If my addled brain serves me correctly, I first read the words SHY BAIRNS GET NOWT on the sleeve notes of my beloved ‘At the Club’ CD (CD!), sometime in the mid-90s.
‘At the Club’ was an album by Kenickie, a band of three girls and a boy from Sunderland. My friends and I wanted to be them. They were a bit older than us, and could play instruments – sort of – and sung about going out and having fun and….heartbreak, disguised as nail varnish remover (track 14, ‘Acetone’).
To set the scene at time: in my mid-teens, I veered from being quite unconfident and unsure of myself to occasional moments of ‘I am smart and strong and quite great so F you’ – I think the latter would arise if I’d read that week’s Just 17 (RIP teen mags) or an interview with one of my Britpop heroines like Justine from Elastica or Lauren from Kenickie.
Back then, I used to write everything in my diaries. I would give myself pep talks in them – usually if a boy had messed me about – and at the front of them I’d list random things I loved. Some of these listed items were held in such high esteem by yours truly that I’d even take the trouble to find pictures of them in magazines/catalogues and CUT THEM OUT AND GLUE THEM IN.
I expect you are on tenterhooks now wondering what items were deemed worthy of pictorial representation. I seem to remember a pair of Adidas Superstar trainers – white with blue and red stripes – and a bottle of Nina Ricci perfume in a green bottle with a pink crown lid. COOL YET SOPHISTICATED.
(I should add that I was about 16 at this point, not six. No wonder I couldn’t hang on to a boyfriend.)
(Jokes about the boyfriend bit, I mean. The cutting and sticking really did happen.)
Anyway, I’m digressing. Kenickie didn’t reach the lofty heights of pictorial representation in my diary but I DID write their name, plus the aforementioned phrase from their album notes. The phrase struck me as a motto to live by. I liked that it seemed northern in origin – we say ‘bairns’ in Hull too – and I was starting to learn that being quiet doesn’t always get you very far.
I feel a bit sad for my teen self when I think back to how I felt then. Throughout childhood, I was such a good girl. I was never in trouble and I was always top of the class and I never wanted to upset my parents. That’s no reflection of my parents being overly strict or anything like that; that’s just who I was: conscientious and probably too sensitive. As a child, I thought that what teachers and elders said was gospel, and being quiet and getting on with what you were told and never questioning anything was the ‘best’ way to behave.
And I went to a rough secondary school and was scared of getting my head kicked in by tough kids from council estates and so I stayed mostly quiet, but around my mid-teens I started getting a bit of inner resolve and a better sense of self from music – 90s BRITPOP 4EVA – and its associated fashion and identity.
But looking back, I think me writing ‘shy bairns get nowt’ was less about finding that sense of self and more about discovering the apparent power of vodka on a Saturday night.
Vodka that made me less shy and made me capable of ‘getting’ everything. But when I say everything, I really just mean a snog with a boy/man who was older than us and had a Liam Gallagher haircut. If he had a job or his own place and was interested in seeing you outside of our Saturday night underworld, as it seemed then, then that was a bonus, but not essential.
SETTING THAT BAR HIGH, eh?
And I mean sad in its proper sense, rather than embarrassing sad, but I suppose it’s both.
The phase of my life that followed was university, when I felt mostly out of my depth, again scared of questioning the lecturers, or questioning anything actually. I made some lifelong friends and had some wonderful times and grew up a lot but I mainly went through the motions of getting a degree and not doing anything to stick my head above the parapet, because I felt I had nothing to say and it wasn’t my place to say it.
Sad. But I didn’t have the tools or the knowledge or, crucially, the confidence to do anything else or to think anything else.
And then it was into work and friends and partying and London and travelling and Sydney then back home to Hull and then my own business and Graham and our home and Ted and now.
I’ve rambled on as usual, and touched on my life story, when all I really want to say is that I am reclaiming back the SHY BAIRNS GET NOWT motto. I’m not shy, and I’m not sure I ever have been, really. But I have been too quiet and too scared to say things or write things or put myself out there.
And I don’t necessarily mean I have a lot of controversial, strong opinions that I want to get off my chest. I just want to TAKE UP SPACE. Because why shouldn’t I? I’m doing it for my teen self, with her Pritt-stick and scissors and vodka. It is not advisable to combine the three, FYI.
I currently write a column in the Hull Daily Mail, entitled ‘Seven Day O’Diary’, which is about what I’ve been up to that week, and what I’m looking forward to in the week ahead. It’s not online, and it is very Hull-event-centric. I like writing about myself though – because ‘I am smart and strong and quite great so F you’ – and like writing full stop, so I’m just going to write. And write some more.
So that’s that.
Bye for now x