I want to tell you a story.
And if you’re interested, I’m going to take a while to tell it.
Well until Christmas actually,
if that’s OK with you.
Whether you have a faith, are ‘spiritual’, or
are annoyed by people having faith or being spiritual.
If you go to church every Sunday or
just go there to cry at weddings and funerals.
Or would never set foot in the place.
I’ll probably mention those things a bit, but I’ll make it worth your while.
Standing right at top of the deserted multi-storey car park,
on a warm August Sunday in 1981…
…and I could see for MILES.
The way I remember it, I could even see the sea, but that might not be quite right.
I could definitely see the big clock and the shops and the train station.
There was a part of the car park I could climb to,
where I could even sit and dangle my feet over the edge.
That wouldn’t happen now.
Health & Safety.
My roller boots were blue with red and yellow stripes.
I had to do the 2 bunny ears thing,
but it didn’t matter because I could tie them all by myself.
The stoppers had already worn down at the front
and one kept coming loose and I had to twist it back on, sometimes.
The spongey headband speakers blasted out my awesome cassette Walkman mixtape.
Adam Ant and David Bowie (my twin future husbands) were serenading me, also Blondie and The Specials on side B.
I was clearly incredibly cool indeed, as you can imagine…
I’d already sped a few times around the precinct, and the park –
climbing the death-trap metal slide stairs in roller boots is NOT easy – I can tell you.
I was also small, skinny, loud, scruffy, fearless, stubborn,
And FAST on those boots.
Not a single car.
No shops were open… because it was Sunday.
So I was perfectly safe…
The BEST thing about being 8 in 1981 and living in the city centre was Sundays,
my roller boots, and being at the top of completely empty multi-storey car parks..
There were FOUR floors at my favourite one.
CCTV cameras weren’t even a thing yet.
I knew every ramp and turn with my eyes closed (sometimes actually with my eyes closed)
and by the time I got to the bottom floor I was going so fast,
I could jump the bump at the end, and usually land it.
The remarkable part of that story is really not why an 8-year-old regularly wandered a deserted city centre
or climbed to the top of car parks in roller boots and dangled them over the edge.
I’ve done ever-increasingly ridiculous, ill-advised and dangerous things as the years have gone by, and I’ll probably get to some of those.
No, the remarkable part is that the world doesn’t ever stop once a week and go quiet anymore –
not even during this pandemic.
I know that because I kept checking.
And while I didn’t break the rules, I didn’t stay at home.
And it was A BIT like before…
There were moments you could squint and make it 1981
and pretend it was Sunday and everyone was at church or having roast dinner,
But there were always cars in the car park.
Always some shops open – people milling around.
There is never that 1981 Sunday city centre kind of quiet.
I told you I wanted to give you some Christmas Presents.
Well, write them for you.
To make December go better,
If you’re going to read it – just so you know,
the first one is going to be about that.
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