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The Girl In The Lilac Jacket

It's 1972, more or less, and life for a teenager in a grubby midlands city is full of the usual concerns - boys, music, school, friends, and trying to cope with the pressures of adolescence and all those emotions no-one has ever told her about. The week's cultural high spots are Top of the Pops on Thursday evenings, and the Top 40 Chart on Sunday. If she is lucky, and can stay awake long enough, there is The Old Grey Whistle Test, with its' spangled man of stars and breathy, bearded presenter - here she can see real live music, in a studio, uncommercial and raw edged, and tracks from albums played over frantic footage from ancient films, much preferable to the miming and fakery of TOTP, with its' desperately uncool and unfunny presenters.

What is more, this particular teenager, we'll call her Girl A, lived in a house with her family, who appeared to have no liking for, or need of, music, to the extent of not having a record player or tape player, or any recorded music of any kind. The radio, when it was on, was tuned to Radio 2, which was, at that time an antiquated station, playing music that probably defies categorisation - a quick look through the old lp's in any charity shop will probably give you some idea of the content - Jim Reeves, Val Doonican, James Last, Mantovani , Andy Williams. It might be described as "easy listening", presumably as a soothing and undemanding background noise for housewives, but to any young person it was aural valium.

Radio Luxembourg played much better music, but could only be listened to at night, under the bedclothes, on a cheap tinny radio, with the music coming and going, lost in swathes of crackle and static.

Each day Girl A would trudge unwillingly to school, in a uniform of sweaty nylon shirt and pleated green skirt, rolled over at the waistline as many times as possible, to acheive a fashionable shortness, even though the result was far from flattering. Happily, the green beret and gabardine mac of a kind routinely worn by flashers had been discarded by now, and the less said about the green knickers the better. But as she journeyed, she would be lost in a world of music and glamour, imagining herself meeting rock stars of the day, wearing the latest exotic styles from Biba, perhaps a long dress in mulberry satin, with flared sleeves and daring front lacing, lipstick to match, moving gracefully among the potted palms of the Rainbow Room. And of course, there would be music, and assignations and hints at something more.

There was another girl, a couple of years her senior, who lived in the same suburban road. She never spoke, in accordance with the strict age-defined apartheid practised at the school, but they passed by silently each day. She was plain, somewhat dumpy, and wore pigtails, every bit as unremarkable as the next schoolgirl. We'll call her Girl B.

One day, Girl B was seen in town, transformed into an exotic butterfly of a kind never spotted on the grim streets of Stoke on Trent before, and Girl A was astonished at the sight. No pigtails now, but long fair hair rippling down her back, the uniform replaced by a jacket of lilac satin, eyecatching in its' brightness and glossiness, like something Marc Bolan might wear, and a long billowing skirt covered in white and lilac flowers. She looked like some kind of glam angel, a shining vision, so unexpected. Girl A was at once smitten with a combination of shock, admiration and intense jealousy ; how envious she was of that outfit, and on such an ordinary person. Girl B walked past, saying nothing as usual, but with the tiniest hint of superiority in her expression, she knew what an impression she had made.

A shame she wore white pumps with it, instead of the silver platforms it deserved, thought Girl A. In fact I still do.

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