Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Every place I've ever lived

I was born in a crossfire hurricane.

OK. I wasn't really. I was born in Clatterbridge Hospital, in/on Wirral.

My Mum was 20 years old, and my dad was 28. They'd just got married a couple of weeks earlier and were just starting out, living in various private rented places.

So for the first six months of my life, I lived on the top floors of a building in a rundown part of Birkenhead called Rock Ferry.

Here's what my Mum has to say about it:

Although you were born at Clatterbridge hospital we were living at 16 Queens Road. Rock Ferry. What a depressing hole. we had the top floors although only the first of those was habital. We must have been really thick as we were probably entitled to help as your dad earned £11 a week and the rent was £5.50 in new money. luckily we were only there 6 months. Good job you were a great baby and hardly cried as it was a very depressing time. I am sure you know that the saying ' money isn't everything is said by people who have never been without x

It's hard to make out exactlu where the building is situated. There are some newish houses on the even numbered side, so it may not exist any more. Here is my best guess.

From there we went to Neston, about ten miles away, and close to my maternal grandparents. We lodged in a house that was owned by a Mrs Pritchard. 6 Chester Road. Being a babe in arms, I remember absolutely nothing of my time there. The house was demolished about 20 or 30 years ago, and the space it occupied has remained undeveloped ever since.

It stood smack bang in front of where the advertising hoarding now stands. I don't know exactly how long we lived there, but I think from there we moved a couple of miles south to a village called Ness.

Street View doesn't cover the little cul-de-sac where we lived. The picture is as close as I can get.

We were somewhere over on the right I think. This little close was built around a small circular green. I have the vaguest wispiest memory of a parrot in a cage, out in the sunshine. I'm told it bit me when I stuck my finger through the bars of it's cage. It may be that the memory is not real, but stems instead from being told about it on a few occasions. Also, I'm sure my mum and dad would have made friends there, and would have returned there with me once we'd moved on.

What I can definately recall as my earliest memories stem from my time living back in Neston, in 20 Hawkins Road, almost opposite my Nana and Grandad's house.

The back garden was a mess, and as I played, I somehow managed to stand on a furniture tack in my bare feet. I was carried in by my Dad, and sat on the edge of the kitchen sink while he pulled it out. Slightly clearer in my mind is the terror of being alone in my bedroom (the small upstairs front window in the picture) while somewhere, a car horn was sounded repeatedly. As I had no idea what this was, those disembodied beeps terrified me. And on another occasion, the headlights of a car must have swept across my window. A light appeared out of one wall, rushed across the room, and vanished through the opposite wall. This was accompanied by a brief noise. To my infant senses, this too was inexplicable and monstrous. I think my parents had put a lock on the outside of my door. Presumably I was insecure, and wanted to spend the nights with them, while they thought otherwise. I screamed and cried at that door for what seemed like hours before someone came and let me out.

My Dad was by now working at a car factory in Ellesmere Port. My Mum was working part time doing bar work. They took the plunge, got a mortgage, and bought their own house. It was a new build in a little village called New Brighton, near Mold, in North Wales. It cost them £6,500. I was four and a half years old. It was 1972.

63 Moor Croft. It backed onto a slagheap and a big field. There were woodlands over the fields. I made friends, pretended to be a mountain climber, played marbles and hopscotch, went to school, first infant, then primary, learned to swim, played with matches, and went to the village shop for my mum.

Then, five years later, my Nan fell ill, and we sold up and went back to Neston so that we could be near. She died of stomach cancer soon afterwards. She was only 59.

We now lived on a small loop of housing estate called The Quillet.

Number 22, on a corner. We had a big wide front garden. Our back garden was a long triangle. We had a secret passage through to the side garden. We had a black rabbit called Sooty. We had heavy snow and threw snowballs. I had a new school, and found new friends. I played monopoly and did handstands. I tried to abseil down a 5 foot high cliff in the disused railway cutting nearby. I left primary school, and became the smallest fish in a much bigger comprehensive pond. And I hit puberty.

