Compared to many people, my life so far has been relatively trauma-free. I have wonderful parents and an older sister and brother who I get on with very well. My parents were childhood sweethearts, both born in 1939. They were living in Farnborough, Hampshire when they had my sister, then my brother – they were a school year apart. My parents then moved to Windsor and then I came along. I think I was an accident. When I was 4 years old we moved to Kent. I went to the same infants and junior school as my siblings – I was three school years behind my brother and four behind my sister.
I started learning the piano when I was 7 and then the violin when I was 8. I continued learning throughout my school years. I managed to get my grade 8 on the violin, but stopped taking exams on the piano very early on as I used to get too nervous and my fingers used to turn to sausages, so I just carried on learning for the pleasure. From about the age of 13 I joined the borough youth chamber orchestra and went on some great tours to places like Belgium, Yugoslavia, Vienna, Edinburgh… they were always a lot of fun.
I was rather prone to temper tantrums when I was younger and used to behave a little like a spoilt brat. Going to the local comprehensive senior school stopped all that kind of behaviour. I only stopped sucking my thumb when I was 11. I also used to periodically suffer from bed-wetting too which was always a source of deep humiliation. I also had a disgusting habit of picking my nose and wiping the bogeys on the wall next to my bed… I stopped doing that when my mum & dad moved the bed away from the wall because they wanted to decorate my bedroom one day, and found the well matured patch of deeply encrusted organic matter. When confronted with the revolting evidence, I vigorously denied any knowledge… not sure why. I also suffered from chronic nosebleeds (presumably caused by my picking it so much). I didn’t really mind the nosebleeds – they didn’t hurt or anything they were just irritating as sometimes they would take a couple of hours to stop. As I got older I just used to stick wads of toilet paper up each nostril and carry on what I was doing until it stopped. I got used to the blood trickling down my throat.
Being ‘musical’ at school meant that I was prime bullying material, however I very quickly adapted, and with a little cunning, managed to stay out of the line of fire from the various groups of bullies. Lunchtimes, I would spend in one of the piano rooms with a couple of my friends, supposedly practising music – which we actually did on occasion. We’d mainly eat our packed lunches and mess about. Luckily the music teacher liked me so we got away with murder. This kept me safely tucked away from the bullies. The other thing I did was take up smoking at the age of 13. By sneaking out to the woods with all the ‘hard’ lot during the breaks, and always having a packet of Benson & Hedges (the brand of choice at school) I became ‘accepted’ by them and therefore generally protected. I never became one of them, but they would leave me alone & even say hello occasionally. If I did start getting into a scrape with one psycho or another, one of the other psychos would usually end up sticking up for me. It worked very well – unfortunately the downside is that I am still smoking 27 years later.
I did ok at my O’levels and I did ok at my A’Levels but I could hardly be described as a brilliant academic. Academia bored the hell out of me. I didn’t mind the lessons, I just hated writing the essays. So when it came to going to university, I found a nice easy course somewhere up north in Drama, Film and Television. I foolishly thought it would be a good idea to do English as a minor, forgetting that I would have to write some serious essays about a lot of very dull literature.
I spent my time at university having the time of my life, drinking copious amounts of alcohol, smoking copious amounts of marijuana and taking the occasional tab of LSD or brew of magic mushrooms. They really were happy, wonderful days and I have nothing but good memories (sorry to all those anti-drug campaigners). The actual work I was supposed to be doing was a mere inconvenience. I’d usually stumble back from the student union, roll a big fatty and then stay up all night writing some utter crap for an essay that was due in the next morning. I did that for every essay throughout my time at uni. Why I wasn’t thrown out after the first year I’ll never know – I’m very glad I wasn’t though as I met some of my very best friends whilst there. During my time at university I was in various bands, mainly playing the keyboard, but occasionally as the bass guitarist. More fun.
My degree program worked that after 3 years you got an ordinary BA degree and after your 4th year you got your honours. I dropped out after the first semester of my 4th year, moved down to London and joined a band. I was incredibly sad to wave goodbye to all my wonderful friends, but it had to be done. I couldn’t be bothered writing my special study and would have undoubtedly failed my 4th year had I stayed… it was a lucky escape, and the opportunity to start up this band was too much of an attraction. I did at least walk away with a degree so it wasn’t a total waste… not a total one…