It was Christmas 1980 and I was excited; I had asked Mum and Dad for a tape recorder this festive season, an expensive present back then, but something I had wanted after seeing one in ‘Tandy,’ the electronics shop of the time. Early Sunday evening I would religiously listen to the music charts on radio one, as they announced a countdown, of the top 40 songs that week. It was a part of my routine, something I looked forward to every weekend. Being able to record the chart show would be an added bonus; I spend six months persuading my parents to buy me the latest technology, a Bush, single dec cassette player. Fingers crossed I would get one on Christmas Day.
I was up early, probably four o’clock in the morning, gently creeping down the staircase, trying to avoid treading too hard. Step by careful step I finally reached the bottom without a sound; then as my right foot hit the last step, there was a loud overbearing screech. I slipped briefly, as the sound echoed throughout the house; recovering my composure briefly before falling head long into the wall in front; a thud so hard, I hit the floor, laying there, stars in front of my eyes!
Spread-eagle on my back, confused, tired and a little sheepish, I listened for any sign of movement upstairs, luckily there wasn’t any; I jumped to my feat, heart pounding hard and ran into the lounge. The Christmas lights were still on, flickering gently against the wall behind, directing me towards the presents underneath the newly decorated tree. I made a beeline for the box I thought contained my Cassette recorder, low and behold there it was; brand new shiny, black, just waiting to be used. Next to the recorder a packet of C60 tapes and some large brick size batteries. Gingerly, keeping as quiet as I could, I put the batteries in the back of the player and inserted a tape into the dec; starting to record my thoughts for the day, there and then, rather like I do now, blogging my heart out.
I went back up stairs, this time making as much noise as I could, waking Mum, Dad and my Brother; switching on lights, banging doors and generally causing havoc, finally launching into my parents bedroom; tape recorder in hand, documenting events. Laying on the bed, everyone finally awake, we opened the rest of our presents, talking and chatting away to each other, laughing and joking, as families do. These were the special moments in life, the ones I will always recall. Luckily I still have that first tape recording, transferred into digital format, to keep and cherish forever.
My life was complete, recording Sunday afternoon radio in the days before video camcorders and mobile phones; also charting other important events of the day. Myself and a friend from School set up a ‘TV/Radio’ station called JDTV, we would spend hours pretending to be presenters, guests, newsreaders and actors. In the afternoon, when television went into recess, playing light easy listening music, testcard firmly fixed in the background, I would lay in front of the screen, sound on low, recording my thoughts; mimicking famous personalities of the era, pretending to be that presenter from the telly or generally daydreaming, disappearing into another World, away from the stress and strain of daily life at school. When afternoon television restarted once again, Falcon Crest on ITV, I was a member of the cast, acting for dear life, wealthy, successful, a lifetime away from who I really was. Escaping to greener pastures was always a thrill; innocent times full of hope and wonderment, where I could be whoever I wanted to be. These are the memories I take with me wherever I am; remembering with affection the little things, that seemed so insignificant at the time, but worth all the tea inn China today, as I reflect on a childhood, long since gone!
There was a distinct chill in the air, lots of glum faces; a rumbling of discontent throughout the school, as pupils digested the latest attempt to reshape our place of learning, conforming to more traditional ideals. It was a few days earlier that each of us were given a letter to hand to our parents announcing the introduction of a new school uniform in keeping with the schools new name and status within the community in which it served. In was 1983, I was in my second year of senior school, at a time when Britain was suffering the spectre of recession. Money was in short supply, unemployment was high and the cost of living out of control. The last thing families needed was another bill to contend with; the price of our new identity would not come cheap. Understandably disaffection was bubbling to the surface, as pupils decided to take matters into their own hands.
It was late afternoon, double Science, probably one of my least liked subjects. Looking around the room, there seemed to be a lot of absences, the class was rather sparse and lackluster; the few of us who were there had thoughts elsewhere. As I glanced out of the window onto the playground below, I could see a group of students milling about, talking, shaking their heads, arms raised in consternation. Even I felt anxious and I didn’t know why. There was an atmosphere of revolution and insurrection; rebellion was in the air.
I could hear whispers behind my back, two classmates talking about joining the growing throng outside. One tapped me on the shoulder, ‘are you coming?’ they said. Confused I asked what they meant; I was oblivious to events unraveling around me. ‘We are going on strike; there’s a protest on the all weather pitch, everyone will be there!’ they exclaimed, encouraging me to join them and make our voices heard. I understood that there could have been a demonstration about the new rules being introduced at the school, but really brushed them aside as ‘just talk.’ I was surprised that my friends were taking matters into their own hands and a little apprehensive about what would happen to those of us who took part!
