20 October 2011

Going west

Through playing stuff through speakers and good processing on the radio, I think I can gruffily acknowledge a good pop song when I hear one, and Westlife made one or two. Only one or two, mind.

I also find myself worrying that I have far more of an opinion on Westlife splitting than I do on the Stone Roses reforming.

Anyway, if there was one good thing Westlife did for music, it was to make people more aware of this...

...though they still turned it into this.

Up to you which one(s) you click...

18 October 2011

"John's soap's a pretty colour!"

"And Wendy comes to you hotfoot with her diploma from the Geneva school of sterilised blackhead popping..."

My mate Dave, with whom I was thick as thieves during sixth form, never got a single spot during this time. He used to drive me crackers as, in that sort of unsympathetic manner that all teenage friends manage to show, he used to laugh like hell at me every time another belter erupted on my face.

Like probably 80 per cent of teenagers, I had a zit issue. And although in the worst cases they can be as distressing as any non-fatal condition going, there is absolutely no getting away from the pisstaking that comes with it.

My dad used to go on about having them "mounted", and also used to crack a joke about a plate of liver that I've never quite understood. My brother, three years older than me and therefore free of the affliction, used to tell me not to be so "eruptive... sorry, I meant disruptive" and think he was hysterical. My mum, ever the carer, used to remind him of his own spotty days whenever this happened which, bless her, was of little consolation to me on my worst days.

The advertising for spot-zapping products was relentless during kids' telly, sporting programmes, soap operas and Blockbusters. They knew their market. We got the bloke shaving through a spot on the Oxy ad and the girl who with a quick rub of Clearasil-soaked cotton wool would suddenly see a suspiciously large black patch appear on it upon second glance. That kind of dirt doesn't suggest a blackhead issue, love, it suggests you never bothered washing your face beforehand.

The big winner, though, was Biactol. That stuff was the facewash of the gods to teenagers. It got kids with overactive pores washing twice a day - that's twice a day - and in my case, it largely worked. The excess era of spottiness still required some prescription tablets when I was 18 but this over-the-counter pink soap in a squeezy bottle largely did the trick. My parents used to go on about eating fewer chips and sugary products, despite the medical advice of the time telling us, no doubt with a heavy heart, that although obesity and tooth decay were issues with such foodstuffs, acne was not.

Since the age of 19 my spots have been down to the very occasional one, making them all the more surprising when they do turn up. They don't bother me, they just make me think back to the awful, awful times when you'd wake up with a face like a trayful of cherry bakewells. And I have one right now (it's in my ear, which is awkward but at least invisible) which has prompted this blog post.

The single worst occasion of my late teenage life was spot-related. I had a part-time job in a local restaurant, which mainly involved serving in the takeaway area, and a couple in their late 20s came in. They looked at the large menu on the wall, ordered their food and then, turning to look at me, the woman blurted out: "Have you got chickenpox?" I said no, with a professional smile, but I was beyond mortified. She realised she'd said something amiss but didn't apologise. I applied every product related to skin care to my face that I could find prior to going to bed that night.

So my mate Dave never got spots, ever. Fortunately, he was my pal and so didn't take the piss too much. And the rest of the sixth form generally had the same issues as me, with only one half of them able to use make-up as a form of portcullis against it. It doesn't matter how cool a teenager is or isn't, the spots always act as a great leveller.

Great acting from the bloke who played Ant Jones in Grange Hill here...

Just before Mandy first arrived to nick Pete Beale's takings...

And here's Patsy the rock chick...