Back in 1986/7, when London had chewed me up and spat me out the other side, I got on a train with the last of my money and moved back home. If you read between the lines, what that really means is I went home. I didn’t actually have anything to move with me because a Sony Walkman, a pair of orange sponge headphones and one tape cassette does not constitute as ‘moving’.
Life was going wrong in all kinds of ways. I was more lost than one of those kids that hangs out with Peter Pan. With nothing to my name but Rick Springfield’s Living In Oz and TKO’s Below The Belt on that cassette, the future looked pretty bleak. I should have paid attention to the album titles.
With my back against the wall, I found myself living at a train station. Not anything like Euston or Kings Cross, where I had been known to spend more than the occasional night, but one of those small village stations you’ll be familiar with if you don’t live in a town or city. There was a bench and there was a roof over it to shelter from the rain and that was about it. It worked out for a little while but it gets pretty damn life-defeating living outside with autumn coming down the line listening to just two albums, particularly when your batteries run out.
Something had to change.
One particular morning, on a whim, I jumped the early morning train into town and bumped into a couple of goth girls I used to know who were on their way to work. I was more surprised that they had jobs to be honest - alt girls back then were way more over the top than they are now and a hell of a lot less common too. Turns out they worked in Pizzaland (long since a dead franchise I think) and introduced me to their boss and told her I needed a job.
And she gave me a job right there on the spot. Spandex pants, cowboy boots and all. I’m not sure what I expected but making coleslaw from scratch all day long was a far cry from playing at The Marquee. I’d never seen so many cabbages in sacks and industrial sized mayonnaise jars. Paying your dues sure can be a humiliating experience.
And for this, I got £14 a week which was £14 a week more than I had been getting. I was also fed which was another bonus, though if they hadn't fed me, I could probably have gotten by on fistfuls of coleslaw or cleaning the leftovers from the plates that came back from the restaurant. You get resourceful when you’re looking at the ocean from the edge of a cliff.
A couple of weeks drifted by and I found a room to live in. £12 a week, which didn’t leave a lot of fuel in the tank for anything else but again, it was better than finishing your shift, going ‘home’ on the train and it taking just six steps to where you were going to sleep before you got up and did it all over again.
Things started to get better from there on, I picked up some extra shifts, wasn’t spending any money on food and my life moved on albeit very, very slowly. Not always in the direction it was supposed to either but I never hit the skids again quite so hard again.
The kids are coming round for dinner tonight. The request was for pizza. Every time I see pizza it shoots me right back to that time but it’s good for the soul y’know.
We’re all two steps away from making coleslaw for pennies.