The Best and Worst of Years: 1976

It was one of my early years as a single parent - before the phrase was much in use - and a gloomier time I cannot recall. I was clinically depressed, my mother was in and out of drying-out clinics and every day I woke up debating whether to kill myself today or hold on till tomorrow. Money was short, too, reducing me to taking in not washing but lodgers. Washing would have been more fun.

The first lodger lived upstairs. Fondly imagining that I might find a friend, I advertised in Time Out. Nick was a charming young man who seemed ideal. Or at least he did when he came round in a suit from work. But two days after he moved in he lost his job, and revealed himself as an early New Ager. Every night he went up to Notting Hill Gate and stayed till about four, when he lurched home babbling about beautiful colours. Every night I'd be woken by the sickly smell of spaghetti and tinned tomatoes wafting up the stairs.

He was the only person ever to call me 'man', as in: 'If the fuzz happen to come round, man, and happen to ask what I've got in one of them packages, mum's the word, man, OK? I mean, like, it's not dope, OK?'

He was writing a 'novel', which, after two years of lodging, never progressed further than a notebook called Erinog written in wiggly letters in different-coloured felt pens. Inside were the words 'My Book. Private. Huge reward for return if lost' under a fantasy map featuring goblins' homes.

Downstairs was Paula, also from Time Out. It was only when she had moved in that she revealed why she'd left her last pad. 'I was kicked out by my father,' she confessed. 'I have this habit of burning candles at night, and I burnt the place down. Stupid really.'

Of course, I couldn't get rid of them. Lodgers were undislodgable then. And having been previously kicked out of the home of a close relative who worked for a civil rights group, Nick had a champion with a vested interest in helping to keep him in situ.

In the middle was me, trapped like a drooping lettuce leaf between two unappetising slices of bread. Every day I would drop my screaming child off for a couple of hours at a baby minder with a fag in her mouth and a huge telly in the corner, and during those two hours I'd try to keep body and soul together. Body, by painfully squeezing out a zany serial called 32b Stratford Mansions for a teenage magazine, about 'two gals and a guy' who had a rave time sharing a flat (a far cry from the dismal reality of my life in Shepherd's Bush); soul, by visiting an analyst, a miserable man who, when I stopped crying and lapsed into silence, would remark that I was 'hostile'. I'd simply cry more and invent a few dreams to stop him criticising me.

Other diversions were humiliatingly brief fortnightly visits from a married journalist on darkening afternoons, or a trip to see my mother, either pissed or depressed. Was 1976 the first year she tried to commit suicide? Possibly.

Was there no fun at all? Of course there was. There was the Wednesday Club, a motley assortment of singles who met in a pub and drank themselves silly with Snakebites. It was the sort of miserable group where none of us knew each other's professions or surnames. I see similar groups through pub doors now and shudder.

I think 1976 was the year I got so desperate I joined Dateline. A more civilised but equally grisly escapade involved going weekly to the Royal Festival Hall with an entertainingly suicidal American girlfriend to hear all the late Beethoven string quartets.

Just writing about it brings it all back to me. Checking, I find that, yes, I still have a stash of out-of-date sleeping pills hiding behind a Guide to Self-Deliverance which I must have acquired that year.

1976 was my Waterloo. Thank God that, like the battle, it is now simply history.

(Photograph omitted)

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
Arts and Entertainment
Up my street: The residents of the elegant Moray Place in Edinburgh's Georgian New Town
tvBBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past
Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry has been the teaching profession's favourite teacher
Luis Suarez looks towards the crowd during the 2-1 victory over England
Life and Style
Cheesecake frozen yoghurt by Constance and Mathilde Lorenzi
food + drinkThink outside the cool box for this summer’s frozen treats
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Sir Bradley Wiggins removes his silver medal after the podium ceremony for the men’s 4,000m team pursuit in Glasgow yesterday
Commonwealth games Disappointment for Sir Bradley in team pursuit final as England are forced to settle for silver
Alistair Brownlee (right) celebrates with his gold medal after winning the men’s triathlon alongside brother Jonny (left), who got silver
England's Jodie Stimpson won the women’s triathlon in the morning
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

    £30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

    Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

    £34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

    Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

    £40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

    Developer - WinForms, C#

    £280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

    Day In a Page

    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
    US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

    Meet the US Army's shooting star

    Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform