Archive for the ‘Reality’ Category

I’m in the new flat. It’s so different to the old house, smaller, no gardens, just bricks. Outside it’s rows and rows of houses. Big, small, terraced, semis, detached. Houses of all shapes and sizes with equally different and diverse families in them. It’s all so different to what I’m used to, to what I know. It’s overwhelming my senses having to learn a new area, meet new people, start life all over again. It’s all I can do to just get out of bed. I’m finding it difficult to cope, don’t know what to do or who to turn to. I pull the duvet over my head and take comfort in the dark. I’m happy now.

The middle tier at school was easy. The tests for the top tier were easy. Life in the top tier is so different. Everything seems harder to learn, more intense. I’m struggling to take it all in, to understand what is happening, what is expected of me. Maths is especially difficult. Algebra make no sense at all. I’m lost in a sea of knowledge and learning. I don’t know who to turn to or where to go. I don’t want to be at school anymore. I wish I hadn’t passed the tests.

Getting to the top grade at school was a big achievement for me. Maths and English tests and I was selected above everybody else, just one person, me. However I soon began to struggle and was overwhelmed by the harder lessons and tougher expectations of me academically. In the grade below I was near the top of the classes and was effectively cruising at school. I coped with the lessons and homework and had plenty of time to play with my friends. School was not a worry for me. Moving to the top grade was a very different matter for me. There was more homework, tougher questions, algebra was a new concept for me, how could you do maths with letters? I’m still confused by algebra but I can add up, subtract, divide and multiply, what more do you need for life! Moving home didn’t help either. Everything happened at once, moving home, moving up a grade at school and looking back I couldn’t cope. It was all too much for me I was overwhelmed and collapsed under the weight of everything that was going on and retreated into my shell, unable to talk to anyone about how I felt because I didn’t understand what was going on and I couldn’t even begin to put into words how I felt. I felt lost in the world and took to my bed as the only place I felt comfortable and safe in the world. Maybe if I hadn’t moved away from everything I knew I would have been fine in the top grade. Maybe if I hadn’t moved up to the top grade I would have coped better with the move. Life is full of if’s and but’s and so many unanswered questions and we all have them and all we can do is think about what might have been and move on as best we can.

It’s the day when dreams come true. My first day at big school, Tong Comprehensive. I remember looking at Tong when I was at Holmefield First and dreaming of what it would be like to go there, be there, feel so grown up, feel like an adult. And now that day has come, I’m here. I stand in the playground surrounded by children and teachers. Everybody seems to know what they’re doing. Except me. I am in the eye of a storm. I don’t know what to do or where to go. I don’t feel grown up, I don’t feel like an adult. I feel adrift in space, floating like a piece of driftwood in the ocean. Is this what it’s like to grow up and be an adult? Lost and not knowing what you’re doing or where you’re going or what you want? If it is take me back to that moment when I looked over at Tong and dreamed of going there. I knew where I was that day, I knew where I was going, I knew what I wanted. Take me back to that moment when life was to be enjoyed and not now when life is a continuous series of never ending storms taking me everywhere but where I want to be.

One of my favourite and most enduring childhood memories is of the long summer holidays. They couldn’t come quick enough and seem to last forever. The summer of 1976 is one that sticks in my mind as it was also the first time I had experienced a heatwave. The skies had been crystal clear blue since May that year and we couldn’t wait to finish school and be free from the classroom and play out and enjoy ourselves. Every day was a special day that year as we played football, went down the valley and messed about on my mates, dads truck. We were happy and carefree and had no idea of what life had in store for us. It was all about living in the moment and enjoying every moment. On one particular day my brother had come home from the army and everyone lost track of time. It was at least 10pm if not later before my mum realised I was still out and called me in to go to bed. Other years whilst not as warm were as long and as happy. The innocence of youth providing a protective barrier for all of us from the pain that life can sometimes bring and providing us with day after day of pure childlike pleasure. They were happy times, good times and I’d go back to them in a flash to relive them over and over again before the storm clouds arrived and it was back to school and the reality of life.

