“The place is rundown. It’s scary. Let’s not go there.”
A typical response to the thought of visiting somewhere people class as dodgy. But what, exactly is dodgy? And what if you already live there?
No one can escape the effects of their environment. You think you can, but it influences you nonetheless. It makes you streetwise and savvy, naïve and fearful, or a myriad of other good or not so positive qualities.
I grew up in a quaint fishing town. We didn’t have much, yet; I wasn’t aware of the fact. The concept of being rich or poor didn’t occur to me.
I was just like my friends. They had jam sandwiches for dinner sometimes too and couldn’t afford luxuries.
I remember the time I had to take an item back to the shop because we needed the money to pay for milk, a necessity we thought.
As the youngest, and so most likely to get away with it, I was sent to the counter to plead.
“Please Miss. I bought this shampoo when I was supposed to buy milk. I’ll get in trouble at home if I go back without it. Can I do a swap?”
Our house was small, but pleasant. It had fun and love inside it as well as the occasional rant or argument; much like everyone else’s abode.
There were areas of the village, though, it wasn’t wise to visit. The shabby penny arcade was one of them. We kids loved it nonetheless and hung out among the slot machines and pinball. Once, when I was passing, a bald man spun out of the glass doors bleeding. I recall he had a shiny head that looked like a banister knob.
It turned out his best friend (I’d hate to meet his enemies) stabbed him six times over an argument about whose turn it was to put money in a machine.
The big old unkempt graveyard was another place it was unwise to dwell, not because you might meet ghosts, but because you may bump into a weirdo.
‘Weirdos,’ my friends told me, frequented the yard since plenty of young girls took a shortcut through it on their way into town, or on their way home, and a few had been attacked.
A curb crawler tried to pick me and my friend up just outside the opening to the pitch-black graveyard one night and chased us. We, however, were faster than him and I like to think smarter. We knew our way in and out of fences, across fields, and through people’s gardens. We were hard to catch.
Many people are far worse off than I was growing up. Their environments are littered with needles dropped by drug addicts, and the buildings are in bad repair. You might think the state of unoccupied houses and old shopping venues doesn’t matter, but it does.
Smashed windows, badly lit alleys, and cracks in walls encourage further degradation. People who are up to no good often find solace there, along with business deals.
Those who live there, who are brought up there, can’t help but face dilemmas the rest of us don’t meet. They must learn, not only how to run fast, but how to avoid getting involved. When money’s scarce, people find ways to survive that aren’t always legal or safe.
There’s a town about fifteen miles from where I live that’s ‘going downhill.’ Shops are empty, the market’s only got a couple of stalls now, and folks with nothing better to do than vandalize have moved in, but, you can’t always blame them.
Studies show your mental health, as well as your social skills, education, and safety are influenced by the place you live, which is why I’m always concerned when I see areas going to wrack and ruin.
Buildings, although I enjoy architecture, don’t matter as much as people. We all know that, and yet, it seems to be acceptable to let towns crumble and forget the inhabitants left to fend for themselves in the rubble.
Copyright © 2019 Bridget Webber. All rights reserved