On being a teenager

Being sixty, I am so far removed from the realities of the lives of the students at school that they will sit and happily talk about what they think. They are very careful to try to project the right image, to try to create the impression that they are wise beyond their years, to show their friends how mature and sophisticated they are.

I would never presume to judge, I can recall pretending similar things when I was their age.

I remember spending Saturday afternoons in 1975-1976 sat in the corner of a cafe in Torquay.  How it made much money was a mystery, it was never full and seemed content to allow the three of us to sit for an hour at the corner table with our 5p cups of coffee.

There was a gaming machine next to the table, still referred to as a one-armed bandit in those days, and we would feed the odd 2p piece into it.  Our stay in the cafe must have brought the owner a grand total of 25p, before we wandered down into the town to look at records we couldn’t afford in W H Smith’s.

I was a rustic, but my two friends were from the Midlands, they came from big towns and knew far more of the world than I ever would.

By the summer of 1976, I was 15 going on 16 and wasn’t averse to the odd pint of beer.  Not really having acquired a taste for the bitter or the lager drunk by adults, I would drink a foul combination of lager and blackcurrant. It was a drink served in bars in the little town in Devon where we went for our holidays, it was a drink I had not seen before, and mercifully have not seen since.  By the time I was 18, I would drink real ale if I went to a pub, but if I went to a disco I would drink a concoction I somehow imagined made me look sophisticated, vodka and lime cordial.

Of course, like the teenagers to whom I now talk, we thought that all we did was the height of sophistication.  Sitting in cafes over cups of coffee, drinking polluted lager while the locals drank their flat pints of bitter, throwing back miniscule quantities of green-coloured liquid, this was us being cool, or trying to be.

I don’t know about the teenagers now, but we hadn’t a clue.

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