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growing up British

An Ode To My Beloved Council Estate

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The sun sets and the light dips, bends and smashes against the side of a block of flats.

“Let there be light!” As I sit staring through my office window at a tiny bug strangulated by a spider web.

The golden spotlight hovers over the council estate across the road, and my mind takes a quick two step back to when we were children of misfits. Creating a world of adventure amongst the empty carrier bags, graffiti brickwork and uneven pavements.

It was time when community meant that you actually knew your neighbours. Yes, even the shouty old dude 3 doors down who always refused to throw our ball back. And the Asian family opposite who celebrated a wedding for about a month, with saffron coloured garlands draped from the garden fence.

It was time when the street lights dictated your curfew.

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It was time when your lungs would collapse with exhaustion from archaic primitive forms of play. Curbsy, Bust 21, fashioning a broken twig to the spokes of my BMX to make it sound like a motorbike.

It was a time when an adult regardless of whether you knew them or not, had the authority to scold you with words like, “get down off that wall you little shit!”

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It was a time when hanging out at the end of your road in the summer holidays meant innocent magical times, devoid of intimidation and adolescent tomfoolery.

It was a time when you knocked the front door of your friend’s house, waited patiently, and then addressed the grown up with the correct Mr or Mrs prefix, asking if your friend could come out to play.

It was a time when everyone gathered en masse if a fight kicked off with a warring enemy estate. Huddled together, not entirely sure what you could offer except a splash of bravado and shouts of “wanker” from afar.

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It was a time when skipping over broken glass, used condoms and pages ripped from a pornographic magazine, paved the way to the local derelict park. Broken swings wrapped around the metal frames and a slide everyone was too scared to go on because someone’s dog had shat all over it last week.

It was a time when we were told to avoid the scary piss stained alleyways at night, and to never engage in conversation with the man who had the odd but purposeful walk.

It was a time when normality meant watching your father coax a young suicidal lad from the rooftop of the flats. Or watching your best friend’s sister being punched across the garage forecourt by her abusive husband.

It was time when the shrill car sirens of Babylon muddled with raised voices, offered the backing track to many theatrical evenings.

It was a time when your childhood innocence was inhaled greedily like a class A substance by the lewd, smiling face of the man your parents warned you about. The man with the odd purposeful walk. The man who openly stroked his penis in front of you that one time you stood outside the corner shop waiting for your mum.

It was a time when you were too busy playing to notice it was in fact the last time you would be out playing. It was a time when you grew up.

Friends moved away and your once loved village of urbanite warriors, fractured into pockets of race wars, drug dealers and the classless act of unwanted furniture being brazenly dumped in the middle of your road.

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It was time to leave.

The sun sets and the light dips, bends and smashes against the side of a block of flats. I retreat into the comfort of my overpriced office chair and remove my rose-tinted specs. But just for a moment.