I blame Lenin. Or maybe it was The Specials.
It might have been The Catcher in the Rye, or even Marc Bolan’s ringlets and feather boa. It was definitely witnessing a queue of punks waiting to get into a gig at The Nashville in London in 1978. That alone was life changing.
But it’s funny how it’s taken me to the grand old age of 50 to really begin to grasp the inner workings of the Word Up world view. Maybe it’s little more than the much-mentioned midlife crisis and the inevitable self-reflection brought on by the creep towards the coffin. Lord knows, it’s slightly sickening to acknowledge that I’ve been stomping about on planet earth in my Bass Weejuns for half century – but just lately I’ve come to realise that I’ve always been a bit of a misfit.
Even as a teenager, I saw things differently from most of my peers. I felt different too. A lot of that was to do with a different upbringing, natch – single parenthood wasn’t quite as common back in the day. Not many kids in my class were ever given a copy of The Little Red Schoolbook for Christmas by Marxist-Leninist leaning dads. And as far as I know, no-one else was encouraged to write articles for feminist mag Spare Rib, or was accompanied to parents’ night by a yellow clog-wearing fully paid up member of the Che Guevara fan club.
The grandparents had a hand in the moulding of this middle aged misfit’s way of seeing too. There was a gulf of social standing between the two grandads, but both were fine art fanatics, prepared to share their awe and appreciation of the great masters with the wee people in their lives. That simple act of showing, sharing and explaining has left a legacy, a love of art and design, more valuable to me than Van Gogh’s Sunflowers.
So, you see, run of the mill was not where it was at when I was wee. It’s little wonder then, that I used to feel that I didn’t quite fit in. Still don’t.
But hey, I’m not complaining. I like it.
I don’t mean to set myself apart, or speak from some lofty position of self-righteousness or snobbery, hell no. But there’s shedloads to be said for the fine art of misfittery. Swimming at the edge of the mainstream just gives a different perspective, it provides some distance to look on from an alternative vantage point. It gives scope to challenge the accepted view, and successfully stops me from following the flock.
Still, flitting about on the fringes of things can feel uncomfortable and a bit lonely sometimes. So I was bowled over and blown away recently by Viv Albertine’s bloody brilliant book Clothes Clothes Clothes Music Music Music Boys Boys Boys. Whew! I’m so glad there’s at least one other woman of a certain age who’s forged a path well away from the recommended route. I don’t share the same artistic urge as Viv but I do share a compulsion to do it my way. And that’s exactly why I run my small business according to my own misfit code of conduct, far away from FTSE and corporate commercial parameters.
Call me a business black sheep if you like. But d’you know what? Suits me, sir.