How Kinnock started the fall.
On April 10th 1992 I found myself trudging to college in a fog of depression. The sun was beaming at me in a particularly annoying fashion. My bag was too heavy and sat uncomfortably alongside the weight of the world on my shoulder. Too many people seemed to be smiling. I waved a tragic, foppish fist at the sky and quoted Auden: ‘pack up the moon and dismantle the sun’, Labour has lost the election. I wouldn't even have been at Sixth Form College if I felt that anyone could understand my pain.
I'd spent my death march into school composing impassioned letters in my head to the Labour party, to the electorate, to anyone who might listen. I'd considered lending the considerable weight of my support to the Liberal movement. The sunlight prodded at my retina and I saw his fat, middle class, Tory, smirking face mocking me every time I closed my eyes.
There aren't many people called Russell in the world. It's a peculiar name because it implies very little about the occupier. It's not a Dave. A Sebastian. A Jeremy. A Sharon. You'd never guess from looking at them that someone was called Russell. Except my arch nemesis on my A Level Politics course. HE was a Russell. Hair long enough to be flicked arrogantly like a Hitler Youth recruit and lips as thin as the Maginot line. Sporting a polyester turtle neck and rolling his eyes at any and every social concern, he'd be flanked always by two red faced blouses plucked fresh from piano lessons who agreed that he'd developed a convincing argument for dropping a nuclear bomb on the Middle East during the first Gulf War.
My—clearly devout communist—politics teacher and me had been looking forward to this day. We had shaken our heads despairingly at Russell's delicately racist position on immigration, asylum, war, anything really. We'd smiled to ourselves contentedly ‘You'll get yours son’. Russell had begun to look rattled of recent weeks after all. The polls predicted a clear lead for Labour. We'd allowed ourselves the occasional joke at his expense. The world’s changing Russell, you child of Thatcher's Britain – get thee behind me Satan!
“Hahahhaah, boy I fucked up din i.”
Of course, we'd celebrated too soon. Much like Labour in fact. Kinnock pretended to be a Labour president five years too early for Britain and the Grey Man of politics won. Quieter than the quiet man, sharing only the colour of the iron lady and bizarrely rodgering Edwina Currie behind our backs - The Grey Man: John Major. Fellow socialists shared commiserations in crowded hallways. Hugs were dished out. Some of the teachers huddled around hushed conversations.
Stop the clocks. Cut off the phone. Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone.
Russell sat there with his arms folded and with the grin of a particularly well fed German Shepherd. I mustered all of my dignity and spent the rest of the lesson smashing his face to a pulpy mess with an imaginary shovel.
The Grey Man. It gnaws at me. My hair is getting thinner. I've starting having naps – in my chair, after a heavy lunch, with my arms folded and rested upon my stomach. Kids call me ‘mister’ and I swear they're getting younger. I can see the benefit of a bath that you can get in and out of easily. Worse still, something terribly safe is happening with my entertainment system and I don't just mean switching the plug off overnight to save electricity.
This photograph is in colour.
I've become the Grey Man of the video games world. My Xbox isn't chipped so I can play the latest bonkers bullet hell-fest from Japan, it's chipped so I can put my Jazz collection on it so as to avoid wearing out the CDs. I'm looking forward to a new Tomb Raider game. I've started trying to work out how many pounds per hour of entertainment a game will give me. And while we're at it, isn't the pound wonderful? I openly consider that Grand Theft Auto is not only a shit, un-controllable mess of a game but might be a bad influence on our young adults. I bought Pro Evo 4 knowing I would have got far more enjoyment (and scored far more goals) with FIFA instead.
What is happening to me? I used to be hardcore. I never had to even look at the manual but now it's something nice to read on the toilet. I can't get off the first level of Viewtiful Joe. My average game of Robotron lasts 14 seconds. I couldn't work out what to do in Mario Sunshine (that’s because it’s woeful and also hugely shit – Ed) and I spend hours in Game wandering around looking for a safe purchase.
I am the Ford Mondeo man with cream leather driving gloves. I am the casual gamer. My name is Russell and it’s all Neil Kinnock’s fault. The ginger twat.