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Songs: The House On The Borderland

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1980s Peterborough
Was not the sort of place
Where you expected psychedelic shops
To drop from outer space
In a haze of paisley patterns
That John Lewis couldn't know
Playing records that you'd never hear
On Hereward radio

Arriving like a mission
Sent to summon the New Age
Came a wizard, his wife and his brother-in-law
They were Pete and Jayne and Dave

The House On The Borderland
Was this nirvana's name
After the House On The Borderland
Nothing would be the same
Selling various ephemera
Of a counter-cultural kind
The House On The Borderland
Blew my tiny mind

Me and Pradeep, Sanjiv, Steve and Mileage
In groups of twos and threes
Would make the lunchtime pilgrimage
Down to Gladstone street
To a strangely smelling wonderland
Where Pete purveyed a wealth
Of American comics three months before
They reached newsagents shelves

There were fanzines that revealed to me
New ways to read the world
Also Love and Rockets, Watchmen
Nexus and Dark Knight Returns

At the House On The Borderland
My pocket money flew
To the House On The Borderland
My dinner money too
From outside it might seem dingy
But it shone a rainbow light
From the House on the Borderland
Into another life

Beyond a job at Pearl Assurance
Or career at Thomas Cook
From the ideas that we found there
New horizons opened up
When I was working on my PhD
Concerning Doctor Doom
The texts I analysed remind me
Of that ill-lit room

The shop shut down ten years ago
Pete passed away
Peterborough has craft beer bars now
And a vegan café
Marks and Sparks sell tie-dyed t-shirts
Alan Moore is on TV
Superhero stories belong to the world now
Not just me

No-one needs to walk a mile
To a special kind of shop
To hear a view that's different
Or to smell a smell that's odd

But the House on the Borderland
Is open in my heart
Because the House on the Borderland
Is where all this stuff starts
Between the fens and the future
Between conformity and not
The House on the Borderland
Was more than just a shop

Published by Wipe Out Music Publishing

Here's a song I've been meaning to write for YEARS, about a place that was enormously important to me growing up.

The House On The Borderland started off as a market stall selling American comics on Peterborough Market on (I think) Saturdays. It totally BLEW MY MIND when I first discovered it - based, I think, on a tip-off from Mr S Bali - and I made all sorts of excuse to go there whenever I could. Pete then got a small shop on Gladstone Street before moving to a slightly larger one on Cromwell Road where he had much more stock and MEMORABLY had a signing for "Watchmen" where Actual Alan Moore explained about the smiley face/bloodstain/clock motif and how it kept cropping up. After that he moved to Lincoln Road, but by then I was away at college so didn't go in very often.

The really great thing about Pete and that shop was that he didn't really make any allowance for us being kids. I think he gave us all a copy of a Spider-man anti-abuse comic once, and let us have some water damaged stock cheap, but mostly we were allowed to be customers the same as anyone else - albeit ones focussed mostly on comics rather than records or Whatever Else as on sale. It felt like being in a proper grown-up space full of IDEAS that went far beyond the norm in Peterborough, which was a VERY conservative (and Conservative) place at the time.

While recording the song it did make me think where I might be if it hadn't been for Pete, Jayne and Dave. Would I have carried on reading comics? Would I have been so eager to find out what was beyond the PE postcode? I don't know for sure, but I doubt it!

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