Alan's Mental Health: Our New House

And a new addition to the family.

If you're a new visitor to the blog, or to the Alan's Mental Health feature, take some time to read this introductory post. It explains a bit of the background behind the posts.

In the late eighties we'd moved to a new home in the suburbs of a local town. Initially we would be renting It was a fairly typical three bedroom semi-detached house for the period. It had a front and back garden, a drive and a garage. Through the front door we're some stairs on the left and a small hallway. There was a door to the kitchen ahead, and a door to the left that went into the living room. The dining room was at the rear, with a door into the kitchen also. I think, but I'm not sure, that the living room and dining room were already opened up as one large room when we moved in, or there may have been a wall or double doors which we later removed. I'm not sure at all. The kitchen was fairly small considering the size of the house - this was typical though at the time. It was very brown and beige, with a quarry tiled floor. There was a door in here that led into a porch, which led down a step or two to a door on the side of the house.

Upstairs there was a bathroom at the top of the stairs with my bedroom next to it, both at the back of the house. My parent's bedroom and my sister's bedroom (the smallest box room) were both at the front. The bathroom was a very seventies beige monstrosity - it was hideous! My bedroom had eighties style built in wardrobes along the length of the party wall, two single beds, and peach wallpaper. We'd brought my Postman Pat duvet with us when we moved! My sister's room was a tiny box room, just about large enough to accommodate a single bed - and not much else. (It's the photo above, with my sister and I, and 'Puffalump') I don't remember my parent's room as I never really went in there.

My bedroom, with my sister and I play-fighting over Puffalump.
The rooms which didn't have wallpaper or tiles were painted. In hideous pastel colours that didn't match anything in the entire house. The hallway, stairs and landing were a hideous blue. There was also Artex - a form of decorative wall finish hugely popular in Britain during the seventies and eighties (which may have contained asbestos!) - almost everywhere. It was, decoratively speaking, a vile place to be. I hated the Artex, I hated the colours, but I hoped I would love living there.

We had a small front garden, with a sort of hedge made entirely of rose bushes and a small patch of lawn. For some reason, we never played on the lawn at the front. Perhaps it was because the back garden was bigger.

My sister in the back garden
This is the only photo I have of the back garden, and it really doesn't do it justice. It was quite large, although it looks a bit smaller here. I never really played in the back garden much either, but with good reason... I'd quickly learn that this house was a place of violence and sorrow.

You see, for my mum and I, this new home would initially be a place of violent and emotional abuse. My sister, being his favourite child, was fortunately spared this during her early childhood. I never understood why, and it's highly unlikely that I ever will. Perhaps strangely though, I was always happy about this - the favouritism she was shown never really bothered me. I'm not even sure I was fully aware of it. I think it might have been because I had nobody to protect me from the violence, so I made it my business to ensure that my sister would have someone - and that someone would be me. I was already deeply unhappy by the time I was 5, and would have done anything I could so she didn't have to go through the same. I'd have given my life to ensure that.

At the bottom of the cul-de-sac, there was a large area of woodland. It stretched around the houses in the area in a horseshoe shape, which was about two miles long. I would get up early in the morning, have my breakfast and leave the house most weekends and go wandering there. I'd often not be seen again until darkness fell. After school, I'd meet up with my friends or my first ever girlfriend, and we'd go to the woods. In the school holidays, I'd spend months exploring. For me, this place was full of mystery and wonder. It was a place to explore, a place to learn, a place to exist. More importantly, it was a place where I was safe.

If you feel you need immediate help with your mental health, then contact one of the organisations below (click the logo for their website):
Samaritans (UK)

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (USA)

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