The summer of 1989 isn’t necessarily a favourite one, but it will always be memorable. It was the summer of A-levels, filled with revision, exams, the post-exam high, the anticipation of waiting for results, and the preparation for (hopefully) going off to university. However, even before I sat my final exam, I’d virtually decided to reject all my university offers for subjects like English, Communication Studies and Media Studies, in order to apply again to study Drama; so I knew that I wouldn’t be going off to the wonderful world of higher education for another year. Yet I also knew that a move to the bright lights and big city of London was on the cards — so my anticipation lay in the fact that I would finally be getting out of the rural backwaters of Somerset after 18 years.
I had a job in a newsagents/video shop that summer — the highlight of which was the local vicar regularly buying the Sunday Sport, which he carefully folded inside his copy of the Sunday Times — but it didn’t take up much (or possibly enough) of my time. There were lots of nights in the pub — “Yes, barman! We’re 18! We’ll have the finest Pernod & Black you have!” And there were some pretty good house parties too, including one at my house while the rest of the family were away. Some thoughtful person — whom I’d never met before, naturally — bought some fuzzily-recorded hardcore porn video, which meant that most of the guys present locked themselves in the living-room and weren’t seen for the rest of the evening. I never saw the video in question, since myself and four friends had broken into my neighbour’s garden (they were away on holiday too, fortunately) to paddle in their small fountain and stare up at the moon. I still remember that it was one of the most beautiful moons ever, and it inspired us to talk at some length about the future, our futures — about getting away from this dead-end town, being successful, and never coming back. Needless to say, we were pissed on cheap wine and slightly stoned. Truly, the innocence of youth. I never did find out whether any of those people ever returned to our home town, or whether they “made it.”
Meanwhile, the daylight hours were spent making a film. Using a cheap video camera belonging to a mate, myself and my two closest friends — two of that often-mentioned short list of people with whom I’d love to re-establish contact one day — made a joke tourist guide to our home town. We were just out of Sixth Form, so the comedy was probably not that comic or sophisticated, but I do remember that everything we said in our attempts at humorous commentary was filled with the frustration and disappointment of small town life. We would film ourselves in front of local landmarks — the main church, the market square, the excuse for a local football club, our old primary school — and come up with an improvised script which absolutely ripped shreds out of the whole place.
I would dread seeing this film today, but I suspect that — even now — it would be impossible not to see the obvious desire to escape pictured in all our faces. Of the three of us — well, when I first moved to London I was full of big ideas about going back for regular visits. I never have, although I am beginning to think that a brief skulk round old haunts might be in order in the near future. The other two of this terrible trio — with our ideas about being arty and making films — ended up going to the same university in London, moving up to the smoke just a month before I did. I suspect that one probably took to city life and is now a dedicated resident of leafy North London; but I have my suspicions that the other may have found the lure of the fields and country pubs a bit too much in the long run.
The summer months after exams and before university are always going to be a strange time. Too much hanging around, waiting for things to happen. However, it’s a time that everyone should cherish. In many cases, you’re saying goodbye to an old life. You want to embrace the future — but instead you just take its hand in yours, and follow nervously where it leads.