Posts Tagged ‘crime’

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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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surveillance.

March 18, 2010

Tonight, I got home about 8:30 after seeing Karina and talking about our love lives, her work, my uni, and other topics in between.  We had a really good time, and I ended up having a panini in Costa for dinner as I was hungry and it transpired that I was gonna be there until 8ish.  I called home during my time with Karina to let my mother know that although I wouldn’t be home late, I wouldn’t be having dinner with my parents as I was eating out.  Bearing in mind that I rarely am home to eat with my parents, but I let them know this every night (or they ask me in the morning prior to me leaving the house), this usually works fine and they respect me doing whatever I’m doing.  However, tonight as soon as I got in the door, my mother asked me for no apparent reason “is that all you’ve eaten today then?” Like wtf? Bearing in mind last week my mother practically called me a bulimic junkie, again for no logical reason, it’s getting on my nerves.  Nevertheless, I had to give her a rundown of exactly what I had eaten during the day, and then we debated whether I actually liked tuna or cucumber (because I had a tuna and cucumber sandwich at lunchtime).  I’m 24 years old, I pay rent to my parents (admittedly a token amount, but rent nonetheless) so in theory if I’m not eating at home, it’s more money in their pocket.  We have a good relationship, and I come and go as I please.  I’m tidy, I respect the house and clean up after my father where necessary (this has always been the case).

So one minute, they respect my privacy.  I appreciate this when it occurs, as I haven’t come clean about my current relationship (until it’s firmly established, I don’t see why I have to tell my parents about my sex life or my love life – it’s not their business. And to be fair to them, they don’t ask) and so the fact I don’t need to make up excuses about why I don’t get home most evenings before 11pm is a weight off my shoulders.  But then, the next minute they take that respect away with bizarre questions or requests for information about my private and personal life, and I feel like I’m a little kid again.  Am I respected as an adult or not?

Things have been intensified by the return of my grandmother last week from Australia.  Now, me and my nan have always been extremely close, and it’s pretty clear that I was both of my grandparents’ favourite grandchild (although the fact that my competition was halfway across the world in Australia meant that I did have an advantage).  My nan and I have called each other during the day and at night to converse, or at least to say hello or goodnight as appropriate to the time of day.  But now that I’ve been free of my nan for 3 months while she’s been in Australia, it’s hard to adjust back to this constant feeling of being under surveillance and having to answer questions on who, what, where, when and why.  I’m a pretty decent grandson – I’m 24 and I still visit my grandmother every week and spend time with her.  Most people my age (and a lot younger) barely see their grandparents except on special occasions.  I genuinely love her, feel close to her and treat her with dignity and respect, and so aren’t I a good grandson that I deserve some respect also?  I mean, I feel awful saying that because she does love me to pieces, spoil me and she does respect my intelligence but also the person that I am.  But she doesn’t seem to respect my privacy or boundaries, and wants to know every little thing I do.  I’m 24 years old, I’m a good grandson and a good human being, but I’m also a grown man – am I not entitled to my own life?

Talking to my friends, it’s apparent that I have to move out.  Not because any relationships are strained – I don’t believe they are.  I do my own thing, and the fact that my life seems to be clicking into place at last – career, relationship, driving, general happiness – means that I’m fast outgrowing my bedroom at home.  When I’m at Toby’s house, although he shares with 4 other people, it’s nice just to have the ease that nobody cares whether I’m in or out, what I’m eating, what I’m doing and with whom.  I guess that also, my parents and I seem to get on a lot better generally when I’m actually not here – largely because I don’t have to listen to their arguments (or “discussions”), and I have little chance of becoming embroiled in them.  I miss my grandmother, but I guess I’m really a man now – I handle my own business and I no longer need anyone else in my family to do that.  I have enough close friends, good friends, to whom I can talk about any problem or issue, big or small – for a long time, there’ve been things I didn’t want to discuss with my family, but now there’s nothing I feel I need to run by them.  And I guess I get confused when one minute, they don’t expect me to run things by them, couldn’t care less what I do and barely seem to notice my existence – and then the next, I’m guilty of some big crime (which I haven’t committed) without even being made aware of it.  I don’t want to be under this surveillance, and I feel that I’ve been a good enough son and grandson that not only does my family not realise how lucky they are, but I’ve earned respect and freedom, and the right to lead my life the way I choose without any repercussions.