Writing 101 Day 11: #OnRepeat – Steady as she goes

Woodford Green.

Stable and comfortable, Staid and Constricting. Leafy and well situated. Ludicrous and wealthy. I moved from Leytonstone in (then, unregenerated) grim East London when I was 7. Which isn’t strictly true of course because I didn’t move my mum moved. At the time I was growing up there Woodford Green was a mostly peaceful small well to do suburb just outside of London.

I’m going about this all wrong.


Woodford Green was and still is safe. Quiet and safe. Boring and safe. Soporific and safe. Great for young families. Great for retirees. Great for children. Some of the best schools in the country. None of which I went to though.

Not bitter, touchy subject. Moving on.

For Americans the best way I can describe it is that it was a small town, a really small town.

I grew up without a racial consciousness until the advent of rap music reaching the UK in the 90’s.

In 1987 I was 12 years growing up nouveau middle class unconsciously black in a mostly White and Indian neighborhood. I was living the dream and I slept happily until I woke up.

My mother’s West Indian Culture was alien to me. The rest of my family lived on the other side of London. Mum had moved us to the North East boundary with the home counties and the rest of the family lived in  South London for the most part. I didn’t speak with an accent, eat anything except English food, didn’t listen to black music.

I grew up white in a middle class black family.

I was top of the class for the most part in school. Smart, but bullied (but not racially. I didn’t really count as black in the eyes of the racists.) I was uncool, nerdy, awkward. Popular with the teachers who were tired of hammering square pegs of knowledge into round ear holes.

I was obedient, malleable and quiet. Screamed straight at home. I had it impressed that nothing mattered more than education, Not friends, not girls – nothing else.

Not a coincidence I had my first suicidal thoughts about that age.

I had failed the “11+” exam which was the entrance exam to the good schools. Failed is a probably a bit rough. The private schools had three entry methods – scholarship, paying and half scholarship. Mum had put me down for the scholarship route and I hadn’t made the grade. Simple as that.

So I went to a rougher comprehensive school I was completely unprepared to deal with. My friends from younger easier times drifted away. I became the butt of jokes, pranked, bullied even spat on. I had no idea how to deal with what was happening to me.

I stopped enjoying school, enjoying learning, enjoying being around other people. I stopped enjoying life itself. And Mum was always angry and I had always done something wrong or something not quite right. I had no-one to talk to and nowhere to go.

So it was at age 12 I found myself standing over the kitchen sink holding a knife in my right hand against my left wrist considering my options. I stood there for a while willing myself to do it. I gave up, finished the washing up and went upstairs to do my homework.

I have very few fond childhood memories. I didn’t have a rough childhood. Didn’t live in poverty. Didn’t have to do without. Wasn’t abused. Wasn’t abandoned. Wasn’t exploited.

But I wasn’t happy. I didn’t find much happiness until I left Woodford Green.

Tangent – I vividly remember the first Comic Relief event the next year which was televised on the BBC and became a significant event that schools became involved in. I hadn’t smiled for so long that I had to work my facial muscles with my hands practicing a smile of some sort. I knew if I was the only child in school not being seen to be enjoying the enforced hilarity I might be even more of a target for bullying.

Nice town, you’ll probably like it if you ever visit.



15 thoughts on “Writing 101 Day 11: #OnRepeat – Steady as she goes

  1. I grew up in a similar situation, I did get the scholarship, and went to a good school, but never fitted in. I was a fish out of water, and it took moving to the other side of the world to start to find my place. I hope you have managed to find yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Sorry you had such a rough time. The fact you didn’t live in poverty, weren’t abused etc doesn’t take away from the realness of the pain you were experiencing. Glad you are smiley now and sharing these stories with such beautiful writing.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve come back to comment on this as it really stayed with me… in fact I read it pretty much straight away yesterday because of how the previous post about the meal stayed with me… I can relate to aspects of both… I had an outwardly happy enough childhood but I did experience a great deal of inward unhappiness… I can remember it particularly around that 12-13 year mark… a loneliness and emptiness… it’s honestly only in the last 2-3 years, since my faith really strengthened, that it has dissipated to an extent that I feel it won’t come back… I also see myself somewhat in the angry single mother (my heart kind of broke a bit when you said how she was happy for a while in love)… reading your words was scary as I pictured my own son, who has witnessed too much of me struggling emotionally, and I was gripped with guilt and fear (not for the first time admittedly) about how this is all going to affect him… At least he has faith… which I craved but didn’t find til much later… I’m hopeful it will help him through the things he has to come through in this life and to overcome all of my inadequacies. You write in a very powerful way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Incredibly moving words. Through my eyes the most essential gift from the mother to the son is to be a role model of fearlessness and tenacious patience. It’s this that us the true core of a positive masculine self image over machismo and posturing. “Why do we fall. So we can rise Up” If he has this from you then you have nothing to feel guilty about and no inadequacy.


  4. Your way with words is always excellent! I am sorry you had to deal with all you did…bit I am glad you did and very glad you got through it…
    Because it helped make you into the person you are now…and though we only know each other through blogging… I have to say I like who you are! You make the world a better place because you define it in a very unique way!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. A dismal experience in suburbia as a black teenager who doesn’t quite fit the coolness factor but feels drained a soulness in a environment which doesn’t nurture them, unfortunately a well trodden path. I’ve been there even your definitely not alone.
    I’m so very happy you managed to reason with yourself at 12 and realise there are other ways to escape this feeling without harming ur self.
    A great account of numbed life and a richly descriptive account of your journeys. I feel that this is just the beginning of your travels to somewhere you feel more stimulated. Look forward to hearing more. Journeyman.

    Liked by 1 person

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