Tuesday, 4 October 2016

Misconceptions of Adolescence

Those who were in their early teens when they emerged from the oppression of nineteen fifties style dire poverty could develop particularly idiosyncratic behaviour patterns. My brother, who died earlier this year, recounted on several occasions his decidedly odd reaction to the vacuum cleaner my mother had saved long and hard to buy from The Rainbow Stores in Gravesend. And possibly to be honest, she didn’t actually save for half a year because it was more than likely that she simply made the momentous decision to acquire the much coveted machine `on tick’ – put down a pound and pay it off at five shillings a week for months on end. I had long since flown the nest and was off having all manner of exotic experiences in London and Bernard would have been about fourteen or fifteen at the time. Apparently he was positively overwhelmed and dazzled by the Electrolux (….nothing sucks like an Electrolux…) if indeed it was one, though it may have been a Hoover 800 or even a Constellation (….all the dust, all the grit, Hoover gets it every bit, Hoover beats as it sweeps as it cleans….), stunned by its crisp, clean lines, hypnotized by the glitter of the steel piping and the way the hose curled at his feet as he breathlessly elected to be the one to unpack it. So awe inspiring was this piece of home technology to an adolescent decidedly out of kilter with the reality of modern life, that he became convinced the entire neighbourhood would be similarly impressed with this upmarket Hendy household purchase. For the next ten days, instead of going to school he waited impatiently in the York Road Alley for my mother to leave for her dinner ladies job at Gravesend Girls’ Grammar School before quietly letting himself back into the house. Once inside he reverently lifted the magnificent machine from its place behind the wardrobe, slung it respectfully across his shoulders and set out on a circuit of the neighbourhood so that all might witness its glory. Up York Road he strode, along Shepherd Street, leisurely strolling past the much favoured local public house known as The Volley (The British Volunteer) along Buckingham Road, finally returning via the backyard of Number 28. Decades later he recalled with clarity the enormous sense of fulfilment he got from this ritual and was convinced he grew at least two inches taller during that time. All and sundry were now aware that he, Bernard John Hendy, came from a home where luxury items such as that he paraded on his shoulders, were not just a dream, but a reality!

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