Posts Tagged ‘town’

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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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beautiful day.

October 24, 2009

After a really fun night out with my friends from university (where some very crude conversations were had, but also some very genuine compliments were exchanged), I woke up late this morning somewhat caught up on my sleep and feeling considerably better than I expected I might, taking into account the amount I had drunk and smoked the night before.  I got up and got ready to go into town to meet Nick and to do some shopping, which was a mother-sponsored event as I didn’t know what I wanted for my birthday, but I knew I needed some more jeans.

While I was in between sleep and wakefulness, I received a text from my friend Helen asking me if she would be able to come visit me in a couple of weeks.  I was really touched because the last time we’d spoken, she thought that I might have the impression that she was a bad friend (she’d had some personal issues which had prevented her from keeping in contact as much as she would have liked) and I wouldn’t be interested in seeing her or making contact with her.  I was shocked by that, because I really hope that I don’t give off the impression of being aloof or too popularity-focused to move on from one group to the next without maintaining the meaningful friendships I’ve made.  According to what has happened during the 5 weeks of university so far, I’m not like that, and I never think of myself as a fairweather friend.  I usually get betrayed rather than be the betrayer – I like to think of myself as a loyal person who will try his best for his friends.  But once that misunderstanding was cleared up, it was all good and I am excited that Helen wants to come and see me 🙂

I met Nick in town and he gave me my Prada L’eau ambrée that I had requested (I paid him back), and he also gave me the matching shower gel as a birthday bonus (thanks!).  We went to Nandos, I filled him in on my latest unrequited love, and we just talked and joked and everything was such fun.  We then went clothes shopping – he got tshirts, I got two tshirts and a new pair of jeans, which I have become increasingly desperate for.  I spent exactly £50 (which has delighted my mother, because I think she expected me to spend double that – but I don’t always have to drop paper!  Only sometimes 😉 ) which is going to be reimbursed – and the best part of my day is that I finally fit into a 32″ waist for my jeans!  They make my legs look great, and I feel so slim!  My next step is to drop a little bit more fat, so that the 32″ waist I possess is firm and fat-free.  But I have faith that I can do it – I feel so good about the way I look, which in turn affects how good I feel about myself these days.

And that’s what I wanted to write about.  I have made some fantastic friends at uni in just the last 5 weeks – I feel truly lucky to have met them, especially Mike, whom I look up to so much and probably more than I can express – he makes me feel protected and I never had a straight male role model before (well, not one who isn’t a celebrity).  I told him I feel like he is the big brother I never had, I think he appreciated that.  I have kept with me some friends for years whom I wouldn’t trade in for the world, and I hope that they know who they are.  Even when I’ve had a lot of troubles, trials and tribulations with family, and the vulnerability and loneliness I’ve felt in the past months hasn’t been so intense since I was 8, 9, 10 years old, I know that I’m not on my own.  Family also includes the friends you hold close to you, and today, I felt really really thankful to have you all by my side.  On the eve of my 24th birthday, I just wanted to express my gratitude to everyone standing by me, and I hope that I can keep you all with me as much as possible for a little longer… More beautiful days like today make life worth living. 🙂