ten years

As we all know, this weekend marks the tenth anniversary of September the eleventh, 2001. As with all such catastrophes, we can all remember where we were and what we were doing when we heard of the attacks. I remember I’d just come home after my second day at Macclesfield College. Dad had put the TV on, and was flipping through satellite channels. Suddenly, we found one financial channel showing one of the world trade centres with smoke billowing out of it. At first, when someone said a plane had hit the tower, I assumed it was just a light aircraft, and that some fool had done in reality what I, at the tame, took pleasure in doing on Microsoft Flight Simulator. But then the second plane hit, and I realised this was no laughing matter.

Yet, personally, I can’t help looking back at that date without smiling slightly: it gives me a fixed point in time, a temporal marker. For me, 9/11 was just about the beginning of a decade which brought me almost total joy, and during which I had the best times of my life. As I said I’d just started college: earlier that year, my time at Hebden Green school had ended; I had spent about twelve or thirteen years at that school, so the brave new world seemed rather daunting. I suppose it’s fair to say I was institutionalised. But it had come to a close with the shocking news of the death of my classmate Andrew Fox, so I was also still rather cut up about that. At that time, then, I suppose I was a timid eighteen year old, living with his parents (and at that time intending to do so indefinitely) feeling very uncertain about things. I cannot look back at that boy, watching the news with his parents that day, without smiling. Things for him were about to get much, much cooler.

I didn’t realise that at the time, of course, nor for quite some time after. Looking back, my time at Macclesfield College didn’t go well: I was trying to do A-Level psychology and ICT, two subjects I quickly found I was not suited to. I was also cocky and undisciplined, preferring to have a coffee than get on with work. I used my verbosity to mask my lack of understanding, and I think it’s fair to say I left there, two years later, much less cocky and slightly more mature, and with the D and E I deserved. Probably the best thing I learned at Macc was that I wasn’t as clever as I thought I was.

I then had a problem, though: what to do next? I had always envisioned going to Macc College for quite some time, supposing that it would offer me the same sort of institutionalized security school had. Yet it’s choice of courses for me was limited, so one summers day n 2003, I found myself googling local colleges. As I’ve said on here before, that was the real turning point, I guess. I had a choice – either I let my parents decide what to do with me, or for once show some initiative and do it myself. I vaguely remembered some of my school friends going to a place called South Cheshire College, so I punched that into google, and the rest of my life began.

Lyn and I were at the Southbank Centre last night. We went to se Hugh and his band, Saltwater Samurai, play there. It really was great to see them, and they did a great set. They are getting rave reviews, and Hugh is about to o on tour. Poppy was there too, but not Charlotte, who is at Bestival and whose birthday it is today (happy birthday charlotte). Photos of Charlie hang on the walls of my office; I can glance over at the montage she gave to me to commemorate our trip to Paris as I write. Last night, sitting talking to poppy and Hugh after the gig, in the centre of London, my wonderful girlfriend Lyn sat next to me, I suddenly thought back over the last decade. So much has changed, for me and the world, since that September day. I wouldn’t have been sat there had I not been to university; had I not been there, had I not met people like charlotte, I’d still be the timid, institutionalized little boy safe and secure up in Cheshire. But I was there, in the centre of London surrounded by friends, with the woman I intend to marry sat beside me. The version of myself that watched those terror attacks would not have believed he would one day do the type of things I do these days, or that one day he would settle down in south London with a woman and build an independent life for himself. Indeed I don’t think he believed he’d ever go to university, let alone leave home.

Where I am now sitting seems a million miles from where I was sat, watching the news ten years ago. The bay window of my parent’s front room looks out onto a quiet, leafy close of detached houses; the window of my office looks out onto a London street which, if not exactly busy, joins onto a bustling London road. If I turn left there I could head to Woolwich with it’s bustling Saturday market, stall-holders shouting out prices in thick, south London accents; if I turn right, I can go to Greenwich, with it’s fine park and naval college, or go up to the dome where I can get the tube into the centre of this sprawling, labyrinthine metropolis. Looking out of my study window as I once looked out of the bay window, I am struck by how different my life is now compared with how I thought it would be; yet I am also struck by the idea that, later, I will probably go out onto the street beyond it, into a city which once daunted and scared me, living a life which ten years ago I would have never thought possible.

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