The Matrix

Wheatus “Teenage Dirtbag”

This is a song for the outsiders, for the teenagers who are not sporty or a teacher’s pet. Like many of my chosen songs it has a story arc. It is the video as much as the song that sparked the memory recounted here.

In my teenage years there was a religious divide in the West End of Newcastle based around Catholic versus Protestant. Today the tapestry of divisions and misunderstandings is far more complex. Fear of the  “other”, those different to ourselves, led many people to vote for Brexit. Demanding that the “other” be stopped, curbed or banished.
wheatus

When I was growing up in the West-End of Newcastle in the fifties and early sixties I was part of a Catholic community that had its roots in Ireland. We had educational segregation and I was taught by nuns in my primary school and priests in the high school (not all teachers were priests and nuns but they dominated the management and culture of the school).

Our high schools were also divided so that girls went to one school and boys to another. This meant that we boys had little social interaction with girls and non Catholics. Non Catholics largely meant Protestant as at that time there were very few other alternative communities in Newcastle

The Brighton Cinema now a bowling Alley
The Brighton Cinema now a Bowling Alley

Our main opportunity to meet girls was either at the church youth club which meant the steely eyes of the priests would be watching you and if necessary report back to your parents, or there were the two cinemas.

The Plaza and the Brighton Cinema sat on opposite sides of the West Road.  To avoid clashes between the Catholic and Protestant youth there was an unofficial peace line along the West Road and we went to the Plaza on the north side and they went to the Brighton on the south. In 1960 the Plaza closed and this led to a few problems but in 1963 the Brighton changed from a cinema into a bowling alley and that’s when things turned ugly.plaza

After a number of minor clashes including me getting beaten up in the toilets of the bowling alley, a big confrontation took place in a local park. Looking back it seemed like hundreds were involved but it was probably no more than thirty or forty.

I remember there was a lot of posturing and shouting but very few actual clashes but the fighting that did take place was vicious. Later, we got together with our rivals and worked out a deal where we could each use the Brighton Bowling Alley on different nights.

Today there is a lot of talk about gang culture. In the sixties you felt being part of a gang or being seen as part of a community afforded you some protection. The reality was being in a gang lead to more trouble not less and not just with rival gang members but also with the Police.

It did however, teach me a valuable life lesson. Violence only brings more violence and rarely solves anything. By negotiating we found a solution and if we had done it before I would have saved myself a swollen jaw and a few loose teeth.

This weeks poem is about one of my daughters when she was a teenager.

The Matrix

 

In the living room four teenage girls talk

Conducting a complex matrix of interwoven conversations

In the corner of the room the television demands attention

I ask them politely to turn down the volume

My daughter tells me they would miss a favourite TV program

I suggest that watching a television is impossible

When they are all talking at once

My daughter informs me that woman can do this

Easily

I know better than to quibble with her

You can not argue with an article of faith

It forms part of her feminist catechism

Passed down from Mother to Daughter

Since the nineteen eighties

I retreat to the bathroom and wallow in the warm water

Turning up the radio to drown out the sound of the voices in my head

 

© Jeff Price April 2018

 

The Late Adopter

Queen “Don’t Stop Me Now”

When Queen were at the height of their popularity I didn’t like them. I was into punk and blues. I was tired of over produced and lyrically superficial pop songs.  Later I began to understand the amazing talent of Freddie Mercury and how innovative the band were. It was Queen with “Bohemian Rhapsody” who pioneered the pop video and blurred the lines between pop and opera. Yes, there were some duff ones in the twenty years of recording and they are still not in my favourite band list but despite Freddie’s death in 1991 the band continue to record and tour.freddie mercury

What I like about this track is the sheer exuberance of it. You can not help but feel invigorated by Freddie’s performance and there are a number of Queen tracks that I defy anyone not to want to get up and dance to. 

“Don’t stop me know” makes me realise that life is for living and I just need to get on with it despite the many distractions the world can throw in the way.

On more than one occasion my daughters have enthused about TV programs such as the The Wire, Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad and urged me to watch them. This poem is my response. 

The Late Adopter

Now that the last series of Breaking Bad has finished

I am urged by my daughter to watch this American TV series

I tell her that the five series totalling fifty two episodes

Each lasting fifty minutes will take forty two hours of my life

I am nearly seventy years old and I don’t think I can commit

 

It isn’t that I am running on empty, yet

But the tank is definitely a lot less than a quarter full

There are no refills, no top ups and no reserve tank

There is a lot of road left to travel, a lot of sights still to see

And no time for long running drug related sagas

No matter how motherfucking good they are

 

© Jeff Price January 2018

 

 

Observations

Joe Jackson. “It’s Different for Girls”

I remember Joe from the late 70s with this track and “Is she really going out with him”

both show a man who is trying to understand relationships but isn’t having much luck. If thI had the insight my seventy years have given me when I was in my twenties, how different my life would have been. But it is the very act of experiencing and learning that helps us grow up and become the people we are today.

I sometimes wish my children would listen to my sage advice culled from those turbulent years and use it to help make their own lives easier but whilst they are happy to ask me for advice on a recipe or how to fix their computers, their love lives are a closed book and I am not allowed to peek at the pages.

On the other hand living with them, watching them grow and mature has been a never ending joy to me. Watching them bringing up their children makes me feel I must have done something right somewhere along the line.

Observations

 

Whatever goes wrong it is not their fault and whatever goes right is down to them

They always complain about looking their worst when they look their best

No matter how much they earn they are always broke

They always seem to arrive at my house just before a meal is served

All boyfriends will at some point be the most selfish, unspeakable disgusting slime balls in the history of boyfriends

All disagreements will eventually be forgotten and all slights and insults forgiven

They can turn rags into designer dresses and designer dresses into rags

The contents of the fridge are their birthright and they can feed themselves and their friends on its contents at anytime

In a pub they never offer to get the first round in. They never say “just make mine a half”

 

Sometimes, they make me feel so proud of them that I want to cry

 

© Jeff Price January 2018