Maidenhead so much to answer for

For some reason this morning I woke thinking of Maidenhead.  I can think of no coherent reason why.  Perhaps it is something to do with the drugs?  My only connections with the place are:

  • that it was where my dentist was located during the nineteen years before I left home,
  • where both my guitar teachers taught me the instrument to not much lasting gain,
  • where I had extra maths lessons to similar results – I failed Maths A Level twice, the first time getting a result after two years teaching worse that I had in my O level exam the two years before, and
  • where I used to accompany my mother on weekly shopping expeditions as a teenager after my music lessons.

I was born in a place called Twyford which is a village between Maidenhead and Reading.  Apart from the items mentioned above it was mainly to Reading that we looked for most things not available in a village, apart from Henley for one or two, Maidenhead came third.  Whilst lying in bed I was reminded of the contribution of Maidenhead to modern literature, namely the fact that two of its offspring are those 1990’s products of the Nick Hornby and John O’Farrell.

In his breakthrough book, ‘Fever Pitch‘ about being an Arsenal fan Nick Hornby talks about the time Arsenal played Reading, at that time a team normally in the Fourth or, if they were good Third, Division and for whom too often the football season usually finished in September.  Reading were his local team, as they were mine, and were the team he should really support.  At that time it was usual at my school to follow Reading but to have a First Division team you supported, usually one of the London ones, for me it was Manchester City.  Nick Hornby got talking to a family supporting Reading and desperate to be seen as the convincing Arsenal fan talked in a fake cockney accent about his Arsenal experiences, exaggerated the couple of school toughs into stories about life in the inner city schools and generally had the family convinced of him being a Londoner until asked they where he came from and admitted it was Maidenhead.  The story was told by Nick Hornby to support his view that the white south of England middle-class Englishman and Englishwoman would rather belong to any other community in the World.  For him it was North London.  I spent ages playing up the Lancastrian roots of my family, something which, those of whom could, most had escaped at the first opportunity, to the South, to Canada or Australia which led me later to talk of my family as the ‘Tattersall diaspora’.  Two others I think of, off the top of my head, one pretended to be Scottish rather than from a small village in Essex or another highlighted being a celt rather than from London.  Nick Hornby went to the local Boys Grammar School.

It was the same school that John O’Farrell started at, at the same time that I started my secondary school life.  It could be another reason to pour scorn upon Margaret Thatcher that, but for her I could have been a contemporary at school of John O’Farrell.  When we started secondary school Berkshire was in the second year of conversion to comprehensive education and we both went to our local schools.  If grammar schools had remained and we both passed the 11+ we would both have started at Desborough School.  Now, we might have hated each other, might have been best of mates but we never got the chance to find out because Margaret Thatcher, as Secretary of State for Education in the government of Edward Heath, approved proposals by Education Authorities to convert more schools to comprehensive from grammar than any Labour Education Secretary.  Anyway, we never went to the same school  He went to Desborough comprehensive school and I went to Piggott comprehensive school in Wargrave.  One of the reasons why I found ‘Things can only get better‘ difficult to read was that whilst most people could laugh at the ludicrous things which happened on the left in the 1980’s like people considering it capitalist to laugh so we all had to be miserabilist, I lived through it too and know it was only too true amongst the true believers.  It was too painful to read how ridiculous people around me had behaved, and sometimes how ridiculously I had behaved.  I believe thankfully to have grown since then.  Unfortunately too many people I left in the Labour Party in UK have not grown from the position and thinking of the 1980’s, although thankfully not too many of them remain in positions of influence any longer.

*NB. The title comes from the lyrics of the Smiths song, ‘Suffer little Children‘ from their eponymously titled first album, ‘Oh Manchester so much to answer for.’  One of the better things to come out of the 1980’s as I’ve already highlighted here.

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