It was, I think, 1982, and I was a 13 year old and at a slightly challenging local secondary modern. Year 3, I think back then. I had been assigned to be the heads PA for the day. Not that I ever saw him because he existed behind a heavy wooden door and occasionally a secretary would dart in a and wisp of smoke would escape, but he very rarely venturted out. I was allowed to knock on the staff room door but I took my life in my hands doing that, because the wall of smoke that would hit me probably quadrupled my passive smoking intake for my entire life.
As I sat at the desk, positioned outside the office-staff room-heads office- a teacher strolled past me and quipped "Interesting choice of songs, Hatchard." The night before, the local radio station, 2CR, had played my all time Top 10. Now , I admit , at the tender age of 13 I didn't have a worldly wide musical appreciation, but I knew I loved music. I taped the charts each week, and all my pocket money was spent on 45s and 33s. Now imagine the feeling when, Tim Butcher, our local celebrity DJ, called me, to prime me for radio stardom.
Now nearly 40 years later, I struggle to remember the complete top 10 (this is rough guess):
1: Michael Jackson - She's out of my life
2: Spandau Ballet - She Loved Like Diamond
3: Squeeze - Up The Junction
4: David Bowie - Ziggy Stardust
5: Terry jacks - Seasons in the Sun
6: David Bowie - Sorrow
8: David Bowie - Time
9: Squeeze - Cool for Cats
Now eclectic is one way of describing my choices, but I thought I was very cool at the time. Now the teacher also quipped about a 'cock-up' the DJ had made. Time by David Bowie opens with immortal line "Time, he flexes like a whore
Falls w******* to the floor." The DJ had meant to cut this bit off but mistimed and the whole of the South Coast was witness to this prewatershed outrage.
This was one of those moments of my young life that always provides a good anecdote, but also makes me smile, and I also remember how much time I once had. I thought nothing of spending three to four hours waiting with my finger poised on record to catch a song I liked. I also spent endless time learning song words off by heart. In my modern life, every minute seems to be accounted for and there is an overwhelming sense of guilt when you allow yourself the time to indulge yourself.
As Roger Waters put it:
"Every year is getting shorter never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines
Hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way
The time is gone."
Perhaps our time in lockdown will make use reevaluate our views of time and how we spend ours. When we were young time seemed to drag because we had time to be bored, time to waste. Children today, don't know how to be bored. I used to dread Sunday afternoons as a boy. No TV, no shops, boring Radio. But it taught me how to entertain myself and also observe the world around me. So much is missed these day because we are always in a rush to do something, get somewhere, be somebody different. When do we ever stop and watch the sunrise, the birds in the garden, the blossom dropping gently? I know I have over the last ten days. The reboot of society is one of the positives I see out of the terror that has unfolded. The question is, will we reload all the detritus that cramped our lives or will we take the time to pause and re-connect with the things that really matter, and make sure that we switch off more often and slow time down.