Memoirs – It’s a hard knock life

These are the stories that shaped my life, these are my Memoirs.

Joe Hoover is a regular puzzle contributor for bored housewives weekly, Take a Break, he is also famed for writing the Guide to Recycling your Household Waste for Camden Council (Collection days Tuesdays and Fridays).  He’s currently working on a pop-up version of Fifty Shades of Grey. He lives and drinks in North London.

Do children realise they are growing up poor?  We survived so I wouldn’t say we were poor but it was noticeable that we never had as much money as my peers.

I used to look on in envy every time my friend had a good grade which was rewarded with a new toy, so much so that I’d just go to his house to play since my toy box was extremely sparse.

We never had central heating, instead giant free-standing monstrosities filled with bricks which barely dispersed heat, if you sat on them you’d wind up with piles.  We sat on them a lot.

My dad then created a fireplace, of course we had no chimney or chimney breast to speak of so our mock fireplace masqueraded itself on the back wall, it had a small electrical heater underneath that we were forbidden to use, instead when we were cold my dad would allow us to put the light on, an orange glow would illuminate the plastic coals and cast a flame effect on the wall behind.  My father’s philosophy was that it would trick your brain into thinking it was giving out heat and therefore you would in fact be warm.   It makes you wonder why homeless people don’t just shine a torch on a wall instead of wrapping up in multiple layers to ward off the bitter cold, some people just can’t help themselves I guess.

I used to be disappointed that I never got to partake in school trips as everyone else went skiing in France or home exchanged in Germany, I was allowed on one trip eventually, a weekend camping trip in Alfriston, I believe it was located nearby the gruesome discovery of a child the year before.  It did strike me as odd to send your child away with 50 others with only two teachers, one grossly overweight who ate all the food herself and two teenage assistants to a former murder site with only a zip protecting you from the dangers outside.

I learnt to cook not for the love of cooking but out of necessity, I was well aware the meals we were served at home weren’t right, surely not all food was orange?  Our freezer was our friend, inside it was the source of all our meals, dinner would always be in a crispy coating, served with chips and beans.

I should count myself lucky, at least we always ate dinner together as a family.  Picture the scene,  we’d all sit down with our plates of orange food whilst basking in the orange glow from the bulb in the fireplace.

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27 Comments

  1. Wow, school trips in England sound way more interesting than school trips in the US! This includes both skiing at posh French resorts and playing CSI at murder sites.

    Reply
  2. Ooh, I can’t wait for your pop-up version of Shades of Grey because I won’t touch the book otherwise.

    We had our poor years growing up. We lived in my gram’s old drafty house. My room was upstairs in part of the attic. When it reached 110 degrees I would complain and my dad would tell me sweating was good for you. In the winters when it got to minus 20, he’d plug in this tiny little heater that glowed orange and (like your story) gave off only a tiny amount of heat if you pressed your face up right against it. Ah, those were the days of tough love. Builds character.

    Reply
    • I suppose it did turn us into well rounded people, but I am now someone who puts the heating on a lot.

      Was that house haunted by the way?

      I’m actually annoyed at myself for having a fifty shades reference, at least I never tagged it. I never knew anything about it apart from at the airport last month my friend picked it up and a random women hollered “it’s great holiday porn!”

      And then I just now looked up the synopsis and it sounds ridiculous.

      Reply
      • I read the first 50 pages or so and just couldn’t continue. It’s sooooo bad. Just horribly written, unbelievable characters, lame plot, etc. If either of you are bored and want to read an hysterical synopsis of the book, check out this blog: http://speaker7.wordpress.com/

        Reply
        • That synopsis is brilliant. And everyone I know already following speaker7, I’ve never come across it before, I’ve room for one more, I’m on board, thanks!

          Reply
      • Yes, that was the haunted house I grew up in. Another thing that built character: spooky ghosts in the attic.
        I can’t wait to read speaker 7’s take on that book, Ruby.

        Reply
  3. Wonderful stuff! Alfriston is the Venice of England (or so I was told).

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    • I remember they made us walk for miles in the muddy fields to look at a windmill. Things might have changed there, or it may not have been Alfriston at all!

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  4. interesting

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  5. Alfriston sounds … erm … interesting. I suppose you just pitched up your tents away from the police tape and chalk outlines?

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    • The tents were already there, they were huge and housed about 15 of us. The site had a military feel to it. I remember a hut on the other side of a ditch looked quite creepy in a horror story kinda way. That’s probably where the pervos spied on us.

      Reply
  6. My parents got married and divorced a lot while I was growing up, so our economic circumstances changed every few years, bouncing back and forth between comfortably middle class and being on public assistance and getting evicted from apartments. Good times.

    I’m not going to ask what pops up in your pop-up book.

    Reply
    • That sucks.

      I ended up working with my dad for 3 years and was good to see how hard it worked just to make ends meet, he earned a pittance so to raise 3 kids was pretty miraculous, they sacrificed a lot, he was a brilliant artist and it all went by the wayside to do manual labour for the next 40 years to raise us.

      It was always sad seeing him tear up his lottery ticket every week when he didn’t win, real disappointment on his face.

      But these things make us who we are, I’m gald I grew up with a work ethic and to be independant

      Reply
  7. While my family wasn’t poor, it felt like it at times since all of our food was black. Only because mother wasn’t a very good cook.

    I can see why you don’t write poetry. Because nothing rhymes with orange.

    Reply
    • 😀 I hope you sent the food back!

      I had to google the orange thing, someone suggested another orange. Made me chuckle.

      Reply
  8. This was funny, sad, and moving. I love the fireplace story.

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  9. Great story. The upside to being deprived of things is it makes you more appreciative. I often worry that my kids take too much for granted.

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    • They were only things, and I always made sure I befriended wealthier kids 😉 I’d make a great toyboy for a wealthy millionaire.

      But it’s true, my bosses kids are wealthy and can’t manage anything for themselves, I suppose they don’t care but it’s important to me to make my own way in life.

      Reply

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