I’ve lived in at least twenty different houses in my life, but one has felt more like home than any other; a semi detached council house on a council estate in a tiny Surrey village. I moved there when I was five years old and we had to move away when I was twelve. I don’t know what the population was or is, but the school that my brother and I both went to had fourteen pupils in total in the whole school and buses to the closest town only went on a Wednesday and a Saturday.
Our house had a back garden with a bush I could walk through to get to a playing field equipped with two swings, and a slide. There was a haunted sewer and a forest next to the field, and if you rode your bike for ten minutes through the forest in a straight line you would get to a haunted church and graveyard. I never had a curfew or any rules as a kid (except for to tell the truth) so I got to do whatever I wanted whenever I wanted. When I look back those days seem long, yellow tinted, and halcyon but I know that memory is a dirty trickster and there was a lot of darkness bubbling just under the surface there as well.
Surrey is an affluent area so no council estate is more than a brick’s throw from a house with two bathrooms and a neverending supply of truffle oil with gold flakes. You’re also never more than a 2 minute tractor ride from a farm, field or forest. It was a weird old mix of people I lived near and these are some of their stories. (I have changed most of their names because it felt like the decent thing to do when telling their tales without permission.)
Christopher. Christopher and I used to stargaze together on the corrugated tin roof of my garden shed. He was the kind of kid who would pull your hair if he fancied you or bounce a muddy football in your face while trying to ask you out, or say you looked like a riddler over and over again. He had a mischievous freckle covered face that suited his personality and he used eat cat food straight out of the tin, jelly and all. I heard he lost a thumb in a machine accident a few years ago.
Wayne. Wayne moved to the posh part of the neighbourhood the year before I moved house. I was sitting in a cherry tree in my front garden doing some spying on my friends when I first saw him skateboarding onto our estate wearing ripped jeans, a green cardigan, and a Nirvana t shirt. I thought he was the baddest, coolest thing I had ever seen. We made friends and he would come and knock for me, and hang out in the kitchen for a while, call my mum “Mrs C” and then borrow baccy and rizlas from her. He was three years older than me and I was completely obsessed with him, filling diaries up with terribly poetry about him for two years, writing his initials on any surface I could find, and wishing on every shooting star and stray eyelash that he would love me. I pretended I thought it was lame that he crushed up aspirin to snort and then chased it with a mini bottle of vodka (and it is hilariously lame, and kind of weirdly endearing, in retrospect) but secretly I thought it proved that he was troubled and interesting. We made it to third base in a run down abandoned hut in the forest a few months before I moved away.
Adam. Adam was a tanned, blonde, boy heartthrob. He was also my best friend for a while. He had an older sister called Rachel who looked a lot like Posh Spice, and who I found terrifying. He had a mum who looked a lot like him and had short hair, and drove a car that was banana yellow. His dad didn’t live with them and would turn up most summers to take Adam and Rachael on Mediterranean cruises.
Adam, Christopher, Wayne and I used to make camps out of hay bales, ride our bikes down hills, play bundles (that game where you all jump into a bundle and kind of wrestle), make prank phone calls at the phone box, and sit on this one log in the woods while the boys smoked weed and I lectured them about lung cancer.
One night me and Adam were sat on the roundabout on our estate, he was playing with his lighter and I was laying back on dewy grass when we saw what looked like the sun falling out of the sky. A massive fucking fireball of a meteor burnt through the sky and then vanished behind Wendy and Keith’s house. It is still to this day the most incredible thing I have ever seen, or at least on a par with the northern lights.
The three Kennedy boys. The three Kennedy brothers; David, Thomas, and James. I was friends with James when there was nobody else to play with, and he was the kind of person who would gratefully take whatever scraps of friendship that were offered. He was a lanky boy with curtains, who had a similar temperament to Rodney from Only Fools and Horses. We would play mums and dads sometimes, other times we would work on projects together like constructing shitty treehouses or painting a bench blue. Thomas was my brothers best friend and looked nothing like David or James. They were brown haired and wiry with pasty freckly faces and Thomas was blonde, Dutch looking and stretchy with an outie belly button.
I was a vegetarian from a very young age (maybe 4?) until I was 19, but when I was 10 years old David Kennedy told me that if I could catch the pheasant wandering around the estate and kill it I could sell it to his butcher uncle for £100, and I became determined to catch and murder that poor bird. I was so hungry for money, and poor, when I was little that sometimes the other kids would throw a handful of one and two pence coins on the ground to watch me scramble to pick them up, £100 was definitely worth killing for. I still have the diary entry I made, entitled ‘A plesant [sic] maybe phesant [sic] day’. Apparently I put guinea pig food out to lure it over, made my younger brother try to block it from escaping, and then abandoned my efforts out of boredom and instead “did some acrobats”. I didn’t mention it in my diary entry but I have vague memories of getting my mums hammer to use on it if I did manage to catch it. David and I fell out a few months after that when I told everybody that he shit himself. He did though, and he never specifically said not to tell anyone.