I’ll always remember Mark Lloyds dad. He was a big man and scary too. Nobody messed with him and I never saw anyone speak to him, ever. He went to work and came home and that was it. I was friends with Mark for a time and I went inside his house. He had an end house so had a bigger garden then the other houses. It was nice and tidy and Mark’s mum was friendly and talkative, the complete opposite of his dad. I remember once Mark and me were playing outside my house and his dad came walking up the street towards us. As he got closer he asked me to leave as he had something he wanted to say to Mark. Instead of going inside as anyone normally would I opened the garden gate and walked down to the valley! I’ve no idea why I did this as it would have been the accepted thing to walk inside my house but no, I decided to go off in a completely unexpected direction. I can imagine Mark and his dad watching me now wondering what I was doing and why. Having said that I could never work out what the attraction was for Mark’s mum to his dad but life can be strange like that. I might have seen Mark after that but I can’t remember if I did for certain. Life can be strange life that.

Despite mums best efforts money became increasingly tight and we started to get behind with the bills. I think we kept on top of the rent but I know for certain that we got behind with the gas and electric because we had it cut off. Two men came round to do the job, one in an overcoat and bowler hat who looked the stereotypical enforcement officer of the time, the other stayed outside keeping watch. Everybody on the street much have known what was happening. No gas and electric meant no fire, no TV, no lights, no cooking. Everything we take for granted now and to a certain extent did then was gone in seconds and would not be restored until the arrears had been paid. We huddled round a coal fire watching it go from a blaze to a pile of smouldering embers. The TV was replaced by a battery powered portable radio. Lighting was done by paraffin lamps carefully placed around the house to ensure they could not be knocked over potentially causing a fire. My mum cooked on the coal fire pans of vegetables and potatoes and I can only assume we had some meat. I always marvelled at how my mum could prepare and cook a meal to perfection with everything coming together at once. It was even more remarkable how she did it during this period swapping pans of food on the coal fire but still making a lovely meal for us all. I can’t remember how long it was before we had the gas and electric restored but I do remember one lad from school asking if he could come to my house and me having to say no. I instinctively said no and instinctively felt shameful for saying no and for not being able to say why I said no. I don’t think I fully understood why I was saying no or why I felt ashamed at the time but I knew deep down it was the only thing to say. We kept living in the house but I can imagine that was only just. Things were so tight during those times and no one helped us.

Dad had a good job at the Co-op warehouse. It was easy to get to, only 10 minutes walk from home and the wages were decent. We bought a colour TV, music centre and other bits to bring us into the 20th century. I was happy at school and playing with my new friends. Mum was happy with her part time cleaning job. Everything seemed fine. More money for dad meant more to spend on beer and consequently late nights and days off work. Eventually it all caught up with dad and he was sacked from his job for persistent days off. Alcohol had taken over his life and now it had a knock on effect on ours too. Less money meant less for food, bills and little treats. Dad continued drinking, sometimes going missing for days, coming home with cuts, bruises and torn clothes and no memory of what had happened. If only dad could have kept off the alcohol or at least drunk in moderation things might have been very different, but I’ll never know. I only know the reality that I lived through and can only guess at the reality that might have been.

A long blog this week but quite a lot has happened. Most of it is not about life at uni but that is the reality part!

And so to week 2 back at uni and it started off with a typical dark, wet drive to Huddersfield on Monday morning. The mornings are getting darker and for some strange reason that also brings with it rain! Mind you it wasn’t too bad. A light drizzle that necessitated the use of headlights on the car but nothing too bad. I don’t mind a morning drizzle to be honest and once I’d got to Huddersfield it added a bit of atmosphere to the morning and made the stroll through the town centre to uni more enjoyable. Everybody else seemed to have an extra step in their stride too as they didn’t want to get wet but I enjoyed taking my time and watching other people rush about.

