Why then didn’t I go on to study English? Not through choice. While I managed to get an A band 1 for my Higher English, my other grades weren’t high enough to study English at university and I found myself, at 18, forced into accepting my second choice, studying Publishing at Napier in Edinburgh. Accidents of fate are often great things in retrospect and so this turned out to be. It was hard to tell at the time though, with my homesickness and crippling shyness. A shyness that meant it was impossible for me to refuse the offer of joining a band when asked/told to be at band practice next day by one of many cool punks in my publishing class of ’84. I was a very young just turned 18, in dungarees and chiffon scarves, wearing my dad’s old golf jacket and looking about 12 , in a class of backcombed, white faced, punks and plenty of anorak clad indie kids. My college class was at the forefront of the C86 movement, comprising members of bands like The Shop Assistants, Jesse Garon and the Desperadoes and what became The Fizzbombs, the band I joined because I was too shy to say no.
The band practice was terrifying. Like many singers/people who sing, my shyness doesn’t preclude me from taking to the stage and showing off, but here I was being asked to do just that! In reality I was only asked cos the cool indie kids in my class recognised my surname and my brother Stephen was then a guitarist with Altered Images. Added to that, I had the distinction of being from East Kilbride, same hometown as Aztec Camera and The Jesus and Mary Chain, and nicknamed by NME as feedback capital of the Western World, so I was in. It had absolutely nothing to do with ability. It was all to do with look and vibe, but it was the best thing to happen to me at college. The drummer couldn’t drum, the guitarist couldn’t play guitar, the bass player couldn’t play bass and the singer couldn’t sing….perfect, all learning together. Within a month I was writing lyrics and the Fizzbombs, as we were called, were playing our inaugural gig at Wilkie House students’ union. Terrifying and exhilarating all at the same time. Over the next 3 years we played many gigs in Edinburgh and a few in Glasgow, supporting the likes of The Pastels, The Vaselines, Tallulah Gosh and The Television Personalities, recorded a 7” single, went down to Maida Vale to record Janice Long and John Peel sessions, did a photo shoot and were featured in the NME, shot a video and toured England in the back of a very smelly Transit van. Edinburgh was the epicentre of indie homemade pop right at that point in the 80s and I don’t think I’d have had that experience anywhere else.
When the time came to leave college my friend and Fizzbombs’ bass player, Ann and I both went on to study for a Post Grad in English at Strathclyde University and left the band behind. It was great to finally get to study English, English and more English. I did my dissertation on Sylvia Plath while continuing to write and have short stories and poems published in various magazines. I then went on to pursue a lifelong ambition of teaching English abroad after completing my TEFL course. I shipped myself off to Southern Italy which was a complete culture shock and not the fantastic experience I’d imagined at all….30 years ago it wasn’t a comfortable place to be for a young woman used to a life of freedom. More of that at some other time…..I survived three months then decamped to Bologna in the north of Italy with friends, where we lived and worked for a year. I spent the rest of my 20s travelling and working in various places from Italy to San Francisco, London and Prague. I continued to write but life was getting busier and writing was slipping in priority.