Skip to main content

A Gay Arbury Teenager in the 1980s - Part 5

The fifth and final part of Badger's recollections of life as an Arbury teenager in the 1980s. The views expressed at the end of the article are Badger's own. Some may be seen as controversial. Amongst the twelve Arbury Archivists there are those who don't agree, those who agree and those who are undecided!

I'm not sure why I decided to make my announcement after 'EastEnders'. Maybe it was all the shouting that went on in the show that got me in the mood for probable aggro, maybe it was new gay characters called Colin and Barry, who struck me as a major progression and gave me a bit of hope. Anyway I said: 'Mum, Dad, it's time to talk - I'm gay,' or something like that.

Mum and Dad sat and gawped at me, then Dad thought it was a joke and Mum began to cry and the evening turned into a nightmare.

It all seemed a heck of a mess. Mum was saying, 'We'll get through this, there are people you can see...' She thought I could be 'therapied' out of it. Dad was saying, 'Oh my gawd... oh my gawd...' Then Mum said, 'You can't be gay - you'll get AIDS,' which was the big new disease back then, and Dad was saying, 'I can't believe it... You're having me on!' again.

The next week or so was strained and then Mum and Dad came to me and told me that if I tried getting a girlfriend, they would give up smoking. I'd been on at them about that since primary school and they'd resolutely refused, but now it seemed that if I gave up being who I was and made my life a misery, they would do it.

No way, folks! I couldn't, it was far too big an 'ask', and even if I'd been deranged enough to try it, they'd probably have been sneaking crafty ciggies after a while anyway.

I decided to move out, we had a relative coming to stay from up North, and I didn't want to be around there anymore. A woman I worked with at Mill Road gave me the use of her camp bed at the tiny bedsit she lived in over Hills Road way, and I used that, then got a bedsit over there myself. It was a really grotty hole, but it served.

I wasn't being heartless. I simply could not give my life up for my parents' promised cessation of smoking. I was exhausted with being the fake surly, spiky haired boy of Arbury too. I wanted to live.

I went on to the gay scene. This was the late 1980's and there wasn't much, just a weekly gay night at the Burleigh Arms in  Newmarket Road, but there were some very interesting people there. A guy we called 'Mother' ran it, and he was fantastic, and a strange goth-like bloke was a regular, always dressing up in bizarre clothes. The '80s were a very dressy time anyway, with loads of bizarre hairdos, and I became a bit of a poser.

I had brief encounters and a couple of relationships - no way was I was waiting until I was twenty-one, which was the completely inhumane law back then - and it was probably the happiest and most carefree time of my life. 

I was incensed by the twenty-one age of consent law but when you consider that homosexual acts of love between men were illegal in England and Wales until 1967, and in Scotland until the early 1980s, you can see we'd come a long way.

I kept visiting Mum and Dad and things gradually eased between us, but I don't think they've ever accepted the fact that I'm gay. I also ended up moving back to the Arbury. This place is like a magnet to me.

Now things are so different, gay marriages and so on. But I think the 21st Century is rather too 'up itself'. Getting people all following PC narratives leads to a whole lot of fakery, revisionism and loss of freedom of speech, and I think there is a very sick side to now. Individual critical thinking is out the window and anybody who dares to challenge the accepted narratives is 'cancelled'.

The 1980s were a lot brasher and far more honest, and we didn't have the Web so that made a huge difference when I was young. It's worth remembering that sticks and stones may break your bones but words will never hurt you, and that PTSD in the true sense is something a so-called 'micro-aggression' can never really cause - or if it does you should not be allowed out without a chaperone.

I suppose 'I did it my way' as Sinatra put it, but I've met many others who did things very differently, including a man who was open and natural about himself from a young age, and was very happy to deck anybody who got in his face.

Being gay is not a disease with everybody suffering the same emotional and societal symptoms, as I said at the start.

Anyway, that's it for now from me. Thanks for reading.