My first lecture on a Monday morning is Film and Cinema and this is fast becoming my favourite lecture. I’m not usually one to watch films but studying classic British social realism films is reigniting my interest in films. The seminar was very interesting for one particular reason for me. It highlighted a gulf in opinion between those students like me who look for the minute detail in the films such as the mention of a car which was a luxury for most people in the 60s and those students who found the films boring, lacking action and seemed surprised that they were made in black and white! It’s a shame because I feel they are missing out seeing the creation of a new genre of films that helped show Britain in a different light and shape working class culture as we know it today. A documentary about the dramatist Shelagh Delaney and her home town of Salford really rammed the point home. When showing the back streets of Salford and the people the film was in black and white and some of the cinematography was beautiful with the rain seemingly making a hole in the roofs of the houses so sharp was the image quality. In complete contrast was Shelagh herself talking about her life but filmed in colour. You got a real sense of Shelagh being the future of Salford against the grit and grime of old working class Salford.

Monday evening brought another Puzzle Hall Poets event and this one was amazing. Everybody was on top form and the delivery of the readings was so good. It was a real pleasure to not only by there but to read some of my own poems and be a part of it. Although I’m still not entirely convinced by the quality of my own work and my reading ability everybody else seems to enjoy it so who am I to argue! I enjoy writing and performing and this has given me an opportunity to discover my own creative talents which I never knew I had! If you want to do, something just do it. You may surprise yourself!

Which nicely leads me into a discussion I had this week with a writing friend about how to write contemporary poetry? As with any art form it is a highly contested view as to what does and does not constitute contemporary poetry but one of the standards is economy of words. This is difficult for me as I am a very wordy person but it is also something that I could do well to learn, saying what I want to say in as few words as possible. But again I found myself asking the question is a poem good because it conforms to an acceptable standard or because it gets across the message you want it to? Can reducing the words take away from the meaning or does it add clarity and focus to it? It’s something I’m going to look into and see if I can improve my poetry by reducing my word count and hopefully adding more focus to my poetry.

Tuesday brought nothing more exciting than having to listen to a lecturer laugh after every single sentence they uttered. You’re not a comedian dear no need to add the laughter.

Wednesday was a strange day. Firstly an early morning visit to my physiotherapist for treatment on my left Achilles which has been giving me pain for quite a few weeks now. If anybody goes for a sports massage be prepared for pain! I was almost in tears as she rammed her fingers into the back of my leg. I wasn’t prepared for it and thought it would be nice and gentle but no, pain is the way with a sports massage and I will be prepared next time! It does work by the way so it is worth the money and the pain.

Next was what I assumed to be a routine visit to the opticians for an eye test but turned out to be anything but. Unfortunately it turns out that I have a build-up of fluid behind my right eye which is affecting my vision. I’ve now got an appointment at the eye hospital for more tests so until they are done I don’t know anything more. I can still see out of my right eye and it has been caught quite early so fingers crossed it won’t be too bad.

Thursday brought a welcome return of one of my favourite lecturers mainly because her voice is so……………….distinctive? Always a pleasure to be in one of her lectures because she is also quite funny too but still gets the message across effectively.

Thursday night was another poetry reading event this time a new one at the Square Chapel, Halifax. Again some amazing performances but the standout for me was a poem written about two English girls of Yemeni descent who were taken back to the Yemen and sold by their father into slavery to two very distant relatives. A very touching and moving poem. Once again I got favourable comments about my voice and my delivery even though I felt that I’d made a mess of my poem.

Friday and two of my favourite lectures that really make you think about your own and others identity and how it is created. How much influence do we have over the creation of our own individual identity? Do others create it for us without us realising it?

And so to Sunday after a busy Saturday. I’ve been quite productive today and will be in bed soon ready for another busy Monday. Take care everybody.