I shared a bedroom with my older sister until I was 11 years old and I used to dream that if I had my own room the walls would be painted Chelsea blue with a big white number 9 (Peter Osgood‘s number) on one of them. Sadly, when the glorious day came that I got my own room after we moved to a bigger council flat it didn’t live up to that fantasy and turned out to be a tiny box room with ugly orange wallpaper. But I didn’t care, it was mine!
Having the freedom of your own bedroom is a big deal when you’re a kid because your life is dictated to in so many other ways — what to eat, what time to get up, how long to stay out — and while you might not get to pick the furniture, how it’s arranged and what’s on the walls are about the only way you can stamp your personality on your environment at that age (like making the David Bowie bin on the book cover above). Personal space is even more at a premium when you live in a small council flat and have a sibling.
I wasn’t a solitary kid but I was perfectly happy to be on my own and the room was my very own Fortress of Solitude where I could daydream and let my imagination bloom. I had really bad hayfever in my early teens and spent a lot of hot summer days alone in my room with the curtains closed to ease my sneezy and red-eyed misery caused by the pollen-rich air outside. I think I basically “missed” a couple of summers that way, and though it makes me sound like I was some adolescent Marcel Proust I didn’t write an epic novel but I did draw a lot, read piles of comics, and listen to the radio, often while drowsy from anti-histamines. To this day getting woozy from medicine still gives me a Proustian rush back to my shady bedroom.
Once I got later into my teens the room became an even more important refuge, somewhere to go with all those confused thoughts and raging hormones (if you know what I mean). I’d moon in frustration over some girl I didn’t have the nerve to ask out, stew about how unfair life and the world was, and draw rather gloomy pictures. It was also where I spent nearly every week-night listening to John Peel, which is probably what I’m doing in this photo.
See what I mean about the wallpaper?
Even though it was small a lot of big things happened in that room. It was where my life-defining love of pop music and graphic art developed; where I first heard about the deaths of Ian Curtis, Elvis Presley, and John Lennon; where I first heard songs like “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and all the other classics that would define my youth. It was also where I got a girl’s bra off for the first time.
I left home in my mid-20s after I graduated from art college and moved into a flat with some mates. My mum finally got rid of the horrible wallpaper, painted the walls blue (10-year-old me would have been very happy) and turned it into a storage room full of junk and boxes. Whenever I went home I’d peek in there and it looked so different I struggled to imagine all the days and nights I’d spent in there and what that room had meant to my youth. All I had was the ghosts of memories of that tiny little space where I became me.
Download: In Your Room – Bangles (mp3)