Out of the Attic.

A personal reflection – a blog for me to record some stuff I found in my attic.

Having just taken my daughter to visit her first-choice university (offer in hand but subject to getting those A level grades), I’ve been casting my mind back to that time in my life. What an incredible time – leaving home, stepping out into the world. Exciting, daunting – a bumpy ride.  Aside from the emotional carnage of relationships, unrequited love and inevitable bouts of loneliness (aka growing up), this is time of self-discovery like no other.  With this in mind, I ventured into the attic to find some photos.  I opened the box:

My box of mementos. My mum had this box at boarding school; it’s now full of detritus from my formative years

The first thing to fall out was this:

My first year university bedroom. 1983-4

This collage captures my life quite well.  Bowie, Siouxsie, a Labour Club poster, my ‘music centre’ and LPs, guitars, not too many books, work on the desk – and some flimsy slippers! I’ve also got a Persian rug – handed down from my family; a touch of quality and cosiness in my little breeze-block cuboid.  I remember that room so well – that first taste of being properly independent with all the ups and downs that entailed.

Side one.
I also found this treasure – above and below.  A piece of lined A4 listing every gig I went to from 1980 into 1985…even though I say so myself, it’s an impressive list.  On its own, it represents a period of time extremelythe well.  I went to more gigs than read books; this was my world, starting with Mike Oldfield, Queen and The Police but moving onto The Smiths, New Order and Echo and the Bunnymen. The early 80s were a golden period.

Side Two
The 80s weren’t great in other regards.   I had trouble with fashion in general. Hair was especially awkward – so I opted for looking ridiculous – and yet, I have to accept that this is a part of who I was  – and still am.

Screen Shot 2016-04-10 at 12.34.17
A flock of haircuts.

This photo is a firm favourite.  This is me doing what I loved; this is me in my element, geeking it up with some kit in the Manchester physics lab.

Manchester. 1985. Having the best time.

I also discovered a treasured possession; something I thought I’d lost a long time ago. This is the Debris magazine from 1986/7 that included a free flex-disc featuring a song from my band ‘That Ted’.  This song was played on the John Peel show – a lifetime music-career highlight, never to be repeated.  He always played the Debris flexi – it was nothing to do with the quality of the song!

That Ted on the Debris Flexi. 33rpm. 40p. A bargain.

Joy of joys – here is the song. Scratches, jumps and all.

In my box I also have things from my school days.  Here is the first thing I can remember writing, aged 13.  A piece for my school magazine ‘The Weydonian’; a kind of prose-poem about life in Rio where we lived as a family for 18 months from 1972-74.  ‘Self-pity’ jars but clearly I needed a rhyme for ‘city’. It gets better after that:

From The Weydonian. My writing debut, aged 13.

I also found all my old cubs and scouts badges. Home Help? I remember that one – cooking a meal and hoovering the living room! And, of course, I was a Sixer.

Don’t come to me with your digital badges. These are the real deal.

Naturally enough I kept my school reports.  We were ranked in class positions for every subject.  Didn’t do me any harm…(that’s a joke).  There’s no doubt that my ranking and success formed either virtuous or vicious circles.

My Y9 equivalent. Interesting how the curriculum has changed so little. Subjects have staying power.

School report from first year of O levels. (In case you’re worried, I was EBacc compliant because I had the fortune of being able to study French at home with my mum – a French teacher).
Finally, this is what my box is full of.  Letters.  We used to write letters to friends, family – everyone, everywhere. Before the internet, Poste Restante was the best way to communicate while back-packing.  Oh, those were the days. I haven’t written or received a personal letter in years. They meant so much.


This is all personal stuff.  It won’t matter to many people.  But it has made me think a bit about the value of our experiences in finding fulfilment in life.  That’s the theme of my next proper blog.   Alongside memories of the people you meet and spend time with, the strongest sense of fulfilment comes from doing something, making something, witnessing something or being somewhere; from life’s experiences.



  1. Found this really interesting, Tom! We’re of a similar era – I was at Manchester a few years before you – so much chimes with my experience. And the letters….. I’ve kept so many. Look forward to rereading them when I’m a little grey old lady.

    We are the sum of all our experiences, aren’t we? Really important to connect with our memories, I think.


  2. How the passing of time changes everything and everything and everyone changes with time. Our past becomes our present which in turn influences our future which passes. I enjoyed your treasured past memories of a time lived but evidently not forgotten. Perhaps as teachers, we need to get our students to learn to treasure their learning experiences in order so that they can remember them over time. Your photo of the physics lab tells me you were destined to be at Highbury Grove…the letter ‘H’ marked on the wall, big, black and bold. 😊Thanks Tom.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve just drafted a blog based on some old photos and cards I came across yesterday! I’m yet to publish it as seems a bit self indulgent and sentimental… Maybe I’ll publish it after all, because I have thoroughly enjoyed yours. Thank you!


  4. My mother wrote to me every day when I was in France for my assistantship year and homesick. She used to include a teabag (expensive in France at the time) so the letters always smelt delicious! I now really, really wish I’d kept more of them, but recognise I don’t need the pieces of paper to still clearly recall the way I felt when I saw an envelope in the pigeonhole.


  5. I reckon we’ve all got some nostalgia stored away in our attics! I read through my old school books a few weeks ago – my teachers were not always impressed with me! If only they knew I would know their pain when I became a teacher…

    Liked by 1 person

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