2010: New Year, New Decade

2010: New Year, New Decade

2010: that futuristic year in which Arthur C Clarke’s characters set out to try to understand the mysterious events of 2001 amongst the moons of Jupiter. And here we are… and here’s me with my second full decade under my belt.

When I was a kid my dad had this computer (which was not as sophisticated as HAL – it operated in DOS for a start), and he used to let me and my little brother play games on it sometimes. Prince, Terminator 2, Dizzy, Pinball, Wolf, Duke Nukem and, later, Doom and Doom II. At the time he worked for RACAL, this computer company. I went to their offices once with him – I guess it must have been on a Saturday or perhaps during school holidays. There was a combination lock on the door and I tried to memorize it. Inside there was a room of Asian women working in rows soldering circuit boards, tittering at me as we passed. In my pa’s office there were what seemed to me to be loads of computers. Magically they were all hooked up together, and I played Doom II on one against my Pa and one of his office mates. I must have only been about 5. So, very early Nineties.

Sometimes when I go into London on the train I see that RACAL still have office buildings in the same place (Harrow?). My Pa works for a different company now, though, since RACAL made a lot of redundancies in the late 90s. The new company is Agresso, and if you’re ever visiting any university, national museum or council office (as well as a lot of businesses, charities etc.) you can usually see evidence that they use Agresso software on their networks. Parliament uses Agresso.

Strange – nostalgia surrounding IT companies. But if we were to continue in the same vein, I can remember the day, when I was perhaps 8, that my Ma bought a computer for ‘us’ – meaning us three, my brother, me and her. (My Pa took his PC with him when he left).  It was the latest thing – it had Windows ’95 on it. What an amazing gesture of female independence that was, flying in the face of male expertise: the purchase of a computer.

And what else? In 1998 I moved to P’town, where the man fast becoming my step-father lived and worked. And (don’t laugh) how futuristic it seemed! Moving from the old suburban estates to the new suburbs of a New Town. North Werrington, P’town, was all built at the beginning of the 90s, and all the bricks of its houses are either yellow or red, and all the tarmac was smooooth. My step-pa was renting this little house, when we first went up to visit him, in a little close called Sunnymead. (There are other similarly streets named in a similarly utopian manner – usually the ones with the worst housing.) My brother and I just roller skated all day on that smooth smooth tarmac, and thought that there was nowhere better to live. (Now I note, when I go back ‘home’, that this tarmac is cracking.) It was also so green. After all that southern concrete, here our pioneer suburbs were eating out into the countryside as developers bought up farmers fields, and copse land. So, of course, to a city boy, I felt like I was in the countryside. The first summer my brother and I spent the whole time outdoors with the two boys from next door, climbing trees. Here’s a short story about that year, my first year at secondary school:

One evening in that summer between primary and secondary school, that also marked our move to Pbo, whilst my parents were fixing up the new house (which was only 10 years old), I was playing with just my bro, swinging about. And we saw some smoke coming from a copse across the road, so we went to investigate. There were a group of kids in there, most a bit older. And I was a bit scared. They’d set some twigs on fire. They also had a flying fox. It looked pretty dangerous, but I had a go. One of the older boys seemed particularly dangerous – like he might just turn on you. He wasn’t too much taller than me, but a bit more solidly built. He had black hair. And, anyway, he did turn on us. I dunno why. Him and another couple of other boys chased me and my brother off, and only stopped when they saw my step-dad walking towards them around the corner. I was very thankful to see him.

When I started school I used to ride my bike there, but it was pretty hard going on my own. I started getting the number 2 or 13 or whatever bus, there and back. One day I noticed this same boy with the black hair was on the bus. I sat at the front to be as far away from him as possible, and looked fixedly out of the window. But, he noticed me, and seemed to remember me, and came up to me. He started ‘having a go’. First he accused me of hiding behind my Dad. “Wasn’t it you who tried to get your dad on me?”, he asked sneeringly. I could tell he wanted an excuse to batter me. So I said: “No”.

“What do you mean,” he said, “I remember, you live in those posh new houses where they chopped down all the trees we used to play in”. (First I’d heard of it, but he was right: there’s a row of trees down my street which are the last of a small wood that used to stand there).

“No,” I said “it can’t have been my dad because I don’t live with my dad”.

How calculated the move was at the time, I’m not sure – perhaps I was just being purposely obtuse because (being  smaller than him) it was the only way of giving vent to my indignation. But, it had a sudden effect on him. All the anger went out of him. He became sympathetic; suddenly we were brothers. “My dad don’t live with me neither, I know what it’s like”, he said, or something to that effect.

It’s strange how an otherwise trivial story can tie together so many of the threads of your life.

That was 1998, then. In 1999 I found my way into a group of friends I’m still close to, found a place. And on the eve of the millennium, with a huge party going on next door, I was feeling rotten sick, with a bad cold and a fever. I stayed at home till maybe 11, on my own, then went around for the fireworks and a bit of cheer. I remember it was very cold, but we were all excited. We stood on the fence and watched as it hit 12am, and not only our fireworks went up, but fireworks all over the neighbourhood. We felt like history was in the making.

Also in 2000: Coldplay released their Parachutes album, and I became interested again in music. I thought that album was amazing, at the time. For months I only listened to Parachutes, the 1999 Travis album The Man Who, and Oasis’ Morning Glory.  I told my friend John that Coldplay were the best band ever. Enjoying the benefit of two older brothers, he was suitably disdainful, and proceeded to introduce to me other bands. So it was, in 2000 that I decided that the most important years in music were 1992 and 1997, and switched to Radiohead, Nirvana, the Manic Street Preachers (Street Sweepers), and began listening again to the REM albums my Ma and Pa used to play over and over when I was a kid. (In 2010 I still listen to the old REM albums they recorded with IRS, but I’ve stopped listening to a lot of those other bands. Radiohead still get the occasional play, but more of Kid A and In Rainbows than OK Computer. Last night, new years day, I was listening to Tim Buckley, Tom Waits, Miles Davies and that Wreckless Eric song ‘Whole Wide World’… oh, and  I can’t stand Coldplay anymore…).

And so we come to 2001, to us all coming out of school, hearing rumours something big had happened. I raced home on my bike with my friend Josh, all the way speculating but not believing the few crazy details we’d heard. And when I got home we spent all evening watching the same footage replayed – a plane crashing into a skyscraper over and over and over. The Noughties’ (fetishistic) obsession with that moment was already beginning. But I sat there with my brother feeling strangely indifferent to this strange metallic omen.

What else? The bus bombings? Onwards…

In 2003 I walked home thinking: I am so happy – I will never have to do French with Ms Deasy ever again. I was with two friends from the same class, and they had exactly the same look.

In the summer of 2005 I was sittin out the holiday, waiting for University (for escape). A few months later I met H, and we’ve been together ever since – almost half of the decade.

2008 I graduated. 2009 I graduated again.

2010.

I’ve got this far, and now I’m too tired to go on. I just hope this decade is a good one. Before I get to the end of it I will be 30. When I ushered it in I was sitting on a table with Helen with a brass tag numbered 11. Eleven has been my lucky number for… oh, at least since 11 years, maybe longer. Hopefully that’s a good omen.

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~ by Wit on January 2, 2010.

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