Take my sister-in-law, for example.
Brought up by her heroin addict Mother; didn't see much of her Dad because he's a Romany traveller, and she's settled; spent time in a young offenders institute as a teen; her Mam died of heroin addiction related complications in 2011; her brother, and the only other member of her immediate blood family that she really knew and was close to, committed suicide last year; and now her father-in-law has been abusing her youngest daughter.
My life has been pretty sh*t to date, it has to be said, but it could have been worse.
I was always shy as a child. I remember being invited to class mates' birthday parties, being taken to the door, and then deciding not to go in at the last minute.
I can remember feeling like - at the one I did attend - everyone was ignoring me and didn't want me there. This was the 4-8 years old period.
The period between 8-12 actually wasn't that bad. I started to come out of my shell a bit, and had quite a few 'friends'. Although at that age, your friends are really just the people in your class and who live on your street / estate. But yeah, it was alright. I did all the typical child hood things. Playing football, climbing trees, bike riding, going exploring, and what note. My home life was relatively settled and secure, and I got on well with most at school.
It was from about the age of 12, when puberty started to kick in, that the problems began.
I hit puberty earlier than most of my fiends and class mates, and that made stand out a bit. I was taller, spottier, and had a deeper voice. I also wore glasses (and had been wearing them from the age of 5) and had fuzzy, unkempt hair. This was when short back and sides were obligatory for working-class boys of a certain age.
Because my appearance, and my shy nature, I was an easy target for people with bullying tendencies. And I did get bullied, both physically and verbally. Of course, it wasn't the done thing to complain about such things. Just be a man and take it.
The friends i'd made off the estate - who to this day always great my warmly, to be fair - started getting into drugs, alcohol and girls. This was when we were like 13. I felt like girls would never be interested in me, and was too scared of getting into trouble to smoke, drink or take drugs, so they started to leave me behind, and leave me out.
My life between the ages of 13-16 was spent in my bedroom, mainly reading books on UFOs and the paranormal that i'd borrow from the local library.
I can't say I was particularly happy, was still being bullied, and had low self-esteem.
I also 'got into' music aged about 14. Oasis and Blur were the big bands at the time (circa 1995). And for someone who had never been exposed to guitar music before, they sounded *amazing*. I was smitten from then on. I also owned and enjoyed albums by The Doors, Ocean Colour Scene, Cast, Supergrass, and what not.
In late 1995, ITV broadcast The Beatles Anthology TV series. As an Oasis fan, they were an obvious reference point. And a little while later, I managed to get my hands on a copy of Past Masters Vole II. Songs like Day Tripper, We Can Work It Out, hey Jude and Get Back had me hooked.
I mean, The Beatles were the original that all those Britpop bands - who were good in their own right - were copying. And from then on, I was a huge Beatles fan. Borrowed every book and every CD about them I could find in the local library.
In 1997, I sat my GCSEs. I passed them all, getting As for English Language and Literature - I attribute this to those long hours of solitary reading - and Cs for everything else (Maths, Dual Award Science, History, Geography, Art and Design, French).
This was 1997, and only 1 in 4 of the pupils in the year I graduated from passed 5 or more GCSEs. So I was definitely in the minority.
Me passing them wasn't that great a surprise, and i'd planned to go the sixth form college. Surely enough, I was offered a place. I was 16, and had still never even had so much as a conversation with a girl. I thought that this was going to change when I got to sixth form college, and so endeavoured to lose weight over the summer between finishing comprehensive school and starting sixth form college.
And lose weight I did. I think I went from a by-no-means fat 11 stone, to just under 8 stone. I did this by exercising constantly, and eating as little as possible. Surely girls would like the thinner version of me?
In September 1997, I duly started sixth form college. I was as painfully shy as ever, and didn't make any new friends, let alone meet any girls. What's more, my dieting had spiralled out of control, to the point that it had become an obsession. An eating disorder, if you will.
I spent most of my time thinking about what my next meal would be, how many calories it would contain, and how I would burn it off. I ate as little as possible, and the problem was becoming noticeable to my family.