  1. Great stuff Badger old mate. I'll buy you a pint at the Carlton sometime. I love the end bit. You can't resist the old soap box! :)

    1. Here, hang on a minute! YOU should talk! And I'll hold you to that pint! :)

  2. I'll never understand the LGBTQ+++++ thing. Lesbians never suffered historically in the way that gay men did and yet the 'L' goes first, although not in the alphabet! And the amount of misandry and historical revisionism that accompanies the 'L' - it's a hate movement! The return of the QUEER thing is hideous. Gay men fought for a long time to get rid of that. What is it - to remind us of our historic victimhood? Four words: Modern People Are Pathetic.

  3. How can you say that the 1980s were in anyway better than now? They were brutal!

  4. Because I don't like PC posturings, group think, and cancelling anybody you disagree with. The 21st Century has loads of problems. One of them is its priggish attitude. I didn't like Thatcher by the way, before you accuse me of being Right Wing or a Thatcherite, I was so far Left I was almost Red. And I haven't liked Labour either since Blair. Anyone who thinks politics are in a healthy state needs their heads read. Vote Lab/Tory and get the same thing. And a lot of it isn't designed to help the average person in any real way.


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Main Streets of Arbury: Campkin Road - Part 1

Left: work begins on Campkin Road in 1961. Numbers 1 and 2 Manor Farm Cottages have been demolished, but the intention is to preserve the old trees lining the old Manor Farm Drive. Right: a similar view in more modern times, with the Arbury Town Park and Campkin Road. In 1982, Campkin Road was described as the 'Hauptstrasse of North Arbury' by local journalist Sara Payne. Ms Payne's   Down Your Street  local history articles in the   Cambridge Weekly News   were hugely popular and, for each one, Ms Payne visited a street in Cambridge and talked to the residents, collecting their memories for publication and producing a fascinating series of 'Then and Now' style articles. Down Your Street  followed in the footsteps of a similar series in the local press in the early 1960s - by Erica Dimmock - and both now make fascinating reading. We're starting our look at Campkin Road with material from the 'Arbury 1980' project and accounts from locals contributed to t

What Did The Romans Ever Do for Arbury? Jim Smith

Our trusty old Arbury map showing location details before the Manor Farm was established. The red line, inserted by Jim Smith, indicates the course of the Roman road - Akeman Street or the Mere Way. The land north of Arbury Road was the Arbury or Harborough Meadows, Arbury/Harborough furlongs and Arbury Camp, King's Hedges was in its original position, north of the railway (now guided busway) and Arbury Road ran from the Ely/Milton Road to the Histon/Cambridge Road - as it did until the late 1970s. Introduction - by the Arbury Archivists Jim Smith is a local history researcher and a good friend of the Arbury Cambridge Blog. He has been researching Roman finds in the historic Arbury area and has written this article for us. We are most grateful! He follows the adventures of those who scraped away centuries of soil to reveal ancient findings beneath.  Of course, as always, we deal with historic Arbury here, not council planners' estates or electoral wards, which are both prone to

Exploring The REAL King's Hedges...

The Cambridge and St Ives Branch railway line is now the Guided Busway. Where was King's Hedges historically? How did the name come about? Why is the majority of King's Hedges Road no more historic than late 1970s - and nothing to do with the course of the original road? What have council planners of the 1960s and 1970s and the needs of motorists got to do with the King's Hedges presence in the historic Arbury district? All will be revealed... We're going to leave Arbury briefly and go to King's Hedges. No, not King's Hedges Ward - that area is, in reality, one of the most Arbury of Arbury areas in Cambridge historically, but the REAL King's Hedges. North of the Guided Busway. You see, the land north of Arbury Road is the site of the Arbury Camp, the Arbury/Harborough (a variation on the Arbury name) Meadows and the Arbury fields of Manor Farm.  It has absolutely nothing to do with King's Hedges at all. And King's Hedges was never a district. Land no