Read Educating Peter Online

Authors: Tom Cox

Educating Peter (27 page)

Stuff That Petter Likes Now But Might Tire Of In A Few Years featured:

Saying, ‘It was really
Computer games
funny . . .'
Putting pants on his head
Trouser chains
Smirnoff Ice

Stuff That Petter Likes Now And Might Still Like In A Few Years included:

Buffy The Vampire Slayer
Cheap Trick
The Simpsons
Cadbury's Heroes
The Osbournes

I did think, briefly, of making another list – Things That Petter Hates Now But Might Like In A Few Years' Time – but by this stage I was slightly tired of making lists. I'd had a couple of beers, and the whole exercise would probably seem fairly pointless in the morning. I toyed briefly with the idea of giving the last two lists to Petter, but thought better of it, opting instead to keep them for a few years and surprise him with them. I hoped I'd still be in touch with him when he grew up, and I was pretty certain my predictions, whether wrong or right, would prove to be a more interesting barometer of changing tastes than what I'd put in the envelope addressed to my thirty-seven-year-old self. I'm not sure I really believed late-thirties Tom would be very different from his late-twenties equivalent.

But while I was changing less than ever, the transformations in Petter's life seemed rapid and alarming. I'd only known him for six months, but in that time he'd grown an inch or two in height and three times that much in hair. He'd also decided hip-hop wasn't crap after all, campaigned at his mum for his first tattoo, bought a coat as long as the one in his self-portrait, and – I suspected – become just a little bit more lenient in his loathing of psychedelic folk music. I found it all quite nauseatingly touching, and never more so than when Goat Punishment took the stage at Axe Demons for their rendition of AC/DC's ‘Sin City'.

The first thing I noticed at Axe Demons was just how big and mature Petter looked compared to the other kids of his age. In fact, no, that's wrong. The first thing I noticed at Axe Demons was one of the parents – one half of a famous Eighties electro pop duo. The
second thing
I noticed was just how big and mature Petter looked compared to the other kids of his age. Everywhere you looked, there were half and three-quarter versions of Petter: kids carrying the same thoughtful, melancholy aura, but on a less gangly frame. Some of them wore their hair in spikes and squeaked out nihilistic punk songs that they'd written themselves. Others paced around the stage with bad posture and belted out note-perfect versions of songs by Hole, American Hi-Fi and Offspring. The boys were scruffy, but in a deliberate way. The girls were lean, with good complexions and an affable manner. Just one kid brought a more grown-up element to proceedings: a bigger version of Petter, with longer hair, a longer coat and a longer chain on his trousers, he hid behind the drum kit as a couple of kids an eighth of his size strummed the opening chord sequence to Nirvana's ‘Lithium'. Then, without warning, he leapt out over the drum stool, pacing the stage like a caged animal, screaming, ‘Yeah, Yeah, Yeah!' at the impressed yet somewhat quizzical-looking artists, college lecturers, archaeologists and TV chefs in the front row. I'd guessed who he was before Jenny had even opened her mouth.

‘That's Raf,' she said. ‘A few of the parents are a bit scared of him.'

‘Yes, I can see why,' I said. ‘That metal thing sticking out of his eyebrow could be a liability in a rugby scrum.'

‘As you probably know, Petter really looks up to him.'

‘Well, yeah. Raf was the one who got him into Nirvana, wasn't he?'

‘I worry about the two of them sometimes, but I suppose everyone's got to have a role model.'

‘Yeah. I'm sure he's quite harmless underneath all that hair . . . It is hair, isn't it?'

What was most astonishing about Axe Demons wasn't just the level of musical quality on show, but the level of encouragement. No matter how many combinations of musicians took the stage, a hardcore gaggle of teen supporters remained seated on the floor at the front, always applauding, always patting backs, always wishing their friends good luck. These were supposed to be teenagers, for god's sake! They weren't supposed to be this enthusiastic . . . this musical . . . this . . . 

The moments of self-doubt came one after another. I questioned what I'd been doing, trying to give Petter a musical education when it was quite clear he had a perfectly good one right here. I questioned why Petter had barely said a word to me all night. But then – and I don't say this lightly, since someone was singing an Alanis Morissette song at the time – I relaxed. Petter was back in his natural habitat now, and it was up to me to leave him to it. My job was done, and I'd done okay. Sure, in a few days' time I'd be back at home, listening to Steve Miller or watching
while wearing a fuzzy dressing gown, or in Norwich, walking on the other side of the street to some slack-jawed insult to innocence in a baseball cap. But the fact was, I'd faced my fear. I'd looked a quintessential example of Teen right in the crisp-stuffed face, asked the big question of myself, and the answer had come through loud and clear: ‘I can spend time in the company of
this – just.' Not only that, I'd done it at the time in my life when I was most likely to be repelled by my subject – the time when I was furthest away from my own adolescence, yet not quite into thirty- and forty-something living and the inevitable kid-sympathy that comes with it. And where was I now? In a room with 200 teenagers, some of them singing songs that I would once have left the country to avoid. And how did I feel? Impervious, going on tranquil. Petter would remember this night for one reason or another – a girl he'd asked out, a friendship he'd consolidated, a new song he'd learned – the evening had that sort of feel to it. But I felt that I'd remember it equally well, if not better. Not for the music (though it was surprisingly enjoyable), not for the food, not for the electro-pop star, not even for Petter or the Blue Oyster Cult CD that I'd hidden in his guitar case, but for the other thing that I'd finally jettisoned: something a little bit tightly wound. Something a little bit backward. Something a little bit nervous. Something a little bit paranoid. Something a little bit male.

Something a little bit teenage.


The author would like to thank the following:

Peter and Jenny for everything, Edie for the moral support, Steve and Sue Golden for the shine, Ed The T for the tights, Harriet Simms and Pat Tynan for the phone numbers, Jim Eldon for the fiddle, the gentle but psychedelic folk people of Blackheath and Plumstead for the gentleness and firearms, Matt Argues for the angst, Jenny Fabian for the patience, and Darian Wondermint for the tickets.

About the Author

Tom Cox's writing has appeared in the
Daily Telegraph, Sunday Times, Observer, Mail on Sunday, Jack
The Times
and the
, for which paper he was Pop Critic between 1999 and 2000. He is the author of two books:
Nice Jumper
, which was shortlisted for the 2002 National Sporting Club Best Newcomer Award, and
Educating Peter
. He was born in 1975 and lives with his wife in Norfolk.

Also by Tom Cox


and published by Black Swan

61–63 Uxbridge Road, London W5 5SA
A Random House
Group Company

A BLACK SWAN BOOK: 9780552771191
Version 1.0 Epub ISBN: 9781448109968

Bantam Press edition published 2003
Black Swan edition published 2004

Copyright © Tom Cox 2003

Tom Cox has asserted his right under the Copyright Designs and Patents act 1988 to be identified as the author of this work.

This book is a work of fiction and, except in the case of historical fact, any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

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in law accordingly.

A CIP catalogue record for this book
is available from the British Library

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