When I was a student, I did something I’m not proud of. Even though it was pre-internet days there is a still an indelible record. You can’t escape your past.
Early on in my time at college I grew a goatee beard. There are photographs. In some of them I look comfortable, unapologetic even, about the thing on my face. It stayed there for quite a period of time.
Some people suit goatees – early Beat poets, pirates, eastern European gangsters in crime dramas. I was none of these things. At some point I must have thought it made me look exotic and irresistible. It didn’t.
I stand before you today not to offer any apology. I was a student. Even Weller had wilderness years immediately after The Style Council. I’m admitting it, but it really wasn’t something for anybody else to get upset about. At the time I knew a bloke from Somerset who played the didgeridoo. Criminal though that was, it was not something for anybody to get really upset about either. Students try things on. It’s what students do.
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Neither should anybody of any age or life experience be upset that some students want to remove a photo of the Queen from their common room. But given how we live now people will find a way to be upset. That it becomes a new part in the ongoing culture wars is no surprise. Confected fury at perceived anti-nationalism is a key component of division lines. Though as history tells us, being angry at an insurgent point of view doesn’t necessarily mean you are going to be placed on the right side of the line.