“Wow,” I say to Eldest as he swans in the door from school, hair gelled back off face, headphones slung round neck, Che Guevara style military jacket from Camden market, Joy Division t-shirt, faded jeans, Art folder. “Do you have crocodiles of girls following you down the corridors?”
Maybe this isn’t the sort of thing mothers should say to their sons? Maybe it’s all a bit Oedipal? but I remember those arty boys in the sixth form. I remember the sixth form. Feels like yesterday.
Was there ever a better time? Only doing subjects you were really into. Not having to wear school uniform. Not having to worry about being called a swot because everyone there was one by definition. Having a common room with a kettle. Making Cup-a-Soup. I don’t even think we liked Cup-a-Soup and we drank gallons of the stuff. And we were allowed out.
There was one pre-Christmas jaunt to the pub about a mile down the road I remember particularly well. Four of us, two boys, two girls; we walked all the way there in the snow, drank cider, of course, and then staggered and slipped our way back just in time for double English.
Everything about that memory is white-clear and crisp as the snow was that day and there was definitely the unmistakable whiff of something in the air. A sexual charge perhaps, the conspiracy of new found freedom maybe, or just being on the edge of something really... well, edgy.
I was desperate for a boyfriend then. I think I still fancied Kevin Morris. He never fancied me, of course, especially after my mother gave me the invaluable top tip that I should smile encouragingly if I liked a boy so that I stood in the corridor - I think this was in the 5th Year - and grinned inanely at the poor kid as he strolled past on the way to Chemistry. My cheeks hurt afterwards and he gave me an even wider berth than before, and we certainly never shared a bunsen burner after that.
Oh well, it all worked out. I hear he works in a bank now. (Not for one.)
I was too skinny, too spotty and too swotty and then all at once the boobs arrived, I discovered my grandmother’s old sun lamp (cleared the spots), and Sun In (bleached the hair), and hey presto, struck gold at the very next Young Farmer's disco when a tall, dark, handsome boy fixed his eyes on me from the edge of the dance floor, watched me all night and then asked me out.
It was like something out of Tess of the D’Urbervilles - except the country lasses had perms and leg warmers and wiggled provocatively to Body Talk by Imagination instead of skipping round a May Pole.
He was home for the weekend from university. Read it: UNIVERSITY. My very own Angel Clare. And then he walked me to the bus stop where, to use vernacular of the day, we snogged and it was the best night of my life so far. I went out with him for three years after that. (Ended messily when I went off to university myself, a different one, but that’s another story.) Oh to be in the sixth form again, to have all that excitement stretching ahead…
It’s hard when you know it's only going to be down hill from here, the doors of possibility slowly closing one by one, some of them even slamming rather hard, the body gradually crumbling, starting with failing eye sight.
Never again will I dance at a Young Farmer's disco or be admired by a handsome young man from the sidelines. It’s my children’s turn for all that sort of thing now (well, maybe not the young men but you never know and I’d better remain broad minded) and the last time I looked they were babies and I was taking some time off work. How did this happen?
Oh dear, I think Eldest starting in the sixth form has prompted a mid-life crisis. How very predictable.
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