August 16th, 1989
Eight years ago, when we moved to England from Scotland, my first impression was that I hated it. I missed my best friend Linda far too much and wanted nothing more than to return to the place I was born, the place where my Nana lived close enough that I could visit her anytime and where my cousins were regular visitors.
The closure of the Chrysler motor company in Linwood, Scotland, prompted the move. On the day the Chrysler factory closed, some 4,700 people were still employed at that location. Dad would later recount that when he heard the doors would be closing that day, he left and took the bus to the job centre, where, in his words, “the line went all the way round the building.” Many of those people were still desperately seeking work after being let go by Chrysler in the preceding six months.
With the knowledge that another almost five thousand people were about to join that line, dad stayed on the bus. He came home and rang his best friend, Harry, who had moved to England many years before.
The next day, mum and I said bye to dad as he boarded the coach, on his way South, to look for a new job. Dad initially lived with Harry and his family but within a few weeks, he not only had a job but he also found a new home for us.
The first time mum and I saw the house was the day we moved in. Mum was thrilled with the back door that led to the garden and I should have been thankful for my new, large bedroom, but I hated the unfamiliar surroundings. About once an hour I’d ask mum when we’d be moving back to Scotland.
“I think we’re here to stay,” she replied in a firm tone I’d never heard her use before.
The following Monday, I headed to my new school with butterflies in my tummy, wearing drainpipe jeans that were not at all suitable for riding a bike. At the bike stand, I looked around at the unfamiliar faces and was tempted to get back on my bike and go home, but I knew if I did, mum would send me right back, so I locked up my bike and found my way to the main office.
The first teacher I met had long black hair, festooned with grey. She wore an ankle length multi coloured skirt and lots of beads around her neck. The school I left in Scotland a mere week before had strict uniform regulations that were enforced, in an environment where I dreamed of being a prefect and addressed teachers by their last name. To find myself in school wearing jeans and a jumper talking to a teacher who insisted I call her Marion, was akin to arriving on an alien planet.
“Do call me Marion,” escorted me to her classroom (English) and I felt my face redden while I stood in front of the class as she introduced me to the questioning, spotty faces. While I stood there with my burning face, melting inside the Arran jumper Nana knitted, I caught the eye of a girl sitting in the middle of the room. She smiled and gestured to the empty seat next to her. I waited for Marion to say it was ok for me to go and sit down but after a few minutes I realized that wasn’t going to happen. When I sat next to the pretty girl with the black, short hair, she leaned over.
“I’m Sarah,” she said, in an accent I’d only heard on the popular soap, EastEnders.
When lunchtime came, I followed Sarah to the cafeteria, where we quickly established that she lived round the corner from me. She told me she was “toe tally in love,” with her boyfriend and suggested I find a boy to go out with as soon as possible.
At the end of the day, Sarah and I rode our bikes home and by the end of the week the two of us had devoured several packets of biscuits and consumed pot after pot of tea while we sat around her kitchen table doing our homework.
“You teenagers can certainly put it away,” her lovely mum would say, filling the tea kettle with water. Again.
A few week’s later, Lucy was the new girl at school and I watched as the colour rose in her pale cheeks while she stood at the front of the class, being introduced by Marion. I smiled at Lucy and gestured to the empty seat beside me.
Tonight, eight years later, the three of us went to The Swan and laughed about those awful, awkward teenage days. We came back here after the pub shut and found mum still up. The only booze we had in the house was peppermint schnapps, which tasted disgusting, but regardless, we finished the bottle.
Lucy and I walked Sarah home (not in a straight line!) and now Lucy is spending the night here. I have a strong suspicion we might wake up with matching hangovers!