Gary Robertson remembers the challenges growing up in a remote West coast Scottish village.

"Yer no gaun out dressed like that" the words of my mother still ring in my ears over 30 years later. Her insistence that "people would laugh", and my stepfather casting aspersions on my sexuality, made the rebel inside of me more determined to embrace this new found love of a developing subculture.

I grew up in a small west coast village in Scotland - barely 200 families. A picturesque place, a rather imposing church was the focal point from where you could look down on the houses below and feel like a "God" - master of all he surveys.

An awkward child, I was never a mixer: one close friend and that was it. We shared similar passions - we would walk for miles and innocently enjoy the world around us oblivious to the horrors happening elsewhere or at least unaware of the impact these things would have on us in later years.

Late in 1981 I was introduced to Bauhaus, a sound I had never heard before but one that resonated within my soul one that captured and captivated me. It became a drug. Add to this a sprinkling of Joy Division and already the dark seeds were beginning to bloom. Further sounds followed but I digress

Back to the story.

So there's 13 year old me, dressed head to toe in black, overly theatrical make up, standing in front of my disapproving parents trying to explain as best I could with a limited vocabulary that this was "who I am" - I had "found myself."

They were far from happy but decided as this was the 1980s perhaps it was time to modernize and accept youth culture (or least something like that).

So out I marched looking like a Poundland vampire, a long woolen trench coat flapping behind me, and proceeded to meet up with my friend who was dressed in almost identical garb.

Of course I would like to pretend it was easy, that we didn't get jumped, we didn't suffer violence from adults and our peers. Because the fact is we did.

Scars and broken teeth - a "burst mooth" was par for the course but still we stuck with it. For us, we had found freedom.

We would escape to the safety of the graveyard and watch the village below and sit and talk about everything and anything. Sometimes we would read, other times listen to music on a battered old radio I had been given by a neighbour.

When I look back now as I said over 30 years later and still very much interested in the gothic subculture, despite everything, I would change nothing.

Sure the hair has grown grey, my waistline has expanded, but inside still lives that young boy who found his place amongst misfits, a passion for music that remains and a fascination with things few stop to consider.

So why write this? To wander down Memory Lane? To lay some ghosts to rest? Perhaps a little of both but mainly to give hope.

To those struggling in crisis whether that be identity gender sexuality or whatever. there are allies. The world has moved forward and, whilst we have a long way to go, we are making progress. Never feel alone never feel your worth is less than that of another

You have a voice and you have a right.

Be your best you and do it for you "illegitimus non tatum carborundum."  

➽ Gary Robertson is a patron of TPQ

Do It For You

Gary Robertson remembers the challenges growing up in a remote West coast Scottish village.

"Yer no gaun out dressed like that" the words of my mother still ring in my ears over 30 years later. Her insistence that "people would laugh", and my stepfather casting aspersions on my sexuality, made the rebel inside of me more determined to embrace this new found love of a developing subculture.

I grew up in a small west coast village in Scotland - barely 200 families. A picturesque place, a rather imposing church was the focal point from where you could look down on the houses below and feel like a "God" - master of all he surveys.

An awkward child, I was never a mixer: one close friend and that was it. We shared similar passions - we would walk for miles and innocently enjoy the world around us oblivious to the horrors happening elsewhere or at least unaware of the impact these things would have on us in later years.

Late in 1981 I was introduced to Bauhaus, a sound I had never heard before but one that resonated within my soul one that captured and captivated me. It became a drug. Add to this a sprinkling of Joy Division and already the dark seeds were beginning to bloom. Further sounds followed but I digress

Back to the story.

So there's 13 year old me, dressed head to toe in black, overly theatrical make up, standing in front of my disapproving parents trying to explain as best I could with a limited vocabulary that this was "who I am" - I had "found myself."

They were far from happy but decided as this was the 1980s perhaps it was time to modernize and accept youth culture (or least something like that).

So out I marched looking like a Poundland vampire, a long woolen trench coat flapping behind me, and proceeded to meet up with my friend who was dressed in almost identical garb.

Of course I would like to pretend it was easy, that we didn't get jumped, we didn't suffer violence from adults and our peers. Because the fact is we did.

Scars and broken teeth - a "burst mooth" was par for the course but still we stuck with it. For us, we had found freedom.

We would escape to the safety of the graveyard and watch the village below and sit and talk about everything and anything. Sometimes we would read, other times listen to music on a battered old radio I had been given by a neighbour.

When I look back now as I said over 30 years later and still very much interested in the gothic subculture, despite everything, I would change nothing.

Sure the hair has grown grey, my waistline has expanded, but inside still lives that young boy who found his place amongst misfits, a passion for music that remains and a fascination with things few stop to consider.

So why write this? To wander down Memory Lane? To lay some ghosts to rest? Perhaps a little of both but mainly to give hope.

To those struggling in crisis whether that be identity gender sexuality or whatever. there are allies. The world has moved forward and, whilst we have a long way to go, we are making progress. Never feel alone never feel your worth is less than that of another

You have a voice and you have a right.

Be your best you and do it for you "illegitimus non tatum carborundum."  

➽ Gary Robertson is a patron of TPQ

5 comments:

  1. Gary - welcome to the blog with your own writing. You have been a great friend to TPQ and it is good to see you feature here. I enjoyed that piece. Naturel writing that just flowed out rather than being forced out. Hope it is not the last we see of you.

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  2. Gary

    Lovely piece. Speaks to all of us who have felt different but did not have the language and conceptual tools to describe it.

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  3. Quite like your writing style and enjoyed your piece Gary, cheers.

    Small note, how'd ye stop your makeup from running in the droochit weather o'west Scotland? lol

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  4. Lovely reminder of how the alienation of youth can be a powerful force for curiosity about life, the world beyond and the future. A time when it can feel like life is happening somewhere else and the future needs to come to the rescue as soon as possible. Interesting the appeal of graveyards to the young, places to find solace from the world we are living in and too young to feel near death as we sat above it. I could sort of understand some of my peers taking exception to my bleached hair back in the day, as if to say ‘who the f**k do you think you are!’ But adults should have lived enough to give a pass when they see life in the rear view mirror. Music can be a great source of reassurance especially in adolescence. The world I wanted to hear came to me on a small transistor radio back in the 70s. I like to remind myself of that when I get too fixated with technology and upgrading to not even the latest version of something.

    Quoting selectively from ‘Subdivisions’ by Rush:

    In the mass production zone
    Nowhere is the dreamer or the misfit so alone

    And:

    Any escape might help to smooth the unattractive truth
    But the suburbs have no charms to soothe the restless dreams of youth

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  5. Great piece. Really captures the struggle teenagers feel when they find their own identity but one that doesn't match the rest of their peers.

    More of this sort of thing.

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