Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Tracey Thorn's Another Planet - we were all young once and not very nice

It took me far too long to read this delightful and insightful memoir of a suburban childhood, bought for me by my dear friend John Dixon who has over the years opened my eyes and ears to routinely enriching books and music. 

Maybe lockdown has made us all more reflective. I've certainly found nostalgia very appealing, even more so than usual. 

The structure veers between the 1970s and 2016 and a nostalgic return to Brookman's Park in Hertfordshire where she grew up. The fact that you know the happy ending - Tracey's career as a singer songwriter and her own family life (I'm an avid reader of her fortnightly Off The Record column in the New Statesman, by the way) doesn't change anything; there's no revelation or a gotcha moment. 

It brought back all kinds of memories of discos, experimenting with alcohol and girls, getting into scrapes and the emerging music of the time. But the strongest reminder I got was that teenagers aren't terribly nice, and regard their long suffering parents either with disdain, or not at all. Whenever I've tried to place myself in the world of my own sons and reverted to how my magnificent parents behaved, my memories are almost entirely bereft of them. And yet who picked me up from the Hornby village disco at 10pm before starting work the next day at 5 am? And that I habitually lied to them about where I was, who I was with and what I was doing. I'm just relieved I didn't have a diary to cross reference as Tracey has, I wince at the thought.

More than anything though, it is a tenderly written book, tinged with appreciation and sharp social and cultural observations. As John reminded me of Paddy McAloon's thoughts on the matter: "the sweet sweet songs that cloud your eyes (pause) nostalgia supplies."

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