McKen's Masterclass Resources

Playing Out

Are you playing out? A phrase from my past. All these years later I’m thinking about how it foarmed part of my identity. Thinking about the days when I was considered old enough to leave the safety of my family and see how the indigenous population lived.

The Jackson family made the decision to travel up the M6 and to the end of the M606 to sunny Bradford with six children under the age of 10 with the promise of a better life.

The house fell below expectations a three storey terrace house on a dangerous bend across from a rubbish tip which was pungent in the sumer. We made the most of this unhealthy environment in the times we were allowed out of the house. No health and safety police in our neck of the woods.

Now my daughter is maneuvering her way around the safety of home seeing how other families behave – how they treat her differently. I think about my childhood; I think about the times when I would make the first move and go and knock for a friend.

There was no fear in those days. Bravely, I knocked on the door; waited, if her mum answered I would be greeted with a smile; but her dad not so friendly, not so welcoming to the newcomers. He couldn’t hide his disapproval. Looking back we were the only black family on the street and I now know the rhetoric around immigration was along the lines ‘there’s too many of you’ and ‘go black home!’ Pretty similar to what I’m hearing today in 2019. Yes Mr Crowther was not accepting of this new neighbours that had moved into the community. He was never openly racist; so it would come in the form of keeping me standing on the doorstep for ages behind a closed door. She would be allowed to play for a short while in the garden, then she was quickly called in.

In the times we escaped the ugly adult world we played with our dolls; watched the Saturday Elvis movies and being totally confused by a flasher on our street. I thought he’d forgotten to fasten his trousers up I didnt have a clue it was a deliberate act.

Eventually, my parents managed to save enough money to move away from that totally inappropriate house for small children. Our new home was mum’s dream house a 3 bedroom semi-detached house with a large garden (yes it felt very middle class).

Whilst shopping in Bradford one Saturday afternoon, I remember bumping into my childhood friend, we chatted and arranged to meet up. Strangely enough she wanted to meet up at a local Catholic church; still believing she was a friend I went along sat through the unfamiliar rituals but secretly admiring how efficient they were with time – exactly one hour not a minute more not a minute less. My church if it doesnt last 3 hours you haven’t been to church. She didn’t turn up. That feeling of isolation has stayed with me. I never found out why she didnt turn up; I didn’t call her to ask but it definitely affected the way I cconducted myself in future friendships.

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