The summer of 1989 – the summer I turned sixteen – was one of the last truly, long, hot summer’s I can remember. Months stretched on after months of blazing sun, roasting temperatures and blue skies. In the early days of computer generated weather maps, I remember more or less permanent waves of high pressure over the country, and Ian McCaskill’s mythically inconprehensable reports, understandable only by the round yellow sun icons and the orange to red shading across the country.
This was the summer of my GCSE exams. Long days out on the school fields with my peers writing out study cards, and trying to soak up the trigonometry and the physics behind electromagnetic transformers. It was the summer that my parents went to Moscow at Easter, and my brother and I were left to look after ourselves the house, our dog and cat – Penny and Tess – with Granny and Granpa looking in from time to time.
I would have been doing the preparatory sketches for my art exam by then – art exams were always some of the first to be held, and it was about the only one I actually enjoyed doing. That year the art exam fell on my sixteenth birthday, the year that I got my second brand new bike. At thirteen my present had been what was supposed to my first and only brand new bike, but I had grown so much, and outgrown the bike by some considerable margin, that mum and dad decided to relent on this rule. I still have that bike, a black and silver Raleigh racer now. It still works. It gets me about.
Despite not being very good at, or enjoying exams – I much preferred coursework – I dreaded the exams ending. I dreaded this because I knew it would be a long summer to follow, a long summer when I wouldn’t see my school friends. In those days, I wasn’t good with the socialising – I’m still not that good – and I didn’t want to parted from all these people for so long. It didn’t help, that in the latter part of that school year, I had my first real crush. K – I fancied her like anything, but couldn’t say anything. What if she said no? What if she laughed at me? I was sixteen, I was in love and I was petrified…