Growing up on a council estate can be tough, especially if you feel different (and everybody feels different). I remember walking through the alley way to my local secondary. I was wearing my mother’s long black dress, with black jeans underneath. My eyes were smudged black and my dyed-black hair a mess. I felt 10 foot tall even though my heart pounded and I was terrified. It had snowed and the black was stark against the blinding sun light of the morning. I had my new patent shoes on (black), with no grip they were the least practical piece of footwear possible in the circumstances, making every step a gauntlet of embarrassing head over heels possibility. I stood out, a bold statement from a ‘ghost’ in a school of over 1000. I walked down the drive in to the white-out glare.
I was grabbed from behind, lifted and thrown into a snowy hedge. Laughter and a few snow balls crashed in to me. I got out of the hedge and dusted myself down as the attackers moved on, bored. I saw my friend, 6ft tall with his straight dark green coat. Make up on and his Bela Lugosi stare fixed ahead. He had one thing under his right arm, Bowie’s Scary Monsters. We walked in to school in silence feeling like we were pioneers, the new young radicals.
Growing up is about discovering who we are and who we will be at the same time. No one championed this better than Bowie. No one in music made the weird more normal and the normal more weird. When challenged by a New York cop as to why he, was “wearing a woman’s dress?” Bowie replied, “It’s a man’s dress.” I have always said I learnt more at school from the world of music than I ever did from lessons. I am still trying to convince myself this is not true.
I got in to Bowie through my mother. She would tape the Sunday radio programmes and she had one cassette tape with Sorrow on it. I loved it from the moment I heard it. I would lie in bed at night when there were house parties and wait for that intro and fall to sleep smiling. This secret relationship only grew over the years (as it did for millions of others). As a Goth I didn’t initially get the Let’s Dance era (too happy). I loved songs like Moonage Daydream, Kooks, 5 Years and the earlier stuff but Bowie shifts, like a snowdrift, and depending on your mood there is always something to love.
I go in to school each and every day with a Bowie attitude. A belief that everyone is special, everyone is different and there is no such thing as normal. I owe this to my Bowie education. All teachers should carry a little of this attitude with them, an acceptance of each and every one of us to be ourselves and to challenge our thoughts and feelings about others. I hereby put in my call for a Bowie inspired National Curriculum – true British Values.