Tuesday, April 27, 2010

'Small Town England' by Tim Bradford

Friend of Bandy
It’s a bad job when your friends bring out a book and you can’t even get around to plugging it on your blog. Not that a mention on here has been historically proven as a shuttle ride to the bestseller list. But still, Small Town England by Tim Bradford (published by Ebury Press earlier this month) is not only a book by my oldest mate, it’s principally a memoir about the time we grew up together in Lincolnshire during the years 1978-1983. I feature throughout as a character called Bandy (I wasn’t called that, but it’s a fair description of my legs), perhaps more generously portrayed than I deserve given that I was a feral, foul-mouthed, deeply insecure adolescent who thought he was right about everything, apart from when the lights went out or I was drunk, when I thought I was probably wrong about everything, and that I would never, ever get a girlfriend.

I am hailed in the acknowledgments as a person “whose memory is a spectacularly efficient database of facts, anecdotes, football scores and mundane events.” You’ll note there’s none of the useful stuff in there, like geographical data, chemical symbols, mathematical formulae, an encyclopaedic knowledge of the English Civil War, or the correct way to mix and shake 101 head-crushing cocktails. Somehow, my memory evolved into a vault of useless clutter that I’ve never bothered clearing out to replace with something new, functional and up-to-date. So if something goes wrong with this computer, I won’t be able to fix it, but I can tell you all about the day I watched Lincoln City beat Northampton Town 5-4 in 1977. This at least made me a valuable oral consultant on several incidents described in the book, but now that period has been documented and illustrated by Tim, the call for my services could well be facing a barren stretch.

Why, you might ask, would anyone want to read about what it’s like to grow up in a small town in Lincolnshire between 1978 and 1983? It was interesting to me, because I was there. I’ve yet to meet anyone who wasn’t there, but who’s had the chance to read the book, so it’s hard to say how wide the appeal might be. The author is of course highly entertaining in the way he describes and illustrates all the crappy little bands we were in and the terrible gigs we played, and all the times we got drunk and ran away from fights and got crushes on all the wrong girls, and that the experience of being snared as a teenager in a dull country town is broadly universal. You can’t wait to leave, but 25 years later you can’t help but return with a little retrospective insight to take a look at all the mistakes that helped set you off on the path to nowhere.


Gorilla Bananas said...

I bet all the girls that turned you down would regret it if they knew you became an oral consultant. I've never understood why people feel trapped in small towns. Is there an electric fence preventing you from escaping to the nearest city?

sweetsinnergwen said...

I love historical novels and look forward to reading it. Personally, I am fascinated by times that existed before I was born.

No Good Boyo said...

I look forward to this one. I know nothing about Lincolnshire, except this it was like Gaul divided into three parts and locals use the word "frit".

Your bandiness of leg is due to the fact that the last of the Mongol invasion force in Poland retired to Kesteven and got busy at the local maidens' fayre.

The songs you link too would have had decent reviews in the NME of that day, to be honest. I dig the 2009 remix now and always.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

GB - we were told by our masters on the conservative-dominated town council that there was indeed an electric fence around Market Rasen, and we were too frit to try it out and see if they were lying. Once a week there was a bus to Lincoln, but you had to be home by nightfall. Escape was only permitted with an A level certificate (they didn't like people with academic qualifications hanging around) or if you were going to liberate the Malvinas.

Gwen - 'historical fiction' is an excellent moniker for this book. Ebury's marketing people should take note.

Boyo - your historical perspective is, as ever, both refreshing and enlightening. It doesn't explain why all the other Kestevenites laughed at my legs, though, which were actually bequeathed me by Scottish cowboys. Very generous of you on the music, though I have to admit that 'I Am An American', despite its crass, Brit-snob 1982 stereotyping of all US citizens as Reagan-voting imperialists, sounds okay, if somewhat constricted by one-track recording equipment.

Mark Sanderson said...

After visiting the link that 'crappy little bands' took me to, I enjoyed reading reference to the bontempi. One classy piece of kit.

Stay-At-Home Indie-Pop said...

The bontempi would take a couple of minutes to warm up, and then make a noise like an air conditioning unit that you could only drown out by playing the thing. Not that anyone in my family could actually play it - no idea why we even had the thing. My mum sold it in the end to help buy me a bicycle.

Tim Bradford said...

Thanks for the mention Mr Indiepop. None of the reviewers so far have picked up on the fact that the book is to a certain extent a reworking of Kerouac's Maggie Cassidy. I've now attempted non-fiction versions of On The Road (Is Shane MacGowan Still Alive?) and The Subterraneans (The Groundwater Diaries). Which means the next project should be a reworking of Dharma Bums - in which you and me take off to the forest and get drunk for two or three months then vomit over a load of artists and writers in San Francisco (I'm paraphrasing - DB is a bit more poetic than that).