Below you will find my first ever article that I have written and decided to publish. It has taken two weeks for me to deem it finished. It is perhaps longer than my usual, but there was a lot of ground to cover. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to provide feedback. Constructive critique is of course encouraged. Thank you.
MARGATE IS MY HOME NOW
the story of a disabled citizen making a new start in one of the most “run down” cities in the country
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One month ago I signed my life away. A week later I was the center of attention on my road as my nosey new neighbors peaked earily out of the corner of their window curtains at the rucous of the moving van and the awkward sight of a woman on a walking stick actually attempting to move bags and boxes. That disabled woman was me, and yes, I am that stubborn.
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Moving here was never the plan. I had never visited the coast in my life, London and Dartford were all I knew as home, and I certainly had no intention of leaving my small circle of friends and what little family that I had left. I liked my life, enclosed though it was, and I had no intention of changing it.
But life is full of surprises – some good, some bad – and a few months later three of my oldest friendships had fallen apart, my parents had decided to move halfway across the country, and when my (then) boyfriend drops a bomb on me saying “let’s move to the coast and make a fresh start” I – for the first time in my life – took a chance on change, and replied with an enthused “yes”.
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As I said before, I had never seen the coast in my life, and I can tell you, when we arrived in Margate for the first time I was fast asleep in my uncle’s car, but I awoke when I smelt it… that fresh, wonderful sea air. And then I saw it. It was everything that I thought that it would be, and more. I was like a child discovering cookies for the first time, it filled me with this almost unexplainable happiness, it was so beautiful. A tear fell from my eye as we pulled up to the estate agents and I said “hello” to the possibilities this world could bring me.
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It was many weeks of going back and forth from our residencies in London (myself) and Dartford (then boyfriend) and several estate agents later before we finally found it: a three bedroom double glazed Cliftonville split-level flat. I insisted it looked more like half a house, so we came to know it as our “flouse”, the best of both worlds. He fell in love with it straight away, contrary to my want to continue looking, but love does conquer all, including my stubborness, so once again I found myself agreeing with him and we decided to put down our holding fee and “seal the deal”.
But, sealing the deal is harder than it looks and there was much to be done. It was almost a month – and we nearly lost our flouse – before we got the “okay” to come down and sign our tenancy agreements. Sadly and ironically, my partner and I broke up only one week prior to the signing, and we had many talks about whether we still wanted to do it, but we both needed that “fresh start”, even if it was just as friends, and rough though the transition has been, we neither of us regret it.
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It was cold and dark the night that we moved. Think of everything that could possibly go wrong, and it probably did. A car broke down, belongings were damaged, furniture would not fit… but “positive thinking leads to positive results” as an old friend of mine used to say, and that day we proved her right because we triumpthed over all that would delay us and that night we slept in our seperate bedrooms in our new flouse. A flouse that, in time, we would come to know as home.
The following morning we were exhausted and we truly wanted to stay in bed, but we were far too excited. We insisted on exploring the area, even just a little, not as “tourists” but as residents. We had a mini argument (which delayed the bus, much to our embarrassment) about whether to get a Return ticket to Westwood X for supplies or a Free Rider to explore some more. But, it was late on a Sunday afternoon, so a Return seemed the obvious choice, as in true British fashion, “everywhere would be closing soon”. The irony is that apparently a Free Rider would have only been seventy pence extra each, which we were shocked to discover as in London and Dartford the fairs are higher to say the least. That was our first sign that moving here was a good decision.
Our second sign were the welcoming smiles of two gentleman who own a small burger stand in Westwood X, opposite Marks & Spencer. I had read mention of them on the website for the shopping center* but as an Ethitarian – someone who tries to live life ethically, supporting local businesses, eating only free range meats, etc – I was expecting to have nothing on their menu that I could eat, as that is what I was accustomed to. But here on the coast, things are very, very different. When asked about their meats, we were informed that most were from local farm(s) and completely free range. Some produce were even from a farm that allows deaf children to raise hens, supporting local charity The Royal School For Deaf Children Margate. All this news made me more than happy, but tasting that burger made me ecstatic. It really was amazing – and so was the conversation. They gave us a wonderful welcome, and we really look forward to seeing them and eating their foods again.
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Not everything has been that easy, though. I am not just physically disabled, I also have agoraphobia, a mental health concern which means that I am scared of leaving home without someone accompanying me. I have had my fair share of scary encounters in London and that led to a fear of future occurances. The hope was that moving to the coast, I would feel safer and more at home; that I might even be able to leave the “flouse” unaccompanied, in time.
Cliftonville (Margate) may not seem like the safest or most welcoming place in the world, but we have introduced ourselves to some of our neighbors and some of the local businesses, and I think that in time, this place could really grow on me. Him, on the other hand? He goes out at any chance that he gets and is probably already becoming a “regular” at some of the local cafes and shops, so he has settled in just fine.
There is also the small matter of the fact that we still have thirty years (for him) and twenty-four years (for me) worth of boxed “bits and bobs” to sort through. I imagine most of it will be going to charity, but this is still no small task to complete.
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One week passed and whilst I decided to cut and dye my hair, he was already making his mark on the area, placing in a Tournament at the first convention of its kind, GEEK 2012**, coming home with a medal and some geeky goodies. “A fresh start” was what we agreed upon, and we were well on our way.
We were travelling back again to collect some final items, swap contact details with neighbors we did not want to lose touch with, etc, and although we were sad to be leaving for the final time, when our friends and family passed comments about how “different” we seemed – not just in appearance – we knew that we had made the right choice. There was no looking back, only forward, to our futures.
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“And what does the future hold for you?”, you might be asking. Well, he may have had to leave his job in Bluewater Shopping Center when he moved, but he has had some interest for job postings already, he is volunteering to work at a local charity shop, and with my support he is even considering furthing his education here at the Kent Adult Education Center and possibly Thanet College.
Myself? I am finally working my way through my “Living List”, a list of things I want to do with my life, from “write and publish a novel” to “lie on the grass and stare at the stars”, checking more of them off each day. I felt so contrained in London, but I do not know whether it is the fresh sea air or the people or the dust from all of those old book stores and antiques shops getting to my head and my heart and my soul, but I finally feel like I am making something of myself, like my life is worth living and I truly want to live it.
This is my home now, and so far, I never want to leave.
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*Since updated to no longer include the aforementioned burger stand, sadly.
**Now known as the Game Expo East Kent (hence “GEEK”).
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As this is my first ever (internet) published article, it is important that I receive feedback from my readers.
I have created a multiple-choice (three at maximum) Poll for you to provide your opinion regarding my first attempt at becoming a professional journalist. Please take a few moments of your time to answer it. Alternatively, you can of course post in the Comments section.
I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me, be it answering my Poll, posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.