My goodness, it's been a long time. I dip in and out of these forums occasionally these days, but practically lived on here in from the mid to late noughties as Gordon's 'economic miracle' brought the economy to the brink of disaster. Now I need some sane words. I know I'll find them here, just like I did ten years and more ago.
Firstly, I'm a boomer and I voted for Brexit. If you are offended and immediately know who I am, what my values are, who I will vote for on the 12th, etc. etc. then please leave now because you have nothing of value to say to me. I'm already judged.
If you are still reading this, let me begin...
I was born in Wallasey in 1959. Boomer credentials established. My father was in the merchant navy and hardly ever home. I don't think I even recognised him as my father until I was about five. My mother was mainly at home apart from a brief spell at a Cadbury's factory where she worked on the conveyor belt and one day had a meltdown so they sent her home and she never went back. I played outside with the neighbourhood kids, learnt to ride a bike (someone else's), thought catapults were the coolest things in the world (though the word 'cool' was unknown to me then). My mother wouldn't ever let me have one. I did have a Man From Uncle cap gun though. I liked and had access to a few books and enjoyed reading when I learned how to (we didn't have a TV). The only car in the neighbourhood was owned by the local taxi driver. I think I was happy. I wasn't aware of my father's drinking and the arguing. That came later.
When I was eight my mother broke the news to me that we were 'moving' (?) to Gravesend in Kent. I was very excited until they explained 'moving' meant a new school. When we eventually got down there the kids laughed at my Scouse accent (the word 'bear' caused particular mirth) and I didn't know what to say when someone shouted 'Watcha' at me. These became the affluent times. My father was obviously earning good money as the skipper of a Fyffes banana boat, but it was still some time before we owned a car (a Hillman Imp) and I was becoming aware of the rows and the smell of booze on him. I recall doing homework by candlelight around this time because of the power cuts, but don't remember if my mother was ranting about the Labour Party at the time. If she did it went in one ear and out the other. It all fell apart when the oil crisis came and my father lost his job. My mother cut her losses and she took us (I have a younger sister) to Falmouth where she bought a guest house so she had her financial independence. The bank wouldn't lend her any money so she had to keep the place open all year round. In the winter I could sleep in the small room at the top of the house, but she had to let it in the summer so my sister and I lived in a caravan in the back garden. Any vestige of a Scouse accent had gone and I hadn't really acquired Estuary but the local kids thought I was American and that I must be posh, even though most of them were better dressed than I was. There was no room for a desk in the caravan so studying and writing essays was a bit of a challenge. I did stay on for the sixth form, but didn't do well at all.
By the time I left school I hadn't seen my father for years, nor did I hear from him. I didn't give it a second thought. I didn't entertain the notion that I could go to university or college either. I got a Work Experience Programme job in a furniture shop in town. I earned £18 a week. I gave half to my mother in rent and used the rest for driving lessons, even though I had as much chance of buying a car as I did building a rocket and flying to the moon. The job was so boring my body began shutting down and I thought I had diabetes. I could barely climb the stairs in the morning. Fortunately a kindly admin lady realised what the problem was and told me hospital wasn't necessary. I then embarked on four years of casual work: waitering, cooking in a chip shop, cutting down Christmas trees, digging up spuds. I even did two weeks street sweeping for the council. The bin lorry guys had it made! Good money, finished by lunch time, riding in the lorry. Brilliant. I envied them. I had absolutely no direction, no plan, no motivation, no clue. One day, not long after my 21st birthday, I left a waitering job in Hampshire and was cycling to a station to head back to Falmouth for another summer in the chip shop and it dawned on me that everything I possessed was in panniers on the back of the bike. I had no passport, had never been on a plane. I didn't even have a bank account.
Later that year I was walking home from a shift at the chip shop and a car pulled up. It was one of my old teachers. He wanted to know what the hell I was doing. He instructed me to get UCAS forms, pick a university and turn up at his house. I did as I was told and he took out his cheque book and gave me the entry fee. I didn't get in. Of course not, my A levels (2 grade Es) were crap. But later that year a younger friend said she had a spare set of forms for a little teacher training college in Cheltenham. I filled them in and, bloody hell, I got in! The first morning in my little student accommodation room I got up and sat at the desk. It was 7.00am and I realised for the first time in years I knew where I was going to be and there was a purpose to my existence. I could hardly believe my luck. A friend visited and I gave him money and asked if he would buy me a dictionary in town. When he got back I put it on the bookshelf and amazed myself at how important it made me feel. I still have that dictionary.
