Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Care in the community

I'll just say my kitchen arrived today at 8.20am, but only took 10 minutes to drop off and I went back to sleep as if nothing had happened. It's now waiting in the spare room for a couple of weeks before the fitter arrives thanks to the bloody Christmas holidays I have little time for nowadays...

Meanwhile the next stage in the story of my Jewish suburban roots in Hampstead Garden Suburb. After financial ruin (OK, a divorce, similar outcome) only my mum was left able to stay in the area I lived for 28 years. At the time I didn't feel I lived in a community, mainly as we rarely saw the same people outdoors twice and when we did no one spoke to each other. But the care in the community here is in its positive sense, as looking back from the huge number of families who remained in the hood (centred on one road it would be safer not to mention so will refer to as the hood instead) our connections remain many years after a lot of the next generation has left. So tonight I went to my mum's and a very nice couple from the very road I refer to were there, and by coincidence I had my printout of the last two posts here for my mum. They were very entertained by them, and for the first time actually requested to appear in it, so here they are!
Anyway, it turned out a number of people I mentioned here were their neighbours, and though a few weren't known, some were, and the celebrity glue that held them all together was none other than Will Self. Now Will and Toby Young are part of the current backbone of British Oxbridge (well, two Cambridge in their case) journalism, and worked together on Toby's Modern Review back in the days after they graduated in Islington. Twenty plus years later I'm hoping to follow them purely on merit (Toby actually studied journalism, and Will English), and I went to North London Polytechnic not Cambridge. I have sent my Jewish collection of memories to a Jewish publication (few actually exist, and the Jewish Chronicle wouldn't touch anything funny with a barge pole), as it's a bit of a niche market and a good place to start. Of course I'd prefer the Daily Mail but we have to start anywhere they'll have us.

So the longer I write about my past and recycle it amongst the hood, more and more people discover I've written either about them or someone they knew, including the aforementioned Will Self, a minor hero of mine as he has basically put two fingers up at society and been rewarded by it for doing so. We all went to the same schools, beginning with the local primary school and then a selection of either local state schools or the main public school I met Will, and suffered for three years before getting an honourable discharge. So we all remember the same teachers, eccentrics and stories, and am now catching up with the solicitors, journalists, Dan Gaster (the comedian), accountants and academics the nutty Jewish kids became thirty years later. I missed half the boat, as though I am reasonably well qualified I dropped out by 38, having drifted further and further away from my own plans to be conventional, as fate had long before decided regardless of what my compatriate nutcases did I would not follow. Of course they're all married with kids and members of the local shul, and I sit alone in a home office in Kingsbury for hours writing about them while they work hard, earn a fucking fortune (while I'm on benefits) and go home to their wives and kids. This I can't control, and one thing I am content with is I doubt they can write anything interesting (except Will, as it's his job) to save their lives. They used to be incredibly entertaining but are probably now upstanding pillars of their local community, on the school board, sending their kids to the schools we all went to, and have lost their edge as well.

I hope that is the only thing I've kept. The sanity (well, the neurotic part) went years ago, the family soon after, and there wasn't that much left to lose after that. But my eccentricity has never gone, it hasn't increased as it was always apparently at the max from day one when I used to chase every female in my nursery school. I was the one who stood up in lessons to make jokes, and end up standing outside. I didn't care, if it was boring I had to liven it up. And I've been like that ever since. At least now you can't get kicked out of the class or sent to detention for it, it can be done properly and not in the middle of something else. And gradually getting back (albeit as a visitor) into the community that spat me out for economic reasons 12 years ago has started being put together and is reforming in my blog as well. And now it's formed a circle as it's being distributed among the hood, and with the comment facility (hint hint) the readers can record their visits. Out of all the names the only one I haven't been able to contact was Will Self, though I haven't given up. There's an 80% chance he won't remember me as I haven't seen him since I was 12, but I know many people from both schools after primary remember me for being the school lunatic. But how many sane ones will have been forgotten? So, my next ambition is to get some of this published in a paper somehow, and then asked for more. Then the journalists I knew would read it and who knows, include me back into their circles just as I was in the early 70s. And the cherry on the cake would be if I got so much dosh in the end I could then return to my roots (secondary, as I now live where I did first) and tread the old patch and maybe even send my future kids to my own primary school.

So thanks to the internet I've had the chance both to write, find ideas, and reform an old community that fed my inspiration since my arrival in the hood (well, in my case just off it) in 1965. What and where it will lead to I don't know, but what I do know is somehow, partly through my own nostalgia, old names and events are being revived and may soon meet in person. That'll be nice for the next step.

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