In 1990, I was facing a big year.
Having left school at 18 and got a job in a bank, I had decided in 1989 that I had made a mistake. Adverts telling NatWest customers it wasn’t all “work, work, work” were lies - it really was, and it was also VERY dull. I had applied to Exeter University and would be heading off that October. Whilst I still had cash on the hip, I used my time to travel around the country and see friends who had already headed away to further education and fun. Plus I was worried at the time - was Uni the right choice for me? A little tour of my friends might help me decide...
My friend Donna was at York Uni and The House of Love were playing in January 1990. So tickets were booked, days off taken and I was heading up to York. Come the day, it was a tad windy as I headed into London. What started as windy grew and grew, so by the time I got to the station, all trains were cancelled - “quite windy” was now a Force 11 gale…it even has its own name (the Burns’ Night Storm).
Now a normal person would have turned round, given up and headed home. However, youth, bravado, gig tickets and my mother’s mantra of “there’s no such thing as can’t” meant instead I started looking for other options. The House Of Love sang “steal a car, the highway calls” on the aptly named Road, but as I couldn’t, and indeed still can’t, drive, other means would be necessary.
I rang the bus station and unbelievably, coaches were still travelling to York, so I set off on a double decker coach. By now it was mid-afternoon it had taken so long to sort out transport, but I was off.
As the coach wheeled its way up to Yorkshire, the storm worsened. It’s no exaggeration to say the coach was rocking. Not in a good old rock’n’roll kind of way, but literally swinging wildly from side to side as the 120 km per hour winds took hold. Everyone was looking at each other with that “what on earth have we done” kind of face. Most I am sure had better reasons to be travelling than to see an indie band.
The driver heroically (or derangedly, difficult to tell) kept on driving, but at least slowed down as there was a real chance we were going to topple over. I can’t remember if there was “a jolly hostess selling crisps and tea”, but nine hours later, tired, hungry and white as a sheet, I arrived at my destination. I walked to my friend’s hall of residence and ridiculously bumped into her as she was walking back from the bar, flabbergasted to see me turning up at midnight.
Drinks were had, lots of people asking me if I had really come up through the storm from London (and quite reasonably, was I mad?), then my trusty sleeping bag rolled out and much needed sleep arrived.
The next day, I killed time while my friend attended her studies, taking in some of York’s sights, but also gatecrashing a psychology lecture (to see if I could; it was quite interesting. Plus I fancied Donna’s flatmate Ginny and was hanging round with her, being “sensitive” as she discussed her issues with her boyfriend…hope sprang eternal…). Then, that evening we headed off to the gig.
The House of Love had lost their guitarist, the mercurial Terry Bickers, but a replacement had been drafted in for the tour and they were back in the charts with a re-recording of Shine On. Was the gig any good? Destroy The Heart, Shine On, Christine and I Don’t know Why I Love You were great, but I was not enamoured, still a little freaked out by my journey. I really don’t remember that much of it.
But more worth while I had met a friend of Donna’s, a skinhead, who looked terrifying - he was anything but, showing me his SHARP (Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice) tattoo, he was the nicest chap you could meet. We chatted away and he introduced me to Trojan Records and great reggae music, Dr Martens (I bought my first pair shortly afterwards) and Fred Perrys (they took a little longer to click for me, but I have more than made up for it since...).
That weekend has stayed with me; not the gig, but more the lesson that where there’s a will there’s a way (even if that way in hindsight was daft); not to judge people on first appearances and opening my mind to new music and I still love Trojan Records now.
As for my doubts, going to University was definitely going to be the right decision. I had doubts about my choice before I went that weekend, but meeting so many nice people emboldened me for the future. I would go to Exeter meet a world of people I would never have met otherwise, and it was a life changing decision I would never regret. Not that keen on coaches though...