Let’s get the first wave of doom and gloom out the way early. The second decade of the twenty-first century was supposed to be one of celebration. We were leaving school and ready to go out into the big, bad world doing big, mad things. The memory plays tricks because it’s telling me that it was always sunny- a glowing sheen of golden gorgeousness set to the backdrop of a true blue sky. Probably not the case. Anyway, forget about exams, it’s the freedom we want! After years of school, it was finally time to release the shackles, get on your dancing shoes and be a sexy, little swine.
Oh yeah, then my football team went and got relegated didn’t they? Nice one. Let’s demolish my sugar-coated nostalgia and build a dull grey wall around my hopes and dreams. Then, we got a Tory government but I’m not gonna go all political yet, that comes later. So, leaving school with zero prospects, an embarrassingly bad football team and a massive chip on my shoulder (I’ll explain this: at this time, I wasn’t the great specimen of man that stands before you now, I was so short that I looked about twelve years old. My baby face continues to be a source of great ridicule nearly ten years on.)
I was a jumped-up, pumped-up kid with an attitude problem. If I could get in a time machine and go back and speak to sixteen-year-old Alex, I’d slap him and tell him to shut up. That’s what’s so good about hindsight, though, it makes you realise things. All I was looking forward to was turning eighteen the following year so I could go buy my mates ten fags from the shop and not have to ask strangers outside shops if they wouldn’t mind buying us a 2-litre bottle of cheap booze so we could get utterly bungalow’d on a Friday evening. Ah, the memories. Cracking open a can of fizzy, radioactive alcohol was big business when you’ve just turned 17.
There’s nothing better than pogoing up and down to early Arctic Monkeys with your mate, spilling suds all over his bedroom floor and making as much noise and as much anarchy as possible. We spent a lot of time blowing chunks, being punks and simulating slam dunks and we were the coolest people on the planet. Oh, we don’t wear classic Reeboks, or knackered Converse or trackie-bottoms tucked in socks.
If this was what the next decade had in store for me then I’d rather not, to be quite honest. I was still a young lad playing football at the weekends, talking to girls on MSN (remember that?) and pretending I was a rapper on that game DefJam Rapstar. This might sound alien to anyone who knows me now but at one time, I knew nearly every word that Notorious BIG ever spat out. Use it or lose it. I’m not a good rapper any longer- thinking about it now that might be where my obsession with the word ‘juicy’ comes from? Anyway, we sped into adolescence with no job, no real future and definitely no happiness. Great, looking forward to it, mate. In a time when Spain was world champions at football, Obama was still in the White House and the box-office was smashed by Inception, it was also a year to be miserable. There’s no colour and no sound; we’ve gotta get out of this satellite town.
Soundtrack: Not Afraid by Eminem
Cigarettes and Alcohol by Oasis.
Never underestimate the importance of dreams. Honestly. That’s the message I take from this year of my life. We all learn lessons and move on. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. For me, my life was stretching as far as the jobcentre queue and scraping together money to hop on the bus to and from college. I was really that skint. The phrase ‘don’t have a pot to piss in’ springs to mind and I guess it made me appreciate the value of things. A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing, as Oscar Wilde said. Of course, in 2011, I wouldn’t have dared make a literary quote because it didn’t suit my self-created rough and ready rogue image. Can you be a rogue in Adidas trainers and a Fila jacket I wonder?
Anyhoo, my football team were still rubbish, my future prospects were still grim and my relationships with the opposite sex were very similar to a tumbleweed blowing desperately across a desert landscape. You know what I’m saying, lads. You say it best when you say nothing at all. I’d started to take an interest, quite secretly, in writing and films. I have a very analytical mind but I never felt comfortable letting the personality grow organically. I still wanted that persona of being prickly, a bit abrasive. It’s just not me at all, though and I’m sure everyone knew.
I read The Outsider by Albert Camus and I was that hooked on it that I decided that was what I wanted to do- write. When you stumble upon your passion, it’s like a sudden surge of electricity. That feeling you get when you take that first legal sip of cider; that burst of sugary seduction that comes from the tingling honeycomb of a Crunchie bar on your tongue. Yeah, that.
I have discovered life. I have realised my calling. I’ve created a monster. The dilemma was that I was stuck doing a two-year college course. My dad encouraged me to get a trade when I left school so I could give myself half a chance of getting a job in this austere new world. It never occurred to me that I could do what I felt I wanted to do. It was a case of being given next to no advice from those self-important careers people at school. It was pretty much a case of ‘you won’t amount to anything as long as you carry on like you are.’ I was a bit of a hooligan, I’ll admit that. That’s a pattern that is too familiar to people of my generation. People try to put us down, indeed.
On a high note in popular culture, the Arctic Monkeys released Suck it and See and the Harry Potter franchise reached its conclusion, it was still a mixture of lonely this Christmas and a slow realisation sparking in my mind.
So, it was all settled. I was going to be the next Jack Kerouac (it’s funny because I had no idea who he was at the time) and it was all going to come together, every little thing was gonna be alright.
Soundtrack: Teenage Kicks by The Undertones
Young Savage by Ultravox.
Or so I thought. I am a big believer in positivity (don’t snigger too much, I’m much more cheerful than I used to be) but when obstacles are consistently thrown in your path, it does take a lot to keep trying to navigate them. I think THE MAN just wants you to give up, accept your place and stand in line not complaining or upsetting the status quo. Well, not me. If you think that’s ever gonna happen then you obviously don’t know me at all.
