Andrew Collins – journalist (various magazines, including NME, Q, Empire), editor (Empire, Q, Radio Times film reviews), broadcaster (Radio 1 show, movie review show in ITV, 6 Music), television writer (Eastenders, Not Going Out) – obviously likes doing different things. He has become a blogger after all of this, and he’s even written some proper books that are not related to the blog; in fact, he started the blog after writing the trio of memoirs of ‘growing up normal’ that start with the first, Where Did It All Go Right?
Collins decided to write the book because he had a perfectly normal upbringing that wasn’t scary, sad, strange or in any way abnormal, and felt that this should be shared to make up for the autobiographies that detail the hardship of other authors. This is something I can relate to – I come from a happy family that grew up in the suburbs of London around the same time. Whereas my memories are not as sharp, Collins is aided by the fact that he kept a diary from a young age, diaries which he has kept.
The book is a collection of selected diary entries and a distant view of those years, in chronological order. The diary entries start off cute, although they get a little tiresome (something he readily admits) in the teen years, where normal and annoying teenage angst fills what few entries are published, hating the people he had previously liked and talking about girls. As a journalist, Collins has the ability to distance himself from the diary to analyse and contextualise, but the fondness for his family and the years growing up with them still shines through.
For the most part, he lived an ordinary life – he played in the local field with his brother and friends, he read a mountain of comics, even drawing his own, watching loads of films (he talks about a job being the ‘coolest since being Barry Norman’, something I was fond of saying), along with going to school and going on holidays. He had a good relationship with his family – mum, dad, brother, sister, both grandparents (who lived nearby) – and had normal childhood friendships. The only distinguishing feature seems to be his artistic talent (he had a talent for art that appeared early on, and he practised a lot and won contests and had things published) but, apart from that, it is a normal life from the 1970s.
He takes us through the school years (he did well academically to start with, but he did worse in his teens because he wanted to fit in the with cool kids, who frowned on such achievement), the holidays in North Wales, his conversion to punk music and the discovery of girls. In all these things, he is very honest, including his attitudes of the time – casual homophobia, the use of the word ‘spastic’ – which only makes the book more special. His reflections on his life are a delight to read, with a light prose style peppered with humour and insight that is thoroughly engaging. I look forward to the later books reflecting on his time at college and working in the media.