I had a very sheltered life as far as boyfriends went. Going to an all girls school was great for my studies, but it didn’t provide an opportunity to mix with boys. My social sphere outside school centred around dancing, shopping, going to the cinema and sleepovers with my friends; all very girlie. I found pop idols or film stars more impressive and fascinating than a boy my age could ever be, so although my mum did gently try to persuade me to join a local orchestra to meet people other than my school friends, I was happier dreaming of the day when I would be Mrs Pal Waaktaar or later Mrs CC DeVille or once I’d watched the Rocky Horror Show, Mrs Barry Bostwick.
To the childish affections, the famous celebrity has already achieved things in their life, they know things, there’s a glamour about them. The gawky kid with acne who might possibly want to give you an inexpert snog at a disco party doesn’t really have the same allure.
But after a while it became apparent to me that my friends were managing to attract male attention. We held disco parties, dressed up in our new Top Shop attire and kitten heeled court shoes, drank cider from plastic disposable cups and at the end of the evening, one by one, they had all been asked to slow dance and had their first kiss.
‘What’s wrong with me?’ I asked my mother with the intensity and distress that only an angst ridden teen can have.
She told me I was beautiful of course but the cynical negative voice in my head said in reply ‘Well she’s bound to think that, she’s your mum.
Thus with warped logic, I decided that I was destined to die a virgin, alone and be eaten by Alsatians. Whatever ‘sex appeal’ was (and to be honest I was a bit too young to have worked it out) I evidently didn’t have it.
Fast forward to my university years and the autumn of 1992. I am not going to die a virgin any more. I managed to dispatch that unwelcome state of being in a coal shed at a friend’s party with a German boy wearing a tan leather jacket. It was not exactly love’s young dream but it was the start of a new chapter of life.
I am, however, a bit disappointed by university life in London. I’d taken a year out and went to work in Paris at Le Quick Burger (oh the glamour) for a couple of months but otherwise rather bottled out of travelling. I had been looking forward to the bright lights and big city. I found myself living in South Woodford, a suburb along the eastern edge as London meets Epping Forest. If I were to revisit it today, I might find it quite pleasant in parts. My halls of residence, however, sat bang next to the South Circular and according to student rumour were due to be knocked down ten years earlier. There was mould in the shower and dirty cork tiles on the floor.
I also hadn’t found anyone to be friends with. The girls on my floor hung out together in a group for a day or so because we didn’t know anyone else. I was surprised, though, to find I found them rather young. It wasn’t like I’d had stretching and challenging experiences on my year out but the fact that I wasn’t straight out of school did mean I felt older than them. This was going to be a problem.
I looked around the halls at mealtimes for someone who I felt I could strike up a conversation with. I only saw one person. He had shoulder length dark hair that was shaved close at the sides. He was tall, wore skinny jeans and had a nose ring. He wore a Nirvana T shirt under a lumberjack shirt (it was the 90s) and army surplus combat boots.
‘Right,’ I told myself, ‘He’s the person to make friends with.’