Let’s start with a quote and, for once, not a musical one…. well, apart from the post’s title. 😉
I arrived in Nottingham just over twenty years ago. Officially, I came as a student, but in reality, I just wanted to get away from the town I’d grown up in. With it being the nearest big city, my folks had taken us shopping there on many an occasion and I thought I knew a little bit about the place. I thought to myself that it wasn’t too far from home if I wanted to visit and I wouldn’t get lost. Clearly, I gave my potential new home significant thought 😉
Why did I want to get away? Much as I loved my folks, in terms of prospects, there wasn’t a lot going on back home. Plus, at the time, I was into the music scene – indie, metal, alternative – and my home town didn’t cater to that, Nottingham did. Throw in the fact that my A level exam results were pretty poor, I needed somewhere I could get through clearing. With the grades I had in hand, there was no way I was going to a university and all of the London venues where out of reach. Yes, polytechnics, I am that old, kids 😉
Should I have done A levels, or should I have bitten the bullet and gone to the local FE college instead? I’ll be honest and say I picked to go into the sixth form because I didn’t want to risk leaving my friends and having to make new ones at college. It’s perhaps ironic that some of the crowd I hung out with, would later turn on me; but, hey, lessons learned. 😉
So, Nottingham became my new home and as a student I moved between the leafy suburbs of West Bridgford (posh), out to Sherwood (rough-ish), while wandering the streets between my rented room and my mates’ digs in Radford. The night I moved to Sherwood, there was a Panorama programme (Ed: a BBC news documentary) about the rise of crack cocaine use within the city’s red light zone down in Radford. It was a few miles from where I was staying and as I found later, where a number of my student mates lived. Welcome to the big city, country boy.
Skip on a few months and I was beginning to wind down on visiting home for social visits. With no student halls, you were in at the deep end with your own cooking, cleaning and washing. I didn’t mind, it all seemed like a big adventure in some odd way. A few days before the end of the summer term and I got a letter from an old school friend. She was doing well somewhere Oop North: yes dear London readers, Nottingham is in the Midlands; Leeds, Manchester, Sheffield et al are Northern. 🙂
Now, I don’t know about the rest of you, but many of my memories – the ones I can easily recall – are the ones with a strong emotional response. Perhaps if I’d studied Psychology, I’d come up with the idea that important lessons (good / bad) come with such markers to ensure we do / don’t do the same thing again…. but moving on. 😉 I’m sat on the bus, it’s a pleasant day and I’ve got the letter unopened. Yes, kids, while the Internet was around, not many folk had modems and those that did, it was 14.4k dial-up. Technically speaking, a small amount of bandwidth up from banging two rocks together 😉 Oh, I’ve digressed again. 🙂 Bus, letter, sunny weather, open, read. Halt. Blood drains from face. Stomach goes tense as if I’ve just swallowed a ball of ice. Re-read. “… has told everyone about you wearing women’s clothes.” I closed the letter and stared out of the window, the graveyard on Mansfield Road flicked by. I don’t remember anything else until much later, when a friend in the computer room asked, “You okay, Rich? You look like you’ve had a shock.” I mumbled something about I’d tell him later (and I did, about five years later) and got on with my assignment.
I could have gone back home. I could have gone back to the pub which we all drank in and toughed it out. I could have said “yeah, and?”, but I didn’t have that confidence that I do now. Instead, I followed the lesson handed from Brave Sir Robin (of Monty Python fame) and ran away. 🙂 Those of you who are also from the 80s may like to hum a few bars of Small Town Boy at this point. 😛
Being in a new place, I meant I could leave my old life behind. I didn’t have to be the computer nerd who liked heavy metal and role-playing games. Instead, I changed, rebooted if we’re going to stick with the nerdisms. Perhaps in some odd way, being outed – which a hell of a shock – was just the kick I needed to sever whatever was left for me (socially) at home. Funny thing is, when I was out walking with a mate late on, he asked why I wasn’t hanging out with the usual crowd. I said that it was due to bad feelings and the lies people had said about me. C looked me straight in the eye and said: “Y’know, if it’s true or not, it doesn’t matter to me.” Perhaps I should have been honest with him, but again, I had a lot to learn. 🙂
Where am I going with this post? Nowhere in particular. 🙂 The programme had knocked a few memories loose and having flicked through them, metaphorically speaking, I’ve put them back on the shelf to sit and gather brain dust as I get older. Occasionally I come back to them and when I read or hear of folk being outed, the shock I felt is clearly documented. However, what’s different between now and then, is that I survived it. The world didn’t end. Yes, a few doors shut, but I think it was me that pulled them to, rather than them being closed on me. Looking back, if that event had have happened, I wouldn’t have come here, I wouldn’t have met the friends I have now, my lovely wifey, I think I wouldn’t have met the Chams massive either and then there’s Invasion. All things to be thankful for.
[ Today’s lyric: Welcome to Paradise by Green Day ]