Toby Litt was born in 1968, brought up in Ampthill (Bedfordshire, England), selected as one of Granta’s 20 Best of Young British Novelists in 2003 and has so far published 8 books, the latest of which is Hospital:
I was eight years-old, a Cub Scout in the Ampthill Pack. 1977 was mainly the preparations for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. There were lots of preparations. I think a float in a parade might have featured. The crossroads and the streets leading away from the market place were decorated with zigzag strings of red, white and blue pennants. I have a visual image of a float turning off Church Street and up Woburn Street, but this is a lie. My parents took me and my sisters away on holiday for the Jubilee itself, and so I missed whatever it was we Cub Scouts had been preparing for. The presenters on Blue Peter had been telling me repeatedly to be excited, so I was excited. And disappointed to miss my chance at standing on the back of a float waving at people waving back.
I was entirely subsumed in Middle English patriotism, and totally unaware of punk — apart from one thing. Some local oik had spraypainted the words ‘Sex Pistols’ on yellowish bricks at the back of the Alameda Sports Hall. The Alameda is a long avenue of lime trees, based on a Spanish ‘almeda’. It is probably the nicest, most unusual thing about Ampthill. At the end of the Alameda is the War Memorial. I was always disappointed not to find my family name there.
Aged eight, I had no idea what ‘Sex Pistols’ might be. But I did know that sex was something lots of people found exciting, and that pistols were old-fashioned guns, which I found exciting — because they could kill people. So the combination of those two things was profoundly erotic.
I remember 1977 being hot, though not as hot as 1976, as me and my friends played cricket on Alameda School’s wicket, with the words ‘Sex Pistols’ the only words in sight.
First posted: Thursday, July 5th, 2007.