Working class London kids, in the 70' and 80's, generally tasted all that music and fashion had to offer. Me and my mates did anyway. Looking back I think we had no idea who we were. So we wore uniforms to make up for the lack of 'self.'
At nine I was into Elvis and Bill Haley. I'm embarrassed to admit I even bought a Wurzels album. Despite the fact I was two years away from drinking cider, and would never be able to afford a combine harvester. By the age of eleven I'd purchased 'never mind the bollox, here's the sex pistols.' This spoke to me in ways the Wurzles and Elvis never could. Then two tone kicked in, skinheads became the working class fashion statement. I was twelve and I dutifully followed the sheep.
Little 'skins' like me, became mascots for skinheads old enough to drink in pubs. Old enough to get spiders webs tattooed on their faces, old enough to get swastikas tattooed on their foreheads. But not old enough to fully appreciate the significance of the symbol they inked in conspicuous places.
A local skinhead disco had been arranged. It was to be hosted at a community hall. I don't remember the name of the hall, or the road it sat on. But I do remember the pub opposite was called 'the honey pot.'
I wore newly bleached jeans, so recently ruined I smelt strongly of
domestos. They'd been obligatorily rolled up to show off my fourteen hole doc martens. The Ben Sherman shirt I wore was probably vintage then, now it would be antique. It was a chilly night so I borrowed my mate Adams light blue Fred Perry jumper. I thought I looked sharp and tough. In truth I looked like a child trying to act older than I was. Nevertheless the reputation of the skinhead was such, that ordinary folk would sometimes cross the street to avoid me. A pint sized representation of yob culture.
At the disco the big skinheads were drinking beer, sniffing glue and posturing. The little skins couldn't get served at the bar, so they just sniffed glue from Sainsbury's bags in the bushes. A number of Mexican standoff's were developing. Fortunately guns were replaced by fists and DM's. It was only a matter of time before someone got a good kicking.
My young age would normally have prevented me from being a target for violence, but all that changed the moment a seventeen year old skinhead girl shoved her tongue in my mouth. The first problem with this was she had a boyfriend. He was about eight years older than me and eight times bigger. Secondly, for much of the evening, she'd been huffing on a communal bag full of glue. Our lips sticking together was the least of my worries. I was more concerned with her man, and my mum smelling evo-stik on my breath. I could always tell her the Wurzles had been a bad influence on me. A more believable excuse than me attending extra curricular woodworking lessons
After the kiss I spent a fair amount of time on the dance floor, avoiding bumping into the boyfriend. I'd had glue for my entree, and didn't fancy steel toe cap, covered with cherry red leather and yellow stitching for dessert.
The DJ, not to be confused with today's superstar DJ's, played The Liquidator by The Harry J Allstars. A great track, that was unfortunately converted into a racist skinhead anthem. When Harry, a black Jamaican, wrote The liquidator, I'm sure he never imagined the words 'seig heil,' or 'paki's go home' would be used in the chorus. I can say this with absolute certainty, because it's an instrumental. But there I was in the middle of a hundred skinheads, screaming 'skinheads are back, seig heil, paki's go home, seig heil.' The nazi salute actioned on every 'seig heil.' If my grandmother had seen me, she'd have been disgusted and I'd have been in a world of trouble. I knew it was wrong but I wasn't about to share my reservations with a roomful of skinheads. I wonder how many other attendees also knew my truth but were also too afraid, weak, or stupid to speak up.
My grandparents tolerant socialist ideals ran through the family. My mother remembers my grandmother reprimanding kids in her street, for teasing a disabled child. My grandparents taught me that discrimination was unacceptable. We are all the same, black - white, gay - straIght, QPR FC - Chelsea FC, well maybe not the last one. We all deserve to be treated with respect. My grandparents also knew the significance of that symbol. They knew the horrors of war because they lived it.
This is one positive value I can attribute to my family. I talk a lot about the impact of abuse has had on me. Focus lots of my energy on surviving my fathers abuse. When that happens, I don't have a conscious awareness of the 'good' in me. But there's plenty of it. It's nice that I'm starting to realise that. It's another indicator that I'm heading in the right direction.