Growing Up Outside

Alex always had an interest in stories, words. At school, he could call upon his vivid imagination using words to paint a picture, convey ideas. Art didn’t really grab him. Full of co-students exploring their feeling and how they could, indeed needed, to express them. It left him cold and came across as insincere. Maths was too dry and always seemed like another language- a different way of thinking that he just couldn’t quite get the hang of. Almost, but not quite.

He grew up in a provincial town on the outskirts of London. One that used to be predominately working class and industrial. It was  before the mid-eighties when manufacturing and industry became a dirty word and was substituted by the service industry. The whole neighborhood, and beyond, had spiralled into decline.

Gradually all the jobs went elsewhere, mainly overseas, and the skills that had been built over generations were no longer required. A sort of “fade to grey” It was called skill fade with reason.

Alexander was the name his mother gave him but it was shortened to Aly. The way working class boys often do.  His father had no part in this choice as he had left before making Alex’s acquaintance. It wouldn’t do to be seen as posh, that would be exclusive and he wanted inclusive. So much so that he abrogated it further to Ali. It fitted in with the increasing Asian demographic that had come to replace the locals who moved away to be with their own. . The jobs went,  the people followed them; leaving  a vacuum.  A vacuum filled by people from a different part of the world, of a darker hue, with different values. You see bullies don’t single you out for being weaker or less able. But for being different- using Ali made him less so.  . It was one less type of different if you ignored his pale skin. Or at least so he thought. It was tough growing up in that environment. Not in the conventional sense but in a sense of being continually wrong. He remembered when black history month was introduced and he questioned why. He was told in no uncertain terms that black people had been repressed over many generations and it was to celebrate their achievements in society.

” Had not all people contributed?” he wondered.

“Well yes” was the harsh reply “But the black contribution has been underplayed, because of colonialism” The teachers voice had an uncompromising, hard edge to it as it continued. Like a well rehearsed dictat, which is what it was.

“You can’t understand that because you are not black” The last word underlining the finality of the statement.

The conversation ended there.

That experience left a lasting impression on him, and he didn’t fully understand the logic of it. It just accentuated the awareness of being different as being an important factor .

If you would like to find out more about Alex visit here to find out what happens as he starts his journey

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Photo by Erik Lucatero

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