From my experiences of being bullied and from losing a parent at a young age, I became a quiet child and I rarely let others ‘in’. Even though I had a one or two friends at school, I never had any close friends. Occasionally, I would make the effort to socialise, I would go out the front on my bike and play games with the other kids but I didn’t always feel comfortable in the presence of others, I was quite happy in my own company.
Some of the neighbourhood kids were quite troublesome… often, there would be fights, shouting matches and general disruption in the street. I will never forget the time when a brick came flying through our kitchen window. Mum was washing up and I was in the front bedroom listening to music. I remember hearing a group of lads arguing loudly directly outside of our house, then all of a sudden a huge crash, I remember running down the stairs two at a time… I’m surprised I hadn’t slipped and gone down head first.
Our windows were not like the windows we have nowadays, they were just single panes of glass. In the cold winter months, our house would be absolutely freezing and the glass, as well as being frozen on the outside, would often be frozen on the inside too. We had a single coal fire in the sitting room and it was only during the mid 1980s when Mum stopped using it, due to the maintenance and the fact that coal was becoming increasingly expensive. Instead, Mum would fill up hot water bottles and place them under our many layers of sheets and blankets. When it was time for bed, I would be all wrapped up like I was ready to go on an expedition to the Antarctic… wearing a vest, my flannel pyjamas, thick socks and massive dressing gown. Mum realised we couldn’t carry on like this… the winter months became unbearable, so with the help from my sister, purchased a couple of electric convector heaters… now that was luxury.
Mum was incredibly lucky that afternoon, the brick had missed her by inches… the kitchen was a in complete mess with shards of glass scattered everywhere. Dad was still with us at the time and thank goodness he was too, because he knew what to do… off he would go, into his little shed, his little sanctuary or what I liked to call the Aladdin’s cave. Dad’s shed was full of little bits and bobs from cycling repair kits… with the tiny chalk and patches… to little paint pots from my brother’s Airfix kits… various garden tools, seeds, car parts… and a tin of creosote. Every summer, Dad would be out the back painting our wooden fences with, unbeknown to me at the time, this brown toxic liquid substance. I used to love the scent of creosote wafting through the summers air as well as freshly laid tarmac… anyway, back to the windows… after a few minutes, Dad appeared with a pane of glass and a jar of putty and repaired the window in no time.
The kids who were responsible for the damage never did apologise, Mum would go mad and often shout at the troublemakers but at the end of the day, there wasn’t anything we could do about it. I have always believed in the theory that all events and types of people you attract throughout life adds to the shape of who you become. Growing up in an area which was notoriously rough became part of the norm, yes, it was a tough, but I can honestly say I am now incredibly thankful for the tough times because without them, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.