20 Years in the Making

1995wall

Neat snapshot.

This is a pic of my bedroom wall back in 1995. It’s a hardcopy, we didn’t have digital back then, and it’s currently tacked to the wall of my post-grad accommodation. A cell-like room that drives some people to distraction, but for others can be their own little cavern away from the world.

Apologies for the shadow. I was trying to be arty, playing with a point-and-click camera (couldn’t afford an SLR) focusing on the football jersey, the shadow of the tree behind me. A southern facing bedroom, it got the best sun and it made the wallpaper look even more striking.

Not that it wasn’t pretty striking to begin with. Back then, everyone was wallpapering “with a border”, so the idea was to have the darker paper below, the lighter above and the border dividing the two. Kinda like Israel’s security wall then, a decade before its construction (too much? apologies).

I didn’t want that. Or I DID, but not in the way everyone else did. I wanted it flipped. The darker side more prominent. Midnight blue, with cream stars, and the lighter cream bottom, with darker highlights, topped off with an ornate border akin to a Victorian balustrade.

My mom gave me a look. Then she shrugged and said “If you’re sure”. Then she wallpapered the lot. My mom is the queen of the wallpaper.

And there it stood, until 2004 and I was away in London, when it was all torn down.

20 years ago.

1995 was, arguably, my favourite year (there are contenders).

My football team opened the year with a crushing defeat in the semi-finals of the NFL knockout round. Favoured, at home, they choke to a team they routinely beat.

When the season started again in September they would ride all the way to the Superbowl by way of retribution, the last ride of a chutzpah pouting, swaggering defense (nicknamed ‘Blitzburgh’) that hit opponents very, very hard.  They didn’t win unfortunately, but they earned a lot of kudos within their own honoured history.

I met my brother again. I hadn’t seen him in five years, life just… got in the way, and we went to different schools after junior school.

It’s a relationship that, to this day, I find it hard to quantify. He’s someone that plays his cards very close to his chest, and at times I feel like I don’t know 100% what he’s thinking (isn’t that like all men?). But he’s the master of the deadpan one-liner, works like a Trojan, and can squeeze a pound from a penny better than I’ll ever be able to do.

The term “man’s man” has fallen out of favour in the last 20 years. Implications of inflexibility, misogyny, and poor judgement have tarred the expression. My brother can cook, well, from scratch (he does slaw to DIE for!!), can renovate a living room, and is currently looking to take a plastering course. What he doesn’t know, he learns, quietly, and well.   “Man’s man”? “Metrosexual”? In the 21st century we do seem to love our labels.

We both took our year 16 exams that summer. With a lot of help, and some extra tuition I managed to squeak through.

Ever since I’ve noted the exams the children take each summer. And I’m so envious and proud when you read how well the kids do to reach multiple A* and A grades. I’ve never had an A grade for anything.

In January 1995 I did my mocks, and got an E for one of my option modules.

[not going to say which one, it’s embarrassing!!]

The teacher for the module saw this, and probably in an attempt to save his own job, as well as my future, decided on the radical approach of having me walk with him. Round the grounds, every lunch time, while he monitored the younger classes on break, reciting my understanding of the modules concepts, the vocab (it was a language) until it penetrated my brain.

Looking back on the time it’s something you could’ve stuck montage music to, a la Rocky or Kill Bill.

The teacher was only the monitor once a week, so it wasn’t too bad, but for every week until the actual exam?

I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me sometimes.

The main exam came. Result: C!!!!!

You were expecting higher?

When we met again the following year, before I would drop his A-level course (for reasons I regret to this day) he congratulated me, telling me that it’s a greater achievement to go from an E to a C, than a C to an A.

Is that true? Probably not. But it’s stuck with me.

I started buying music in 1995 too. On cassette. The first two albums I bought for myself being Annie Lennox ‘Medusa’ and the soundtrack to Batman Forever. While Annie’s albums of covers was nice, the second choice was the seminal sound for anyone alternative and growing up in the mid-nineties.

Where else could you find mainstream giants like U2 and Seal, alongside Hip Hop icon Method Man? Nick Cave and Michael Hutchence? Some unknown band called The Offspring and finishing with The Flaming Lips’ ‘Bad Days’, their anarchic anthem to social disillusionment?

What I find amazing now is that while everyone fawned over Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’, labelled as the “love song” of the album, many of us found Eddie Reader’s ‘Nobody Lives without Love’ equally touching. Myself included.

“You came along with a flash of your lightning… crashed into my life like a runaway star…”

If that doesn’t scream forbidden, teenage, hormonal love, what does? Now I read online that this was many people’s ‘Coming Out’ song. Not surprised.

I played the album relentlessly for the next 3 years. Played it delivering papers, and whenever we were allowed our walkmans in school. Annoyed the hell out of the people on school trips, because it was the only tape I had for most of them, which meant swapsies quickly became boring. I guess it didn’t give the same emotional kick to my contemporaries as it did to me, then. Oh well.

It was 20 years ago.

And SOOOO much has changed.

But, wait a minute, it is 20 years.

20 YEARS.

Like, going from the 60’s to the 80’s, you expect a lot of stuff to happen between 1960 and 1980. In America you would have the civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, the deaths of JFK, RFK, MLK, Malcolm X; numerous wars, and embargos in the Middle East, the odd epidemic, the odd African dictator/warlord/mass murderer; the IRA blowing things up, man going to the moon; Golda Meir and Maggie Thatcher, riding the wave of equality; Stonewall and the start of gay rights; the bear of the seventies, seeing the slow decline of the working class and the manufacturing industry, the collapse of the unions; and finishing with the murder of John Lennon.

What have we had in comparison, between 1995 and 2015? Also 20 years.

The deaths of Yitzhak Rabin and Yasser Arafat; the fallout from the Bosnia conflict, and the end of Yugoslavia; the rise of China as a superpower, in every aspect of the word; 9/11, and the War on Terror, invading into Iraq and Afghanistan; numerous wars and conflicts in the Middle East (in reality they never really stopped between ’80 and ’95); the rise of the Internet, globalisation, and communication to levels unprecedented in human history; a global financial crash, second only to that of 1929; an awareness for more tolerance and acceptance for those in a minority, not there yet, but perseverance; USA electing a minority as its President; the UK punching above its weight culturally, influencing many countries across the globe; the war on drugs and the birth of Daesh.

It’s been a cyclical 20 years. The Middle East is more unstable than ever, reality television has made a comeback from its roots in the seventies, and people’s opinions now seem to matter more than ever before.

The world is faster too, now. The last 20 years have seen progressive acceleration in every aspect of human life. News travels across the globe in seconds, not weeks. It’s like the whole planet’s riding a permanent meth high.

Don’t believe me? Leave your cell phone at home somewhere for a day, and unplug the aerial powering the phone and the modem.

What we all experience is classic withdrawal symptoms.

Fear, uncertainty, the inability to concentrate, irritation over the smallest things.

I think society’s addicted.

How do we stop it?

Well, we don’t. We just have to deal with the addiction in our own way. Read (an actual book), yoga, exercise, unplug.

What do I do? I colour things in. Funnily enough it’s similar to what I used to do back in 1995.

Which was a good year.

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