Sometimes I just want to write.
I don’t know why, but it becomes a sort of irreproachable desire that overwhelms whatever it is I am doing at the particular moment and I want to write. I have hundreds of drafts of random blogs I’ve started when the propensity to sit down at my laptop and arrange thought patterns into words massacres all other modes of thought. And then I get frustrated with the direction the blog takes, knowing it has no real ending, and so I just give up and wallow in languid self pity. I am told this is common for people who enjoy writing. Perfectionism is a fucking bitch. So I thought i’d just write, and see where it leads, and when it ends it ends. And like life It has no overwhelming purpose or meaning, and just imposes itself on those it chooses without aim, quickly forgotten. Bits and pieces imprint themselves on the memory of the back of the darkest reaches of the consciousness, but its essence is always there contributing to what it is (even in the smallest and seemingly insignificant ways) that makes you, you.
I was five when we moved away from Cavendish Road, just off of Saffron Lane. I vividly remember a significant amount of enlightening episodes from before the move. Here are a few:
I remember the fucking horrendous accents – I hate the Leicester accent. I have made a conscious effort over the years to eradicate it from my own speech. If being beaten up badly, and then being spat on as you lay crying in a wrecked ball in a shit filled gutter could be conveyed through an accent, it would be the Leicester accent. It does however provide some beautifully crafted sentences I over hear a lot. Today, in Tesco, a boy on his mobile phone, said “yeah well Josh can suck the fucking piss out of my dirty black nips”. I have never in my life wanted to kill someone for raping the English language, whilst at the same time wanting to worship him as the God of beautiful sentences, so much.
I remember a man being kicked in the face by two other men and then being chased away.
I remember drawing a picture of a boat and my teacher pinning it up on the door of the classroom. I was so proud. But we lived in the social darkness and backwardness of Tory England then, as we do now, and no one told me that pursuing art for art sake is irrelevant in Tory England, we should aim for a life in a call centre instead. Beauty is the destitute office with the distinct smell of printer ink, in Tory England.
I remember adorning myself in Leicester City blue and white and walking down to Filbert Street with my dad, past the rows of cars with Leicester City badges in the windows, and drifting into the wind with the same fans week after week. I was born one year after Gary Lineker moved to Everton from Leicester. The early 90s weren’t the greatest years for Leicester. Though I saw them play in the most exciting Wembley play off final i’ve ever seen, when Swindon Town beat us 4-3 after we went from 3-0 down to 3-3. Steve Thompson was the man on the back of my Leicester shirt that year. The walk to Filbert Street down Saffron Lane was one of the highlights of my childhood. I once saw a man push a grown woman down a flight of stairs of the double decker stand at Filbert Street, she smacked her head and passed out. That wasn’t such a highlight.
I remember my dad and I watching a sunday league football match on Nelson Mandela park, when the ball was manically kicked out of play, and smashed me in the face. The guilty player (who I am adamant even now, should be shot) came over deeply apologetic, and is now one of my dads good mates. My dad befriended my abuser. Thanks dad.
I remember walking downstairs one morning to find our shop had been broken into, the windows smashed, and police talking to my dad. This is pretty normal when you live a few doors in from Saffron Lane. The terraced houses all look the same; the towering army of Edwardian brick chimney tops, street after street. England. But the street is usually full of kids kicking a ball, and old women with nets over their hair for some uninspiring reason. Mrs Spick lived opposite us. I always thought ‘Spick’ was a name that conveyed the feeling of living in cramped streets. She was about 50. I vividly remember the awful smell that emanated from her. She spat when she spoke. Missus Spick spat when she spoke. Oh how the structure of language can disguise the vile essence it is trying to convey. Which leads me onto the next memory.
I remember the day I learnt the word “cunt”. I was 5. I overheard a man on my street call his girlfriend a cunt. We Leicestarians know how to treat our ladies. I didn’t know what it meant, so I thought i’d put this wonderful new addition to my vocabulary to use immediately. My friend who was over with his mum, and I were playing with our wrestling figures. I was Brett Hart, he was Crush. Crush attacked Brett and kicked him across the room. I didn’t hesitate any longer, “you cunt”, I yelled as loud as I could. The helper at our shop overheard me and went insane at me. So I called her a cunt too. I didn’t know what it meant, but the reaction was amazing. One single word could cause an atomic bomb to explode around me? This was like gold dust! Thus began my fascination with the power of language. Word became both exciting, yet largely meaningless and empty. My year 7 English teacher told my parents I would never be a reader and i’d never be a writer. I’ve told this story to a lot of people, because it explains exactly why I struggle at times with my confidence. She used language to convey her stupidity and ignorance and I knew it even back then. Just because I didn’t like Shakespeare, nor her, I was doomed to sit dribbling on myself and getting fat in a dark room with nothing but a TV for entertainment. What a cunt.
I remember cricket. I come from a cricket background. My dad played cricket. He now coaches cricket. He loves cricket. My mum catered for cricket testimonial matches. I could often be found in a hired out old pub, surrounded by people in grey suits talking about who should and shouldn’t make the team. Cricket is an odd game. It is played by kids, coached by the kids grown up, and watched by snobs. The pub rooms and the snobs always smelled of real ale. I can remember the smell so distinctly. Sometimes I miss it. Real ale, and old leather from the seats in the pub rooms. I played cricket for the school for a few years. I was pretty good too. But my god, it’s a boring sport.
I remember being told by our school that we should be careful because there is a man roaming the area trying to take kids by offering them sweets. I have only just learnt that all schools do this every year to teach kids about the risk of paedophiles. But when I was younger, it sounded to me like they were warning us against taking sweets from people. Why would they do that? If someone is offering me sweets, I should say no? Only people who offer kids sweets, want to kill me? All of them? This confusion led me at the age of seven to accuse the shop keeper at the end of the road of trying to take kids, because he sells Snickers. In a shop full of people, me, a kid, accused the shop keeper of being a child molester. Great. Thanks school! Not only did you make me believe I could be Fritzled at any moment, you also ruined the life of the nice corner shop owner. I hope you’re happy with yourselves.
I remember a man a few doors down from us, who was in his 90s and had one leg, the other had been blown off when Saffron Lane was bombed during the war. On the BBC war website, a writer who was eight years old during the war writes:
The worst bomb damage that I saw was in Cavendish Road, on August 21st 1940. I was with my dad in his lorry on the coal wharf at Danvers Road. The air raid siren sounded, it was just after ten o’clock. Dad made me go into an air raid shelter near by, when the all clear sounded, I came out of the shelter and we could see the smoke rising. Dad was worried as it looked to be in the direction of where we lived. He said “come on son we had better go and see if mum is OK”. As we came up the Saffron Lane past the end of Cavendish Road the gas main was blazing and I could see lots of bomb damage, many buildings were in ruins, people were just being rescued with ambulance’s and fire engines all around. This was less than half an hour after the raid. Six people were killed
All I knew from the history of my street, was that it had been destroyed during the war. This one guy in his 90s used to say this his knee in his one remaining leg hurt, and he’s lucky he doesn’t have to deal with pain in the other one. He was fascinating. Here is a picture of the building that got hit. Our place was a few doors up from here:
I remember my primary school teacher had some sort of odd mental breakdown whilst reading a book with me one day, and started to sing “the wheels on the bus” whilst stood on a table. She then collapsed and was taken away by the school nurse and a few teachers. It’s funny because I worried about her. We never saw her at school again. Years later I saw her driving.