Low Expectations, Prosaic Ambitions
I don’t want to change the world, I’m not looking for a new England, I’m just looking for another girl.
Billy Bragg: ‘A New England’ (1983)
I remember in school discussing with my classmates, our hopes and aspirations. Many of my peers had ambitions such as being footballers, forming a rock band or setting up in business, becoming successful and rich. When it came to my turn I just said something like “I just want to settle down with a wife and a couple of kids”. Some would giggle, some would politely nod and a few would smile sympathetically. I confess my ‘ambitions’ were utterly mundane.
But it was true. From reaching puberty when I started secondary school aged 11, I was pretty much constantly in love. It wouldn’t take much, a friendly smile or a girl laughing at my childish humour — then I’d become besotted and totally obsessed. I must have scared many girls.
That fixation with looking for love and romance continued throughout adulthood and in between relationships. I really never took rejection very well. I was extremely insecure and this increased when my friends were forming relationships or just casually ‘copping off’ with girls. Insecurity is never a good look and it must’ve been very off-putting, but whenever I was rejected I immediately blamed my misfortune on the fact that I was disabled. Obviously it’s a big factor — but on reflection I’m sure it wasn’t the only one.
I remember from a young age my mother would tell me in her forthright way not to chat up girls because “they wouldn’t go out with anyone like you” — talk about destroying my confidence! Mother was very blunt, but I don’t think she was being deliberately cruel, I think it was her way of trying to protect me from disappointment, albeit in an insensitive and crude manner.
On Valentine’s Day my school friends would swap cards and I was invariably left out. I remember one day a card was dropped through the letterbox at home with my name on it. I opened it with great excitement, but this quickly evaporated when I recognised the handwriting belonged to my mother! Despite these setbacks I never stopped pursuing girls in the hope that one day I would find my soulmate.
I remember my very first kiss was with a girl called Margaret, when I was about…