I was lathering up Bella’s hair when she started looking at my t-shirt, an old one so treasured that I never wore it its due.
“How… the…”, she began.
“How.. the… ff…”.
“How the … are…ya”, she continued, skipping over the unfamiliar word.
“fff… ooooo… kkk…” sounding it out as taught at school.
“How the fook are ya!” she finished triumphantly. “But Dad! That’s a strange word! Fook!”
“Ah…”, I said.
Back in 1994, when I’d just hit the ‘net courtesy of IRL, I used to frequent alt.music alternative as one did in those pre-Web days. And that’s where I read Curtis Malasky‘s notice, on the 16th of March 1994, for the Wonder Stuff mailing list he’d started up himself on the mail servers at his university (as one sometimes did in those pre-Google / Yahoo days).
I joined three days later.
You can tell how important this was to me at the time because I still have both Curtis’s news posting and the first few months archives of the mailing list, stored away on my disk even now.
It was a great list: early on 30 or 40 hard-core nutty fans all talking great crap. And that’s where the t-shirt came from: someone had the idea; we all worked out what was going to be on the shirt; and another list member volunteered to do the printing. We all sent our shirts to America and a few weeks later back came the finished article.
Later the list got bigger and more fractious; eventually splitting for a while, again as these things do, and survives more or less to this day.
But back then we had this great camaraderie, fans of a obscure band (outside the UK, anyway). Our t-shirt was our badge of membership, where if we were ever at a gig we could recognise each other (something that occasionally happened for some of the UK members, but never for me).
On the back we copied the vibe of tour t-shirts; this time the tour was virtual and visited all of the towns we lived in, unlike most real-world tours.
And on the front we used the lead singer’s traditional greeting, in his Birmingham accent, to the fans at the beginning of every concert:
“How the fook are ya?”
To Bella, back in 2007, I said: “Ah…”
“It’s best not to use that word, Bella”
“Fook!”, she immediately replied.
Tomorrow at school the playground will be awash with the sound of Brum.