Monday, October 27, 2003
My Back Pages
Since New Year's Eve 1992, I've faithfully kept a daily journal. It’s a reasonably fair record of what was going through my head at the time, although there are the odd few things of which I'm too ashamed even to tell my diary.
Before then, I used to keep scrapbooks of newspaper and magazine clippings which caught my passing interest. So, flicking through the scrapbook I put together for the period 1989 - 91, the time of the fall of both the USSR and the Berlin Wall, Desert Storm and the ousting of Thatcher, I find that these are the things which really interested me:
An early-sixties career advice leaflet on How To Become An Atomic Energy Engineer ("Andrew is intelligent and go-ahead, and thinks there is a great future for Engineers in this Atomic Age"); and, as a companion piece for the girlies, How To Become A Kennel Maid.
A shirtless photograph of a nameless Frenchman.
A celebration of Bob Dylan pushing fifty, and Sinatra heading for seventy-four, and a confident forecast that newcomer Harry Connick Junior was going to be more influential than either of them.
A serious examination of the revolution in men's underwear, moving on from the baggy boxers of the 80s to the "muscle-bound cotton and Lycra separates" of the 90s. (With pictures.)
A report of a Nuneaton man prosecuted for operating a battery-powered wheel-chair while over the drink-driving limit; and a Londoner who tried to rob a bank with a water-pistol, while wearing full drag,
Recipes for the best bouillabaisse (top tip: add some pastis to it), the classiest crêpes (add some vodka), and four different profiles of Antoine De Caunes (add some irony, lots of it).
The obituaries of Serge Gainsbourg ("Ugliness is superior to beauty because it lasts longer"), actress Delphine Seyrig (possibly the most beautiful woman in the world), and the Blue Peter presenter and friend of Elton John who died on my thirty-first birthday.
A celebration of surf-culture in Newquay, and a feature on the blond-bombshell Cambridge don who used to drive down there every weekend.
Another shirtless and anonymous Gallic man, this time in his bath; nine articles extolling Parisian café society, and one on how to carry your baguette with style and élan.
Interviews with Quentin Crisp ("The only drink of any help on a desert island would be a magnum of vintage arsenic"),and the great Janet Street-Porter ("They've got me down as a cheery Cockney idiot"), and a rather huffy and possessive review of Marianne Faithfull's successful concert tour of the USA ("Marianne's tragedy was made in England, not America. She's ours.").
An interview with men's underwear designer Nikos Apostopoulus, whose sexy lift-and-separate designs look like "a cross between "bondage and stage attire", and a chat with little-known Edinburgh Festival drag queens Lily Savage, and Mother Theresa, the latter played by someone called Graham Norton.
A tale of under-age prostitution in Budapest, and (should Andrew fail at his chosen career in the Atomic Industry) tips on how to become a successful gigolo in Tokyo, and an exposé of murder and intrigue in a gay S&M club in the City of London.
A quote from John Betjeman on Coronation Street: "Thank God: half-past seven tonight and I shall be in heaven", far too many pictures of Rob Lowe, and only one of the infinitely sexier Ivor Novello from the 1925 melodrama, The Rat.
A feature on surfing fashions this time, followed by, er, yet another double-page, six-picture spread on, um, men's underwear. (In colour.)
Twelve years on, and my scrapbook would probably contain the very same pieces. Some things just don't change with this Stranger. And you know, I've a great designer underwear collection now, but I still haven't learnt how to surf.