At nineteen I was the talk of Shepton Mallet.
The moment when I looked in the mirror and cut off my flicks and most of the hair which flowed, virginal, down my back was the moment I said goodbye to mum's daughter. I rubbed soap between my hands and groomed the remaining locks upwards into a stiff ridge that jutted out like a unicorn's horn from my forehead and ran down to the nape of my neck. I fancied that it looked as if someone had sunk a circular saw into my head. Mum cried like a baby.
When I walked into the Pig and Whistle in my bondage gear with my new barnet, my dog collar shiny around my neck, I turned heads. I had the look. I was the business. After a couple of snakebites and a quick grope out by the bins with Alan Fawcett, I walked out of the pub lead singer of the Vomit Kings.
Heady times. We did the rounds of Shepton Mallet. We went all over the county. We had to, because no one ever invited us back after our diehard fans had gobbed all over the regular clientele nursing their pints of best and rum and blacks. The police were called out once when Geoff, our roadie, who'd had one too many, swung a punch at the landlord of the White Hart in Temple Cloud. It was real rock and roll. Guys I'd been gobbing on from the stage used to come and buy me drinks afterwards. We'd have red-hot sex in Alan's Bedford van, all pumped up with aggression and sweat. Well, I say we had red-hot sex. Quite often it was all a bit of a blur.
Mum and Dad hated it. Dad at least had the sense to go to bed. Mum would wait up in her crimplene floral dressing gown to watch me stagger in at two or three in the morning, and then purse her lips and make comments over the Ready-Brek in the mornings. She was so bloody boring! Every Saturday and Sunday morning the same thing.
"It's just not nice Alison. Why do you have to make yourself look ugly Alison? You have such a lovely face, such lovely hair! Why do you want to look so nasty? Boys don't like a girl to look like that - they want you to look nice. It's a shame Alison, it really is."
I'd tell her to eff off and then Dad would get the hump and send me to my room and I'd crank the music up as high as it would go and listen to Sham 69 and the Dead Kennedys, ignore Dad hammering at the door and wonder when we'd crack it and I'd be able to leave home.
I was so into the whole band thing that it never occurred to me that we wouldn't make it. Not even the time when Geoff forgot the amps. Nor when Rod was so out of it on glue he threw up over the drum kit. Not even the gig when we were all pissed and couldn't perform and our dwindling fan base turned on us and showered us with Strongbow cans.
All the traipsing around Frome and Chard and Buckland was all training, apprenticeship. And I was so used to ignoring Mum and Dad's twitters that when they told me the tattoo was a bad idea I didn't even hear it. I swear it was a week before I first heard Spandau sodding Ballet that I took myself off to the tattoo parlour and tipped up my neck and Dave Higgins set to work.
The band didn't last. And after it finished, when I'd realised that going to the pub every night and sleeping all day wasn't the best way to get away from Mum and Dad and into my own flat, I started looking for work. Then, for the first time, I wondered if I might have made a bad decision. I sent out loads of applications and got loads of interviews. But then I'd show up and watch the enthusiasm fade from the face of the interviewer, as they looked at their watches and wondered how quickly they could go though the formalities before saying that I wasn't quite what they were looking for.
Guys weren't wild about me either. When punk morphed into sad, limp, fluffy, new romanticism I was left behind. I didn't have quite the right look anymore.
I've had jobs of course, and I've had guys, but I've never been what you'd call wholly satisfied.
So here I am at forty-five, the sad relic of a bygone age. As time's gone by I've felt more and more antique. Punk was a great time, but it couldn't have lasted. I was too young to know that those things don't last. I thought it was the revolution, not a blip in history. I don't regret a moment of the Vomit Kings though. I only regret those forty minutes odd with Dave Higgins in the parlour on Oak Street.
And I'm reminded of it every time I look up and say "Do you want chips with that, love?" and the customer can't help but stare at the dotted line tattooed up the centre of my face with the words 'CUT HERE' in crude black on my forehead.