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We Were Quite Poor

'We Were Quite Poor' Acrylic on canvas board 20 by 30cm

Have you ever heard the Monty Python sketch where the northern men are talking about how poor they were growing up and trying to outdo each other? Well that's how I imagine people think of me when I talk about my upbringing.

I grew up on a council estate in Bradford, we were quite poor. My dad wasn't around at this point and my mum didn't work. I don't know why someone would choose to have a load of kids with no money.

The electricity was always cut off because the bills weren't paid, sometimes for months at a time.. We were fortunate in that we had a gas stove and a coal fire so always had food and warmth.

After dark we would have candles lit. I remember there was so much damp that there was green slime going up the walls from the skirting boards, there were often slugs on the walls also.

My mum made the most of things though and always cooked us good food and would grow a lot of food in the garden like potatoes, peas and radishes, my brother and I would often sneak some pea pods and they were so sweet.

I also remember though my mum sending my younger sister and I out with begging notes to go around the neighbours asking for money.

On Sundays it would be bath night and we'd have a big bucket thing in the middle of the room next to the fire. My mum would heat water on the stove and fill it up and we'd take turns to get in and get bathed. I was a bed wetter and I would have to go through this humiliation in the mornings also while my siblings were having their breakfasts.

I remember having lots of fun times as a child growing up on that estate. It was right next to some woods and we would often go there and have picnics and adventures, back when a group of kids all under nine years old would be allowed to go on adventures on their own.

My Grandparents had a caravan in Carnforth near Morecambe where we would go on holiday. My mum would surprise me by not telling me where we were going until we were on the train. I don't know why I didn't catch on that she had suitcases. I remember her making chips in the caravan and wrapping them in newspaper so it would be like we got them from the chip shop.

I think my love of rain came from those holidays where it would feel so cosy in a caravan with the rain pattering on the roof.

I was also quite a fearful kid though, I was worried and scared by everything. I'd have strange recurring nightmares and always be worried that awful things would happen to us. I always had this strange alien feeling where I couldn't understand why I was on a planet spinning around in space in a human body. I couldn't understand why everyone else accepted it as normal and just got on with things, and when I realised no adults had any clue what was going on in the world this just added to my fears. I went through childhood often feeling mentally ill and that manifested in things like migraines and sickness.

As I stated though, there were also a lot of fun times and we were brought up with manners and good values. My other half often says she thinks I was swapped at birth because she says I have tastes above my station.

My mum remarried, my stepdad was a hardworking man and moved us off the estate and into a nicer house when I was about nine, I always will appreciate that he did that for us.

I never felt at home on that estate and I never really felt at home in Bradford, I suppose it was just because of all the negative associations from growing up there but I always knew I would leave. The last time I lived there was in 1999, the last time I did a quick visit was in 2003, I don't know whether I'll ever go back to visit again.

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Another thought on recurring nightmares - I had another one where I, and my whole family, would be compelled to come downstairs and kneel at the living room window with our arms outstretched while a huge alien ship hovered outside. Sleep well, my friend.

Sep 27, 2022
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Ha ha! 😁

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