Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Days On The Old Estate

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The other day I passed the council estate
Where I grew up
And I had to take a look
To see if they were still there, I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea, but I couldn’t resist
So I walked to the old garages, and to one particular garage door, wondering, no hoping
Something might remain
And there they were
A few small letters written in Tippex
JR 4 CB ‘84’
Fucking hell, I thought
Still there
After all these years
Twenty-three years
Over two decades
And seeing those letters forced the memories to come flooding back
A veritable deluge
Of days spent on the old estate
Dynamic days, halcyon days, glory days
The wonder years
The years of my youth
Spent in an East London that was now gone forever
Swept away in one generation
And I felt incredibly sad as I looked at those letters
Remembering that CB stood for Corrine Burgess
My first girlfriend at age twelve, she a year younger at eleven
And I didn’t even know how to kiss properly
Because when my older friend Ricky told me to give her a Frenchie
I didn’t even know what he meant
A Frenchie, I mean think about it?
It sounds a really old fashioned thing to say now, but then again, who the fuck uses Tippex these days?
So we just kissed, English style, lips to lips, no tongues
And I remembered how I played strip poker with Corrine,
While we babysat her younger sister
And I got her to take her top off
And how she cried and I got scared that she might tell her mum, but I wasn’t scared about her telling her dad because she didn’t have one
And I remembered how we used to play Ouija board at Corrine’s house
And how the glass would suddenly fly off the board and scare us all
Only finding out later that Ricky had been moving it around all along
And I remembered my first cigarette, a John Player Special
Does anyone smoke them anymore?
But most of all I remembered the Christmas parties
Each year the party would be held in a different house
There were only thirty houses on the old estate
A tiny close-knit community
And everyone would come, all the kids, grans, granddads, singletons
Everyone in their best clothes
Me circa 1983: Mullet, rat’s tail, yellow Lyle and Scott jumper, pink Lacoste polo shirt, sky blue Farahs, and white leather deck shoes
And the adults would all get drunk
While the kids would congregate in the bedrooms and talk shit,
And at least one or two of the older kids would get drunk on thunderbird or special brew, and talk even more shit.
And the kid whose house the party was being held in would show everyone their Christmas presents
And I remember one year Simon Broom was given a Sinclair ZX81, the first computer I’d ever seen
And amongst the adults, there would always be at least one fight
And the next day everyone would talk about it
Who got done, who didn’t get done, and what the repercussions would be,
Like who was ganna get done as a result of the unfortunate altercation
Oh, it was great days back on the old estate
A very privileged upbringing
And as I stood there, two decades later, a grown man
Touching those faded Tippexed letters on the garage door
While, in the background, three Muslim women
Looked on wonderingly
I wondered what Corrine Burgess was doing now
Or where she lived
Because in the intervening years
I had lost contact with nearly everyone from back then
And as this realisation began to sink in
I also realised it was a mistake to come back to the old estate
Because of all the forever changes
And it was then that
A teardrop
Rolled down my cheek
Like a cannonball

Joseph Ridgwell

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