For my mother, and all the times you listen to me freak out on the phone.
I am from England. The south-east of England, East-Sussex to be precise. You may have heard of it. It was part of the ancient kingdom of the South Saxons, during the 5th Century. The area I'm from is on top of soil comprised primarily of chalk. The reservoir water is filtered through the layer of chalk, making the water incredibly clean and hard. Don't feel too bad if you didn't know any of this, neither did I until today.
I was born and raised in Brighton, known as a destination for many dirty weekenders over the years. Something we are quite proud of, truth be told. Whilst going to school there I received 11 GCSE's, 1 AS level, and 3 A levels. Not many people tell you this, but none of that means shit in the real world, and no one gives a crap that I did French at GCSE instead of music, despite the fact that I hated it, all to get in to a good Uni. That's right, all those hours you spend studying subjects you hate mean diddlysquat in the end. And yet every year newspapers complain how exams are getting easier. Maybe, here's a thought, kids are getting smarter? Let's see you sit those tests, editors of the world.
I come from an average middle-class background. My parents got divorced (oh how tragic) when I was very young, and I have one sister. She's a year younger then me I spent my whole life, being an unremarkable if slightly above average student, slap-bang in the middle of the middlest-class.
And despite a rigorous Catholic schooling, all of this did absolutely nothing to prepare me for the real world… no surprises there.
In my first year away from home I experienced discrimination for the first time. It was a concept so foreign to me that it took me a year to understand what was happening. I'm a girl, but was raised in a liberal household full of other women, so had it been sexism alarm bells would have been ringing and my sisters would have gathered. If you're a man, you wouldn't understand.
I'm white, so strictly speaking it wasn't racism, but xenophobia.
Word of the moment:
Xenophobia; from the Greek "xeno" meaning stranger or foreigner, and "phobos" meaning fear.
Xenophobia is a dislike and/or fear of that which is unknown or different from oneself.
(Coincidently it's also the third album of an Australian band called Spy vs. Spy, but that is neither here nor there.)
So my experience of xenophobia started of with a very small distinction. My voice. Well, actually my accent.
When 2008 rolled around and I had received my A levels (A, B, C like the Jackson Five, you don't need to know that but I like telling people) I packed up all the things I could ever want, and much that I didn't and, with the help of my mother, relocated it 300 miles north-west to Liverpool.
In 2008 Liverpool was the Capitol of Culture for Europe. Giant Lambannanas were a common sight. Liverpool is a beautiful city, with a less then beautiful past and a fucking banging night life.
So I was up North, I'm not sure when the South becomes the North, but I'm pretty sure it's somewhere along the M6.
Anyone who thinks England is a unified country has never been a southerner all alone in a big Northern city and no city is so divided as Liverpool. There is a lot of ethnic diversity in Liverpool, but it tends to keep itself to itself. For example, in my second year I moved to a little house in Wavertree. It's a bit student area of Smithdown Rd. Loads of pubs and a massive ASDA. It's about 40 minuets from town, but there are buses every 5 minuets, so you never wait too long. I loved it. The house was a shithole, riddled with damp, and no radiator in the bathroom meant in winter it was fucking freezing taking a shower. Nipples like bullets! There was also a serious slug problem.
Anyway, in that one area there is a relatively large Hindi community, all seemingly restricted to that one place. A perfect microcosm of Liverpool. It's one of the friendliest cities on earth, but my god is it hard to be different.
One of the hardest things, once you've twigged that you're different, is to not let that dictate the way you behave. In Liverpool I become posher. I don't talk to my friends at home with an affected Sussex accent, and yet in Liverpool I couldn't be posher if I tried.
The differences between North and South:
It's colder, much colder.
The people however, are warmer.
There's no 'r' in glass.
The wealth divide seems more obvious.
No one knows what 'cotch' is.
A pint costs, on average £1.90.
Everyone knows the lyrics to 'Hey Jude', and see it as a national anthem… but that could be just Liverpool.
Sainsbury's are thin on the ground, but they have Netto's everywhere. If you don't know what a Netto is, it's like Aldi or Lidl, but very, very yellow (and they sell brands you have actually heard of).
Weed, like beer, is cheap.
No one understands me when I say my name. "It's always taxi for Stevie?" I'd do the accent, but no.
you never get I.
People think Peter Kay is funny, yeah I don't get it either (well I do, I just don't think he's funny).
Middle-class is a naughty word.
One thing many first years at uni don't realize, is that being friends with someone and living with someone are two very different things.
What people don't tell you about your first year at uni is that IF YOU ARE IN DORMS AND END UP LIVING WITH A BUNCH OF DICKS, YOUR LIFE WILL BE HELL. Another thing people don't tell you is that there is always a dick. In my first year I lived with 4 dicks, 2 sweethearts, and my future housemate (I mean she's a dick, but I love her anyway).
If you have run-ins with your flat-mates, very often things will escalate, because much like the Big-Brother house (remember that program?) you have 5-7 people who don't know each other. These people are then forced to spend time together. There is no advice I can give anyone in this situation. Every house is different and every argument, full-blown fight or bitch-fest has to be experienced first hand. All I can say is that there will be times, usually about a month into the term, where the blues hit and hard. I will say this though; it's worth sticking it out.
Fresher's tip number
Never loose your sense of humour. This was the advice my mum gave me just before I left home. It has proved invaluable.
"All you need is love". Bullshit. I have lots of love, love to spare in fact, but at the end of the day, I still have bills to pay, work to do and endless mind numbing little survival tasks to do each day. All you need is time, failing that caffeine. All you want is love, but then again I have daddy issues. I also have lovely handwriting, but by the time you read this it will be typed.
One of the most important things to learn as a student is outrage. The English have this dreadful 'stiff upper lip' mentality towards everything. We are taught from a young age to accept injustice and social mediocrity.
Code of conduct
We don't complain in restaurants.
We give more money to pet charities then people charities.
We pay extortionate amounts for the basic human right of water.
We let adverts talk to us in such an informal way. I am not friends with my T.V. and I don't care what it thinks of my life. Stop trying to enhance me with new and improved. I like it the way it was, it didn't need improving, all you have done is make it more complicated and unreliable. Quicker isn't necessarily better.
We allow 'customer service' to run rings around us.
I fear we have lost our revolutionary spirit. Did we ever have one to begin with as a nation? Maybe it's the weather. It's so fascinating that we spend hours commentating on the un-ending greyness that hangs over our tiny island that we forgot to be pissed off. Instead we just accept the quiet, underlying depression that is implanted n us the moment we enter the world. Are we doomed to sit, glued in front of our plasma screens, with only our stuff upper lips to keep us from the massive shit storm heading our way?
I will always remember my secondary school chemistry teacher saying;
"We are not killing the world. The planet will continue to exist; all we are doing is making it so that we can't live here."
I of course paraphrase because I very rarely paid attention in Science, especially chemistry. Mr. Ashford, if this outrages you, suck it up. Stiff upper lip and all that chap!