Posts Tagged ‘country’

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community.

July 5, 2010

When I am on my driving lessons, my driving instructor (who lives around the corner from me and has done for the whole of my lifetime and probably many years prior to that) often points out people who he knows, chats about the various people who have lived and continue to live in certain houses and streets, and talks about life in Kingswood in general.  Most of the time, I can only nod my assent because I have no idea whom or what he is talking about; I only know the names and faces of the people who live within 3 doors of our house and across the road from it.  On the odd occasion that I am walking around the local area, I could quite happily walk past people who live on my street without recognising them.  This street is not and has never been a community to me; my town is just a place I live, and although it’s adequate (I like the fact that unlike other, more wealthy areas of the city, it doesn’t have a ‘grey’ atmosphere and I can see the sky – I’m not a total urbanite then!), I don’t feel any sense of community with the other people who live there; in fact, I feel like more of an alien (and with my dress sense, I look like one too).  I must add that I will stick up for where I come from, despite its chavvy, slightly dangerous reputation; I did get slightly offended by a comment made by one of the people on my careers guidance course at UWE; being a graduate of Spanish and French, I was asked “But in Kingswood, you don’t get an opportunity to practise your languages, do you?” This comment was accompanied by a smirk; I took slight offence because although it’s true that where I live is not a cultural hub and I don’t meet many people who are multi-lingual there, Kingswood is not formative of who I am.  Moreover, it’s not a bad place, and given that the area of Bristol that this person comes from is more renowned for crime and poverty than mine, it’s somewhat hypocritical and condescending.

Anyway, I went to Peterborough to spend the weekend with Toby last weekend, and I had a wonderful time, but I noticed that for him, life and his sense of community is different: he knows all of the people who live in his close and a lot of those who live in his village.  He went to school up the road from his house; he can point out many people in the photographs included in the local Parish News (I am unaware of Kingswood having a Parish News leaflet, or any kind of worthwhile community publication). It is interesting that I cannot do this.  I always went to school on the other side of the city, because my parents paid for my education and decided to send me to those schools (and based on my subsequent track record and academic success, I can’t quibble with their decision – it was pretty wise and with hindsight I would now have done the exact same thing).  When I went through a brief phase of playing with the family of girls who were my age and lived across the road from me, they had a group of kids who lived in the neighbouring streets as their friends: I knew none of these people because they all went to the same school down the road from our house; I went to a private school across the city.  We had different school holidays, different teachers, different friendship groups, different subjects.  In retrospect, that was most definitely for the best but at the time it felt like I had to work extra hard to fit in with them.  Despite living across the street, it was like I was visiting another world, their world, every time we would play together, and after a couple of years the visit wouldn’t be worth it, and we would just say hi without animosity as we occasionally passed each other on the street.

However, whereas Toby can name all of his neighbours and various people who live in his village (and I also understand that part of this is the difference between city / country-ish mentalities), I enjoy my popularity when I wander round the Bristol city centre – Mike commented once on a shopping excursion that it seemed as if I knew at least one person in every single shop (and there are a lot of shops).  This is an exaggeration of course, but not a massive one; I like shopping and I used to work in retail in that area, therefore my face is recognised in the area and I can recognise acquaintances who work there too. An amusing story is the Guess Boutique – whenever I go in the staff are extra-happy to see me because they still remember the time Toby & I went in and I fell in love with a bag that I could not afford; Toby & I left and I spent the whole of that Friday night babbling about the bag. Saturday lunchtime we returned to the store and I bought not only that bag that I had originally claimed was “too expensive” but also a hoodie to boot (it was on sale, there was only one and it was in my size, it was black and gold which are my colours – it was obviously fate so who am I to stand against destiny?). I don’t know if the staff there work on commission but I think that that day, they were very happy!  So I make friends in shops.  My friends who live in Bristol may have gone to school or university with me, but we came from all different parts of Bristol (and their experiences of commuting to find a community may be quite similar to mine) so urban centres, shopping districts, cafés and cinemas are our meeting points.

