Nelson’s Column

There seems to be a bit of an ‘80s revival going on right now. Bands like Franz Ferdinand are tapping into early eighties trebly guitars, blipping Casios and prosaic lyrics to produce perfect pop parfaits. Most big cities in the UK sport some kind of Reflex ‘80s Retro bar full of hen nights and works dos slouching away to ABC and Spandau Ballet. All over TV there are documentaries about the music, the clothes, the sexual politics and the hair. In fact BBC Four could do six weeks of documentary series just about the hair. The windows of Topman and other high street stores are displaying mannequins wearing a mish-mash of random bits of clothing pilfered from various fashion movements with no cultural grammar whatsoever – total ‘80s. Even the new Doctor Who companion Amy Pond is partial to the odd bright orange Benetton sweater.

It’s the decade I have tried to push out of memory since 1990. I was born in 1970 so the ‘80s were my teenage years. I do concede that most people have nightmares about their teenage years but why did I get the decade that fashion forgot? My experimentation knew no bounds. At the beginning of the decade I was the primary seven Rude Boy complete with Harrington jacket, drainpipe jeans and plastic Two Tone Records badges. By the time of Live Aid my mullet was well and truly in place, complementing my strategically ripped stonewashed jeans and zippy biker’s leather (but no motorbike). Only when my voice had dropped as low as it was going to go and I’d spent three years in my bedroom playing guitar and developing a drink habit did the mullet turn into a pony tail and the leather turned into a plaid shirt and waistcoat as I morphed into a pre-grunge ragamuffin indie kid.

Now the Great British Public seems intent on brining it all back. But surely electing another Tory government is taking the ‘80s revival thing a little too far.

When I think of David Cameron’s bogus Americanised “three strikes and you’re out” unemployment solution my heart goes out to the young. Basically you will get the opportunity to do three jobs and if you don’t take one you are stripped of all your benefits, including housing, and may have to move into a hostel. In the ‘80s I was turned down for a job moving boxes in a warehouse. So what kind of guaranteed employment do you think Cameron will be offering? The guy who rolls fags for the guy who moves the boxes? Yeah, great future there. That’ll really top you up with self respect.

I recently heard some “celeb” about my age on TV defend this policy saying “I don’t understand how someone can’t get a job. When I was still looking for modelling work I pulled pints and cleaned houses. It was easy to find work.” Oh really? Well try being a 17 year old Glaswegian schemie and see how far you get. Lets face it, if someone runs a bar and they have in front of them a beautiful aspiring model and an awkward boy with a muggers accent, who do you think will get hired?  If you need someone to clean your big London townhouse will you take on the girly girl from Essex or the boy who looks and sounds like he will be off with the silver as soon as your BMW is out of the driveway?

I spent my formative years in a north Glasgow housing scheme in the dark days of Thatcherism. I remember how one after the other everyone’s dad got paid off from their work. I rejoiced when the council fitted our freezing council house with insulation and double glazing, only to have them sell off the scheme to private developers. I watched as the beat coppers disappeared and the scheme became flooded with easy-to-buy heroin. I listened to The Iron Lady lie through her teeth as she told us on TV that the social security reforms were targeted at the poorest while the poorest around me got poorer and people like me, a single young man living at home, got more.

However, I was also there when Boy George strode out and proud on Top Of The Pops wearing a kimono and hair beads, and when grown working class men threw off their chains of emotional repression and danced to The Smiths – a huge statement saying “this is me and I can feel.” But we all had to struggle against conservative convention for those freedoms. And I watched when the Berlin Wall came down and when Nelson Mandela walked free from captivity. Their struggle was a little greater.

Shetland has for a long time been Lib Dem. Now they are in government, but at what price?

I’m just saying.

Sandy Nelson


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