Latch-Key Kids

The Summer Olympics of 1972- Munich

In those days it really did take a village to raise a child.

The 1970’s is a decade often forgotten and often undersold, a decade where the post-war affluence bubble burst with a bang and successive governments were plagued with political and economic unrest. The decade began with promise but Ted heath faced early challenges by strikes financial crash and energy crisis, and some of us went hungry. Callaghan famously told colleagues in 1974 “If I were a young man, I should emigrate.” For some of us the backbone of our extended family had already emigrated in the late 60’s  as £10 POMS and were already seeking a future promising fame and fortune in new and exotic lands.

Not surprising that it was often called the lost decade and growing up perhaps that is what we were too, the lost generation, generation X, a generation of latch-key kids who brought ourselves up because nobody knew any different. Nobody even realised we were doing it on our own. We had it all, freedom and then some and yet we had nothing, no prospects but kind hearts, glam rock and big dreams.

Our parent’s generation were the first generation of latch key kids, born towards the end of World War two against a backdrop of poverty, harsh winters and a changing workforce, there was food poverty and many families were living in urban slums and the housing stock was in dire need of upgrading and repair. At the outset of the forties the menfolk were away at war and women were required to fulfil working roles in factories, munitions works, and even on the land and the docks, it meant that an entire generation of working-class kids was forced to get itself up and ready and off to school and fend for themselves at the end of school, it meant that older siblings carried the responsibility of caring for younger siblings and often completing the household chores.

The mothers were responding to the needs of the war effort and had little choice, and it was this generation of children that found themselves with a world of opportunities in the later fifties and early sixties but as new parents themselves in the late sixties and early seventies due to the economic downturn and the increasing phenomena of the working mum were to become the parents of the next generation of latchkey kids, our generation, the latchkey generation of the seventies, generation X.

My parents both worked and so in the holidays we really were home alone. Dad was working for the Post Office and mum worked as a machinist at the Isle of Man Mill, where Mr Harold Dugdale had an active workforce of about twenty working at the Rossendale Quilting Company, they made ironing board covers and continental quilts (a forerunner to the Duvet) and they were all exposed to asbestos and cotton fibres in a harsh hot noisy mill. The village was home to at least three working mills, across the river from our house and across from the Isle of Man mill was Wood-eel, it had a great timber yard to play and explore in and all the local kids would collect bags of sawdust from the mill for their pet rabbits, surprisingly it made wooden heels that were used up and down the valley in the still proseprous and busy boot and shoe factories.

Mum left us under the watchful eye of our next-door neighbour Rosina Giddens, known to us as Nana, even though we were not related. She would make us lunch, and we would wake her up to call for help in the event of breakages, windows, arms, and legs, or toys that were broken in our sibling squabbles. The older folk did that, watched out for the youngsters and we paid the kindness back and in later years when we had moved to the Post Office we went back to Nanas every evening to make her tea and make sure she was well for the evening ahead. She looked out for us and made us lunches and we looked out for her, and the day when she slumped into her sausage and mash and her gnashers fell off the table and onto the floor, we looked after her, quickly raising the alarm that Nana had fallen asleep and wouldn’t wake up. She had suffered a stroke but our speed at raising the alarm meant that she was on the mend in a matter of weeks.

If it was dry- we were outdoors, we met up with whoever came to call, who ever knocked on the door to see if you were playing out, and everyone did that. There was an unwritten rule that no-one came in the house and you didn’t go in their houses unless they were invited but you could pretty much do what you like outside the house. And we did. If it was climable- we climbed it, if you could make a game out of it, you made a game, if it needed exploring we explored.

We were very young that first summer we spent home alone, it was 1972, and I know this because we loved to watch the gymnastics that were on. It was the Olympics in Munich and we were enraptured by our favourite gymnast Olga Korbut. We thought she was amazing. Tracey loved her work on the beam, I loved to watch her floor routines. She was so small but so incredibly athletic. I was 5 and Tracey was 7.

Tracey preferred Olga, who was small and petite and in some respects the underdog, to a very womanly Ludmilla Tourishiva. I thought she was the most graceful swan I had ever seen on a gymnastics floor and at nineteen she no longer had the angular bones of the minute Olga. Tourishiva won Gold, but Olga won hearts and inspired an entire generation of young girls to take to the gym floor.

Nana would pop in and out and would get us lunch and we would sometimes go out with her in the afternoon, she would walk us to the stream at the back of Crawshawbooth and she would sit I the sun and she taught us how to wash stones from the river bed. Sometimes we would play in the garden in front of her house and make dens from sheets, and she would show us how to make clothes for our dolls with old stockings. So we weren’t officially abandoned, it was just that we were really latch key kids.

It isn’t something that you would do now, but in those days I suspect it was the same story up and down the valley. We were all home alone. When we were old enough to go to the park alone, it was obvious that this was what all the kids did all summer, the park was our meeting place and there were never any adults around and even when Lesley Stansfield broke her leg and the bone came through the skin, after she got dragged under the roundabout after falling off because it was spinning too fast when we were playing pick up sticks- it seemed to be ages before any adults arrived.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Beyond the horizon…

It had been a long journey, her feet bore the bruised hallmarks of a difficult life, but still she walked on.

She knew that even if she could not reach the rich promises of the future on the horizon she could leave footprints for those who mattered to follow.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

Safe anchor…

It is easy to feel adrift when the world is so full of uncertainty.

Hold on to the treasured moments, the significant people, the precious memories and the valued places that have provided you with shelter through life’s storm. Let them be your anchor.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

That which drives us

I look around me as winter reaches its finale and I am mindful of the fragility of our current existence.

It should be what we have that drives us, not what we have not.