My point is, I have my own community of people whom I call my friends; friends are the family you can choose, as they say.  However, my friends are all dotted about the city (and beyond that, the country); the way we keep in touch is via telephone, email and internet most of the time; and when we want to meet in person, it’s got to be an arranged thing rather than a spontaneous wander down the road.  Although it can feel slightly isolating living where you have no real connection to anyone else in the immediate vicinity, it’s made irrelevant by the fact that I can speak to and arrange to see a lot of my friends within very little time; and that my friends are so, so good to me.  I think that having my own space is something that I value too; at the end of the day, I can retreat to my home and have a little time for me, safe in the knowledge that I’m not going to bump into or be harassed by anyone who knows me.  I can be anonymous, think independently, live as I choose without any fear of anyone whom I care about judging me. I know that in Kingswood, I dress differently, I wear different clothes, I speak and think differently to the majority.  I would never change that; I like being my own person and I won’t ever change to conform (a hard lesson that built my character during my school years). But it’s made easier when I’m surrounded by people with whom I have absolutely no desire to fit in. My community, the people whom I love and value, are my friends; my community is not local but instead city-wide, national, and one day I hope it will be global.

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what we want.

January 8, 2010

It’s funny how what we want, on a smaller scale, changes. Presumably, nearly all of us ultimately want to be happy; it’s a basic thing.  But the little things, the goals we seek to accomplish on the way to that happiness, are different for all of us.  I was on the bus stop on Tuesday on my way to Starbucks, and I got into conversation with a guy who’d been waiting there for ages.  He was telling me that he had belated Christmas presents to deliver to his sister’s daughter, who lives across town. Because apparently he didn’t have much money (his brother owed him some but wasn’t paying him – bla bla) he couldn’t get what he wanted to buy, which was a pair of Timberland boots.  I get the impression that his niece was young, because he said that the following year, once she outgrew the boots, he would have had them dipped in gold (and then proceeded to tell me about how they freeze the boots in liquid nitrogen before dipping them in gold).  In my head I was furiously thinking that that was horrendously tacky (which it is), but looking at the man’s face as he was talking, he seemed so excited about the idea that it was genuinely sweet.  He really wanted it.  And if that made him happy, and it would make his niece happy, then who am I to judge his dream?

If I were to make a quick list of things that I want in the next year or so, I could go for ages and into specific minutia of jewellery, as well as vague wishes and hopes.  But concrete things that I would like, that I think are possible to achieve, and that would help me on the way to “happiness”, would be:

  • A good, decent boyfriend for whom I can wake up enough to appreciate him.
  • Passing my driving test and getting a car.
  • Finishing my careers guidance course and getting a job that enables me to have my own place.

I think that’s it really! Although sometimes I focus so much on these things that it feels like nothing that I have is ever enough, I appreciate that I have some really fantastic friends (it took me long enough to acquire them but in the last year alone, I’ve made three or four new bffs!), I am sorta good-looking and I lost plenty of weight so that apart from when I am having a little crisis, I know I am not fat.  I have nice things, including designer jewellery, decent technology and a wardrobe with which I am satisfied.  I have a pretty good singing voice, and the ability to make my own music and for that I am blessed, because even if it’s not on a grand scale, I have the tools to realise my own dreams.  And as you know, I finally got my tattoo!  None of this precludes me from wanting to improve or revolutionise all of these aspects of myself, but as things stand now, I am satisfied and I have made progress. My dissatisfaction just comes from a desire to keep moving and growing!  But in terms of goals, I only have those three main ones I listed at the top.

Mike told me that more than anything right now, he wants to move away from central Bristol to somewhere a little quieter, with more green space.  I can’t understand it myself because I’m the total opposite, but then he has a wife and child, he’s had a different upbringing, and so he has different things that will make him happy.  It’s really important to him in the next few months to achieve his dream.  I have a friend who is hoping to be successful in his new job application, another who wants to do really well in her finals at university, and one more who is on the next step to realising her dream of becoming a doctor – a journey which has taken her a really long time.  I admire everyone who has goals, because I think it’s goals that make us get up in the morning, work that little bit harder and keep it moving.  Looking at my parents, a generation older than me, and I don’t know if this is because relations between us are kinda tenuous at the moment, but I couldn’t tell you what they want.  I mean, they have done well for themselves in life, but I can’t imagine that at 50 years old, you suddenly just become satisfied with everything you have.  Isn’t it part of the human condition to always want something?  Again, by that, I think we all want to be happy ultimately, and we don’t stop on the quest for that happiness – but doesn’t everyone want at least one thing that puts them that bit closer to being happy?  I can’t imagine that changing with age… I hope that although I can always appreciate what I have, that I never feel completely satisfied… to me, that is a kind of complacency and I always want to be striving for more, for better, to be the best that I can be.  Tyler Durden in Fight Club said that that was a form of masturbation; the Army uses it as their motto; but I really want to be the best.  Not by anyone else’s criteria, but by my own – an even taller order.  Game on. 😉