The Vinyl Decal Generation: American and Beyond

Nothing had ever scared me as much as leaving the UK for the first time.

I’d spent nearly 25 years of my life in merry old Blighty, learning my craft and falling in love, but in that time I’d never thought of leaving the country.

As I mentioned before, I met Rita in 1979, she was the ideal woman for me at the time: an idealist, headstrong and American. I’d never met an American until that night in London, and I’ve never met one since who’s proven her match in charm, skills or grace.

I met Rita just as her stay in the UK was coming to an end. She’d spent 9 months working as an au pair before travelling throughout the country for 3 months. Ours was a whirlwind romance which left both of us breathless and distraught at the prospect of being separated. We promised each other that we would be reunited and for the first time in my life I understood what it meant to sacrifice one’s art for someone else.

In order to save the money to fly to San Francisco I was forced into the very first job of my life. With my Art School qualifications I was the ideal candidate for a newly established print shop in London. At that time sign-writers were still in much demand, especially in the capital where new businesses opened on a daily basis. I was put to work designing and cutting vinyl decals which would then be whisked away to their new permanent home. Ironically, the work that I created there has probably be seen by more people than will ever see my artwork today….

With three months of work experience under my belt, not to mention enough cash to buy my plane tickets, I was ready to leave and start my new life in America. Rita and I had been sending letters back and forth in the time between, but her letters had slowly been changing in tone. The messages felt less immediate and strangely distant. I told myself that I was over-reacting, that our affection was still real but even when I was boarding the plane I suspected that something was awry.

By the time my plane swooped over the glittering San Francisco horizon I’d resigned myself to my fate. I’d spent the flight reading Rita’s letters over and over again, searching for meaning between the lines and had come to the conclusion that ‘the spark’ had gone. She had lost interest and was now merely sending the letters out of a sense of duty. With this said, I was more than a little surprised to see her waiting at the airport departures lounge.

The three months apart had been difficult for both of us. Rita had returned home to discover that her parents were in the midst of a divorce. Her childhood bedroom had been packed into boxes and her life had been turned upside down. She hadn’t wanted to share her private turmoil, preferring to keep our conversations free from the daily drama that she had become embroiled in. Rita took me out to a waiting taxi which was packed with her boxes, it looked like we were starting our new life together at little earlier than planned!