Briefly I thought about what I should do; looking out the window, I could see more and more classmates joining ‘pupil power’ in action. I turned back to face my peers, nodding my head in agreement. As our Science Teacher continued his lesson on photosynthesis, I duly packed my brown adidas bag and abruptly left the room, all three of us heading downstairs. ‘What do you think you are doing? Come back here now!’ I heard Mr Roche shout as we left the room; running quickly down the stairs and outside into the busy thoroughfare below, we joined everyone else in our campaign for justice!
I don’t remember the exact number who took part that day, though it was quite a few. Chanting and cursing we made our way through the school and onto the playground beyond, refusing to move until the powers that be, retracted the requirement for compulsory school uniforms. A sit down protest on the edge of school created waves, as teachers tried to encourage us to return to class. Of course as time went on and stomachs began to groan, pupils started to leave anyway. In truth when I look back to this time, I was carried along with the sea of emotion surrounding this stance. I really didn’t care if I had to wear a shirt and tie or not, in fact it was the best thing for the school, but when you become part of a crowd you tend to follow the course, losing all sense of reality, forgetting just what the initial action was about in the first place. As children, fickle to the core, a few hours off last thing in the afternoon, became our overriding ambition.
The school uniform remained, those of us who took part were given detention and we had our day in the local rag but the reasons for our discontent didn’t go away. Changing the identity of anything, whether school, person or brand, can only be done with the support and influence of all of those impacted. In future pupils and parents were consulted every step of the way. New rules were implemented without the frustration and anger that surfaced that day.
I had just fallen asleep; no more than half an hour ago. I remember looking at the clock before I drifted away, it was 10.24pm. I could see the bright hall light at the foot of my bedroom door. Even then I had to have the room dark, no luminescence at all, covering anything up that interrupted my line of sight; I just couldn’t sleep otherwise! Despite my need for darkness, I was always scared of the night, often diving under the covers at the slightest hint of something suspicious in the room. Like the story of my life, I was contradictory in every sense of the word; most definitely the product of a bipolar mind.
I woke up panicking twenty four minutes later; another bad dream. I often experienced those strange reoccurring visions that never went away; I still do. I was standing in a newly ploughed field, not a soul in sight for miles around. Behind me was a small white house, rather dishevelled, leaning slightly to one side; broken windows, broken door; holes in the roof, illuminating the abandonment inside. The number on the letterbox, held on by a single screw, was 24. In front of me was a tall white picket fence, with no gate, a barrier yet to cross. This was the first time I remembered this dream and wouldn’t be the last. The details changed a little over the years, but essentially the theme was always the same.
I could feel the warm light of day on my face, eyes still tightly shut, avoiding the early morning sun; Mother banged on my bedroom door. ‘It’s time to get up, you’ll be late for school!’ she shouted firmly walking back downstairs. I laid there for just a moment remembering the night; once again the number twenty four popped into my head. This number meant something to me and I didn’t know what. I was always a young lad who thought too much, reading significance into the most ‘matter of fact,’ ordinary events.
Last thing in the afternoon, before home time, it was double mathematics. I hated it despite getting an O level in the subject. I would often day dream, thinking about what I could write in my journal, my passion, even at eleven years old. In front of me, sat my orange coloured exercise book, pristine and clear, not a mark or blemish anywhere to be seen. I picked up a black biro and began doodling on the surface. The number twenty four, enclosed with a ring of ink; again and again I wrote the number down, heavier and heavier each time, marking the pages inside. What was that number all about, what did it mean to me and why was it still in my head. I sat there glazed eyes, shook my head, trying to shake the number from my mind. I got a smack across my knuckles that day for defacing my work book, but was worth it; a reminder of things to come.
As a young boy growing up, I always remembered the dream, the time on the clock, the number in my head; it remains with me to this very day. At twenty four years old I met my partner, in 1995; the most significant moment in my life. I’m expecting great things on our twenty fourth anniversary next year. The first house we bought together was, yup you guessed it, number twenty four; a beautiful stone cottage on the Lancashire Yorkshire boarder and the house we moved to in Spain, when we left the UK was once again the number twenty four.
I am a firm advocate of fate and believe this number runs through my life line, playing a major role in my destiny. Mumbo jumbo, I hear you say, well maybe you are right, but maybe you’re not. For me it is special; a reminder of my childhood and a suggestion of my future as yet unknown. It isn’t until it pops up again that I recall its importance, just like today, at the checkout in Mercadona, 24,24€!
47 year old Author, Columnist and Blogger.