My life hasn’t exactly gone to plan.
I was born in Liverpool in June of 1979, this isn’t about there however, we left Liverpool in 1986 and though I’m proud of my scouse heritage, it’s not home to me. No, in 1986 my mum and my aunty (very much a part of parental unit) upped sticks and moved the family to a nice little town called Runcorn. At the tender age of six, I remember being utterly blown away with this crisp looking town. Having come from a bustling city I was utterly in awe of how rural it seemed to me, we had woodland virtually on our doorstep for goodness sake.
I’ll always remember my first day in Runcorn, myself and my mum had come ahead of the rest of the family. I’d contracted a nasty case of the chickenpox not long before and I can well imagine I was milking it for everything it was worth, this was probably how I’d gotten the packet of Fox’s Glacier Mints I was enjoying. Sat there in the nearly empty house awaiting the arrival of the furniture, I spent most of the time making the most of the empty space and shouting as loud as I could so it would echo. A trip to the shop that later took ten minutes, took us an hour because the housing estate we had moved to was like a maze if you didn’t know your way around.
Thirty years later I’m still here, different abode, thirty years older and a wee bit wiser. I think back through the years and it strikes me how little I’ve left this town. When I were a wee lad I had great plans, I was going to start my own business of some variety and travel the world, it didn’t quite pan out that way. Barring the year I spent working on a holiday camp in Devon and one trip abroad, I’ve spent most of life right here in this little northern town.
For better or worse it has helped shape me into the person I am now, it’s fair to say I am a product of my surroundings. Large swathes of Runcorn are what could be described as deprived. In the wake of the Second World War there was a critical housing shortage, so the government of the day passed the New Towns Act 1946 which provided the basis for New Towns, to act as overspill from densely populated areas of deprivation. It really shouldn’t have required the benefit of hindsight to realise this was a social shit-show waiting to happen.
Poor people, ram-rodded into poorly planned and cheaply built housing with access to some of the worst schools known to man. They had less the look of housing solutions and more the look of out of town ghettos, with shitty transport links to keep the residents in their nice new sinkholes of deprivation. It’s wasn’t solving the problem, so much as moving it.
How does our blogger fit into all this I hear you ask?
I grew up right in the middle of all of this. I worked my way through the poor schools. Bullied from one end of my school life to the other, I spent more of my time working out ways to avoid people than I did learning things. I left school with a reasonable level of education, but no qualifications to back it up. I bounced around various low skilled jobs, interspersed with long periods of unemployment and had little drive to change this situation for most of the ten years after I left school. I’m not blameless in all this, I could have and eventually did change.
I have a steady job and have done for the last twelve years, I write and am making a serious attempt to transition to doing this full time. But even with that I am not a man of means, I live in social housing because I can’t afford to go private, let alone afford to buy a home of my own. I’ve worked hard for what I have, but it’s been tough.
It’s not been all bad though, my background has taught me a great deal of worth. In my time in school I learned that bullying someone because they’re smaller, weaker or have few friends is not only wrong, but morally reprehensible. That you should judge people based on their character, not their appearance, social standing or race. It instilled a belief in me that wherever possible you should help others, because you never know when you might need help yourself. It taught me that sometimes people make mistakes and that they should not, barring the most extreme of circumstances, be judged for these mistakes for the rest of their lives. Though I must admit, that last one is still a work in progress.
Thirty-seven years into my life and I’m fully aware of my place, it’s significantly further down the social ladder than I’d like. But just because I’m there now, it doesn’t mean I should be content and shouldn’t strive for more. I see too many people with all sorts of wasted talents, crushed by a class system that constrains them more than it should; I’ll not settle for that and if I’m still in the same situation the day I die it won’t be for the wont of trying.
Despite all the above I must admit I’m rather partial to Runcorn, sure it’s not perfect. But if I should end up leaving here for good one day, I will miss it nonetheless.
Written for the Discover Challenge post, Finding Your Place.