Monday, July 28, 2008

Tracing back my childhood, via Google Maps – Part 3: Durham

When I was about nine or ten my father, having finished his OND(H), got a job with a youth training center in Aykley Heads, Durham (the actual location was somewhere near the center of this map; it appears the buildings they used are long gone).

They trained unemployed youths with some horticultural skills (among other things) in the hope of finding them work. This was the 1980s, after all, the time of large-scale unemployment and displacement, especially in North-East England. Heavy industries, such as coal-mining and shipbuilding, were closing down and the world was changing under everyone's feet.

They found us housing in a set of houses built for policemen's families but at that time sitting vacant in the village of Sherburn, to the east of Durham proper, while my Dad's employment was to the north-west of the city. Sherburn was a scary place for newcomers. I recall many of the kids I went to school with there had never been beyond the visible horizon their entire lives. Scotland was a foreign land, inconceivably distant, alien to their world. The fact that large proportions of the village's inhabitants appeared to be related to one another gave it a horror-movie tone. I hated it.

Things got a little better when I started attending Gilesgate Comprehensive School, though, where it wasn't just the idiots from Sherburn.

After about a year they found my family a permanent residence at a council house in Framwellgate Moor, which occasioned a change in schools, too – we now attended Framwellgate Moor School, just down the road.

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