©Alison Jean Hankinson

The memory keeper.

I shiver in the shadows of your unvoiced fears

My fingers icily tracing the outline of your unspoken anxieties like lace

As my whispers leave their memory on your wizened face.

 

You give me life,

I am the invisible force that keeps you on the straight and narrow

When others clamour and chide and try to pull you towards a doom and gloom and sorrow

That would drown us all.

 

In silence I stumble forward

And see the smile appear like sunshine after storms

As the dreams and yearnings of those earlier years come flooding back

And rekindle faith and hope and love.

 

Some may see me as the invisible worm

The memory keeper and in a moment I can change the mood and alter the meaning

Of all of your past and how you perceive your future.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

This is for Tuesday’s poetics at d’verse. With love.

 

Brave new world.

Ecclesiastes 3.

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:

a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.

I am full of hope that this new year will see us enter into a new phase of life. For me it is a brave new world. I hope that our expectations are less, that we can live off what we have without desiring things that are uneccessary. I hope that we can judge both others and ourselves less and learn to be tolerant, compassionate and kind. That we begin to appreciate that success is not measured by the amount of money or belongings that we possess and that our status is ascribed by our actions and words and not by our “job” or our “qualifications” or our “bank balance”.

I love my family unconditionally. There are times in the last few years where we have all faced adversity and unexpected challenges. I hope that my girls continue to walk forward in their lives secure in the knowledge that they are loved and that it is what they give, what they contribute and what they make of their lives that counts. I hope that they have many moments of joy and they have the heart and soul to recognise those moments for what they are. I am already proud of them beyond measure and they have already given me more love joy and pleasure than it is possible to describe.

For me it is a time to express my gratitude for all that is, and has been, and will be.

In this moment we are infinite. (Perks of Being A Wall Flower)

© Alison Jean Hankinson.

 

In these moments where we live and breathe.

It has been a complex year and all I know is that many of you out there will have faced your own tough challenges, some that have been overcome with grit and determination and others that have almost broken you with the weight and depth of their difficulty.

There were days this year where I genuinely thought that there would be no resolution, that the interminable darkness and despair would swallow me whole, that my worthiness had been buried never to resurface under some massive cumbersome rock that could not be shifted.

I learned that it is important to feel wanted and needed and worthy and that for me these things come from the work that I do and the relationships I build with the people around me.

I learned that I need to feel connected and secure and that for me comes from having a home and a place to be in the world.

I learned that heartache and heartbreak are cruel masters that spare no-one and that all around me there are people whose stories would make my own look like a walk in the park, that we all need kindness and compassion. That a smile and a hug are the simplest gifts that can give someone a brighter moment in their darkened day.

I learned that many of us fear death, and that at the end it is not dignity that matters but the holding of the hand, the soothing of the brow, and just knowing that someone sits beside you.

It is this moment that matters, not the money, or the glamour, or the furnishings, the shadow of our former life or the lure of future success, but this very moment.

It is the simplest action of human understanding that matters, listening carefully to those around us, sharing their journey holding their hand as well as hoping they will hold ours, not the politics, the rhetoric, the arrogance of selfishness but the humility that is born from suffering, enduring and surviving.

I learned that it is important to be kind and compassionate to oneself and that every moment is a taonga to be treasured.

Namaste as the year draws to a close.

May there be moments of peace in our life.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

On the temple steps at Nan Tien.

Once upon a heartbeat

Your small hand held on to mine

Once upon a full moon

When the midnight stars did shine.

Once upon a heartbeat

My child I gave to you,

Everything my heart held dearly

My dreams and wishes too.

Once upon a heartbeat

You walked with head held high

You were brave enough to stand up tall

Your wings were strong enough to fly.

Once upon a heartbeat

I watched you stride away

Grown up, confident and brave

To make it your own way.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

This is my Ellen. We left NZ in 2017 and had a week together in NSW before going our separate ways. We carried on to the UK and Ellen went back to Whangarei. We loved this visit to Nan Tien. It is so hard being so far away and I miss her so much and I am so in awe of her bravery. Love her always. Xxx

for d’Verse.

For Ellen.

The Ugly Grubbly.

Once upon a yucky time lived a grubbly gringly monster groo

He jiggled in the midnight sun

and feasted on wibbly bungaroos

 

He gribbled beyond the wobbly fronds and bumbled in the forest froo

He wimbled with the flowersong

and with the frimbles flew.

 

Once upon an ugly time when gringle monsters knew

That clovely bubbly mischief makers

Made life worth living true.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

For d’Verse poetics.

 

Not so lost in translation

At d’Verse this Monday we were discussing translation and poetry.

My daughter Ellen’s favourite poem as a young teen was the translated version of Past One O Clock by Vladimir Mayakovsky and it has also become one of my favourites. Mayakovsky was a playwright as well as a poet, he often satirised aspects of “the state” and found himself in conflict with the authorities. He reportedly took his own life in 1930 aged 36 although there had always been some doubt cast over the timing and nature of his demise. Both he and Lilya Brik had affairs but even after the relationship ended they remained close.

I have no idea if it is a good translation but feel that it is most beautiful. Having lived in NZ I realise that often it is not possible to create perfect translations, so for example some phrases in Maori are more than just translatable words, a poem is a Taonga, which literally means a treasure or something that is highly valued, but the word Taonga is a much more accurate description it carries a sense of the sacrosanct.
Anyway I have to let you read the poem to understand its poignant beauty. It was left as part of his suicide note.

©Alison Jean Hankinson.

Past One O clock
Past one o’clock. You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I’m in no hurry; with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love’s boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history, and all creation.
©Vladimir Mayakovsky

With love to you all. XXXX