In keeping with the nostalgic theme of the previous post, today on my way back from town I took a detour and drove through the area where I grew up and went to school. It always brings back lots of memories, good and bad – but it always leaves me feeling a little depressed.
My lovely old school has gone. It was a proud school and turned out pupils who could read and write and a lot more besides, and was named after a local councillor who I later learned did a lot of good work for the community. A few years after I left they dropped his name and called it after the street it was on. A few years after that it was condemned by inspectors for its poor academic and disciplinary record. A few years after that it was shut down.
The streets around it, including the one where I lived, were all council houses rented by low paid factory workers and the like. But the houses and gardens were well kept. People were proud of their flower beds and their pretty curtains.
Now, so many of the houses look uncared for, uncared about. Fences are half demolished, gardens are strewn with rubbish, paintwork on doors and windows is peeling off; some windows are boarded up.
It was quite rare to see men of working age in the streets during the daytime. Now, men in designer sportswear parade up and down in a leisurely fashion. You wouldn’t have to hang around long to hear them casually effing and blinding. Not just the men, but mothers in front of their own children – something even the roughest, toughest men and women never used to do. I was It was even rarer to see children of school age in the streets during the day, but now there are plenty, like the boy I saw riding his bike down the middle of the road, ripping the paper of a bar of chocolate and throwing it over his shoulder as he went.
The library where I first really discovered the magic of reading now has bars on the windows and graffiti on the walls. The park where I played had a sports pavilion, which was the base for the old park keeper who used to tick us off for misbehaving. It was later burned down and never replaced. The quiet roads where we used to play all sorts of games now have speed bumps to slow the boy racers down.
There’s never a perfect time to be born, but I’m glad I wasn’t born any later than I was.