There were hurdles everywhere, jumping through hoops like I was part of some mad, twisted circus. I was aiming for A-Levels and even that was a struggle. I found myself swimming against the tide at every opportunity. It made me feel a bit bitter, I won’t lie. For some people, it’s so easy. They get born into money and opportunity and then use that complete social imbalance to get a step ahead and then make life a misery for people like me. I am fiercely loyal and proud of my working-class background and wouldn’t change any of it for anything. It made me who I am today.
That being said, this year the Queen celebrated sixty years of sitting on the throne, taking everyone’s money for no reason. If anyone wants to chat about the waste of money the Royal Family are then I will whole-heartedly agree.
Anyway, the main story of 2012 has to be the insane amount of nights out I had, bankrolled on a seemingly endless stream of money. What it really was is quite simple. You go round your mates house, neck several bottles of guzzle and get steaming before you even venture out. That way, a night out costs a fiver that your mum leant you and you have a belter. I always remember one of my mates eighteenth birthday. I was out in Town, when that was a thing on a Saturday night, it’s dark and hazy. The live footage of the London Olympics is on the big screen and Jessica Ennis has just struck gold for Team GB. My eyes must have looked like distant stars in the universe. I remember being absolutely mortal. I’ve been to mushroom mountain, once or twice, but who’s counting?
There is a girl looking over at our table. At this stage of my life, my confidence is at absolute zero. Stone Cold Self-Esteem. I’m more Mosh Pit than Brad Pitt and that’s a painful memory to have. My track record with women is a string of goalless draws. Anyway, enough metaphors, she’s coming over. There’s a lump in my throat, like I’ve tried to swallow a golf ball. I just know that this is gonna be one of my famous voice-crack moments. Yes it was. Of course it was. I can’t even remember her name, although I’m sure she told me. I tried to smile back but just looked goofy. I tried to speak but sounded like a squeaking door in need of some WD40. This is a problem I still suffer with and, you know what, it doesn’t bother me anymore. That’s the power of positivity working, right there.
The reason I’m telling you this story is because it shows, in small and unsuccessful terms, that I have always been geeky and embarrassing. Back in 2012, I couldn’t stand anyone finding out that I dabbled in poetry writing, songwriting and had an unhealthy fixation with both The Simpsons and romantic comedies. It shows the change of attitude, in a good way. No matter how hard you try, you can never hide your true colours and your real personality. Stay tuned for more details about my various cocktails and cock tales.
Soundtrack: Fred Astaire by San Cisco
Helter Skelter by The Beatles.
The last year of my teenage existence and the first year of my exploration into writing and literature; my first year at college doing something I wanted to do. It felt liberating. I was seen as quite cool and mysterious because I was a couple of years older than most of my classmates, so there was always that aura. I’ve always wanted to have an aura.
I was still brassic. My mum got child allowance until I turned twenty and she very kindly let me have it each week, it was something like £20 every Friday which to me was loads. It meant I could save up a few weeks to splash out on a new pair of Adidas Samba or to go out strutting my shoe leather in the cheap thrills parade of Cleethorpes. It really is crazy to think that, just six years ago, I was living off beans, chips and cider. Conservative governments do that to you! Haha! I’ve just found out that 2013 was the International Year of Quinoa. I’ve never eaten it, have you? I wanted to put that in just be-cous…sorry.
In my mind my dreams were real, only nobody was concerned about the way I feel. It was a time of penning essays about Ogden Nash and actually being proud of myself. That was a sensation that took a long time to get used to. Pride. I’d been a disappointment to myself for far too long and now, here I was, in my Fred Perry with a bottle of Dr. Pepper in hand, doing bits. I was on the path to positivity. The street to the stars. The ocean of opportunity, sailing sweetly through silent success.
While my veins were still bulging with booze and my brain was still bubbling with babbling business, I was enjoying myself. I was enjoying being me. For nineteen years, there was a sense of being completely uncomfortable in my own skin. I hated the thought of being me. My acne-scarred chin, crooked smile and being vertically challenged were all beginning to fix themselves. Uh oh, Shaggy, the clues all lead to one thing- the first crackle of confidence. I abandoned my pursuit of gangsta rap and instead fell in love with a more arty, indie music. I’d always been into bouncing around manically to the Pigeon Detectives or the Wombats but, suddenly, Noah and the Whale started sounding incredibly vibey.
I still didn’t like admitting to myself that I was becoming increasingly soft and geeky. A close encounter of the nerd kind. There will be plenty of time for that, though. I can’t stress enough how much of an uphill struggle it was being so skint, so stubborn and being thrown onto the growing scrapheap by the most evil and uncaring government of a generation (and we keep voting them back in, I don’t understand that. Someone send me the reasons why, please, before I go completely mad!)
This was when I really started harbouring ideas of university. I’d always thought it was beyond me and people like me. We were lazy Millennials who didn’t want to work and would rather sit and moan about it. Or, that’s what THE MAN said. Most young people I knew were more than willing to work, they were just never given the chance. They were assumed to be benefit scroungers, spongers, layabouts and lounge-arounds. Did anyone ever ask? Nobody ever asked me what was happening in my life. No, they just made assumptions on the back of their own pathetic standards. Well, we didn’t all have daddy’s money you know? Anyway, end of politics. The future remains unwritten.
Soundtrack: Techno Fan by The Wombats
Pop Ups (Sunny at the Weekend) by Marsicans.