I can still remember denying to my brother, who must have been 12 at the time, that I had a problem. And so he offered me a big place of mince and chips, which had me on the verge or tears.
I was very, very unhappy, and in December 1997, I made the decision to leave sixth form college. I spent the next six months at home recovering, watching Richard and Judy, still eating as little as possible, and exercising most of the time. Weird as it sounds, I remember it was a nice period, and have particularly fond memories of Richard and Judy. Perfectly Clear no-calorie pop, Go Ahead biscuits, and unbuttered sandwiches were my main meals.
During that time, I decided I was going to go back to college. Not to the sixth form - which I think daunted me, because it was full of academically able kids from better off backgrounds - but to the technical college. So I enrolled on a BTEC Media Studies course (which, at the time, was worth the same as 3 A Levels in terms of University entry).
I thought this time, it was going to be different. I was going to be the witty, popular, outgoing person I wanted to be - and thought I was, behind the shyness and low self-esteem.
But once again, it didn't out that way.
While I did make a few friends - a couple of lads who were impressed by my knowledge of indie music, and music in general - I was still painfully shy around girls. Couldn't speak around them, let alone develop a relationship with one.
But I went in every day, usually got the top grade in any project we were set ('Merit'), and made a first of it.
Being A Beatles fan, I was becoming every more interested in psychedelic drugs. Part of The Beatles story is that, crica 1964, Bob Dylan introduced them to cannabis, and their music blossomed from then. And it did. There's only three years between Please Please Me and Rubber Soul, but the difference in sounds, sentiment, production and song writing quality is huge.
So it's November 1998. And this is where it starts to get really weird. My next door neighbour, and childhood friend, was working, and had begun smoking weed. He knew I wanted to try it as well, so got his hands on half an ounce of hash. He was someone I liked and trusted (and someone I probably still would). I was never going to turn the offer the down. Outside my house, sat in my Dads Astra car, I had my first toke of weed.
I remember it hurt my throat, and then saying to my friend - 'This is shit. It's not doing anything'.
And I kept that sentiment up the whole time, while my friend chatted away. Then after about 4 or 5 minutes - I think - my friends chat, which had previously just sounded like him, started to sound like 'Blah Burdy Blurb Blah Blee Blah Burb Blhady Blah'. I was stoned!
And from then on, I felt like I had to get this weed into my life. It made music sound better, and it made masturbation better as well.
Gradually, weed and smoking weed started to become more important to me than attending college. Some days I would even go in stoned. And like 6 weeks before I was due to graduate - with good grades - I dropped out.
I'd started to lose the ability to write well, and write reems, off the cuff. The ability to wing it, perhaps. Dope does that. And I thought I was never going to go to Uni anyway - miles away from home, with no prospects of making friends, and a declining ability/desire to do academic work? Nah.
In 1996, The Manic Street Preachers were all over the media. Brit award winners, Top Of The Pops, Q Magazine. You name it, The Manics were on it or in it. So based on the good reviews, I bought their album Everything Must Go in June 1996. I liked it, but not as much as Oasis, Blur or Ocean Colour Scene.
In January 1999, on the off chance, I borrowed Gold Against The Soul from the library. And I f*cking *loved* it. Generation Terrorists and The Holy Bible soon followed.
Phrases like - and these are not confined to just early period Manics album:
'Everyone is perfect and you're so lame'.
'Under neon loneliness/Motorcycle emptiness'.
'I write this alone in my bed/I've poisoned every room in the house'.
'All broken up at 17'.
'21 years of living and nothing means anything to me'.
'I know I believe in nothing / But it is my nothing'.
They all struck a chord with me. As did the interviews of Richey James Edwards, whose obvious self-loathing forms the nucleus of my attraction to the Manic Street Preachers.
None of my friends, acquaintances or class mates were faintly interested in The Manics, so I ventured online - our family had just got the internet - to see if I could find anyway who did.
And I discovered a chatroom and message board called Archives of Pain.
17 years later, and here I am.
All that's happened since then has been documented here or here abouts, and if you haven't been paying attention, i'm sorry. But I really can't be bothered to repeat myself.
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