If these walls could talk.

26 09 2011

Ten years ago, I was petrified.

Petrified of life, petrified of my impending GCSEs, petrified of boys, petrified of how uncool I was, and petrified that my teenage years would turn out to be as painful as I suspected*.

Basically, I had no idea of what to expect from the world, and I had no idea of what the world expected from me.

You see, it was around this time ten years ago that I moved house. (I should clarify; my whole family moved. I didn’t just bid farewell to my parents and set up a wendy-house in the park). We went from Newcastle city centre to an idyllic village called Wall, where my dad had recently started running the local pub.

I hated it.

I hated the smell of the smoke lingering with the spilled beer from the night before. I hated the way the locals talked in such broad Geordie accents that I couldn’t understand them. I hated that my dad made me work there with bad-tempered chefs and a temperamental dishwasher. But most of all, I hated the fact that this building took my dad away from the thing he should obviously have been focusing on: me.

(It’s worth noting right now that this sense of entitlement has since evaporated, but I’m sure if I looked hard enough in my boxes of diaries I could find the poem I wrote when I was 14 describing ‘the place that took my parents away’ or some such nonsense).

So we moved to the village, settled into a cottage next door to the pub, and set up our lives in our brand new home. (Well, I say ‘brand new’, but the cottage was around 200 years old. Still, you get the idea). And this village, this tiny place surrounded by green fields and cows and constantly circled by tractors, was the setting for my awkward teenage years. I’ll tell you now, they weren’t pretty.

Of course I had friends and extra-curricular activities, but I was also shy and not confident with who I was or what I looked like. I wore baggy skater jeans but the thought of actually going on a skateboard filled me with dread. I wrote dodgy poetry and kept copious notebooks.

I was…well…I was a typical, clichéd teenager, wasn’t I? There was literally nothing special about me, I was passing through all the correct phases of teenage life. Ridiculous crushes? Check. Awful haircuts? Check. More feelings than you can fit in a suitcase?* Double check.

Anyway, back to the pub. Slowly, like a new person who joins your school and is desperate to become your friend, it wore me down. I started to like the place. We got on.

When I began to notice boys, the pub gave me cocky-yet-charming waiters to fancy. When I was in danger of becoming painfully shy, the pub introduced people into my life who I needed to talk to and interact with to get through work shifts*. When I needed to revise maths, one of the locals, a teacher, gave me one-to-one lessons on the back of beer mats. When I decided, at the rather late age of seventeen, to get drunk for the first time, I did so in the pub at a staff party, where I knew everyone would take care of me.* When I took a year out in-between my LLB and my MA the pub was waiting for me, as faithful as ever, with open doors and a job to come back to.

More importantly, when my family hit rough patches, the pub was there, complete with customers and staff who were willing to help out. The sense of community has always been and will continue to be overwhelming, and something that recently I had begun to take for granted.

I will always have a fondness for the pub. It saw me, a frightened fourteen year old, and watched me grow into a much less frightened twenty-four year old. During those years of serving soup and cleaning bedrooms, I turned into someone I am proud of being and this is in no small part down to the pub and the people who have lived, breathed, worked, and drank inside it. (Luckily the pub also watched me ditch the baggy jeans. We both agreed they weren’t a good look).

So I write this blog because my parents are now selling the pub. My teenage home is to be passed on to another family. Oddly, the new people moving in are exactly like we were- a couple with a young teenage daughter. And if I could tell her anything, I would tell her the same thing that I wish I’d known myself- you are so, so lucky. Not only will you have a community full of people wishing you well and willing you to succeed, you will also have a very old building, benevolently watching over you every step of the way.

* They were

* This is an attempt at implying I had ’emotional baggage’. I know, I’m hilarious.

* Some of these people have since become my closest and oldest friends. Some of them definitely have not.

* It’s a good job this turned out to be true- I’m hazy on the details but I’ve since been told that by the end of the night I had to be restrained from dancing, later passed out, and had to be given a fireman’s lift home by one of the bar staff.

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