Shelly, Stephen and Topher. The Kennedy brothers had a bunch of cousins but the only ones I remember are Shelly , Topher and Stephen. Their dad was a butcher and it was Shelly who first told me that the skin of sausages were made out of pig’s intestines and innards, I was so sure she was lying that for a few months after that I did not believe a word that came out of her mouth based on that. We became friends again after a while and I taught her her first swear word (I learned it from watching The Commitments); prick. We walked around the estate with the word prick written on a piece of paper and held it up randomly for not good reason other than it made us feel like badasses. Topher once threw a dart that nearly blinded my brother, but didn’t. And Stephen claimed to have gone to the haunted church at midnight on Halloween on his own and seen a ghost.
Mrs Kennedy. The Grandmother of all the Kennedy cousins was the dinner lady at my school, she had massive pendulous tits and a grey perm and was a real cunt. I can list on one hand the amount of foods I HATE, and blacnmange is top of that list; a pink milky jelly monstrosity that I wouldn’t force my worst enemy to eat. For some reason we used to get given this bullshit in a bowl for pudding at school regularly, and that titty swinging terrorist of a dinner lady would refuse to let me go out and play with the other kids at lunchtime unless I finished everything in front of me. Her house burnt down in a chip pan fryer fire.
Jenny Jones. Jenny was the first friend I remember making when we moved to the estate. She was a gorgeous skinny little thing with a wonky scruffy home cut bob, and a permanently snotty nose. She taught me how to rollerskate around the estate when I got my first pair of second hand rollerboots. She was sweet and kind and would share with me the kitsch stationary that her paedo uncle gave to her.
She got given the lead in the school play one year, I don’t remember what it was but she got to wear pink frilly
stuff and dance. Our school was tiny but it was a mix of the poor kids from the council estate and the rich kids from the posh part of the village, who would be heading straight to private school after they were done there. Olivia was one of the rich mothers and after watching her dance like she was born to do nothing else in the school play she spoke to Jenny’s parents, Keith and Wendy, and offered to pay the tuition for Jenny to go to a dance school. They said no.
Wendy and Keith. Keith and Wendy were Jenny’s mum and dad and they had a real Fred and Rose West vibe about them. Wendy was about 5ft nothing and wore velour tracksuits, she had short permed hair that was dyed black and dry as straw. Apparently she used to be a knockout but then a lorry ran her over and she lost her looks and her mind, but gained a weekly pay out in compensation money.
Keith was over 6ft and fat and had long limp black hair that dripped with grease, and also wore velour tracksuits. He drove an Interlink van that us other kids used to call the Stinkerlink van, not just because it was an easy joke to make but also because he did smell really bad. I was a constantly hungry child but the only time I ever turned down food was when Jenny invited me to eat at hers. The smell and the flies buzzing around the kitchen were too much for me.
Wendy used to shout “murderer” every time she walked past my mum, after an incident where my mum definitely did not try to murder one of the local kids. I remember once I was playing tennis with a golf ball (we’d lost the tennis ball) with one of the Kennedy brothers and I accidentally hit the golf ball into the back windscreen of Keith and Wendy’s car. It shattered. My mum bought me up to believe that anything I did was okay as long as I was honest about it, so of course I instantly ran to their door to confess. Wendy told me that when Keith got home he would “kill” me. He never said a word to me, I think he was terrified of my mum.
The day after Wendy’s last compensation pay out Keith drove away with Jenny. Last I heard he had started a new life as a woman and her and Jenny had a nice house with a swimming pool.
Queenie. Jenny’s grandmother, Wendy’s mum, was perhaps the most nicotine stained person you’ve never seen. Her hair, skin, and fingernails were all the same yellow as her net curtains, and I don’t recall ever seeing her without a fag hanging out of her mouth. She used to slap me on the bum if I was walking in front of her and say “alright duckie” in her textured raspy voice.
Bobby. Bobby was a troubled kid with a double crown and hair that never stuck down, he lived in the posh part of the neighbourhood with the old couple that had adopted him. He had ADHD and couldn’t eat anything with E numbers in so even though I was 99% sure I was in love with him when I was 10 I could never share my skittles or penny sweets with him as a way of letting him know. He had a cool games room at his house and me, my brother William and all the Kennedy cousins used to go round there and play darts.
I had a friend at school called Louisa who told me she had a prince tattoo on her shoulder even though she was only 10, I invited her over to play and she ended up disappearing into the woods with Bobby and when they came back he had received his first ever blowjob. I was so hopping mad at the both of them. I’m friends with Louisa now, she came out about 17 years ago and has a beautiful girlfriend.
Here is an angsty diary entry I wrote about Bobby when I was ten years old.
Kyle. Kyle was Jenny’s next door neighbour and best friend/love of her life. He had blonde hair and his trousers were always too short for him. His dad was in prison and his mum was a submissive little woman who I don’t remember ever hearing speak. Kyle used to bully me and my brothers and one time threatened us with a metal pole. My mum wasn’t having any of it (she hates when I tell this story) so got my younger brother William to ride his bike around the roundabout until Kyle, inevitably, chased him. My brother had instructions to ride to a bush in front of the haunted sewer, which my mum then jumped out of. She grabbed Kyle by the neck and said “don’t fuck with my kids”. He did leave us alone after that, but the police came around (they had some tea and no charges were filed) and brain damaged Wendy would shout “murderer” at my mum (who didn’t even leave bruises for the record) every time she saw her. Kyle’s mum still smiled politely at my mum when they passed each other.
Kyle was driving home at 6 in the morning of his 21st birthday and crashed into a tree and died.