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Smells like teen spirit

Author: Gillian Collins
Year: Adventure

There aren’t many people dressed like me in my small Scottish town.

They don't get my funny big boots with the yellow stitching or why I might, on occasion, wish to dye my hair pink.

The taunts of "goth" and "weirdo" were hard at first. But soon, I begin to enjoy my moniker.

It means I’m unique.

Kurt Cobain says: "They laugh at me because I’m different; I laugh at them because they're all the same."

The bullies’ lack of imagination and uniform of shiny flammable tracksuits only serve to fuel my teenage superiority complex.

For me, non-conformity is a salve to the banality of my small-town life.

My mum is perplexed that my bedroom walls are adorned with pictures of Kurt. Or as she would describe him: "A very troubled young man". I try to explain that he’s a tortured genius but she can’t understand why he has to be "so depressing".

I have a huge poster of him in my bedroom which I bought with my pocket money from Athena in the St Enoch Centre. Kurt’s gorgeous eyes, lined with thick black kohl, stare back at me every night. It keeps falling down as it’s so heavy and I am only allowed to use blu-tack because drawing pins will "mark the wall".

I want to buy the new Nirvana album but going up to the "Big Town" is a big deal and it takes my best negotiation skills to convince my mum to let me go alone on the No. 23 bus to Glasgow City Centre.

The outfit for the trip is planned in great detail all week.

I’ve chosen the deliberately bobbly cardigan with holes poked through the cuffs for my thumbs. Scuffed up leather boots with tartan laces (so quirky!) and a black velvet pinafore dress. Stripy black and red tights, reminiscent of the Wicked Witch of the West, finish off the look.

It is surprisingly time consuming to look this dishevelled.

The weekend takes forever to come and when it finally does I hop on the No.23 bus as though I'm a grunge version of Christopher Columbus off to discover the New World.

I’m a fearless explorer in an oversized cardigan.

I disembark on Hope Street and it is full of busy Saturday shoppers. An army of wee Glasgow wumin fighting against the wind and rain. They find shelter in What Every Woman Wants and start raiding the bins full of underwear and socks where you can get five for a fiver.

For me, the first stop is Tower Records under the Hielanman's Umbrella. An imposing yellow mecca attracting lots of people wearing those big funny boots with yellow stitching just like me.

Most think it’s just a record shop; but it’s more than that. Carrying the yellow bag is the ultimate status symbol. It means you know your stuff. You are original. You are different. Like Kurt.

I position myself in the rock section to strategically demonstrate my exquisite and unusual taste in music. I pick up records that are popular, but not too popular.

Soundgarden is too mainstream. Pearl Jam is "Dad Rock".

I see one of those boys with long hair and green German jackets out of the corner of my eye as I elaborately paw In Utero. I’m too shy to speak to him, but I think he might have smiled at me. I hit a massive beamer.

The next stop is the legendary Virginia Galleries just off Argyle Street – a literal grunge nirvana.

The unassuming entrance hides the exotic world on the inside. A rainbow coloured wall greets me, the staircase plastered with band posters for gigs at all the best Glasgow venues – The Barrowlands, King Tuts and The Rat Trap.

I climb the stairs and head for Mr Ben where I rummage through the rails of vintage clothes. I settle on a 70’s leather trench coat with a fur lapel. It has quite a pungent aroma, but a few skooshes of body spray sort that out.

As I make my way back downstairs I see him for the first time.

He's sticking up a flyer for a band.

Does he look a bit like Kurt Cobain?


He says hi and tells me that it’s his band and he's the lead singer.

He is 6ft 1”, massive feet encased in sodden gutties. His jeans are baggy, his boxers on show.

He gestures towards the Tower Records bag and tells me his favourite band is The Smashing Pumpkins. I nod enthusiastically, pretending to have heard of them.

He plays The Rat Trap in a few weeks, he says.

He could put me on the guest list if I like?

There might be an A&R guy coming.

I don’t know what an A&R guy is but I say "that's cool" and arrange my face to look impressed.

He scribbles his number on the back of one of his flyers and pushes it into my hand.

I tell him I have to go.

It’s almost 5 o’clock and my mum will go mental if I don’t get home for tea. She’s got a Marks and Spencer layered pasta salad and chicken kievs in. We only get a Marks and Spencer’s dinner on a Saturday so I can’t miss it. I obviously don't tell him that.

He leans in and kisses my cheeks in that sophisticated French way which is usually supremely awkward for people from West Central Scotland. The tall singer carries it off and tells me to call during the week.

He smells of stale cigarettes and Lynx Africa. An intoxicating combination that would become the olfactory anthem of my teenage years.

Elated, I make my way back to suburbia on the No.23 bus. Back to Saturday night TV in my mum's living room, to Casualty and Paul Daniels.

I stick the flyer to my bedroom wall before I go to bed, next to Kurt Cobain"s giant sad face.

My biggest adventure is just about to begin.