After graduation I got a teaching job at an awful school in Eastbourne. It was only for a year to cover the RE teacher's absence as she was on sabbatical. (A couple of decades later it was in the news because a Maths teacher there ran off to France with s student.) It had bars on the ground floor windows to deter vandals. On my first day, the Deputy Head collected me from my bedsit and said all he asked was that I kept the kids contained for the duration of the lesson. I could have put the work in beforehand and got a better first school, but I knew teaching wasn't for me and I wasn't self-aware enough to have the sense. I did it for five more years elsewhere and in that time married my college girlfriend. She had got her second teaching job in Cardiff and, because she had a dog and didn't think anyone would let her rent, she borrowed £300 off an elderly aunt and used it as a deposit on a tiny two bed house on an estate. When we married she moved to where I was living (North Wales). She had no job to come to at first, but we were able to buy a run-down 1930s semi on my salary which we proceeded to decorate during holidays. We bought a second hand VW Polo which was the bees knees. If anyone had told me I was 'doing well under the Tories' I'd have stared at them in disbelief.
Around 1990 I embarked on a distance learning course in computer programming and got a trainee programmer job in the South East. My wife managed to get a teaching job just in time so we could get a mortgage on a boxy little 3 bed house on a large development. It was a filthy dirty hovel. The estate agent had no key to the back door so when the dog needed a sh*t I lowered him out of the window and leaned out to pick him up when he'd finished until we had the money to fit a patio door. When my wife was pregnant with our second we move a couple of miles away to a larger 3 bed house in a nice cul-de-sac. It was a total wreck with a condemned boiler so any spare cash went on making the place habitable. I spent many a sleepless night worrying what would happen if I lost my job. (I did get made redundant twice on my journey, but always survived in the end.)
Sometime in 2005 my wife commented that people on a forum she had stumbled across were saying a massive house price crash was coming. It sounded plausible because prices seemed crazy. In 2006 the first redundancy came. We got a good price for our place, but then we'd transformed it and built an extension. We hadn't had any foreign holidays and never ate out unless you count the occasional Burger King, but the kids didn't go without where it mattered. My wife had always wanted to go back to Cardiff (increasingly elderly and infirm parents) and our eldest had only just started secondary school. It was a now or never moment and the redundancy made it easier so we did it. I got a job in the IT department of a car parts factory. We were renting, looking at property on the market and arguing about whether the crash would ever come when one day I bought a paper which had 'Credit Crunch!' as a headline. It was August 2007. You know the rest. We eventually bought in 2012 because we were paying out a fortune in rent and it was depressing. The house was in an awful state and had been on the market on and off for years but was a nice size and in a quiet area. We've got it looking decent now, but the kids, now grown up, never did get to Disneyland. One day I hope they'll forgive us.
All the while this was going on the EEC was transforming from a bunch of people shaking hands and agreeing on a free trade deal into the EU, a vast, strangely sinister organisation of huge unaudited wealth and power. One that can tell its member states what the minimum percentage of meat they should put in their sausages and which can suffocate entire economies in Southern Europe from the labyrinth of offices it maintains grandly in Brussels. I'd been living in Falmouth in '73 and remembered the men who lost their livelihoods in fishing almost overnight. I didn't much like the slow erosion of control membership entailed and when Cameron came back empty handed from an attempt at negotiating a few months before the referendum my distrust began to turn into anger. I voted, with some reluctance and unease, to leave when the time came. Whether it will turn out to be a good idea in the end I have absolutely no clue, but I guess there'll be winners and losers just like when we joined. I don't think of it, and never have, as a friendly institution that represents the breaking down of borders and the building of trust between nations. I heard about an elderly Greek dentist who took his own life rather than rummage in bins for food in his old age and the thought of the EU impassively turning its face away from that situation and the vast numbers of under 24s without hope of employment in those poorer member states left a bad taste.
So suddenly I'm 60 and just discovered that people around me at work, who have never heard my story, have already judged me. I'm a boomer, I 'did well under the Tories'. I don't care about the poor and homeless because I've 'pulled the ladder up'. In all likelihood I'm probably a racist because I voted to leave (and don't want the immigrants from coming' over 'ere and takin' our jobs). From my experience, the caring, sharing Labour Party in the end crash the economy and that helps no one, but I should overlook this because if I don't vote for Corbyn I'm effectively saying I'm happy to watch homeless people dying the streets. I honestly had no idea I was this guy! So I'm asking you, am I? Is that who I am and I've been fooling myself all along?
I'm a boomer and I voted for Brexit. Sorry.