I had not planned for the physical consequences of this style of dancing for those unaccustomed to it, and as I stood up the room span round and my legs, which by now felt like they belonged to someone else (and I really wished they had) sent me careering spectacularly into a group of other partygoers, including one boy on whom I had my weekly crush. I smashed through them like a bowling ball through a set of pins, ricocheted off a mirrored pillar and eventually came to an abrupt stop by colliding with and then bolstering myself against a bar stool.
There are just too many ridiculous events to mention here – the point is that no matter what I did, said, wore or set fire to, my friends were always there to laugh, pick up the pieces, or extinguish me – and twenty years later, they are still there for me.
And that is one of the things that make emigrating so incredibly difficult – leaving them behind.
Of course, you meet new people. You go out and have coffee and tell your story a few times and you get on. And hopefully a few of those people will turn out to be really good friends – friends that will look out for you again, and don’t get me wrong, I am confident that I have met those people. But, if like me you know no one in your new country of residence, the difficulty is that you have no one with whom you share a past, a legacy if you like – stories you can laugh about, moments that make you think again, reminiscences that might make you cry. You do not have people that know you inside out and who forgive you all those little ‘moments’ you might have, and those moments might end up defining you forever. For a while there, you have to be on your best behaviour, which for someone like me is quite exhausting.
Australia is a long way from the UK and not just geographically but emotionally. It does not really hit you just how far away you are until you think about people back at ‘home’ and the fact that you might not see them again for a long time, or indeed ever if you do not return to the UK. My best friend has just had her first baby. I will not see her baby until she is almost one and a half if we return to the UK for my dreaded 40th.
Things like that break your heart just a little bit.
I love it here, as I am sure you can tell by reading my other blogs – these are just things I think about and miss.
Next week – Things I Miss (Part Two) – Pork Pie.