Introduction And Chapter Guide

This is my sixth attempt at writing about my life from being a teenager until I left the town I grew up in. The life I led back then was always peculiarly slippery. The opportunities for self improvement were there, but by the time I accessed them, late, they became backward steps, rather than progress. I would be told that I  was 'Too old to be improved' by the managers of what I pursued. The help they offered were more meant to help younger, better resourced, people (from better resourced families). They told me about what I should have chased instead, without telling me that it was cheap, never worked, and was  discontinued long ago. What I remember most from those times was how the more friendly and sunny many people presented themselves as, the more opaque they actually were. The grumpy folk were the ones I should have listened to closer and trusted more. My family disliked all change and slowed down every natural change that my growing up should have included by mis-descr

Chapter 1 - The Alien In The Attic

I cannot describe the depth of release I felt that Monday morning, in late July 1977. I was putting in the bin what remained of my three pairs of school trousers, two pairs of which I had literally the arse out of them but Mother refused to buy any more. The pairs with the arse out of the trousers had been crudely patched by the care home staff to last the last few weeks. Both the trousers and my worn-at-the-elbows school shirts went into the dustbin, for the bin men to take away later that same day. I had not had as much fun binning anything for two years, when Mother asked me to carve into small pieces the cardboard box that our new colour television had arrived in. She asked me to slash the box to bits because she feared that if anyone saw the words 'colour television' on the side and the box as it was left out whole then somebody might come and steal the then-new television set from us in the middle of the night without her hearing them enter the house. I was meant to leave

Chapter 2 - The Alien Discovers Life Through Television

The way dad used the television was manipulative, to the point where he tried to make it a virtue that he was transparently manipulative. We could watch what we wanted or turn the set off when dad was not around, but when he was around he chose which of the three channels we should all watch from an angle when his chair faced most directly towards the set. When choosing what we would watch he might have said that the broadcasters were being manipulative, because they provided so little of the entertainment that he was partial to. What felt most manipulative was how dad appeared to use the television set as if it was an obedient but noisy child, where the noisier it was the more obedient it was to him. He used it to make us, Mother included, quiet and obedient and child-like by comparison. With hindsight it was clear that a restful quiet in the parental house was the one thing dad could not cope with, and his control of everyone in the parental house through the television meant that he

Chapter 3 - What The Alien Did Next

That summer of 1977 I was just days, weeks, away from never hearing again the dozen or more role calls and bells that rang each day that I used to respond to without question in care home/boarding school. I would never experience them again except as rather isolating memories of times that nobody else around me knew about. The old rules, bells, and triggers of the school were rapidly replaced by spoken calls to watch the television with the family, or to prepare the table for us all eating before Mother plated the food in the kitchen. Other calls were to help Mother strip beds of sheets and remake the beds, prepare for going shopping or going to the allotment. That I followed promptly is witness to how well the previous set of cues had worked. Where in the boarding school television was incidental to the eleven bells and roll calls a day, what television showed at any given moment was much more integrated into the schedules of the parental house.   I might well have known that if my pa

Chapter 4 - The Lesser Social Life Of The Alien

The following is the measure of how much I was inattentive, and 'a slow developer'. The newsagent's shop where every Saturday Mother payed for the daily papers for the week was pokey, but amid gloom one week I found the pluck to ask if they wanted a paper delivery boy. The pay was pathetic, but for having initiated the conversation I was in no position to argue. financially, I was in the same position that I thought that many other sixteen year old boys were. We were treated as if we were younger than they were, but money had been available to us somehow. I was surprised when the owner of the shop said 'Yes' so promptly and offered me a trial straight away. I lasted three days on the job. On the first two of them I was given help and guidance. On the third day I was on my own. I was awake and presented myself at the crack of dawn, on dad's bike. The lad who was teaching me the round did the best he could in the inadequate time he was allowed to show me everythin