My Dad: The Bingo hall was once a cinema, I used to go there with your uncle.
Teenage Me: (Thinking) Well it’s no longer there, and you don’t any-more… so why would I give a shit.
As a child, my Dad regularly bored me with random musings about his youth, in and around our local area of Edgware; North-West London's resident urban dumping ground - home to a brutal poverty, mixed in with fierce reality. Whenever he mentioned any long vanquished monument, his voice resonated love and compassion – like an uneducated form of Shakespeare, quite rare for a man I considered a professor of ardent cynicism. I never understood his compassion - the town was a shit-hole.
The buildings he mentioned were of no value; places like the Green Shield Stamp factory, and a brass instrument manufacturers, no longer served their initial purpose. Why did he care for crappy companies which no longer existed? If only to pretend it was still 1975, he had a full head of hair, and Subbuteo was state of the art technology. I assumed he was merely stuck in the past; preferring to live in his memories, than to embrace new ones. I found this embarrassing, and pitied him.
Eighteen months ago, my next-door neighbour, Dennis, passed away from lung cancer at the age of 69; a harsh finale, considering he had never puffed on a Marlboro in his lifetime. Dennis was a simple, yet noble traditionalist; he believed in neighbours helping one another for the sheer sake of it, carried a dignity in the privacy of his affairs, and lived for little more than re-runs of The Professionals on ITV3, radio broadcasts of Arsenal matches, and taking meticulous care of his front garden. It was a beautiful sight; a rectangular 60ft x 40ft, open fortress, guarded by a perfectly trimmed 4ft high hedge, raised to stop the local kids using as a makeshift seat, whilst waiting for the bus. Covered by a lush, smooth set of grass upon its ground. And an eighty-year old tree – 8ft high and 6ft in circumference, glazed in luscious, soft green ivy, sitting proud in the dead centre.
This past month, the property was purchased by a young Hindu family. Their first port of call was to call in a series of builders to downgrade the hedge, uproot the tree, and replace every ounce of natures beautiful grass, with ugly, cold, emotionless bricks – in order to fit their collection of cars inside. It is their property, it is their right, and the home is now their future to build upon.
However, as I saw a portion of my history desecrated like discarded rubbish, it dawned on me how my fathers word rung true, and the memories he carried of the area, were indeed because it took him to a place when he had a full head of hair, and Subbuteo was state of the art technology. Only, not born out of pity, but potential. They represented the years when every door was open, and every possibility existed. When buildings were built for his generation, to establish their ideas, their hopes, their dreams; in essence, their unique imprint of existence to last an eternity - only to forget they themselves once replaced the dreams of a previous age, and would eventually be replaced too; as it has been since the dawns of time.
I see myself - fifteen years from now; a man in his mid-fourties, talking to his now teenage nephew Thomas, about the history of an area this young boy’s own Dad once grew up in. I sit back with a life experience he couldn’t possibly understand. I tell him I am no longer young enough to know everything, that one day he will be me, telling his own stories with an eye only time can view with clarity, and that the past and the future both need to be respected in equal measure; He won’t listen to me - he isn’t meant to, I will simply smile to myself, and know. I will then – somewhere in a random conversation, throw in a line about Dennis...
Old Me: The driveway was once a garden, I used to help Dennis trim his tree.
Teenage Thomas: (Thinking) Well it’s no longer there, and you don’t any more… so why would I give a shit.
I will then have completed another element of the beautiful cycle. Eventually, just like me... he will too.