Music, nostalgia and the awakening of a teenager

All last week I was trying to remember a song.

I couldn’t name the tune or even remember how it went, or even the name of the artist! – I did recall with stunning clarity where I was when I first heard it and how I was feeling at the time, that’s not bad for someone who can’t even recall what she had for tea yesterday!! But, however hard I tried, that song wouldn’t come forth

I tried to remember the song, to recreate the memory of it by going through the events surrounding my hearing it for the first time – in thinking through all those long ago memories, I found myself seeing something about my young self that I had previously missed

I knew I was in secondary school and around 13, +/- 6 months or so. So that would make it around 1976 or 77  and it was summer. So I haven’t heard this song for something like 40 years

That summer, something impromptu happened, that to me at the time seemed almost magical. A fair had come to our part of town and set up,  on the park very close to where we lived. It was the talk of the school – nothing like this ever happened in our neighbourhood before. Everyone was suddenly talking about the weekend to come, who was going to go to the fair with who, who they would all meet up with and how great it was going to be – suddenly the humdrum had become exciting overnight.

But for me, it was not going to be. My Mother told me I wouldn’t be going to the fair – not with my friends nor with anyone else for that matter. We couldn’t afford it mainly, but she warned, nothing good would come from young girls milling around a fair ground on their own and in the park and woods unsupervised, and she didn’t care that all the other girls mother’s were allowing it .

As if to make it worse, my Gran chimed in that there were stories of girls running off with the fair boys and ‘we all know what that means’ she had said sagely, nodding at my Mum. Well actually no, I didn’t know what that meant at all – but it was said with such gravity, I wouldn’t ask!

The weekend arrived, and I knew that practically the whole school was going to be at the fair – and I sat on our front lawn in the sunshine and watched morosely as young children walked past our garden gate with candy floss and balloons, and I could smell doughnuts and onions wafting in the air. We lived so close, I could hear laughing, and the music from the waltzers blared out all day and in to the night. I wouldn’t be allowed to even forget it was happening, because I could hear it, smell it and see it – a constant reminder to my misery.

I sat on the lawn, fed up and withdrawn – I was never allowed to go anywhere, because we never had extra money for anything, I knew this without having to be told – but this weekend, I just felt the injustice of it and as I sat there and watched and listened – something indefinable changed. I knew it then and I recognise it to be true now.

As I sat there, I realised for the first time that I felt very alone and empty.

It seemed to me there was a whole world ‘out there‘, that I knew I wanted to see it, suddenly the perimeter of my life spent playing in our  garden – which had offered me a thousand adventures as a little girl,  wasn’t enough anymore – there was a sudden but irreversable shift taking place right there sat on our lawn, the little girl in me was receding I could sense, because suddenly I longed for something more than playing two-ball in the back yard.

I wasn’t exactly sure what it was, but the advent of that fair represented a glimpse of it – I wanted to see people, do things, be places and experience excitement. I wanted life.

I think about it now and it seems very silly, very childish to imagine that a fair was a glittering entre to excitement – but it was more than my small, back water life had experienced up to that point – my friends were up there I knew, laughing and smiling at those fair boys.

And who knew – one of them might even run off. And despite my Gran’s grave expression, I was more than sure that whatever they did when they ran off together, it was a damn sight more exciting that playing ball with my sister in the garden.

And as I let all these strange thoughts drift around my head – I could hear over and over again on a loop  pop songs from the UK charts.

I’d never been much interested in the pop charts, but here I was mulling over the dullness of my life, and experiencing this little thrill of life vicariously, whilst listening to these songs – I heard them so often over the course of the weekend, I could sing them all – but one, The One, when that one started up – I would stop whatever I was doing and listen – it had a dreamy quality I thought at the time and I can still feel the thrill it gave me, of desperately wanting to be away – doing something fantastic with my life.

I wanted music and dancing and a whole host of things I didn’t understand

I wanted to be a teenager. And do what teenagers do naturally.

So here I was mulling over all these old feelings, and I felt suddenly nostalgic for my youth – I was on the cusp of a change that happens to all of us and as I recalled the mix of feelings that I was dealing with that weekend, I wanted so desperately to go back to that young girl and hug her – tell her the fair was crappy anyway, and I’d tell her, when it comes to it, you’ll discover you don’t actually like fairs and fair rides at all!

But I think I would also tell her to remember that feeling of wanting to be ‘more’ to have ‘more’ – cherish it and perhaps not spend so much time feeling afraid and actually going out to find that life that was beckoning that day, because all too soon those fleeting moments of excitement are gone and then it is often too late.

I also recalled the song 🙂

Quite a lovely little song I think, now that I have actually  recalled it – and I’ve even found myself humming it these last few days, and when I do, I can hear the waltzers, it’s summer and I am a teenager again.

( I also think Robin Sarstedt has a lovely voice looking back – ohh those 70s – kids of today don’t know what they are missing!)

Heather xx


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