1. Postcards for all.
From the south of France camping holiday around 1981.
I recall wide-eyed wonder at the exotic and interesting things found in the French newsagent where we changed our money. We were impressed by the serious European comics it stocked and would spend a while leafing through arty examples of the genre before choosing our postcards from a vast and varied selection.
I’ve always found the illustration on this paper bag garish and very sinister. In much the same way that clowns can give you the creeps. Note the conjoined grown-ups staring at each other in front of the picket fence like a negative from Hell. In the foreground ‘The Children of The Damned’ are skipping merrily along with disturbingly large postcards. The little boy has only one arm. Brrr…
2. My grant letter from the final academic year at Central Saint Martins.
It’s a quarter of a century ago, now. Back in the days when your local education authority paid higher education fees and gave you some money each term for living expenses. Now, of course, students have to borrow all of it from a bank and pay it back during the course of their working life.
I was always useless at managing finances. Once the grant cheque was paid in, the money would only last a few weeks before I was back in the red. The regular appointment with the bank manager to arrange a bigger overdraft was a hideous and patronising experience with not an always favourable outcome. In the Spring term of 1985 a friend and I used to draw on the pavement at Covent Garden on Saturdays to earn some extra money. We did quite well off the tourists, with often around £100 in the hat at the end of the day. We’d be freezing and filthy but happy to have some hard-earned cash to keep us in beer and food. In that particular term I lost so much weight that when I went back home for Easter my Mother thought I was ill.
On the first day of each new term the priority would be to collect the grant cheque from the admin office and pay it in. I know some students who got 2 grant cheques one year. This is because we were the very first year of the joint Central and Saint Martins courses. The LEA had stupidly sent one to each college office. Some people have all the luck.
Liverpool. A Socialist Council. I love that.
3. We went to America.
I won an RSA design bursary whilst at college. The prize money was intended to fund a foreign learning trip. I chose to go to New York to interview my favourite magazine designers. I kept this one dollar bill from that visit as it’s dated the same year, 1988.
I had appointments booked at the offices of GQ, Esquire and Rolling Stone. This was some time before British versions of these publications had been launched. The offices of GQ were high up in the famous Conde Nast building which was incredibly glamourous despite the Art Director being a bit snotty. The AD and Design department of Esquire treated me to lunch in a diner on Broadway. The Rolling Stone office overlooked Central Park, the team there were all lovely people and gave me so much of their time. It’s still my favourite city in all the world.
I made the above collage when I came back.
There’s something about old bank notes from overseas that convey a sense of romance and mystery. American dollars still make me think of old Hollywood movies. And I like the way that the notes for each denomination are all the same colour and look similar. It really makes you concentrate when using them.
4. Footballer turned postman, Neil Webb.
5. The Post Office issued these extra ‘good wishes’ stamps.
The idea was to stick them to the envelopes of birthday cards etc as an added smile-shaped message.
There are 12 little stamps in all. Happy Birthday x 3, Best Wishes x 2, Keep Smiling x 2, With Love x 2, Congratulations x 1, Thank You x 1 and Happy Anniversary x 1. Hmm…
6. I first wore glasses in 1984, just before I left Liverpool for London.
I had decided to get my eyes tested before starting college. The result was that I needed glasses for work and reading. The first pair I ever owned were a John Lennon style round gold rimmed pair. I wish I still had them.
Eventually, years later, it was deemed that I had to wear glasses full time. I have worn many different styles over the years. Choosing glasses is a tedious and expensive business. I have contact lenses too which I mostly wear for running and playing football. Opticians make a fortune out of me.
This unremarkable appointment card is from 1990. At the time I was working in the Graphic Design department at BBC North West. Sometimes, when you update your prescription and wear your new glasses, it feels like you can see clearly for the first time. The spectacles I bought from this Manchester optician made me feel like that.
7. When I started college we were given two identity cards.
One was from Central School of Art and Design and the other (This one) was from St Martins School of Art. The reason being that our 1984 intake was the very first year of the joint course and would eventually be known as Central St Martins College of Art and Design as part of University of The Arts, London (UAL).
There were about 90 of us on the course based in the St Martins building in Long Acre, WC1 (Now a branch of H&M) with some lectures at the Central School in Southampton Row. We always felt that the staff hadn’t quite worked out how this joint course thing was going to function. Our fellow students of both schools in years 2 and 3 seemed to mistrust us and treat us as some sort of weird hybrid. The staff across both sites seemed to be in competition with each other and didn’t really get on. We were very much the guinea pigs in the middle.
It was, however, an exciting and interesting time and place to go to college. The photograph of me on the ID card was taken on the first morning of the first day in first year. Nice check shirt.
I’d only arrived from Liverpool the previous evening. A friend who lived in Mordern, at the very southern tip of the Northern line, had agreed to put me up until I found somewhere to live. I remember getting lost and walking around at midnight with my suitcase trying to find his flat. It was an inauspicious beginning to a fabulous and memorable 3 years at college.
Actually, I have just been reminded by Lisa that I have a lovely big empty book in the house.
I am gonna be inspired by your efforts and make a piss-poor version in a book. One thing I will say is that back in me Ma’s I have something really glorious – a Scrapbook I made in 1971 entitled ‘My Alan Ball Scrapbook’. Scrapbooks rule mate – you are on the button.