I lost a lot of my childhood. My young green roots were never allowed to dig in anywhere, long enough to find any real sense of belonging. Even now, I find it easy to walk away, as if all connections are only temporary and I know other people find this hard to understand but this is what society has created, a generation of lost souls.
I was sent away to boarding school, like so many disabled children in the 60s and 70s. There is no way of ignoring the fact that this has consequences for a child of four; there are always consequences, often they don’t emerge until adulthood. Survivors of child abuse will understand This.
The hardest thing was losing my mum to cancer, aged fifty-nine. Like so many of my family on Mum’s side, smoke was in her blood. The seamlessly harmless mist swirled through her tired body night after night, infesting and destroying her lungs.
When we lost her, I felt cheated and angry that I had so few childhood memories to cherish.
So, I cling to my earliest memories, before the trauma of separation began, before the loneliness of dark dormitories and deserted corridors. I remember the place I felt happy and safe, where even the language possessed you and held you close. That place was my Grandma Sarah’s house in Traffic Street and then Arkwright Street with, Our Nan, Our Uncle Billy, Our Aunty Sheena, Our Mum and Dad, Our Susan, Our Robert, Our Great Aunty Annie and Uncle Maurice, Our Uncle Les, Our Karen, Our Annette, Our Steven and Our Neil.
I never knew my Granddad Alex, a miner, his lungs full of the black dust and smoke, died before I was born. A quiet, gentle man who never raised his voice by all accounts and his children were just the same. Unfortunately, it is not always true that women choose husbands who remind them of their beloved fathers!
These streets have gone now, pulled down and replaced by modernisation and progress. No more dark, scary, outside toilet or the comforting sound of trains rumbling overhead; no more searching around for coins to feed the metre or huddling round the open fire; no more weekly visits to the local Baths, chlorine clinging for days.
Yet, the love I found there made memories that I cherish because without them, I would be totally lost.
Where I Come From
I come from a terrace
With toilets outside
Where work is your life,
A matter of pride
I come from the pits
Black coal and dust
I come from cold nights
Heated with lust
I come from hard brick
Discoloured with smoke
Where blood is so thick
Its strength feeds all hope