We stayed at The Quillet for seven or eight years I think. Then we moved again.

Not far though. Just a couple of miles down the road to Little Neston, and a newly built bungalow right down on the Dee marshes.

And my Mum and Dad live there to this day. The tree you can see behind the house was planted as a sapling from an acorn my cousin Heidi germinated. The house is called "Heidi's Oak"

The green car on the drive now belongs to my wife.

We moved there when I was about 17 or 18. I didn't spead my wings until I was about 25. By this time, I was working as a postman. I was in a bit of a mess at the time, and moved out because I wanted to change things.

Bedsit land. Four walls. a bed with a crappy thin foam mattress. Shared Kitchen and Toilet. Alcoholic bloke upstairs who would leave the cooker on and set the smoke alarm off. Pot-head son of landlord downstairs. I got on well with him actually :) As you can see, the house was right next to a large expanse of wildness - the Dee Marshes. A big esturine salt marsh that is theoretically tidal, but which only floods in the highest tides of the year. A hundred years ago, this was navigable. First the silt, and then the marram grass, made it what it is today.

Moving out was certainly a change in many ways, but not necessarily for the good. This was really not a good time in my life. I was a pretty strange and messed up person at the time.

Six months after leaving home, I moved back. But it wasn't ever going to be for long. I wasn't getting on with my Dad, which then caused arguments between him and my Mum. Plus, I'd made the break. It wasn't the same going back.

This time, I was unemployed, so I was limited to what the social would pay. And so once again, flats and bedsits beckoned. This time I lived at 15 Haydock Road, Wallasey, down by the banks of the Mersey. About 20 miles from my Mum and Dad's.

I might have moved quite a lot, but I haven't really gone very far. I stayed in my one little room for a few months, then I upped sticks yet again, this time about 100 yards down the road to a pokey little attic flat on the corner of Magazine Brow

See the top two dormer windows to the left? Well that was my flat. Carrying bottles of calor gas up those stairs wasn't fun. The water you can see in the background is the River Mersey. Once again, it was nice to have open space nearby.

My twenties were drawing to a close, and I'd passed most of them in a chaotic fug of alcohol and cannabis. A lot of it was spent alone. By choice. But now, I was moving again, and this time, it was with a friend. Paul, also enjoyed a smoke or three. We had a lot in common, and so we decided to get a house together. In Craven Street, in the middle of Birkenhead.

We decorated, had wild parties, got a pet cat, and a pet dog, spent our dole money on weed, and gradually came to dislike each other from spending too much time together. In the end we blew apart quite explosively, and I moved up the road to a flat near Birkenhead upper park. I got the cat. Paul got the dog.

Once again, I had some open space nearby. Directly behind the house was the upper, slightly less manicured part of Birkenhead Park. One day there was a balloon festival from there. And one of our fence panels was down, so I was able to jump out of bed and walk straight into the middle of it. I was 29 years old, and was working at last, as the manager of a charity shop.

But the shop failed to thrive and I found that it was difficult to find another job because of the amount of rent I would have to find. So I put my name on the council house waiting list, and I was happy to take whatever they offered.

This turned out to be a one bedroomed flat in Moreton, Wirral.

You can just see it behind the trees. It wasn't the nicest part of the world. The local arseholes welcomed me by smashing all my windows.

It was also the place where I finally started to dig myself out of a hole. And eventually, I met Bren, and then moved in with her, and then married her.

And I've been here for I suppose 9 years now. Literally yards from the bedsit I was living in 15 years ago. This is the longest time I've ever spent in one place, and we're likely to stay here for a while yet, although I would never rule out another move, for a whole range of possible reasons.

So there you have it. 14 places in 43 years. An average of three years in any one place. If you were to travel from one to the next, your journey would take you just a smidgen under 50 miles, at least as the crow flies, and I've ended up less than 5 miles from where I started.

This is what my life path looks like.


Pete said...

That's an excellent post. More people should do this.

Pete said...

I'm pretty sure I know how many of these places I have visited. We need to go through this.