As it’s nearly the two-year anniversary of King of the Bored Frontier being published, I’m going to post a few chapters over the next few weeks/months/years as little tasters.
So here are the first specially selected morsels, and where better to start than at the very beginning…
First day of term (September 1997)
It’s always like this.
Look at them. The new kids. Look at their haircuts and charity shop chic mixed with the occasional vintage masterpiece. Catch a glimpse of the kids who will transform themselves from their parents’ best boys and girls, into someone those parents will despise; that disconnection choking in the family throat. It’s the first day of term and it’s always like this. The confidence of some, the fear of others. This is the start of something beautiful. The start of something ugly. Something brilliant. Something mediocre.
I’m a third-year and it hurts, the contrast between happiness and resignation. My weary resignation. The new kids are all happy because this is the art college experience, and you will love it, you must love it, because otherwise you will only hate yourself for the sheer filthy prostitution you eventually have to give in to.
Oh yes, the first day of term is the best day of your life! So treasure that novelty and the personal reinvention, because who do you want to be? What do you want to be?
Sorry, can you repeat that? Please, don’t tease me, don’t make me laugh. I’m begging you…
First day of term, Part II
Lunch down the college bar. And after a tedious welcome back performance by BD and PB, it’s time for the first of many beers this third and final academic year. Oh, I know we have to be responsible and all that kind of stuff, but my next appointment is with Mr Guinness, not BD. That dubious pleasure takes place on Thursday.
This means I have three days to do something, some work, to show her for the first tutorial of the new term. A whole three days – that’s plenty of time. For now though, it’s a pint of Guinness for my trouble; and trust me, there will be trouble on Thursday.
Oh no, dear God. Look at this. The other members of my year have just skipped in. Every single one of them is just so happy, cheerfully bounding about, bursting with their endless insecurities. The nervous battery of enthusiasm charged up for another eventful term. I would be personally insulted by them, but I’m too embarrassed for them. Luckily for me, my housemates are from different courses. So at least I don’t have to put up with someone who believes in the wonderful world of ************.
My best housemate, Billy, who looks like a small cuddly toy version of Britpop (or like a Manic without the manic), stumbles over with a bottle of Czech lager. Strong stuff. Too strong for him.
He’s laughing to himself and shaking his head. ‘All right, mate,’ he says.
‘Yeah, mate. All right, mate. How’d the first morning on Graphics go?’
Billy takes a long swig of his lager, which then fizzes up his nose. He coughs, ‘Shite, mate.’
I laugh and finish my drink, leaving Billy at the bar. I pass some second-years. They’re okay. A bit square, a bit townie. They’ll never trouble you with their ideas, but they’re perfect fad kids, and in this subject that’s qualification enough.
I’m nearly out the door when, from the stairs between the bar and the exit, I hear the dulcet tones of one Royston Jennings. I can’t make it past without seeming like I’m trying to avoid him (which I am), but as I try to quicken my pace, I find my path blocked suddenly by some Fashion girls. I’m standing very still, like a Rodin or something, as Royston and some girl he’s trying to impress walk by.
‘Awright,’ he says, in a way that suggests he thinks he’s being cool.
‘Yeah.’ I manage a Mona Lisa. Thank fuck. Thank God. He continues on his way.
Last year, Royston was just a little first-year. And when he was drunk, he was very very drunk. And when he was drunk he was boring. This wannabe nouveau skin-head, often dressed rather conservatively in straight leg jeans and slightly vintage short sleeved shirts of varying Benetton hues, would bend my ear about the exciting “World of Royston.” The poor sap was so serious. I could see it in his eyes. But it had never ever been so bad as the night he told me something I knew he would, but wish he hadn’t.
It was one night down the college bar. I was dressed to kill in a beautiful white with navy trim 70s adidas t-shirt – in fact all my adidas t-shirts are beautiful, but it’s not just the clothes. No one else seems to wear these old adidas like I do. They’re either too fat or too ugly. They may have the haircut, but they don’t have the cheekbones. The angles. I’m not saying I’m heroin chic or anything, but I do have the angles.
It was the second week of term. New kids still excited, everyone else resigned. Royston veered aggressively towards me, his shiny crew cut head wet and sweaty.
‘Yeah right, fifty percent of my group aren’t into it. And me and the other fifty percent are dead serious…’
‘Yeah,’ I said, ‘serious.’ I was immediately bored and looked over his shoulder, hoping someone would save me. ‘What are you serious about exactly?’
‘Making a difference,’ he solemnly, sagely, replied.
I choked, suddenly faint. ‘What?’ Here it comes. Remember, he’s nodding as he says this…
‘Changing the world.’
The universe paused for a moment then. As I looked around me, I saw these, these children, for whom this new world was so important. For which they believed they had something to say, something to make a difference. They thought they were ARTISTS!
Please, don’t tease me, don’t make me laugh. I’m begging you…
Changing. The. World. This naive line went round and round and round my head like a bad animation. I was a stuck record. As I returned from my vapid state of disbelief, I suddenly realised I’d been laughing at the sad twat in a way he was finding utterly insulting. You should always take the opportunity to mock one of these fanatics by laughing at them, because they always take it so, so personally…
And Royston did take it personally. It was chronic. Sometimes he’d follow me home. Right to my front door. Expressing his theories and opinions about his class, about me, about Mickey and Billy. It was really boring. At one stage we honestly thought that it all might be too much for him, being away from home, that trying to establish his identity thing.
But then, Royston probably isn’t even the worst. He’s probably the most harmless directly because of his public pantomime persona. At least then you know on a social level what you’re dealing with. At least he’s not a sleeper, an unknown assailant.
I think a detour to the supermarket is in order. It’s two bottles of Bulgarian red for a fiver, and I have ten pounds burning an alcohol shaped hole in my pocket right at this very moment. Billy already has a stock indoors and my contribution will top it up most sufficiently. I have two whole reward vouchers, and I have a feeling I’ll be using them.