Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Smells that remind me of childhood #2

The present is far too annoying to blog about at the moment. The broadband’s bust, the office roof is still dropping great big pieces of rotting ceiling panel on my head, and Derek Acorah is on my television and won’t go away because the Sky box has had an attack of the vapours and won’t let me change channels.

So, what better solution than a descent into the past? People seemed to enjoy the last foray into childhood, so let’s head back there.

The other morning I woke up late. I hopped in the bath (a shower would be quicker, but the water pressure is completely buggered and neither The Fiance or I have the slightest clue how to fix it, so it’s baths all round for us at the moment), hopped straight out again, shoved on my clothes and ran out of the door to go and fail to get on a number 30. Halfway there, I realised I had forgotten to put my deodorant on. Yes, I know it should be an automatic thing to do, but I’d been out on the beers the night before and if I’m being honest was only vaguely awake.

Luckily there is a Boots round the corner from my work. Being bleary eyed and not generally one blessed with great patience, I failed to spy the actual deodorant and so picked up the nearest thing to it I could see – the Impulse body spray. Specifically, the O2 Impulse body spray that, in the words of Ralph Wiggum, “smells like burning”. I ran out of the shop spraying it all over me. Then I actually smelled it, and felt like I had morphed back into the 14 year old who was taller than everyone else in her peer group by six inches and who had to wear a vile retainer brace at night.

Judging by what I read in the papers nowadays, my friends and I were rather fresh faced and well behaved adolescents. No alcopops or fags for us; no mobile phones which we were constantly tap-tap-bloody-tapping into; not an ASBO among us; and a pleasing enthusiasm for riding our bikes and rollerblading. If I was 14 nowadays I’d be bullied mercilessly and being told I was a dork on MySpace. However, this was the 1990s, when teenagers could use their spare time for things other than downloading ringtones and stabbing pensioners. Good times.

There was a gang of about 15 of us that spent pretty much every spare hour together when we weren’t at school. I’d known most of these people for my whole life, either through primary school or Brownies, or gymnastics class. A few of the boys were friends of one of my male friends – the only one of us to have been shunted off to private school. These few privately educated boys were looked on as much more glamorous and exotic than my comprehensive bloke mates, and were therefore flirted with outrageously by all the girls while the poor comp fellows sat morosely on the sidelines comparing their curtain haircuts.

Not being the sorts of 14 year olds to spend time trying to blag our way into pubs (the traditional Sunday afternoon on the Pepsi down the hockey club – us playing pool badly while the parents got happily spannered – was enough for us) we had limited options in terms of where to go in order to indulge in rudimentary mating techniques and experimental swearing. Therefore, the entire summer of 1994 was spent in the playground of the local park; taking over the swings, trying to escape the attention of the traditional park warden who was rumoured to be a murderer, and on one occasion, hiding under the slide with one of the private school boys following a comedic teenage row with my parents over something that seemed like the end of the world at the time but was more likely to be stupendously trivial. I feel rather bad now, as I hate it when I walk past the local park and it’s full of screaming teenagers terrorising toddlers and throwing Strongbow cans around.

Of course, every few Saturdays there would be the obligatory trip into the local ‘town’, which was unfortunately Staines. Doh! Looking back, the effort that went into these jaunts was amazing. All the girls would congregate in someone’s bedroom for the donning of the latest fineries from Bay Trading or Mark One; hair would be sprayed and mucked about with (I realise I do sound like I grew up on the set of Grease here – not the case. We’d just discovered the glory of pulling down the front two sections of one’s ponytail, tonging the hell out of them and then spraying them so they kept their new curly shape. And you thought chavs weren’t around in the ‘90s) and make-up would be applied, often with highly comedic results. I remember my friend C copying a look out of Just 17 which involved pale blue shimmery eyeshadow up to the eyebrows, combined with some rather fetching bright blue mascara. Her mum was rather conservative when it came to teen magazines, and I fear she may have replaced J17’s make up section with one from Bunty without C realising.) Oh, and of course there was the obligatory intoxication of everyone in the room with the application of Impulse body spray.

WHY were we so obsessed with these? They really do smell like nothing else on earth. I was so appalled by the Impulse O2 unfortunateness that I went home via Superdrug that night and spent a stimulating hour testing out every Impulse spray they had in there. Every single one smelled like something one would use to disarm a mugger.

As tends to happen with these groups of friends that one has during their formative teenage years, we all drifted apart once we’d finished school and had grown deep enough voices/big enough boobs to get us into pubs. I still saw some of them on occasions – on the train on the way home from Kingston (our shopping location preference matured as we did) or occasionally in the Magpie of a Friday night, but none of us had anything in common anymore.

I did get a phone call from one of them when I first moved to London, asking if I wanted to attend a reunion sort of event (incidentally down the hockey club where I spent every Sunday between the ages of 12 and 15). I was living in a dreadful hovel in Wood Green with two gay men and working in my first full time job. I was cooking dinner for eight of us as I did every Friday – something which I found at the age of 21 to be a terribly grown up thing to do, and which was probably half the reason I said no. At the time I didn’t really want to hark back to a time of not unsevere teenage angst; and I’m not really sure I would want to now. Besides, if I want to be reminded of them, all I have to do is have a sniff of my Impulse body spray. And then wait ten minutes until I stop spluttering.


Anonymous said...

WHen I was 15, on the school ski trip, we actually did ward off a mugger with Impulse! Well it was maybe not a mugger, but a man broke into our room in the middle of the night so we sprayed him with the impulse and right guard!

City Slicker said...

Hi Fun blog. Great tip. That Impulse is lethal! Will definietly check back
City Slicker

Dave Hill said...

Did no gorgeous men rush up to you with flowers, then? I thought they couldn't help it when they got a whiff of it.

P.S. I've only just noticed you're a fellow Hackneyite. Straight on to my blogroll you go!

P.P.S. Hi there, Slicker.